Tone Poem Tuesday

Film music today!

This weekend was, among other things, the twentieth anniversary of the release of Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, which is one of my favorite installments in the series. Even now, when the Prequel Trilogy has benefitted from the passing of time and some much-needed critical reassessment (way overdue, but I remain proud of having done a lot of that lonely heavy-lifting myself back when hating the Prequels was still the mainstream position), AotC still seems to be the one that gets picked on the most, which I continue to not understand.

The movie’s music is something of an oddity. John Williams turns in a lot of his usual inventive brilliance, even though the film’s last act was apparently still under heavy revision so late in the production game that the entire last act is largely scored with music re-used from the previous film, The Phantom Menace. Williams’s original work is typically amazing, centering on a new Love Theme for the romance of Anakin and Padme, which even at this point we know is (a) doomed to failure, and (b) going to produce the baby twins of Luke Skywalker and Leia Organa.

As the romance is doomed and tragic from the get-go, Williams wrote a lush love theme that leaps and yearns in suitably sad and tragic fashion. But he does some more with it: he gives that love theme a darkly militaristic middle section, for one thing, in line with the fact that Anakin’s fall to the Dark Side (which helps give the Empire its beginnings) is borne from this very love affair. Williams also crafts the love theme itself from a kind of minor-key inversion of the Star Wars main theme, and the theme’s final bars form a quote from the classic Imperial March.

In this selection, the Finale and End Credits Suite from the film, we start with some suspenseful music as the Battle of Geonosis winds down and the traitorous Count Dooku flees to Coruscant, so he can report to his master, Darth Sidious (the Sith alter-ego of Chancellor Palpatine, who is the puppet master behind everything). Then the music swells as the Republic’s Clone Army is revealed in all its terrifying majesty, setting forth to war–but the music here is the Imperial March from the Original Trilogy. Williams is telling us that this is the true moment the Empire is born.

Then, a blazing rendition of that love theme as Anakin and Padme marry in secret, before the film’s smash-cut transition to the end credits. This is the best of these transitions in the entire saga, in my opinion, and it’s the last time that Williams would end a Star Wars movie’s narrative with anything other than his iconic theme for the Force.

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