We all knew the day would come. The day that John Williams hands the Star Wars baton to another composer and ultimately the responsibility of providing the oxygen to a galaxy far far away. In 2016 we will see, for the first time the much-anticipated ‘spin off’ Star Wars movie or anthology movie as Lucasfilm likes to call them. ‘Rogue One’ will be directed by Gareth Edwards but equally as notable the composer, will not be John Williams but Paris-born Alexandre Desplat. Lets take a closer look at the composer and try to see what we can expect.
Alexandre Desplat, right now is riding on a wave of success. Just a few months ago at the Academy Awards Desplat won his first Oscar in the category of best original score for Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel. As coincidences would have it, Desplat emulated John Williams by being nominated for another movie at the same time. That movie was for The Imitation Game. In 1978 John Williams had two nominations, one for Close Encounters and Star Wars which he ultimately ended up winning.
Rogue One will be the second time that Gareth Edwards and Alexandre Desplat have teamed up, the first being the 2014 version of Godzilla which ultimately took $200 million at the box office. Desplat is considered one of the most sophisticated current composers but yet is not afraid of taking on genre’s like a big budget monster movies such as Godzilla, a contrast from ‘The Painted Veil’. There is a lot of John Williams influence in Godzilla in particular Jaws with a hint of Jurassic Park. On top of that, Desplat has cleverly mixed an epic soundtrack with the works of Japanese composer Akira Ifukube who worked on the original 1954 Godzilla. What this tells us is that Desplat can pick up and run with other composers influences and turn them into something with his own mark. A task easier said than done. Not many composers can achieve this but Desplat is most definitely one of them.
A sign of a good movie composer is one that can take you on a journey and successfully build tension along the way. John Williams we all know can do this in bucket loads and Desplat is another composer that can do this. Sticking with Godzilla listen to a piece called The Power Plant. The tension builds throughout the piece which at times would fit perfectly in a Hitchcock movie. The tension continues to build with a more increased beat before it erupts with an ending of trumpets and strings. A track that could easily fit a movie heavy on combat and military action, which of course we could see quite a bit of in Rogue One.
Godzilla isn’t Desplat’s biggest movie. In 2010 and 2012 a two-part movie version of the book Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was released with as much anticipation that would easily rival a Star Wars release (maybe not The Force Awakens.) Those two movies alone have now taken over $2 billion worldwide.
In a way these two movies were the most important of any of the Harry Potter releases so far. Questions were to be answered and secrets revealed. Fans of the movies were eager to see the final showdown between Voldermort and Harry Potter so the music had to deliver. The first three Harry Potter movies were scored by John Williams and in usual Williams fashion he brought us music that has become engrained in movie soundtrack history. Hedwig’s theme has become the signature piece for anything to do with Harry Potter and Desplat knew that this piece had to return for the final movies. These two movies give us a good indication of what to expect from Desplat when it comes to adapting a John Williams soundtrack. In fact we are lucky enough to practically here the same piece of music by both composers. The piece is called ‘Leaving Hogwarts’ and we first hear the piece at the end of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. It really is an important piece in the movie as it wraps up the story. This one piece has the important task of making the whole world of Harry Potter a magical place that you will want to come back to. Of course John Williams delivers.
Alexandre Desplat does something that is rarely done in movies. He brings practically the entire piece back for Deathly Hallows part two, this time not to end a chapter of Harry Potter but to bring the whole story to a close. He also incorporates ‘Hedwig’s Theme’ which has become the signature piece for Harry Potter. Desplat could have easily brought his own interpretation to the ending but instead decided to use what John Williams had already made for a perfect ending proving that the composer is not afraid to acknowledge when a previous composer has got it spot on. Desplat said in an interview regarding the music of Harry Potter:
“Well, we all know there’s one theme, which has become iconic, Hedwig’s Theme from John Williams. This theme is crucial to the success of the story, and it would have been disrespectful and stupid for me not to use it at the crucial moments where we need to refer to these ten years of friendships that we’ve all had with these characters and kids, so ‘Hedwig’s Theme’ does reoccur a lot more [than] in Part 1 where loss of innocence was the main theme of the film.
A good sign for Rogue One I would say.
For Rogue One there will be no question that we will get a mix of John Williams with Desplat’s Star Wars own interpretation. That’s no bad thing. It’s happened before and is happening now with the excellent Kevin Kiner. Who can forget the superb music to The Clone Wars especially (spoiler alert) that episode where we see Ashoka leave? We hear Kiners original work seamlessly mixing with John Williams. A powerful piece on violin adding to emotional scene of seeing Ashoka walking away. That one piece, for me is now up there in my ‘classic Star Wars music’ collection. Kiner continues his excellent work with Star Wars Rebels and again we hear the composer mixing his original take on the series with constant familiar pieces from John Williams such as hearing ‘Tales of a Jedi’ every time we see Ezra using the Force. It’s a masterful stroke and I get goose bumps every time I hear it. I am certain that Desplat will do the same and invoke the same response.
Alexandre Desplat is no fly by night composer. He’s been nominated six times for an Oscar and as mentioned winning this year for The Grand Budapest Hotel. Other movies that Desplat has produced his magic upon include Argo, The King’s Speech, Fantastic Mr. Fox, The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button, and Zero Dark Thirty.
Paris-born Desplat has said that he feels it’s important to have a ‘very intermittent discussion’ with the director before working on a film. He has always wanted to write music for films and has a passion for cinema. He said himself he has a respect for movie makers that he wants to find the right sounds to fit the movie. So what this means is we are likely to hear more of the same Star Wars magic we’ve come to expect when it comes to the music with just a nice mix of Desplat and that’s not a bad thing.
Rob Wainfur from The Bearded Trio reporting for:
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