Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back / O.S.T.
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Review Text Widely regarded as the finest film in the series, The Empire Strikes Back found composer John Williams in complete control of the Star Wars universe. Having already established a wide berth of memorable character motifs and notable hero/villain cues, he fleshed out the old and brought in the new with special attention paid to the movie's darker themes, resulting in one of the most cohesive and fully realized scores of his career. Beginning with the unmistakable main titles, Williams launches into "The Ice Planet Hoth," a peerless battle theme that utilizes the composer's vast orchestral arsenal to great effect. Pounding percussion, brass, and the intricate weaving in and out of familiar themes from the previous installment engage the audience from the very first note. All of this cacophony is really just a setup for the introduction of the series' most coveted piece of music, "The Imperial March (Darth Vader's Theme)." Williams had hinted at this Prokofiev-meets-Mars, the Bringer of War death march throughout portions of A New Hope, and to hear it in its completed form is exhilarating. Also notable are the romantic cues for Han Solo and Princess Leia ("Han & the Princess") and the expansion of the wistful "Jedi" melody, which is used to great effect on "Yoda's Theme" and "The Training of a Jedi Knight/Magic Tree." The Empire Strikes Back is epic, romantic, and powerful. It is George Lucas' world at its most uncompromising, and Williams' score treats its themes of heroism and betrayal like the Shakespearian tragedy that it is. ~ James Christopher Monger