*warning (in case you haven’t seen it): some plot details from The Rise of Skywalker are mentioned
I understand that Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker has polarized Star Wars fans in every way imaginable and likely will continue to do so for years to come. That being said, this film, as with all the others in the Skywalker Saga, is full of interesting musical moments that we’ll be spending years breaking down and analyzing.
One moment that caught my attention the very first time I saw the film in theaters comes at the end of film, just as the dust is settling from Rey’s climactic fight with Emperor Palpatine. It’s a short moment in a larger theme, but it essentially makes up Kylo Ren’s “redeemed” theme.
You can find this moment in the cue “Farewell” starting around the 0:50 mark. In the film itself, it starts the moment we see Ben’s hand emerge from that crack in the ground, revealing that he is, in fact, alive and didn’t fall to his death.
In strictly technical terms, this is the same theme we’ve heard for Kylo Ren all along. The notes haven’t changed all that much…but how they’re presented is. Gone is the harsh brass, the loud, angry tones. Instead, we have a soft theme gliding along in the strings and woodwinds. In essence, this is John Williams making it as clear as possible that Kylo Ren is indeed dead and gone, that this is a changed man before us crawling and making his way towards Rey.
But as with anything John Williams does, there’s a lot more going on just in this short moment. As the redeemed theme emerges, it begins to layer on itself, building and growing as the layers rebound off one another. All of this symbolizes Ben’s grief at finding Rey dead and the battle over. How incredible is it that all of this happens in just a short space of time? It’s so effective, which is why this is one of my favorite musical moments in the entire sequel trilogy.
And of course, there is yet another connection to Ben’s grandfather Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader. You see, this isn’t the first time a Star Wars villain’s music has changed to a milder, “redeemed” style. All the way back in Return of the Jedi, Williams did something very similar for the cue “Darth Vader’s Death” (starting around 0:48)
Sounds familiar doesn’t it? It’s the same Imperial March, same notes and all that, but it’s been moved to the strings and sounds a lot more mild, just like what we hear in The Rise of Skywalker. I’m fairly certain that John Williams did this on purpose, to heighten the connection between Ben and his grandfather. It seems that Ben is exactly like Anakin after all, angry in life and redeemed at the moment of death.
Let me know what you think about Kylo Ren’s “redeemed” theme in the comments below and have a great day!
The Empire Strikes Back: “The Imperial March” by John Williams
Star Wars: Return of the Jedi “Final Duel” (1983)
Star Wars: The Clone Wars “Bad Batch Theme” (2020)
Star Wars: Rebels “It’s Over Now”
Star Wars: The Force Awakens “Kylo Ren’s Theme” (2015)
Star Wars: The Force Awakens “Rey’s Theme” (2015)
Star Wars: The Force Awakens “March of the Resistance” (2015)
Star Wars: The Last Jedi “The Spark” (2017)
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