This content is in partnership with Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra. Get your tickets now - see you there!
Imagine your favorite movie or scene. Now try to imagine it without music. It's impossible – and sure, that all might be cliche to say, but it's also no less accurate. The joined forces of sound and picture birthed one of the most mesmerizing storytelling forms imaginable – and there's no better evidence of that fact than the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra's ongoing series of live performances alongside beloved movies, making their ironic and memorable scores shine even brighter than the stars.
The MSO's next big screen stop? A galaxy far, far away as the orchestra will complete the original "Star Wars" trilogy with a live-to-film performance of "Return of the Jedi," a night sure to be almost as electrifying as the Emperor's hands (but significantly more enjoyable). But before the MSO takes the stage with John Williams' indelible score, let's look back - or more like listen back - at the trilogy's conclusion and some of its mightiest musical moments. Hit it, Max Rebo!
1. The opening crawl
Close your eyes and imagine the start of a movie – particularly what it sounds like. The odds are almost 100 percent you just envisioned the opening of a "Star Wars" movie. The brash Fox fanfare leading into a tense silence before – BLAM! – the movie explodes open is pure cinematic joy, the combined sight and sound of a thrilling adventure breaking open right before your eyes and ears. John Williams' iconic opening theme is so monumental, so regal, so sweeping and heart-pounding that you don't even care that these movies open with paragraphs of reading.
2. The Max Rebo Band
OK, so the Special Edition's version of the song with the CG singer and the other creature belching into the camera is an atrocity – but the Max Rebo Band still rules, playing hits ranging from the funky "Lapti Nek" in the original version to some shockingly scorching blues in the updated edits, all led by what looks like an affable blue elephant on the keys. Jabba the Hut may be a slimy, murderous, slave-holding slug monster, but at least he's got good taste in music.
3. Leia's theme in Jabba breakout
Sure, we can argue the strategy of a high-ranking general going on a secret mission to save her scoundrel boyfriend – a mission that doesn't particularly go right considering she ends up a slug's slave for a bit – but you can't argue against Williams' wonderful and rapturous theme for Leia, deployed perfectly here for her reveal.
4. Escaping the Sarlaac Pit
It takes a while to get into our first proper action sequence in "Return of the Jedi," but it sure makes an entrance, with Williams hitting some tense trumpet blares before busting out a peppy, invigorated rendition of the main theme. The jubilant and bouncy action score perfectly reflects how I would feel if I narrowly survived getting eaten by a tentacled space desert butthole for centuries.
5. The Emperor's arrival
It's only maybe the most iconic bit of movie music ever made (after maybe the opening theme) so yeah, it's making this list. The film technically opens with the Darth Vader theme but only for one round while the Emperor's grand arrival at the Death Star gets the whole theme, performed with maximum full-throated boom, brass and ominousness. A dude shows up with this score blaring – plus a bunch of creepy red-robed monk-looking guards? Yeah, he's gonna be a problem.
6. Trying to sneak through the shield
It's a small scene, but I love the way Williams incorporates the various themes dueling during this moment with Luke riding the ship down to Endor with Leia, Han and Chewy, the Jedi and Darth Vader themes going back and forth, bouncing between the two ships as Luke and Vader feel each other's presences via the Force. As with the best scores, it could tell the audience what's happening with merely the sound alone.
7. The first speeder chase
Sometimes it's not about the music you play; it's about the music you don't play. Williams' score is an iconic compliment to most of the action in "Star Wars," but for the speeder chase on Endor, Marquand smartly drops the score out and lets the thrilling speed of the scene – brilliantly crafted with the whizzing, whooshing sound design alongside the camera zipping between the trees – speak for itself.
8. Battle over Endor
This is less a "moment" and more "a large chunk of the entire third act," but I love the score heading into the space battle – our first proper fight amongst the stars in this movie. First, there's Williams' rallying, triumphantly tumbling trumpets announcing Lando and the Rebellion setting off for the forest moon. It just gets the skin prickling with excitement – a shame it turns out to be a trap (pardon me: "IT'S A TRAP!"), which turns the eager trumpets in the score even more nervous, tense and collapsing into chaos. In case spaceships shooting lasers wasn't thrilling enough, Williams' score sets the ideal pulse-pounding scene.
9. Anakin Skywalker's goodbye
This moment is such a tricky tonal walk: The galaxy's most feared villain is finally defeated but it's also a father saying goodbye to his son who helped briefly reclaim him from the dark side ... but it's also a husk of a person, depleted by years of evil and a body that's more machine than man. His goodbye isn't a tear-jerking moment but it's also a deeply felt one – closure, regret, sadness and eerieness all in a single scene. Williams' score hits all those notes just right, coming back one final time to Vader's classic villain theme but rendering it faint, ghostly and dissonant like the man who once was Anakin Skywalker.
10. Darth Vader's funeral
The end credits theme is gorgeous and celebratory, sending the crowd out with a beaming and booming zip – but Williams' final Jedi theme during Luke's private funeral for his fallen father is just so beautiful, starting with the lone horn playing its iconic tribute before sweeping and swooning into a strings version, paying homage to the man he could've been and the hero he all-too-briefly was at the very end. And then end the movie here because then we get a bunch of cutaways to planets from the prequels that nobody asked for.
As much as it is a gigantic cliché to say that one has always had a passion for film, Matt Mueller has always had a passion for film. Whether it was bringing in the latest movie reviews for his first grade show-and-tell or writing film reviews for the St. Norbert College Times as a high school student, Matt is way too obsessed with movies for his own good.
When he's not writing about the latest blockbuster or talking much too glowingly about "Piranha 3D," Matt can probably be found watching literally any sport (minus cricket) or working at - get this - a local movie theater. Or watching a movie. Yeah, he's probably watching a movie.