Three years after the disappointment of Phantom Menace, many fans still found their expectations building for Attack of the Clones. It’s about as bad as its predecessor, some would say worse. While there is no child Anakin or Jar Jar, there is still unmemorable characters and too much politics. Also added to the mix is a whiny Anakin Skywalker who spends a good chunk of the film engaged in the worst love story of modern cinema. But also like Phantom Menace, a bright spot is John Williams’ score.
However, Williams did show a troubling trend of holding back on new themes, even though the score is still a thematic one.
Anakin and Padme: Showcased in “Across the Stars”, this sweeping love theme has been accused of deriving too much from Williams’ Hook theme. There’s a similarity, but it’s only one part of the theme, maybe a couple seconds. This lovely theme dominates the soundtrack, just as the cringeworthy romance between Anakin and Padme does. Though it is a love theme, it does swell up fairly often to show that this romance will have ramifications across the entire galaxy.
Kamino: This theme is mis-named. It’s more of a mood-setting motif which sounds mysterious, though much of its appearance is in the Kamino scenes.
Separatists: This simple theme appears towards the end of the first track. It’s low key, probably to emphasize that something manipulative is going on behind the Separatist movement.
And as far as I can tell, that’s it for the actual recurring themes and motifs. But the real problem is how music from Phantom Menace is rehashed. For some reason, Lucas had much of the final battle sequence temped with action cues from that film, even overwriting a large chunk of “The Arena”. There’s also a reprise of the Trade Federation march which doesn’t make sense, as it’s used for a scene showcasing the Republic’s clone troopers. Thankfully, aside from the Trade Federation march, Williams only puts his original work on the album.
This is the first Star Wars film score in which the music is actually arranged chronologically on its original release. The first track, “Main Title and Ambush”, features once again the opening crawl and the Kamino and Separatist motifs. After “Across the Stars” plays, it’s on to “Zam the Assassin and the Chase through Coruscant”, which runs over eleven minutes long. It starts off eerie and suspenseful, but once the action starts and it’s a pretty frenetic cue. The most novel thing about it is the actual use of electric guitars at a couple points for the seedy side of Coruscant.
“Yoda and the Younglings” (just call them children!) is a decent track which features Yoda’s theme and some wondrous choir. The love theme starts to get its references in “Departing Coruscant” and “Anakin and Padme”. “Jango’s Escape” is a so-so action piece which doesn’t really feature any themes.
“The Meadow Picnic” is a pretty neat romance track, featuring a playful tune before going into “Across the Stars”.
“Bounty Hunter’s Pursuit” opens with a pretty nice perilous tune before dying down into some music from Anakin and Padme’s story. “Return to Tatooine” features the Kamino motif before the Force theme appears. “Duel of the Fates” makes a token appearance here thanks to its popularity, leading into a bunch of sneaking-around music. The first couple minutes of “Tusken Camp and the Homestead” is a definite highlight, featuring Shmi’s motif one last time before Anakin’s anger grows, leading to Vader’s theme.
Alongside “Across the Stars”, “Love Pledge and the Arena” is the other popular track from this album. It starts off with the love theme, which swells as the heroes are led into the bright arena. The rest of the track is dominated by a new march somewhat reminiscent of the Trade Federation theme. I wouldn’t call it a theme, as it only plays during this scene, but it’s a great action melody.
“Confrontation with Count Dooku and Finale” is a little misnamed, since the admittedly not-that-interesting music from the actual confrontation is not here. Starting with a racing choir and the Force theme, the track descends into an eerie rendition of the Emperor’s theme. A little later there is an awesome reprise of the Imperial March and then “Across the Stars” before the end credits statement of Luke’s theme rolls. The end credits suite is basically “Across the Stars” until the end, when Anakin’s theme reappears, this time growing darker and more somber in the part that references Vader’s theme. In the film this led to the sound of Vader’s breathing and was actually pretty creepy.
If you bought the album from Target, you got an exclusive bonus track, called “On the Conveyor Belt”. From the Chicken Run scene, this music is a pretty decent action cue which has a reprise of the Force theme in it. The climax was used in the character-based TV spots from around the time of the film’s release.
I think I like this more than Phantom Menace. While it would have been nice for Williams to create a couple more themes and even reference more from the previous four films, the album flows much more smoothly and the love theme really ties it together.
Final Rating: 8/10
- Main Title and Ambush (3:46) 6/10
- Across the Stars (5:33) 10/10
- Zam the Assassin and the Chase through Coruscant (11:07) 7/10
- Yoda and the Younglings (3:55) 6/10
- Departing Coruscant (1:44) 6/10
- Anakin and Padme (3:57) 7/10
- Jango’s Escape (3:48) 5/10
- The Meadow Picnic (4:14) 7/10
- Bounty Hunter’s Pursuit (3:23) 6/10
- Return to Tatooine (6:57) 7/10
- The Tusken Camp and the Homestead (5:54) 6/10
- Love Pledge and the Arena (8:29) 8/10
- Confrontation with Count Dooku and Finale (10:45) 10/10
- On the Conveyor Belt (3:02) 6/10