Film Score Friday Top 5: “Star Wars” Cues Part III – Return of the Jedi

(Note: I didn’t edit much last night before posting, and I’ve gone back now and cleaned this up a bit.)

Now for the oft delayed, but never forgotten, Part III of our countdown of Star Wars (Original Flava) cues.  Same rules as before.  Let’s go to the tape:

Yub Nub!
Yub Nub!

1) “Yub Nub” aka Ewok Celebraion – I’m not sure exactly what this origianl Ewok celebration music is called on the soundtrack release since what I have has the new ending music, but I much prefer the pre-Lucas revision cue.  In my humble opinion (did you hear me stepping onto the soap box?), of all the changes that Lucas made, this was is the most egregious.  Now I’m not talking about putting young Anakin in place of old crusty Anakin, or even the scenes of the Empire falling, I could care less about those.  I’m talking about getting rid of “Yub Nub.”  I loved that song!  (Props to my friend Scott for cuing me into the image.)

And because I love you all, done by Barber Shop Quartet (with translation!)

2) “Leia’s News/Light of the Force” – Interesting to note that the cue on the CD is actually longer than what is used in the film (either version).  Right after the “Leia’s News” part, there is a pause where in the movie you have the Ewok horns and then the wipe cut to Luke’s torch.  On the CD, the first statement of the “Force Theme” is not what you hear next in the movie, but rather the second time the French Horn comes in is where the cue starts in the film (And yes, I’ve compared both versions).  But the main reason in selecting this cue is, of course, the Funeral Pyre scene (“Light of the Force”).  Through out the course of the trilogy, the “Force Theme” has taken on such a huge meaning: Luke’s Destiny/Fate, religious subtext, and many others.  The first full statement in series (Binary Sunset), has Luke gazing into the distance/space, not knowing what lay ahead, and here, the last statement, is how that is brought to a close: the son “buries” his father, closing the circle.  Not to mention the added meanings when you consider the prequels (Qui-Gon’s funeral, and of course the Immolation Scene in Revenge of the Sith).  But what is so great about the cue is just how subtlety Williams plays it.  In the part that is used, you have the French Horn statement over tremolo strings, with a string bass defining the bass line, expanding the tonal aural space.  And where, in the answer to the horn solo, the original “Binary Sunset” cue soars into space, this time the strings play it down as Luke looks on.  And even as the camera pans up, Williams elects to continue the understated natue as the cue comes to a close and the beginning of “Yub Nub” starts to play (if you’re watching the good version).

3) “Jabba’s Baroque Recital” – Time for another one of my strange associations.  For some reason this music, which is being played in Jabba’s “throne room” when C-3P0 and R2-D2 arrive, always made me think, for some reason, that is was a Sunday morning on Tatooine.  It feels laid back, and calm, like something you’d be playing during Sunday brunch or something.  Regardless, it’s another Williams music track that fills out the diegetic aural space of the Star Wars universe brilliantly, alongside the Cantina Band numbers.

4 & 5) I’m going to cheat massively here and put the entire Battle of Endor sequence for the last two spaces.  On your two-disc set, that is the following cues: Emperor’s Throne Room, The Battle of Endor I, The Lightsaber/Ewok Battle, The Battle of Endor II, and The Battle of Endor III.  As I’ve said many times to Herr Vogler, I think that this sequence (roughly the last 30 minutes of the film) is one of the best examples of audio-visual editing and scoring music to image in film.  The creation of continuity between the three battles (Emperor/Luke/Vader, on Endor, and in space around Endor) is just about perfect.  Also, Williams really brings it all to the score, bringing most of the major themes from the series to a head, and it perfectly fits with the ebb and flow of the battle.  And the Emperor’s music (with the chorus) is among the best music of the series.

So that concludes the original trilogy.  Maybe someday when I’ve stopped crying about it, I’ll do the prequels.  As for next week…suggestions?

2 thoughts on “Film Score Friday Top 5: “Star Wars” Cues Part III – Return of the Jedi

  1. I don’t consider nos. 4 and 5 to be cheating. What Williams created for that final battle is nothing short of astonishing, especially given how the thematic material is integrated into the score without becoming redundant.

    If I’m not mistaken, the final film version of “Light of the Force” is edited together from the two versions presented on the album. The Pikey (if he ever makes it to your blog) would know for sure. He did the first real work on Tanis, er, Star Wars. Well, he’s seen the original films more than anyone I know (which is not meant to inspire a Competition for Urinary Supremacy, it’s just frighteningly true) so he would be able to tell you.

    I’ve always loved “Return of the Jedi” and “The Emperor’s Death”. “The Death of Yoda” has always made me stop whatever I was in the middle of. Somehow Williams managed to pick THE perfect key for that solo horn to mournfully intone Yoda’s theme.

    Another one of my favorite moments, though it’s not a cue per se, is the external establishing shot of the Rebel Fleet at Sullust. The passage is only about 20 seconds or so long but positively bursts with expectant energy.

  2. I’ll have to go back and watch for some of those other cues. It’s strange, I was such a die hard fan of “Empire” (film and score) for so long, but I find myself gravitating towards “Jedi” more and more as I get older. I don’t know what people have against it (and why they bash the Ewoks so much), but it is a great film, and for my money, is still better than Ep. IV.

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