The Force Unleashed Composed by Mark Griskey
Promo Release (2008)
* This promo is not available for purchase
Music used by permission from
“Start to finish, THE FORCE
UNLEASHED is the most
entertaining Star Wars score
since RETURN OF THE JEDI.”
A New Era of The Force
Review by Christopher Coleman
"JOHN WILLIAMS, who
is a living legend, is the one who defined that sound. So there is a
big expectation there. The music needs to live up to his level. It
can't get too far away from what he has established."
(Spoiler Alert! There is material here that some may consider minor
Music has long been a crucial element of the mega-franchise that is STAR
WARS. Composer John Williams' work for the 1977 original film set many
youngsters on a their path to become film score composers...and many
others to becoming film score fanatics. The Star Wars galaxy has grown
over the last three decades to include books, comics, television and video
games. While most of the best selling games made good use of the hours of
original score written for the films, a couple of games
of the 90s dared to break away from the musical-canon; the most famous of which is
Joel McNeely's score for SHADOWS OF THE EMPIRE. In later years, two of the
most successful Star Wars video games featured original scores which
incorporated excerpts from Williams' work. Bioware's RPG STAR WARS:
KNIGHTS OF THE OLD REPUBLIC and Obsidian's STAR WARS: KNIGHTS OF THE OLD
REPUBLIC II: THE SITH LORDS were hugely popular, award winning games that
have become some of LucasArts top sellers.
In terms of action-games (first person or third person shooters), the Star
Wars game franchise has been in a bit of a lull since the early 2000s.
Although there was much ado in 2005 with the release of climactic STAR WARS:
EPISODE III - REVENGE OF THE SITH, itself a disappointment of sorts, its
tie-in video game was received even more coolly by the gaming world.
While things may have seemed to have gone quiet since then, the minds at LucasArts have
been hard at work on a game that has been positioned to not only
revitalize world of Star Wars gaming, but to push console gaming into new
realms of A.I. and real-world physics. That game is THE FORCE
UNLEASHED, which has been in development for years - testing the
patience of even the most ardent fans. Now, this game has been in development
for so long with good reason. Aside from the technical breakthroughs
pioneered specifically for this game, another major factor lies in the
development of the game's story. Game director, Haden Blackwell and his team of writers
carefully crafted an original story that eventually
garnered GEORGE LUCAS' approval for canonization! No easy feat. THE FORCE UNLEASHED is set between
Episodes 3 and 4 and is centered around a secret apprentice of the Sith
Lord, Darth Vader. This new apprentice, Starkiller, is tasked with helping
to complete "The Great Jedi Purge." Starkiller takes
use of the Force to never-before-seen levels and in so doing provides great
opportunities for gamers to be visually stunned as they proceed through the
game on their Xbox 360, Playstation 2, 3, PSP, Nintendo Wii or DS.
Of course, as with any good STAR WARS episode, whether film, television
show or game, the associated music has to go beyond "good." Expectations are for the
spectacular. As a one-time LucasArts staff member, MARK GRISKEY already
had KNIGHTS OF THE OLD REPUBLIC II: THE SITH LORDS, under his belt as
well as contributions to games like: EPISODE III: REVENGE OF THE SITH,
STAR WARS: RACERS REVENGE, and STAR WARS: OBI-WAN. Even with such
vital experience, THE FORCE UNLEASHED had to remain an incredible pressure
in living up to the John Williams musical legacy. For LucasArts latest
effort, expectations have again risen to the
level of "spectacular" and famed gaming company would probably not have it any other
way. The final game score includes extensive use of John Williams'
expansive library of music from the six films and so GRISKEY's score had
the unenviable position of being set right along some of the most
recognizable film music of all time.
An important distinction must be made between the in-game music
experience and the score as released on this promo. First, to battle
listener-fatigue, LucasArts music-surpervisor, JESEE HARLIN (himself a composer), employed LucasArts' and ILM's own proprietary engine
to "perform" Griskey's score during game play. During the
recording sessions, certain elements ( like brass or strings) were recorded in
isolation. LucasArts' software was designed to combine these
individual musical elements according to the pace, plot, and
environment of the game at any given moment. The end result would
deliver a unique, musical, experience for the player. Next, the promo release,
compiled and edited by HARLIN, seeks to introduce the main themes and
ambient cues MARK GRISKEY created to tell this new story and help define
the new characters and environments the plot unfolds in.
Additionally, his music was to help bridge
the significant stylistic-gap between the two Star Wars trilogies.
The cues released were taken directly from the recording sessions at
Skywalker Sound (an ironic-first for a LucasArts game) and, for some
tracks, combined into a single extended track (2, 7, 8, 10).
Start to finish, THE FORCE UNLEASHED, even represented by this abridged
promotional release, is the most entertaining Star Wars
score since RETURN OF THE JEDI. While the prequel scores had their moments
and are inarguably technically complex, overall, they failed to capture the
same magic as the original trilogy scores. If there was a goal of
stylistically setting the prequel trilogy apart via its music, Lucas may
have pushed Williams a little too far (that and Williams' own style had
greatly evolved since the 80s). Because of this, there is far less musical connection
between the two trilogies as there could have been. It's high praise
to say this, but in this regard, MARK GRISKEY's score is much more
successful. MARK GRISKEY mentions in our
interview that the music for THE FORCE UNLEASHED is to
do just that - bridge the gap between the two trilogies' styles of music.
This he accomplishes
brilliantly by blending his own voice with
sparring but well-timed employment of established Williams motifs.
Upon further, careful, listening, we hear the composer occasionally
tease of identifiable, musical elements and techniques inspired by
Williams' early works.
Thankfully, these ingredients blend
together to provide a new and sonically pleasurable experience within the
canonized world of Star Wars.
This new game (and franchise?) has been given a brand new and bold musical
theme. The first official appearance of the theme came with the
launching of the official game website. The theme was employed in the actual
site design. This piece was originally penned by JESSE HARLIN and adapted
by MARK GRISKEY. Track 1, "The Force Unleashed" features a bold
brass-laden statement that could very well become the musical moniker for
this potential sub-franchise. This theme also represents the new
apprentice, Starkiller, but only sparring use of it is made. The
main title, while distinctive and entertaining in its own right,
noticeably stands out from the remainder of the score in terms of style -
in this track in particular; however, the theme does reoccur in "The Sarlacc Unleashed" (6).
With familiar repeating strings and percussion as a foundation, track 6
adds a clear nod to "Duel of the Fates" from EPISODE I: THE PHANTOM
MENACE. This results in a more successful blending the title theme
into the familiar star-wars-vibe.
In KOTOR II: THE SITH LORDS, composer Mark Griskey clearly showed his
ability to craft themes and motifs that could be easily embraced and
accepted as "canonized score." He continues that streak here in THE FORCE
UNLEASHED. Track 2, "General Kota and the Control Room Duel" provides us
with strong and commanding theme filled with forceful, heavy brass.
The conclusion of the track finds the theme building into a strong
dramatic piece, reminiscent of the dark lord and his evil empire.
That same uniquely Star-wars-feel is carried on in track 7, "Maris
and the Bull Rancor" (7). For Starkiller's love interest, Juno Eclipse, we hear a
wonderful romantic theme, which remains consistent with some of John
Williams' best work for Star Wars - "Princess Leia's Theme" and "Luke and Leia." "Juno Eclipse/Finale" (10) is built on simple melody
initially played, like it's two predecessors, on the flute. The piece builds with additional woodwinds and
strings and finally reaches a very familiar crescendo - one that would
lead directly into the brass fanfare that traditionally begins the end
credits sequence of a Star Wars film.
On this promo, Griskey judiciously employs a handful
of motifs from John Williams' vast library. We hear three easily
identifiable motifs: The Force Theme, Darth Vader/The Imperial
March, and the Rebel Alliance theme. Full statements of each are
rare. Rather than knock the listener over the head with these
motifs, Griskey makes brief statements or, at times, only teases segments of them.
In track 2, "General Kota and the Control Room Duel" we hear the strongest
use of "the force theme." "PROXY and the Skyhook" (9),
after introducing Proxy's darkly humorous theme, delivers a
welcome return of the Rebel Alliance theme. In fact, by the
conclusion of the track, it wouldn't be all that surprising to find
oneself blurting outloud, "I can't shake him!" or "Cut the chatter Red 2." The villainous Darth Vader motif is given
its fullest performance in "Drexl's Raiders" (4). Half-way through
the track, Vader's quotation serves as a turning point as the tempo
quickens and the dramatic intensity increases substantially; the music
transitions into an action piece, featuring strong prequelesque
percussion. Interestingly it shares much in
common with the Chase through Coruscant sequence from ATTACK OF THE
CLONES. In "Redemption" (9), we hear a full mix of styles from the
original trilogy, prequel trilogy, and Mark Griskey's unique musical voice.
Interspersed with engaging action, we are teased, with the portions of the
three well-known motifs. Track 9 might be the best example of the
delicate balance MARK GRISKEY has managed here. The closer you
examine the music offered on this promo the more references and
connections you'll find with the existing Star Wars musical world.
It is a delight to say that THE FORCE UNLEASHED brings me much closer to the original
passion I had for the music of Star Wars, when I was a youngster. Afterall,
back then, there were no videos to download or rent or buy. The only way
to experience the magic of the film repeatedly was via its soundtrack.
That's in part what made John Williams' music so special. The listener
could relive the movie without any visual stimulus. The music of
the prequel trilogy was far less successful at that, but now MARK GRISKEY's
score helps to return some of the passion that leaked out of the Star Wars
franchise's hyperdrive. With Mr. Lucas continuing to take the franchise in new
directions in STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS, it is a consolation to have Mark
Griskey, along with Jesse Harlin, providing the type of music so many have
loved as a part of the Star Wars universe. With reports of a potential sequel to THE FORCE
UNLEASHED and another installment for THE KNIGHTS OF THE OLD REPUBLIC, let
us hope that LucasArts is clever enough to maintain MARK GRISKEY's involvement in
keeping this important aspect of the world of Star Wars alive and fresh.
One final note - Unfortunately, for fans it is
unlikely that this score will see any sort of official release - although
there is no doubt of this score's worthiness. In all likelihood, with a larger sampling of the
music available, Mark Griskey's score would garner a 10/10 rating.
This promotional CD doesn't quite reach 30 minutes in duration,
but it is long enough to declare the quality of this original score.