Welcome to the first post in the “Look and Find” series. The process is straightforward: look across the length of a film/video game for leitmotifs/themes, transcribe them, find other instances of them, detail them with instrumentation as well as notable characteristics and permutations, and post them here! First up is The Empire Strikes Back (1980), a horse I will ride regardless of whether it has been beaten.
The obvious ‘Star Wars’ theme:
This is the theme in its most basic format, appearing during the opening crawl and setting the stage for the film. It also acts as a leitmotif for Luke Skywalker during his more heroic actions. Almost exclusively played on trumpet, or other brass, but sometimes played on Flute.
Specific time stamps of this theme:
:29s – opening crawl.
3:13 – Established as Luke’s theme when we first see him.
9:47 – quickly heard as Luke ignites the lightsaber to free himself from the Wampa cave.
25:16 – heard as the rebel transport ship escapes from Hoth past the Star Destroyer.
31:06 – after Luke’s snowspeeder crashes. Lower, slower, and possibly more ominous?
31:35 – Han checking on Leia, played on flute, still slow.
32:03 – Leia: “give the evacuation code signal”.
41:49 – Luke is so mad right now, *facepalms*.
55:59 – Luke realizes who Yoda truly is, and is a little cocksure about being ready to be a Jedi. Note how as soon as he foolishly bangs his head the music cuts out to Yoda lambasting him.
57:20 – Luke immaturely says “I won’t fail you, I’m not afraid.” He continues to be headstrong. Yoda, ever wise, makes things very clear: “You will be. You will be.”
1:03:08 – Luke is all ready to face whatever he finds in that cave, taking his weapons with him (ignoring Yoda’s advice).
1:05:26 – Luke begins to realize: he has failed this test. a very solemn version of the theme as he see’s his own face under the mask of Darth Vader.
1:10:10 – Another failure of Luke, to grasp the Force fully and lift his X-Wing ship. Remember when Luke was running around saying he was ready to be a Jedi? When he said he wasn’t afraid? Those were great times…
1:22:52 – Used as a sort of interlude. Luke’s heroic nature compels him to rescue his friends despite better judgement.
1:24:32 – Luke accepts that he will face Darth Vader alone, he has the confidence. Will he manage to pull through?
1:25:28 – In this case the theme is used as an interlude, notice the interesting changes to the final measures of this theme as the shift to the forefront of the music and back.
1:29:00 – Again, an interlude function to cut back to Luke. I feel that these ‘interlude’ uses are just a way to make the transition between settings/characters smoother.
1:34:19 – Interlude.
After this, there is NO theme until after Luke is rescued and safe.
1:59:41 – Great job Luke, that fight went REAL well…only one hand lost! Hmm, maybe being cocksure and heroic isn’t everything when it comes to the way of the Jedi.
2:01:50 – credits, yay! Everything turned out great for the heroes…except that it didn’t.
Did you find other examples of the theme in the film? Thought this was boring? Let me know in the comments below!