By Mikko Ojala
Some people have expressed that Star Wars: Attack of the Clones wasn’t as full of themes as they would have hoped or expected. I had to disagree from the start with these people. Williams was required by George Lucas to write different style of music than before for this installment of SW saga (in expressis verbis to expand the musical palette of Star Wars universe). The storyline also is split in two when we follow Obi Wan Kenobi on his mission to find the assassin behind the murder attemps on senator Padme Amidala and Anakin/Padme relationship and Anakin’s search for his mother and his initial descent to the Dark side. These plots required very different kind of music.
Obi Wan plot is a Mystery plot if you will, almost a detective story as Obi Wan tries to follow the trail of evidence to the conclusion to catch the mysterious attacker. In the process he stumbless on even a bigger secret of the clone army being assembled for the Republic even when they are not aware of it themselves. This plot required music that would evoke the foreboding, uneasiness and mystery around these happenings. Williams developed several motifs to express these qualities.These are to my mind Hermannesque in style, short but effective and hypnotic. I refer to these motifs by names given by John Takis in his excellent analysis:
1) The Conflict motif:
Galactic conflict motif appears very early on in the movie. This foreboding and evil 8 note figure is usually intoned by solo trumpet but receives many variations throughout the movie. Second most used theme in the movie after Across the Stars. Represents the Separatists, Count Dooku and Jango Fett as well as the mystery around the assassin e.g. in the scene in the Jedi Archives and after Obi Wan lands on Kamino. To me this motif bears some resemblance to Boba Fett Motif from ESB. I am also quite certain this motif is used as a base for the ostinato in Jango’s Escape.
2) The Mystery motif:
As is said in the great track-by-track analysis by John Takis (see link below) this six note theme represents mystery and descent. Typically any such motif is said to bear resemblance to Bernard Hermann’s Vertigo motif as it goes first three notes up then three notes down. This however isn’t technique invented by Hermann or used solely by him so we can’t actually say other compsers are imitating him.Certainly this kind of motif creates a hypnotic descending ascending mysterious feeling and adds much to the atmosphere of the plot. Used many times and variedly ranging from version with bells as Obi wan counsels the Jedi Masters about the dealings on Kamino to a full string version in Return to Tatooine as Shmi’s fate is uncertain.
3) Kamino motif/Mystery on Kamino motif:
First used as a fanfare when Obi Wan land on Kamino this 5 note decsending ascending motif is used whenever the stormy seaplanet of Kamino is shown and very well portrays the stormy sea and crashing waves but also Kamino as a source of a mystery.
Other motifs/themes in AOTC revolve around Anakin/Padme storyline.Their love affair is on the centerstage during the other half of the movie. At least three motifs can be associated to them:
4) Love theme:
Across the Stars (ATS) is a portrayal of Anakin’s and Padme’s forbidden love affair and to me it expresses the core of the movie better than the actors on screen (Embarassingly bad acting made me flinch more than once when I first saw the movie). It’s the first of the two more developed themes in the movie. As many have already analysed this theme consists of three parts. I won’t make note-by-note analysis on the piece since I’m not versed in musical theory but I briefly describe the different sections of the theme:
Section A: A beautiful, delicate but sad melody played by oboe with string backing and is gradually taken over by strings and fianlly grows into a impassionate statement by the whole orchestra. Represents the love of Anakin Skywalker and Padme Amidala and this section leads into
Section B: A bittersweet string melody describes the forbidden and troubled aspect of their love affair. And this goes on to
Section C: Brass play a dark motif (4 notes ) 3 times and strings back this threatning new theme.This section describes the tumultuous times in the Galaxy and Anakin’s descent to the dark side and the already present doom of the loveaffair. Reminds me of Nixon somehow. Theme leads to a more passionate reprise of section A and section B leading once more to the dark section C and finishing delicately in a sad rendition of section A on harp and strings.
5) Secondary Love Theme/Naboo theme:
This theme is very light, pastoral, playfull and much more happier in tone than ATS. Pastoral theme is introduced in the scenes where Anakin is “courting” Padme. This theme is delicate flute lead piece backed by strings, chimes and harp. In Meadow Picnic this theme receives a more grander reading as we see Anakin and Padme frolicking in the meadow.
6) The Longing for Mother motif:
A short frenchhorn motif representing Anakin’s longing for his mother heard in the beginning of the movie just before the chase through Coruscant and when Anakin decides to rescue his mother and one final time at Shmi’s burial when Anakin grieves he could not save her.
Zam the Assassins theme: This theme is what forms the core of Chase through Coruscant. It is a 9 note motif on percussion and Zam has some additional percussion music in these scenes that could be associated to her. This is what George Lucas wanted from Williams for these scenes, some Asian flavoured percussion music ala Tan Dun and so Williams gave Zam a fast, driving motif that punctuates much of the scene in different forms played by percussion in longer solos and by forceful brass keeping things moving. A very kinetic motif.
So here are the main motifs and themes of the Attack of the Clones. There are many if one listens carefully, so I cannot understand why some find AOTC lacking in themes. But if I forgot some theme(s) please inform me.