hmv.com presents… The Best Soundtracks of All Time: The Empire Strikes Back
With some great in-store offers starting this week on films and on film soundtracks as part our 'Decades' series, every day we'll be picking the best soundtrack, one for every year, starting with 1950 right through to the present day. Today we're up to 1980 and arguably the best of the Star Wars films, The Empire Strikes Back...
The Empire Strikes Back, sequel to George Lucas' 1977 sci-fi classic, Star Wars.
So what’s the film about?
Following on from the Rebel Alliance's successful mission to destroy the Death Star, we pick up the action three years later with Darth Vader on a manhunt to locate Luke Skywalker and the rest of the rebels. While he chases Han Solo, Leia and Chewbacca across the galaxy, Luke is hiding out in the Dagobah system, working on his Jedi skills under the tutelage of master Yoda.
The film's climactic lightsaber battle between Skywalker and Vader includes the revelation that Vader is, or was, Anakin Skywalker, in what is surely one of the most often-quoted lines in cinematic history.
Is this a score or a soundtrack?
It's a big, block-busting orchestral score, written and conducted by none other than the legendary John Williams.
So what's it like?
Williams' scores for the Star Wars series of films have become some of the most iconic in cinema, but where the Star Wars main theme is bold and triumphant, one of the most prominent pieces of music in The Empire Strikes Back is the 'Imperial March', or 'Darth Vader's Theme', which takes that same idea but shifts it into a minor key, creating an altogether more sinister anthem suited perfectly to the second film's more pessimistic outlook.
What does it give the film?
Williams' score is a masterpiece that has everything, from the romance of 'Han Solo and the Princess', through the contemplative mood of 'Yoda's Theme' to the high-drama heroics of 'The Duel'. Star Wars is often described as a 'space opera' and it is largely Williams' music that makes this description an accurate one, its huge scale matching the visual extravaganza of special effects and space battles.
What’s the best moment?
Darth Vader's entrance to the strains of the 'Imperial March' is one of the film's most memorable moments and the music has become so associated with evil that it has been used and parodied for this same effect in too many films and TV shows to list.
Has it stood the test of time?
Definitely. Williams' music has a timeless quality that means it wouldn't seem at all out of place on a film released this week, and the composer's work on this and other films of the 1970s and 80s helped set the standard for what a blockbuster soundtrack should be.