The Music of Star Wars, Episode V: Attack of the Clones (2002)

After a hiatus, TMOSW is back with *sigh* the most exhausting film in the rewatch. At some point, Anakin aged 10 years and Padme aged 3, so now they’re close enough in age to be lovers. John Williams executes a fantastic theme for their union. If you have started your own rewatch in anticipation of Episode IX, you’re likely already past this one, and that’s for the best. In the last few years, there has been a renaissance of appreciation for these prequels, even Episode II. I can assure you, it is soaked in irony. This movie is bad, but find solace in knowing that it contains yet another fabulous work by Williams.

The first thing of note that happens is the bounty hunter chase on Coruscant. This, to my knowledge, is the first and perhaps only instance of guitar in a Star Wars movie. Pay close attention, as it isn’t a jangly chord, but an off-putting single note on what I assume is just a bent string slowly stabilizing. It is odd, but almost works in this semi-exciting scene.

The most important musical piece in Attack is the Love Theme, aka “Across the Stars.” I counted eight separate instances of the melody being used throughout this movie.

The first instance is when Padme is packing her luggage (lol, I know) to leave Coruscant. Anakin says some weird shit about how he’s thought of her every day since he last saw her (uhhh) and Padme tells him to not be all creepy. Still, for some reason, she’s cool with leaving with this kid who she still views as a child but will be LEGALLY MARRIED TO BY THE END OF THIS MOVIE.

Anyway, here’s a full version of”Across the Stars” which for just a moment makes you think that maybe their relationship isn’t the weirdest thing in Star Wars lore.

I mean, its a gorgeous piece of music, and throughout this film it goes through several modulations and variations. The melody is a solemn celebration of forbidden love (the Jedi and the politician thing, not the age thing) and drives this movie to its conclusion.

Pretty much any time they’re alone together, you can count on “Across the Stars” motif to pop up. Here they are having a picnic.

Through key changes and instrumentation, it never feels stale despite the repetition. There are instances of the orchestra dropping out to just a single French horn, but then roars back to repeat the refrain and emphasize the intended romanticism.

“Across the Stars” is not the only theme in Attack of the Clones though. There are a few old favorites that stop by for a scene or two. This movie is long. Aside from the moments below, I feel like this is the weakest score in the whole saga. It relies heavily on its own merit too much, and the “scoring” in between the main themes feels uninspired. I can’t blame Williams. This movie is wretched.

The cue comes around 3:30 in this clip.

Here we have the Droid Army theme from Phantom appearing as the Clone Army is shown for the first time. Remember the title of the movie? Yep, there are clones!

Again, jump ahead to around 3:30 for the cue.

Back to Anakin and Padme, they wander down to ol’ Tatooine to find Shmi, who married a guy named Lars who bought her from Watto. Try to keep up, these are real sentences I swear. In an homage to “Twin Sunset,” we have Anakin confronting Padme on the ridge where Luke eventually has his solemn moment in Star Wars. Anakin has decided to risk it all to find his probably-dead-already mom, and the Force Theme comes back into focus. In juxtaposition to Luke’s moment, this cue is much more forceful and indignant. Anakin leaves to find the Tuscan Raiders’ camp and we get a fun call back to the good part of Phantom.

Come for “Duel of the Fates” and stay for the “Imperial March” at the end! This is the moment Anakin begins his descent to Darth Vader. It should be a deeply-weighted moment in the saga, but it just falls flat. Poor Hayden Christiansen tries his damndest to make us believe that Anakin is heartbroken, but the dialogue just feels broken.

Still, those two cues are meant to elevate the tension of the moment and elude to the conclusion we already know is coming, and Williams’ two strongest “Sith” pieces of music in the saga really augment an otherwise forgettable scene.

Jumping forward quite a bit, we get a few more instances of “Across the Stars” as for some reason Padme isn’t put off by the fact that the DEVIL HIMSELF IS RADIATING HATE right next to her. She actually falls in love with this bad boy allegory for Hitler.

This clip starts with Padme telling Anakin that she loves him with all of the fervor of someone calling to pay a utility bill. What I found interesting was the lack of “scoring” here, during the initial execution scene. It reminded me of the Endor chase from Return where the film was given room to breathe before amping up the energy again when the Droidekas arrive to stop our heroes’ shenanigans.

We get a whole mess of themes during the Battle of Geonosis, which despite its size, is the most forgettable battle in the saga. The “Imperial March” and the Main Theme make appearances, as for the moment, the Jedi are on the side of the Empire, so they think.

So lets just get to it. Darth Vader Anakin Skywalker and Padme Amidala get legally married in Naboo after the Jedi gets his arm lobbed by Dooku and he gets a rad robot arm replacement. This final scene wraps up nicely all of the plot threads we struggled though two hours and change for- Sidious and Dooku being proud of their scheme, Palpatine and Jimmy Smits Bail Organa looking out over the newly established Empire. Check out that nice “Imperial” March cue! Oh, and it glides right into “Across the Stars” as R2-D2 AND C-3PO ARE THE ONLY WITNESSES TO THE MARRIAGE. Good lord, this movie.

wow.

So that’s Attack of the Clones. It’s pretty unremarkable score-wise outside of “Across the Stars” and the subsequent modulations.

NEXT TIME ON TMOSW: Anakin fulfills his destiny, we learn the true identity of Darth Sidious, and apparently we’re already supposed to know who General Grievous is before this movie starts.

BONUS CLIP: Here’s a trailer for the album Across the Stars, starring Anne-Sophie Mutter on violin. It is a new take on many classic Williams themes, including, obviously, the title track. It is definitely worth a listen in this Star Wars Season.

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