Why Michael Giacchino’s Rogue One score is my favorite Star Wars soundtrack (right now)


John Williams’s Star Wars music is the stuff of legend and can never be matched. But Michael Giacchino’s score for Rogue One stands just as strong on its own.

When Lucasfilm announced a composer other than John Williams would write the score for Rogue One, I felt trepidation as well as excitement. The heart and soul of Star Wars are in its music. If you ruin that, you risk ruining the film itself.

I needn’t have felt any kind of concern for Rogue One, however. By now, I have listened to Michael Giacchino’s score for Rogue One so many times that when I watch the film, my brain anticipates the musical cues accompanying each major scene. That, to me, is the sign of a good soundtrack: when I listen to it, I see the movie play out in my head. It’s one reason why the Rogue One score is probably my favorite Star Wars music right now.

It seems blasphemous to say that Rogue One is my favorite Star Wars soundtrack. After all, no composer one can measure up to John Williams. No one has written more sweeping, emotionally-charged themes, each one a perfect encapsulation of the film it accompanies. No one has done more to develop the identity of the franchise we know and love. When you think of Star Wars, you think of the triumphant blast of the opening crawl music; the brisk efficiency of the “Imperial March;” and the romanticism of “Across the Stars.” As a composer tasked with creating a soundtrack which sounds like Star Wars and yet isn’t just a parody of Williams’s style, Giacchino must have felt overwhelmed. Add to that the fact that he only had a handful of weeks to write the score, and the whole thing sounds like a disaster in the making.

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What resulted, however, was far from a disaster. Somehow, Giacchino accomplished exactly what he was supposed to. He created music that sounded like Williams and yet still different, still unique. Now, when I think of Star Wars, I also think of music from Rogue One: Jyn’s oft-repeated refrain; the “Imperial Suite;” and the lilting “Guardians of the Whills” melody. The standalone soundtrack is memorable, both for its hints at nostalgia and its newness.

The best thing Lucasfilm has done since Kathleen Kennedy took over is to start making new movies apart from the Episodes. With these new movies come new ideas, and not just for storytelling. The music, too, feels fresh and different. As much as I love John Williams, I also love listening to Giacchino’s interpretation of the galaxy far, far away. His success in marrying the old with the new makes me excited for future Star Wars standalone film scores by new composers.

What do you think of the Rogue One soundtrack? Is it among your favorites of the Star Wars scores? Comment below.