Today on Soundtrack Alley Spotlight, I’ll delve into some of my favorite films of the 1980’s through science fiction with Star Wars: A New Hope, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Mad Max, The Black Hole, and Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back.
Today in Part IV of our series on The History of Science Fiction in Film, in the 1970’s people seemed to drag from one thing to another, aimlessly wandering and briefly enjoying films such as Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Superman just to name a few. Along comes George Lucas with his grand epic space opera Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. This film revolutionized science fiction for further generations of sci-fi fans. No one had dreamed such visions of the future for fantasy or science fiction.
George Lucas created his historic and epic view of worlds unknown. Characters never thought possible were made possible, powers electrifying on the screen. With Star Wars coming out in 1977 it fueled the imagination and whisked fans off to worlds far far away. Also with Star Wars we have the amazing music by John Williams who began his illustrious career with George Lucas by creating not just three film scores, but nine altogether. Of course that is for another discussion. The music of Star Wars gave us excitement, adventure, mystery for what were The Clone Wars? It built anticipation for who is Darth Vader and what power does he have?
It was a dawn of a new era in science fiction, producers and directors alike jumped on the Star Wars bandwagon so to speak to bring their own vision of a grand space opera to life. Ideas of blending Science Fiction and Fantasy to life. Movies such as Laserblast, Starcrash, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century and many more fueled fans with more space adventures than they thought possible. What could possibly come after a movie like Star Wars.
There was another unique space adventure movie that had already spawned an entire world of fans and that was Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Now some may say this film was the worst of all of the films, some say it’s the greatest of its series. There are even those who fall in the middle (that would be me). I love this movie for the sure exploration factors of it, it truly was a two hour Star Trek episode. The grand scope of the film was amazing and the score by Jerry Goldsmith ignited in more Star Trek fans a love for film music. It meant that a line was drawn.
This film and it’s music drew a line between Star Wars fans and Star Trek fans. Both of which loved Science Fiction, but these set a mark for complete rivalry for many years to come. I always have had a love for both groups of films and their various film scores. Star Trek boldly went where no man had gone before, it may have not been the action packed genre film for the Star Wars fans, but it kept it’s fan base and they were very loyal. This is where arguements have been fought, won, fought again and then compromised to say that both film franchises had their merits. Let’s not keep at this all day, there is so much more to cover!
Were we completely out of the post apocalyptic worlds from the 1970’s? Not by a long shot. Along came another film franchise that built it’s fan base purely on the ideas of a gritty and grungy post-apocalyptic world where water was valued and speed was the key. You guessed it, I’m talking about Mad Max.
Mad Max had a world all it’s own, dark, gritty and a completely different type of science fiction that composer Brian May brought to the screen with his dramatic cues for what Max lost in the film, how he started out as a cop and what happened after this change in his status. Fans went crazy to know more about his world, they were excited and wanted more for its darkness of a science fiction sub-genre known as post-apocalyptic movies. There isn’t more to say on this type of film, but it was a far cry from what people expected out of such a movie.
There were lonely simple science fiction movies that didn’t get much credit through this time period, some were movies like The Black Hole that was produced by the Walt Disney company and they wouldn’t release a live action film for at least five years from what they thought was a complete and utter failure. What most people don’t know is that even this film gained a cult status and has a large amount of fans that follow it. I’m one of those fans and appreciate what it is and what kind of dark science fiction and fantastical elements exist within the confines of the lone movie, even asking the question: Are Black Holes Real? Can You Go Through One? Is it True that All Light doesn’t escape such a powerful gravity well? See, I’ve gotten you to think. Even to this day scientist still only have theories about Black Holes. With the recent discovery of such an object in space, scientist are trying to push the limits of what more they can find.
This was at the last parts of the 1970’s, John Barry was at his prime for composing films in the James Bond franchise, other movies such as The Deep, Deep Star Six, and many others that gained his popularity. Disney spent a lot of money just on the opening of this film, with the computer generated black hole at the start of the film, it bolstered other directors and producers and other idea minded people to create more through computers. and through other means to create better science fiction films that utilized the filming industry.
We finally moved out of the 1970’s and into the 1980’s. George Lucas did it again, even though he wasn’t in the director’s chair, Irvin Kirshner was directing with help from George Lucas. John Williams brought the next chapter of the Star Wars Saga into the light with the sequel The Empire Strikes Back.
Just like it’s predecessor, Empire pushed the boundaries for models, sets, and effects for this second installment, it brought in a Muppet, which was made through the world of Jim Henson’s muppets, and dark paths and dark plottings for the villians of this film. This film doesn’t end happy, the good guys don’t win. With that in mind though, it is still considered one of the best movies in the entire franchise! Can you believe it? What Empire did with the science fiction world blew up. There were even more questions asked, more speculative fiction writers that wrote further stories about the genre and how it effected the media.
I think we have effectively covered some of the key elements going into the 1980’s through film music and through the world of Science Fiction.
Here are some links to the scores of each of these films.
And on iTunes.
Soundtrack Alley’s theme music is composed by Alexander Schiebel
Find his work through xanderscores.com