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Being the end of the Skywalker saga, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker had a lot on its shoulders. The movie had to be a successful and satisfying finale for both the sequel trilogy, and the entire nine movie series. In addition to completing the story on the screen, the movie did a lot for the audience in terms of easter eggs, cameos, and other references, calling back to the five films that came before. However, one specific call back moment, was potentially too much for J.J. Abrams.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is now available in digital storefronts and with it comes a host of interesting extras, including a lot from the man who wrote the music for all nine films, John Williams. The Oscar winning composer reveals that one sequence in the film, when Luke Skywalker raises his X-Wing from the waters of Ahch-To, uses the same music that Williams wrote for The Empire Strikes Back when Yoda does the exact same thing on Dagobah, but originally, J.J. Abrams wasn't sold on that particular decision. According to Williams...
Yoda lifts [the X-wing] in The Empire Strikes Back. Ramiro Belgardt, the music editor, he said ‘[the scene of Luke lifting the X-wing] should be exactly the music that we had for Yoda. And Actually, J.J. questioned it, he said ‘Well, is that, are we doing that right?’ And everybody said ‘Oh yes, it has to be. You know, the fans will all know.’
In The Empire Strikes Back, Luke's X-wing sinks into the swamp and he's unable to use the Force to get it out. Then, Yoda does it without showing much effort at all. Taking things full circle, in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, Luke finally does the thing he wasn't able to do before.
Because of the thematic connection between the scenes, it makes some sense that the music would make that connection as well. Interestingly, it seems like maybe J.J. Abrams wasn't necessarily trying to make that connection, or didn't want to hammer it home quite as much.
In the end, Abrams was convinced to use the Empire Strikes Back music, and John Williams wanted to get it so right that he actually went back to the original score he wrote for Empire in order to be sure not a single note was out of place.
So I went back to the score of Empire Strikes Back, to get those bars exactly out of them. That actual little central piece of taking the ship up is exactly as we had it before.
One thing that's clear watching the bonus features on Rise of Skywalker is that, whatever you thought of the final product, nobody phoned in their work on the gig. Everybody involved truly wanted to make this final episode something special. John Williams, it has to be said, always succeeds.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is now available for Digital purchase. It arrives on DVD, Blu-ray and 4K disc March 31