Have you ever been tempted to peek at the last page of a book to see how it ends? Of course you have, but if the force is strong with you, you resist this temptation. If you do turn to the dark side of the last page and learn how the book ends, then you might wonder how the story gets there. The Star Wars saga is like that because we know how it ends, and now after "The Phantom Menace" we also know how it starts. In episodes 2 and 3 George Lucas must fill in plot details to be consistent with both the past and the future. John Williams faces similar challenges in his soundtracks to the films, by retaining continuity both backwards and forwards. Being John Williams, the foremost film composer of our times, he is more than capable of meeting this challenge. He looks to the future with the familiar Star Wars themes, and he looks to the past with some themes from The Phantom Menace. In true operatic style, themes in the Star Wars universe represent people and ideas. Naturally, the Star Wars Main Title kicks off the adventure. Other established themes quoted or hinted at are "Yoda's theme", the "Jedi theme", the "Imperial March", the "Emperor", "Anakin's theme", the "Droid Battle", and the "Duel of the Fates".
Despite these references to established themes, "Attack of the Clones" is definitely not just a rehash of existing music. More than 90% is comletely new material which stands very well on its own. The new material splits into two main categories, firstly the love theme and emotional moments between Anakin and Padme, and secondly a number of thrilling action sequences. The Love Theme or Across the Stars is the core of the new material. This is the cornerstone of the movie, and is initially played as a simple exposition on oboe, harp and strings. It is then shaped through different arrangements to complement the many different facets of this developing relationship. Whatever the reported lack of on-screen chemistry, this theme serves to define a spectrum of different moods from simple uncomplicated contentment from being together, through wistful thoughts, concerns, sadness, and a powerful tension between love and duty (not to mention hate and revenge). Yoda and the Younglings is another track featuring gentler material, on this occasion augmented with voices.
Despite all this thematic material, the soundtrack is less melodic than some John Williams soundtracks due to the significant number of action sequences. These include chases for Zam the Assassin, Jango Escapes, Bounty Hunter's Pursuit, On the Conveyer Belt, and The Arena where the action moves up a gear, followed by the climax of Confrontation with Count Dooku. Of all of these, special mention must go to the track including Zam the Assassin and The Chase through Coruscant. This track lasts a full 11 minutes, notable for some extended drum sections, with never a dull second. It truly injects concentrated adrenalin into the chase, as well as depicting the changing scenery that it moves through. Look out for this on the album, because on the film it is largely obliterated with sound effects.
The real heart of the developing storyline includes episodes corresponding to The Tuskan Camp, Homestead and Love Pledge. In The Phantom Menace Williams introduced Anakin's theme with its boyish innocence, hinting at what the boy would become with references to the music of Darth Vader's forces from "The Empire Stikes Back". In "Attack of the Clones", Williams takes this further with stronger hints of the dark side and if we haven't got the message yet, he also gives us the full-blown Imperial March in a couple of places particularly in the Finale. This weaves together Anakin's theme, the Love Theme and the Imperial March to underline their centrality to the evolving saga.
In line with other big releases of late, the Attack of the Clones soundtrack has been released in a number of different covers. On a good hi-fi the production values are excellent. It can be found on: Amazon.co.uk in the UK, or Amazon.com in the US. Please note, if you're accumstomed to playing your audio CDs on your PC, there is a small-print warning on the cover "will not play on PC/MAC". I spent 15 minutes trying to figure out why it wasn't playing before noticing this. I assume that this is the result of some form of copy protection, with which we can sympathise, but the inconvenience and waste of time is annoying!
There is piano sheet music for Attack of the Clones available. The book contains 3 new pieces from the film "Across the Stars", "The Meadow Picnic" and "The Arena", and also contains 4 previously published pieces "Dual of the Fates", "The Imperial March", "May the Force be with You" and the "Star Wars Main Title". The music can be purchased from Sheet Music Plus in the US or from The Music Room in the UK. Of course, if you are an avid collector of John Williams' Star Wars Sheet Music, you may have some of these pieces already, in which case you might be tempted to go for just the title track "Across the Stars" which is very playable on piano and can be found at The Music Room.
We also refer you to sheet music recommendations listed in our review of The Phantom Menace. If you play a different instrument or are a member of a band then we can recommend browsing the numerous arrangements of Star Wars music on SheetMusicPlus (just type "star wars" in the search box). For the full John Williams' Star Wars experience from the first three films in the saga, check out The Star Wars Trilogy which contains "Ben's Death/Tie Fighter Attack", "Cantina Band", "Princess Leia's Theme", "Throne Room", "Yoda's Theme", "May The Force Be With You", "Han Solo And The Princess", "The Imperial March", "Jedi Rocks" (by Jerry Hey), "Victory Celebration", "Star Wars (Main Theme)", "Luke & Leia", "Parade Of The Ewoks" and "The Emperor Arrives".