How Michael Giacchino's 'Rogue One' Score Pays Homage To John Williams [Video Essay]

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story was a grand experiment for Disney and Lucasfilm. The movie was meant to be a standalone adventure that has ties to the main Star Wars narrative without being part of the Skywalker saga. That's why it has plenty in common aesthetically, as far as the production design and art direction is concerned, but still feels different from the rest of the Star Wars movies.

One of the ways Rogue One stands on its own is with the score composed by Michael Giacchino. He doesn't use the main Star Wars theme prominently, mostly because the movie doesn't have the traditional opening title and crawl. He also doesn't go out of his way to frequently use the recognizable themes that John Williams composed for the original trilogy, which Rogue One most closely emulates. But that doesn't mean he didn't subtly use pieces of John Williams' classc score when the story called for it.

A video essay explains the various Rogue One score homages below.

The early part of this video is mostly just an assembly of orchestral Easter eggs that can easily be noticed by Star Wars fans who love the music of John Williams. It's the second half of the video where there are some fascinating observations regarding certain musical cues that Michael Giacchino made which more subtly reference lesser celebrated Star Wars compositions.

For me, the most interesting part of the video is how it breaks down the Rogue One theme to show that it's a repurposed version of the classic Star Wars theme. But I also think the creator of the video makes an interesting point about that little flute cue representing a messenger in both A New Hope and Rogue One. As someone who didn't fall in love with the Rogue One score, this made me appreciate the work that Michael Giacchino did a little bit more.