When I first heard about Solo, the big question I had wasn’t about the story or cast but the composer. Thankfully, John Powell was announced. Out of all the composers working today I think a select few, Powell included, are the best choices to succeed John Williams when he steps down after Episode IX. Going in, I had high expectations for Solo‘s score, not just because of Williams’ involvement but also due to Powell’s great track record.
Fittingly, Williams starts us off with “The Adventures of Han”, a jaunty piece that fits Han and is slightly reminiscent of the iconic “Raiders March”. Since Han didn’t really have a set theme before it makes sense Williams gives him one here. From here on out, it’s all Powell. “Meet Han” introduces us to Powell’s tone and it’s great. A drum undercurrent powers the piece, something that’ll happen more than once. I have no idea where this could be in the movie.
“Corellia Chase” gives Powell a chance to show off his action chops while incorporating Williams’ theme. The quick brass and whipping strings are on point. “Spaceport” morphs to a quieter piece with strings front and center while still retaining action vibes. “Flying with Chewie” continues the action from earlier until it quiets down to bring a sweeping, How to Train Your Dragon-esque melody along. If you haven’t guessed, this is probably where Han and Chewie fly together unless Powell likes to play jokes with his titles.
“Train Heist” (likely found during the train sequence from the trailer) gives us a moment to relax before throwing us into the heist with great Williams-style action. Here we get the first mention of an old motif, I believe it’s from A New Hope. “Marauders Arrive” contains the first appearance of an almost African-sounding choir mixed with another splendid blend of Williams and Powell’s styles.
I do want to take a moment and mention this style blend. If you’re familiar with the other Star Wars scores, it’s apparent that parts of the score sound like Williams and parts are Powell. Not only does it work well but also the styles don’t clash. It never feels like the music is two separate styles, fighting each other for dominance. Instead Powell makes them work together by adding the right amounts of each in the pieces.
“Chicken in the Pot” continues in the tradition of “Yub Nub” and “Jedi Rocks”, among others, of having a vocal piece in an alien language. This features an electronic beat with just enough strings to ground it into the score. I bet this takes place at a cantina, perhaps where Han meets Lando. “Is This Seat Taken?” continues a more playful tone; it sounds similar to a piece you might hear in a Persian market.
“L3 and Millennium Falcon” goes back to a quieter tone before introducing us to the Falcon. I know this because of the sudden swell and a second Williams motif lifted from A New Hope. The choir returns before it ends on a harsh note. “Lando’s Closet” keeps the strings front and center. It’s among the prettiest tracks in the score. “Mine Mission” brings action with a marching beat, Han theme playing throughout.
“Break Out” contains brass so fast and intricate you’d be forgiven if you thought Williams wrote it. It’s also one of the longer tracks at over six minutes and contains another New Hope motif. Softer music returns in “The Good Guy” before the last third throws more action and choir our way. “Reminiscence Therapy” is almost guaranteed to make every Star Wars fan smile.
“Into the Maw” keeps the action and motifs rolling. By now, I guess by now the movie would be going into or at it’s last third. “Savareen Stand-Off” introduces a darker tone and a brief choir line that harkens back to the Emperor’s theme from Return of the Jedi. That tone mostly continues in “Good Thing You Were Listening”.
We get a last burst of action in “Testing Allegiance”, probably the last action scene in the movie. It contains the most modern sound in the score so far, which is a slight letdown. Happily, it’s not there for long and the remaining track ignores it. Piano makes a brief appearance and if I’m not mistaken, it might be the first time piano’s been used in the franchise. “Dice and Roll” starts with an odd use of drums but it isn’t there for long as traditional music closes it all out.
I went in knowing that no matter what John Powell wrote it wouldn’t sound exactly like John Williams. So much for thinking that. Powell did a monumental job. He got the chance to show his ability and delivered. Its action-filled, fun, and most importantly (aside from a few moments) sounds like Star Wars. Regardless of your thoughts on the movie, check this out!
FINAL RATING: 4.7/5