Star Wars films have historically been defined by their iconic music, and a change of composers for the upcoming standalone Rogue One shows that the film may trade dark and gritty themes for sunnier, more heroic tunes.
Though Alexandre Desplat was originally hired to score the new Star Wars film, he’s now been replaced with Michael Giacchino, most famous for scoring the last three Star Trek films, including this summer’s Star Trek Beyond.
John Williams’s wonderful music for the preexisting Star Wars movies is so integral to how most audiences understand the characters and motivations in the various storylines. There’s a lot to unpack, but the bottom line is this: Williams created leitmotifs for individual characters (like the Jawas or the Ewoks) plus several motifs and themes for larger story arcs (like Luke becoming a Jedi, Han and Leia falling in love, Darth Vader marching around, etc.). The music in Star Wars tells as much of the story as the dialogue and the lightsabers. For the most part, the scores in the Star Wars movies have always been a significant part of how people relate to the story.
Alexandre Desplat’s scoring of Godzilla and the final Harry Potter film proves he’s no stranger to creating music for epic tales, but his resume scans a little more artsy and intricate than his replacement, Michael Giacchino. Desplat has produced dark music for Zero Dark Thirty and complex music for Wes Anderson films. Giacchino, on the other hand, is probably most famous for creating the stirring, bring-you-to-the-edge-of-your-seat music for the new Star Trek films, the re-worked John Williams score for Jurassic World, and the bombastic sounds of the Incredibles. True, both composers have previously worked with material originally composed John Williams, but Giacchino seems like the safer, more traditional choice of the two.
It’s unclear at this point if Desplat turned in a partial score for Rogue One that may or may not be replaced by Giacchino’s. Right now, the only reason being cited for Desplat’s removal is that his schedule couldn’t accommodate the reshoots for Rogue One. But is it true? Was Desplat’s score too dark? Or is this exactly what it seems like: He just couldn’t make the new post-production schedule work?
The whirlwind of speculation around Rogue One’s reshoots have centered primarily on certain Disney executives wanting to make sure the movie gets “the tone right” in order to match A New Hope. To this end, Tony Gilroy has been added into the post-production screenwriting mix alongside director Gareth Edwards. But the tone of a movie is related to music, too.
With a different composer — one known for upbeat scores — being brought in just months before the film debuts, there’s more than enough reason to believe the tone and possibly even plot of Rogue One has shifted slightly towards a more optimistic mood. And though we may be be splitting Wookie hairs, Giacchino’s Rogue One music may provide a more overtly heroic and upbeat voice for that story.