Music Composed by: Michael Giacchino
Movie Genre: Space, Adventure
Movie Release: 2016
Soundtrack Release: 2016
Label: Walt Disney Records


… you’ve been composing it since you were ten years old… said his brother to the composer, when he learnt that he was offered the movie’s score. And indeed he was right, since after all these years at the forefront of film scoring, Michael Giacchino picks up the torch from John Williams and becomes a worthy successor!”

During the beginning of the recording sessions, the first thing that the orchestra did, was to perform the familiar opening credits of each Star Wars movie. Not because this music would be heard during the movie’s opening credits, which in this case there weren’t any, but for reasons of warming up, so that they can then compose the movie’s score. However, before he ends up composing the score of “Rogue One’’, composer Michael Giacchino spent one month under too much pressure. This was the time period he had on his disposal for composing the score, following the change of the movie’s composer. The score would be assigned to Alexandre Desplat, but the additional movie’s filming coincided with the composer’s other obligations, forcing him to quit. This is a frequent situation for many composers. While Michael Giacchino participated as a stormtrooper in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” (2015), directed by his beloved friend and co-worker, J.J. Abrams, it was now his time to compose the score of the next Star Wars universe movie, which is a standalone film storywise. That’s what I call an upgrade!

The plot of “Rogue One” is set immediately before the incidents of “Star Wars: A New Hope” (1977), with a group of rebels on a mission to steal the architectural plans of a superweapon constructed by the empire, known as the Death Star. Without any opening credits and their famous music, the first frame that we see is the one of the space, to which we are introduced all of sudden by the introduction of the track “He’s Here for Us” (#1). The music brings abruptly the viewers to movie’s events without allowing them to think anything else, besides the one that they are watching on the big screen, which makes them completely absorbed. The first musical instrument we listen following the introductory orchestra’s music outburst is the flute, which is ideal for transfusing a feeling of space mystery. At 0:36 in the track, one of the new themes appears and it is about Director Krennic, who oversees the construction of the Death Star. It is a musical theme that indicates not only the threat of this specific character, but also his arrogance stemming from his rank. At 1:56 in the same track, another new hypotonic musical theme appears, which is about the main movie’s character, Jyn Erso. Her mother, Lyra, gives her a goodbye kiss and tells her to trust the Force. Jyn leaves in order to avoid captivity.

Her hiding place is a cave, where Jyn finds a hatch that it would not be easy for anyone to locate. We have already reached the track “A Long Ride Home” (#2), in which music of agony and anticipation prevails concerning the little girl’s salvation, while the stormtroopers seek her. At 2:42 in the track, Jyn’s theme is repeated, while she is all alone in her hiding place, waiting for someone to release her. This moment comes soon, when the hatch opens and her freedom is now a fact. Then, the camera goes back to space, where the movie title “Rogue One” appears and the music gives us its first magnificent moment. A third theme makes its appearance as a fanfare, which the composer named as the hope theme for the rebels. It implies their dynamism and will be later repeated at 1:10 in “Rebellions are Built on Hope” (#11) and at 3:18 in “Jyn Erso and Hope Theme” (#19), where it is performed by a cello. The third time when we will hear Jyn’s theme, we’ ll have the chance to enjoy it in a more intense version and feel the determination that transfuses to her character in “Wobani Imperial Labor Camp” (#3). Jyn is now an adult imprisoned by the empire, but not for long. As the movie’s main musical theme, Jyn’s theme is heard very often in the score, thus it is pointless to note each of its appearances unless it serves a specific reason.

Michael Giacchino composes music for the empire in “When Has Become Now” (#5), which begins with the new theme dedicated to the mighty empire. The impressive frames of the Death Star are accompanied with an equally impressive music, a military march. It is a music of enforcement and submission that supports beyond any expectation the military wrath of the empire. And while we see Director Κrennic talking to his supervisor Grand Moff Tarkin, we hear again a short appearance of Krennic’s theme at 1:31, when he cries out the phrase “I will not fail” regarding the first test of the Death Star. The track ends with one more reading of the new theme for the empire, quite possibly more impressive than the first one that was heard during the introduction of the track.

The music is distinguished by a completely different atmosphere when the movie’s plot is transferred to the planet of Jedha, from where the religion of the Jedi begun and where their sacred city is located. The tracks “Trust Goes Both Ways” (#4) and “Jedha Arrival” (#6) bring out the different atmosphere that is prevalent to a planet full of deserts, rocks and barren mountains. This exotic atmosphere of the planet is displayed on the music with the combination of percussion instruments, electronic sounds and a slightly eerie ethnic atmosphere. The violins reveal a nervousness, since the movie’s characters visit Jedha and travel under complete secrecy, while dangers are looming. “Jedha City Ambush”(#7) is the first milestone of pure adventure in the score and concerns the battle between the extreme rebels and the stormtroopers at the sacred city of Jedha. Before this battle, Jyn will have a conversation with a blind man that will sense her presence. His name is Chirrut Imwe and he is a guardian, a member of a sacred order, of the Jedi temple. During the movie, he often appeals for the Force and while talking to Jyn, the composer makes sure to give him his own musical identity. It is a theme of priesthood included only in the movie and not in the soundtrack. We will hear it again in a more emotionally taut version in “The Master Switch” (#16).

Subsequently, we will hear a more vicious and devious musical accompaniment, dedicated of course to the empire, in “Krennic’s Aspirations” (#10). Just like the music can prepare the movie’s viewer for those about to see, it also has the ability to surprise him. One of these cases is the track that was mentioned above, when Director Krennic lands with his spaceship on a volcanic planet. Who is the one that visits at his stately residence? Despite the fact that the music could answer to any of our questions concerning this person, it doesn’t. It cleverly does not incline us towards it, since the viewer’s surprise is achieved when he sees in front of his eyes the most emblematic figure of the Star Wars movies. Only after the appearance of the great characteristic shadow of Darth Vader on the screen, we hear his musical theme, slightly hypotonic, just before he addresses his visitor by saluting him with the phrase “director Krennic”. A more dynamic but short reading of his theme will accompany the departure of Darth Vader from the scene, which we will hear in the end of the track.

Jyn is at the rebels’ council and tries to persuade them that the time for acting against the empire has come. Her opinion is not that popular and the council decides on doing nothing. However, she will take matters in her own hands. Despite the disapproval of the council, Jyn and her supporters board a spaceship and land on Scarif, in order to steal the architectural plans of the Death Star. This happens while we are listening to the track “Rogue One” (#12) and at this point the music vividly depicts the military intentions of the rebels and their bold and brave spirit. They are determined to succeed with the help of the Force, which Jyn calls on with the known phrase: “may the Force be with us”. At this point, John Williams’ Force theme appears, in one of its many appearances during the score of the film. The first time that it will be heard in the movie, but it will not be included in the available soundtrack, is when the rebels have traced Jyn and bring her in front of the council for interrogation. The figure of Bail Organa appears through the darkness, while the others talk to Jyn and this signifies the Force theme. A more intense reading of the same theme is in “Trust Goes Both Ways” (#4), following Jyn’s theme.

The tracks “Scrambling the Rebel Fleet” (#14), “At-Act Assault” (#15) & “Τhe Master Switch” (#16) offer satisfactory adventure music that follows the warfare caused by the attempt of sabotage on the planet Scarif. Especially the track “Τhe Master Switch” (#16) that leads the plot to its peak, gives a feeling of a countdown, something not at all accidental, in order to intensify the agony of the viewer. We reach the plot’s peak with the outcome of Jyn’s and the rebels’ daring operation on Scarif. The track concerning the plot’s peak and where only a few quotes can be heard is “Your Father Would Have Been Proud” (#17). There is no much talking, the frames have an intense impact and the music is responsible for carrying all the deep feeling of these moments. In such cases, the capability of the composer is shown. And in this case, Michael Giacchino exceeded the expectations once more with the most emotionally intense track of this score and one of the best of his career in cinema! Loss meets hope, while we are listening to a very emotional reading of Jyn’s theme. Sacrifice meets relief and consolation, since a very significant goal has been achieved, when the viewer is overwhelmed by the performance of the rebel hope’s theme with the participation of an 80-member choir that intensifies the dramatic timbre. The music “keeps the dream alive”, as it was said in the movie earlier, while at the same time it overflows with drama. Never before has success been heard so wonderfully dramatic! It is a track of a highly emotional burden that it is impossible to leave the viewer unaffected. Without a doubt, it is one of the best tracks composed for the big screen in 2016!

Darth Vader attempts to steal the files transmitted from Scarif to the rebels and he does it in person, while at the same time we are hearing the track “Hope” (#18). A more complete reading of his theme follows the choir’s outburst just before the files reach the hands that are supposed to, and then at the end of the track here comes a reading of the Force theme. Hope has been rescued and the music of Michael Giacchino gives the best possible epilogue to the movie, just before the end credits. Perhaps you noticed the references that preceded about the Force theme, which appears in the score frequently. You might wonder why this is happening, since there are no Jedi in the movie. This might be a fact, however, the references to the Force in the movie are constant. The place from where Jedi begun is Jedha, where for a great part of the movie it hosts the plot. Therefore, the times when the Force theme can be heard are absolutely justified, cleverly put and serve their significantly effective role for the movie’s musical needs.

The tracks “Jyn Erso & Hope Suite” (#19), “The Imperial Suite” (#20) & “Guardians of the Whills Suite” (#21) constitute the end credits music, with the familiar music of John Williams to precede, which is not included neither on the digital download nor the CD of the score. The end titles give always an opportunity to the composer to leave a good impression since it is his time to become the absolute star. Despite the very little time Michael Giacchino had at his disposal for composing the score, he managed to give new and interesting readings to the themes of the score for the end credits. In most cases, composers simply stitch their composed themes, but the intriguing moments of the “Rogue One” score do not end when the end credits appear. In “Jyn Erso & Hope Suite” (#19) we have new appealing readings of Jyn’s and hope’s themes. In “The Imperial Suite” (#20) the two themes that relate directly or indirectly with the empire appear: the military march is heard on the beginning and the end of the track, while in the middle we can hear Director Krennic’s theme. Finally, in “Guardians of the Whills Suite” (#21), here comes the biggest surprise of the end credits, since it is the first time we have such a complete and majestic reading of the Jedi temple guardians’ theme (Chirrut Imwe) with the participation of a choir.

How is it possible to compose the above especially demanding music within just one month? Time for a composer is really never enough. Let alone when you have to work with such anxiety. However, everything is a matter of organization. The composer made sure that he will organize his time in a way that he will be able to compose what is required and have also a little extra available time in order to go back and improve anything that needs improvement. There is a phrase that composers usually say: when you work under pressure, you perform better. Michael Giacchino achieved all of his goals. He met every expectation. In fact, he exceeded all expectations: he composed memorable musical themes that serve wonderfully their scope, he respected John Williams’ legacy and he used at the required level the themes from the previous Star Wars movies, he created a unique musical world that fits perfectly with the Star Wars musical universe and he finally continued what John Williams knows better than anyone; to compose music that has intense narrative ability, even when it is cut from the frames for which it was composed in the first place. As the first composer who is responsible for the composition of a Star Wars movie soundtrack, following John Williams, there is no doubt that the Force was with him, since his musical product holds a position amongst the best soundtracks of 2016.

Track List:

01. He’s Here For Us (3:20)
02. A Long Ride Ahead (3:56)
03. Wobani Imperial Labor Camp (0:54)
04. Trust Goes Both Ways (2:45)
05. When Has Become Now (1:59)
06. Jedha Arrival (2:48)
07. Jedha City Ambush (2:19)
08. Star-Dust (3:47)
09. Confrontation on Eadu (8:05)
10. Krennic’s Aspirations (4:16)
11. Rebellions Are Built on Hope (2:56)
12. Rogue One (2:04)
13. Cargo Shuttle SW-0608 (3:59)
14. Scrambling the Rebel Fleet (1:33)
15. AT-ACT Assault (2:55)
16. The Master Switch (4:02)
17. Your Father Would Be Proud (4:51)
18. Hope (1:37)
19. Jyn Erso and Hope Suite (5:51)
20. The Imperial Suite (2:29)
21. Guardians of the Whills Suite (2:52)

Total Time: 69:00

The tracks that stand out are noted with bold letters.

Score Rating: * * * *

“He’s Here for Us” (#1):

“A Long Ride Ahead” (#2):

“Wobani Imperial Labor Camp” (#3):

“When Has Become Now” (#5):

“Krennic’s Aspirations” (#10):

“Rogue One” (#12):

“The Master Switch” (#16):

“Your Father Would Have Been Proud” (#17):

“Hope” (#18):

“Jyn Erso and Hope Suite” (#19):

“The Imperial Suite” (#20):

“Guardians of the Whills Suite” (#21):