Your darkest entry of the trilogy, your biggest eating joy of the bunch by Thomas Glorieux (January 15, 2007)
We count 3 years, 3 years later than Star Wars, the movie and score that wiped down your preconceptions about Hollywood and the long forgotten classical symphonic score. Finally back on the planet (whether it is on the Cloud City or on Dagobah), John Williams recaptured that exact same spirit of the first, gave it a darker edge and delivered use some more thematic dynamite to underscore the best film of the three. In advance, I don't know if the darker style has something to do with it because I seem to miss more highlights than even the first, even if people claim to be that The Empire Strikes Back is the best score of the trilogy. I always said it was the best but Return of the Jedi still stands as the score having the most highlights. Now, anyway people consider this score the best because it mixes all the themes of the trilogy (forgetting the cuddly Ewoks theme for a moment) into such a whole that it feels like the best possible mix is presented. This is definitely true and the score is even with its dark edge a masterpiece containing probably some of the best tracks of the whole composed Star Wars music. The Empire Strikes Back is also with its special edition a dream come true, with unreleased material and a booklet guiding us carefully into musical heaven.
The first CD begins as usual (forgetting the short 20th Century Fox fanfare) with the main theme and we by now have gotten used to it. Furthermore in 'Main Title / The Ice Planet Hoth' we discover Darth Vader's theme, Luke's theme and Leia's theme in an all encompassing track. 'The Wampa's Lair / Vision of Obi Wan * / Snowspeeders take Flight' which is immensely long (the track name) covers more difference with dissonant flutes, a short force theme moment and heroic music. Why I mention this track is particular is because it doesn't have the excellent Speeder music (when they are searching for Luke and Han). This is not found on this disc and I still find that a real shame because I thought it was excellent. 'The Battle of Hoth' takes up 1/4 of this first disc's place and is a mammoth action piece containing the interesting music for the walkers which leans close to the Indiana Jones music and further strong statements of the rebel fanfare and Vader's theme. A standout track! Still, the best track of the entire collection of Star Wars music is considered by many to be and forever will 'The Asteroid Field', a classical masterpiece of fanfares and probably one of the best damn things John Williams ever wrote, appearing only once here and in the trilogy. Near the end of the first score, we have playful escapades for R2D2 (track 7), pizzicato renditions of Yoda's theme in 8 and the interruption of the love theme in 9 when C3PO disturbs Han and Leia just the way we like it. 'Jedi Master Revealed / Mynock Cave' covers some strong fanfares for the falcon and the hyperspace moment and dissonance is discovered in 11 when Luke confronts Vader in the cave.
The second disc is still our favorite because it covers the first full blown version of 'The Imperial March' which still remains a fantastic track and further moves in the territory of the complete opposite side, 'Yoda's Theme'. 'Attacking a Star Destroyer' leans close to the style of the Asteroid music and even a short synthesizer is noticed in 'Yoda and the Force' but it isn't memorable for this, but for the strong heroic statement of Yoda's theme. 'Lando's Palace' covers a more upbeat moment of music for the city in the clouds and be then ready for the best 30 or so minutes of the score. 'Carbon Freeze / Darth Vader's Trap / Departure of Boba Fett' is excellent because of the strong statement of Leia's theme and also the heroic version of Yoda's theme later in the track. 'The Clash of Lightsabers' uses more stardom music with the threatening use of the Imperial March (used with great effect in one of the many trailers of Attack of the Clones) and a wonderful use of Leia's theme with great brass through it. 'Rescue from Cloud City / Hyperspace' is a funny track because here you receive the speeder music (heard in the movie when the speeder is searching for Luke and Han in the begin of the film) and why it appears here and not also there is a question still to be answered but it is excellent and it is found on the score, that's all I want to know. 'The Rebel Fleet / End Title' is the closing track and uses with astonishing effect themes together, such as the main theme, Leia's theme, the city of the clouds theme, the imperial march and once more Leia's theme. It is not however over and the last 50 seconds state the wonderful climax once more used as trailer music (this time however at the end of the original trailer of the Phantom Menace).
If you haven't noticed it by know, there is too much splendid material on this score to not like the darker edge of The Empire Strikes Back. It is a fantastic display of themes, John Williams perhaps mingles 50 times the one theme after the other trough each other and at the end of the second disc, you still haven't grown tired of them. It also captures in my book the ultimate magic of the best scene with the best music (the asteroid moment) and has the best themes in one unique film at offer. It is simply quoted a piece of music not to miss if you are even vaguely interested in music. I even think that classical music lovers will be interested in such music because it is after all symphonic music, leaning close to several styles of classical composers and it is one of the most accepted pieces of music to be found on the world. I don't think one person not liking the Imperial March when they spot it on the television or on the radio. The Empire Strikes Back is not only a fantastic film but also a fantastic score and both together they form magic on screen. The special edition is then also capturing the proud words who everyone knows: "The force is strong with this one".