Here is another Mystery Box post for you, a series of posts in which we take the big box of mystery that is Star Wars, have a peek inside and share some of our insights with you. In our last Mystery Box post was about a part of the The Revenge of the Sith soundtrack which always got to me and I really enjoyed dipping into some of the different interpretations of it. However, it set me off thinking about the soundtrack in general and in the end I got to the end credits and how the soundtrack there repeats some key themes from the movie. At that point I thought to myself, why not look at, or rather listen to, them a little bit more closely and see what we can get from them.
In my discussion of the end credits I’m going off the tracks I’m putting in links to since there are a number of different versions out there of some of these! If you yourself have any other ideas about whether these chosen themes for the end credits could mean something then please do add it in the comments, since my ideas are never exhaustive.
The Phantom Menace (1999)
The next theme is that of young Anakin and of course his introduction in The Phantom Menace is crucial. His character, both as Anakin and as Darth Vader, dominates the saga as we have it now. It’s his presence and development that is continuous throughout both trilogies and which binds them together. The way it morphs into Darth Vader’s theme slightly towards the end as well is brilliant on John Williams’ part and is really reminiscent of the stunning TPM poster on the right.
The Attack of the Clones
The Attack of the Clones has one of my favourite themes in all of Star Wars in it and that is ‘Across the Stars’. It is simply stunning and incredibly powerful. Besides that the love between Anakin and Padme is also one of the defining features of Star Wars and therefore it is completely natural that this is the first theme that we get during the end credits. Their relationship does, in some ways, spur Anakin on towards the Dark Side and also sets up the Originals. Without it the saga as we currently have it wouldn’t have made sense and it adds a very human touch to the character of Anakin/Darth Vader. Yes, he was a General, a Jedi and then one of the most iconic villains of all of cinema, but he was also just a human being in love. Partially what gives the Prequels their depth is their willingness to go beyond the obvious and maybe even make it slightly uncomfortable for their audiences to realize that both the good guys and the bad guys have good and bad sides. The ‘Across the Stars’ theme is a seeming composite of a number of other themes. There are hints of the Imperial march, of Anakin’s theme, showing how much the love between Anakin and Padme is controlled by their surroundings.
The Revenge of the Sith
The end credits follow directly after the A New Hope theme which in and of itself isn’t insignificant since, of course, this final instalment of the Prequels serves as a set-up tot he Originals. The themes that follow the Star Wars theme are, however, our focus. Initially the A New Hope theme continues but then it is replaces by the tragedy that is the ‘Battle of Heroes’ theme. That moment is truly the moment in which everything goes wrong. There brothers fight each other in a good vs. evil fight that is not as clear cut as the one in TPM is. It’s the emotional crux of the whole film, and maybe of the whole Prequels trilogy. Without that moment Anakin couldn’t have truly become Darth Vader because it’s the moment in which, for Anakin and for Obi-Wan, their worst ideas about the other become true.
However, rather than just repeating key themes from the film itself, the choice was made by John Williams and George Lucas (I assume) to create a medley of Star Wars melodies for the end of RotS. That’s why the ‘Battle of Heroes’ theme is followed by the ‘Throne Room’ theme from A New Hope. The tragedy in the Prequels gives rise to the victory in the Originals. Bad turns to good and the soundtrack here supports this message of hope. The appearance of the ‘Force Theme’ mixed together with themes from the Originals films is a reminder at the end of this tragically beautiful film that although all things seem to have ended badly there is, indeed, a new hope and that all will come to a good end. The final return to the Star Wars theme always felt like a promise to me, although I never quite knew for what until the Sequels were announced and I knew Star Wars would never end.
A New Hope
Of course, chronologically, this was the first time the Star Wars end credits played and, as such, the immediately recognizable theme plays for a lot longer, combined with the ‘Throne Room’ theme which pops up repeatedly throughout the end credits. This film ends victoriously and the soundtrack reflects that. But from the celebration it launches straight into a soft rendition of ‘Leia’s theme’. Without doubt Leia is incredibly important to the development of the actual plot in A New Hope but also for some of the emotional gravitas of it. If it weren’t for her and her mission for R2-D2 it is questionable whether Luke would ever have found his way off Tatooine and the destruction of her home planet of Alderaan is what truly cements the Empire as an evil force. There is then also a
The Empire Strikes Back
‘The Force theme’ is such an immediately recognizable part of Star Wars and since The Empire Strikes Back is very much the film in which Luke finds himself as a Jedi it is no wonder what this is the theme that pops up first. It is what introduces him to Yoda, a meeting which I’d argue finally has him taking his first step into a larger world. ESB is a learning curve for Luke, taking him on a journey of self-discovery and growth. The Force isn’t as strongly present in ANH I’d argue as it is in ESB because this film truly allows Luke to focus on himself rather than on the Rebellion.
From there we move into the sweeping theme which is the Han and Leia Love theme. Their relationship is, despite not necessarily being a key plot point, crucial in both of their character developments and also a new development in the film. It gives the audience something to root for, provides some of the snarkiest flirting the Galaxy has ever seen and brings the conflict between the Empire and the Rebellion to a much more personal point. Leia now has to go rescue Han and the Rebellion has to take a step back as the key players try to put themselves into a position from where to fight back.
Finally we switch into the stunning ‘Imperial March’, the one theme everyone would want to march to. (In the above video it seems to have been edited slightly, it is much shorter in the original.) The major reveal of ESB was of course Luke’s parentage and the shock from that is very much what knocks Luke down. The Empire’s way of striking back is by hitting very close to home and although at least two of our protagonists sort of get away it is definitely clear that the celebratory mood from ANH has changed. The overwhelming bombast of the ‘Imperial March’ bulldozes its way quite successfully over everything else but its presence in the end credits is wholeheartedly deserved.
The Return of the Jedi
Another theme that pops up, and the final one I will discuss, is the ‘Luke and Leia’ theme. As Kathleen Kennedy said not too long ago the saga is the story of the Skywalker family and it’s the revelation that Luke and Leia are twins which explains the strong bond between the two we saw in ESB. It also, despite the terror and loss of war, gives both a sense of family and belonging which they’ve both been missing since ANH. The whole Star Wars saga is about family, in a way, from the theme of ‘Young Anakin’ in TPM to the ‘Luke and Leia’ theme here in RotJ and it’s what binds these two trilogies together as well as it does.
I hope that was as fun to you guys as it was for me. It was really interesting to see which themes were brought back and in what order. Although one could argue it is all random choice I do believe there were some ideas behind it. As I said above, if you have your own interpretation to add please do so below!