Few films were as eagerly awaited by fans as The Phantom Menace. It's reception wasn't one of universal praise, but it brought back the great adventure of Star Wars into our cinemas, and whetted our appetite for more. Naturally John Williams was commissioned to create the soundtrack in his own inimitable Star Wars style and, together with the robot double-act and other characters, its objective was to firmly establish that this new film was a part of the same universe and the same epic story. It was therefore obligatory that John Williams used the established Star Wars themes, as well as making this a new and self-contained score in its own right.
Williams therefore used the well-known "Star Wars March" as introduction, and the "Emperor's theme" was frequently used for the character of Darth Sideous and his shady machinations. Other familiar music includes the "Jedi march", and the little hints of the empire march that Williams wove beautifully into the latter stages of the Anakin theme. As well as the overt use of previous themes, there is also a necessary similarity of style. The films have always been pitched at the family audience, with cartoonish characters who are not too scary, so we have street bands and bazaars and Jar-Jar instead of Cantina bands and Ewoks providing the light relief.
The new material in this soundtrack is perfect for the movie. There is suitably martial music for the Droid battles, and there is some nicely eerie whispered choral touches for the finely-honed yet single-mindedly evil instincts of Darth Maul, one of the best characters in the series. (Who wouldn't sympathise with this character when he bravely fights against the combined efforts of two Jedi Knights.) The "Duel of the Fates" chorus is aptly named, seemingly painting a particular legend from the series' own mythology. More bright fanfares are found in "The Flag Parade" introducing the spectacle, tension and excitement of the Pod Race. There is suitably emotional music for the interaction of Anakin with his mother, and her heart-breaking scenes as she endures separation from her son so that he can enjoy freedom. On the lighter side there is Anakin's theme itself. This is simple (he is just a slave boy, right?), yet complex (he wins Pod Races using his exceptional powers), and his destiny is to become Darth Vader (hence the hints of the "Imperial March").
All in all, the soundtrack is skillfully woven. "The Ultimate Edition" is the complete two hour soundtrack of the movie in chronological order on two CDs and worth seeking out. It is availble from : Amazon.co.uk in the UK, or Amazon.com in the US. Alternatively, if you've a limited budget, the single CD edition of highlights is also available from the same sources by following these links: Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com. It is the Ultimate edition whose track listing is given below. The booklet inside has a still from the movie for each music track, giving a nice storyboard to accompany the soundtrack. The cover of the Ultimate Edition is in metallic blue which doesn't reproduce very well on screen, and Darth Maul's original red and black would have been more striking. But that aside, many collectors will want to have it for its complete authenticity.
The Phantom Menace Sheet Music is available as piano sheet music (with "Duel of the Fates", "Anakin's Theme", "Jar Jar's Introduction", "The Flag Parade", "Augie's Great Municipal Band", "Qui-Gon's Funeral" and "Star Wars main theme") from SheetMusicPlus. These are all very nice arrangements, though the Anakin theme is our favourite. Sheet Music is also available in an easy piano version, and for a large number of solo instruments, as well as band and orchestral arrangements - just click on SheetMusicPlus and search for "star wars".