Total Time: (74:07)
|Composition/Conducting: John Williams|
Performance: The London Symphony Orchestra
Despite the fact that most fans considered this to be the weakest Star Wars film to date (I personally rank it third), many have remarked that it still brings out Williams' true talent. This score is indeed smilar to it's predecessors and greatly mature by comparison, yet still not the best in the series as it is greatly overshadowed by The Empire Strikes Back in thematic power and I therefore rank episode 1 in second place immediately behind it.
Like others, I believe the best aspect of the new SW score to be the great new dueling theme, which Williams himself has claimed as one of his favorite works. This album contains the concert version of the theme in track 2. Track 3 presents Anakin's new theme in concert format as well, adding bits of the Imperial March to masterfully foreshadow events in the young boy's future. My favorite track is "Qui-Gon's Noble End," (I hope you've seen the movie) which brings the dueling theme full circle, and contains one of the most dramatic moments of Williams' career. The point at which Qui-Gon is actually stabbed is undoubtedly my favorite moment in the whole score. I'm not being morbid, I just think that it has incredible impact.
Oddly the use of the main theme has been greatly trimmed. It appears a few times but never sustains itself outside of the opening and closing titles. The only other returning theme apart from the two previously mentioned is the emperor's theme from Return of the Jedi which shows up in tracks 14 and 17, the latter containing an strangely light-hearted version of it in the guise of "Augie's Great Municipal Band." This track is actually a bit of a dissapointment for Williams however. It seems to me no matter how excellent a composer he has become, John has just never gotten the use of synth down quite correctly.
The album finishes with rather dull end credits, which unfortunately do not contain any large or conclusive codas as in previous outings. Instead, we are treated to long cut-and-paste playings of the two new concert themes. In the film, once Anakin's theme has exhausted itself you can hear Darth Vader's breathing apparatus for a few seconds which has been unfortunately cut out of this album release. I'm unsure if the Vader is heard at the end of the expanded edition soundtrack, which I haven't bought yet (for which I sincerely apologize), but I would assume that he is.
The Phantom Menace isn't really John Williams' crowing achievement, but it is a wonderful score none the less. If you're a fan of Star Wars, you almost definitely have this already. If you're not a Star Wars fan I pity you, but in any case you need to purchase this instant classic.