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Does Anakin have thematic material in Revenge of the Sith?

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I'm guessing most users on this forum know about Anakin's theme from The Phantom Menace, and how it's basically constructed by twisting the melody and chords of the Imperial March into an innocent theme for Anakin. The idea being that as the series goes on it will develop fully into Vader's theme.



I've seen many criticisms of the prequel scores stating that this never happened, and as a result some see this element as wasted potential. 


But is this really the case? I've listened to the complete score many times for the prequel trilogy and Revenge of the Sith in particular, and always thought at least the main ideas of Anakin's theme were carried through in different forms. The main theme associated with Anakin in ROTS being the "Battle of the Heroes" theme, which is even used as his main theme in Battlefront 2 (2017). It sounds somewhat like a minor version of the first 15 seconds of Anakin's TPM theme. 


0:08 - 0:22


I've also picked up motifs that sound very similar to this one in other tracks. Such as the main idea found in Anakin's Dark Deeds, and tracks like Padme's Visit, making me think it's a theme for Anakin to bridge the gap between his Phantom Menace version and The Imperial March.




0:42 - 0:53


I've also heard what sound like warped versions of Anakin's theme in minor keys to show his turn to evil.


2:49 - 2:52 & 3:10 - 3:19 (and of course Vader's theme after). 


4:46 - 4:57


Then there's the main melody of "The Immolation Scene" which seems to bear the most resemblance to Anakin's original theme (still in minor of course), which seems to have been done intentionally as a way of conveying how far he has fallen, and using the cluster/trill strings to put "damage" on the theme just as Anakin is being damaged. 


(Also call me crazy but I think there's a sort of hybrid variation of Vader and Anakin's theme at 2:02 - end).


Apologies for the amount of links and how long this post is, but I want to know what you guys think of this since many of you understand Williams' music better than I do. Am I crazy, and these are just coincidences, or just plain inaccurate? Or do you think this is Williams' way of developing Anakin's thematic content into Vader's? 

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Although Star Wars is very often cited to be Wagnerian, Williams didn't have much if any foreknowledge of how the plots of these films was going to develop so there wasn't much preplanning of overarch

The interplay between Anakin's Theme, Across the Stars, and the Imperial March at the end of the AOTC credits tells the whole story of the prequel trilogy in just a single minute of music. I believe t

In RotS Williams does employ subtle quotes from the new darker Anakin motif from AOTC which makes its appearance most prominently in the Anakin's confession scene in AOTC, where he confesses to Padme

I didn't know about that statement in Scenes and Dreams, that's really subtle, and interesting that he'd include that unmodified version. 


13 hours ago, Falstaft said:

But even that is not at all close enough to Anakin's Theme proper for me to consider it a variant. Really, it would need to have Anakin's opening intervallic pattern of G-C-D-A or C-D-E-F#-D for me to count it -- for whatever that's worth. (People are free to make their own musical associations, that's what Williams wants anyway!)



I know it doesn't have the same start, but that's what I'm wondering. If Williams went so thematically complex to the point that he completely changed Anakin's theme to minor and gave it more similarities to The Imperial March as the film goes on. It sounds to me that's what he's doing, but it's so hard to tell because his themes are usually a lot easier to spot. 

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As much as I'd like to believe Williams put a bunch of work into developing Anakin's leitmotif into something darker for ROTS...the reality is he didn't. There's that one unreleased cameo appearance in Scenes and Dreams, and that's it. Otherwise, his writing for Anakin is either non-thematic or based on little one-off motifs. Occasionally there will be bits of phrases that sound like distant relatives of Anakin's theme, but those seem to just be the byproduct of Williams only having 12 notes at his disposal.

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I have never liked the split personality approach to treating Anakin and Darth Vader as wholly separate characters.  It all stems from Lucas having to retcon the Kenobi line from the first movie in Return of the Jedi ("from a certain point of view").  It is fine to call Imperial March an Anakin theme since Vader is Anakin.

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20 minutes ago, Datameister said:

Right, but the theme he wrote in TPM was designed as a sort of sweetly twisted offshoot of the Imperial March, as the OP noted. The question was whether he did in fact allow them to morph together in ROTS as one might have expected; the answer is no.



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50 minutes ago, Nick Parker said:

People write me off as a weirdo, but I will always maintain unless completely convinced otherwise that Anakin's Theme appears in Anakin's Betrayal, in a manner very similar to the Jewish Theme in Immolation.       .....in Schindler's List, of course.


I never made that Schindler's List connection before. You might be on to something.

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It's important to remember: the fact that Williams wrote singleton new variants of (Young) Anakin's Theme in Episodes 2 and 3 means neither he nor Lucas forgot the theme. Whether or not you think it was artistically the right call, it was a deliberate choice to let it fall to the wayside. Certainly, the music that does track Anakin's fall in ROTS is enormously effective on its own terms, particularly considering how much it needs to compensate for the character's otherwise bewilderingly underwritten hero-to-mass-murderer arc.


6 hours ago, Chen G. said:

Not to mention that it can often be very powerful to avoid giving a character a theme - as Williams had done the mature Anakin - especially when that character is headed nowhere good: Alberich doesn't have a theme for a reason.


Not sure if your shifting from Anakin to Alberich is intentional or not, but it's an interesting comparison! For one of the central villains of The Ring, Alberich's thematic material isn't especially well defined -- some loosely leitmotivic sneezes and squirms, IIRC. Though there's plenty of satellite "villain" music (Alberich's Curse, Alberich's Hatred, Tarnhelm, Fafner, the Hagen-related stuff), and it all has a neat way of infecting the "good guy" music at various stages, not unlike the Imperial March!



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Pretty much. Its what @Falstaft labels "Descent" motif (for Episode II) which then transforms into the "Lament" material come Episode III.


But Young Anakin's theme is only ever used as callbacks to the Jake Lloyd Anakin; and I think there's a good argument to be made for this NOT being a reimagining of the themes' purpose: I think it was only ever intended for the kid Anakin from its very inception - all the quotes of Williams I've provided are from the time of The Phantom Menace.


Of course, that's just an inherent flaw of the prequel narrative that Anakin basically becomes a completely new character between Episodes I and II.

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15 minutes ago, Incanus said:

Often Williams doesn't adhere to Wagnerian precision or discipline in using his musical ideas in a rigorous fashion (the e.g. character is nearly always accompanied by his/her theme) and certainly the music of Prequels (and many of the Williams' franchise sequel scores) is built also always with ear toward variety and aural interest so that Williams often writes a lot of non-thematic material between his thematic statements


Oddly, Williams hadn't heard Wagner for many years, and when he finally did (I believe it was a Ring production) he didn't much enjoy it: to be fair, starting Wagner's repertoire with the Ring, and without any grasp of German, is probably not a good strategy.


People would be surprised at how at least seemingly loose Wagner plays with his leitmotives, too, especially in the latter part of the Ring. Which is to say nothing of the other music-dramas, which one would be charitable in calling leitmotivic at all.

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On 5/2/2021 at 9:44 PM, Incanus said:

I think Williams' leitmotific approach for Star Wars was Wagner via Hollywood meaning that it was informed by his film composer predecessors' use of the leitmotivic technique in films as much as it was by Wagner's use of it in operas. 


Yes, very much so!


Williams was aware that this technique originated with Wagner, but hadn't actually heard Wagner's implementation of it.


He had also used Wagner Tuben in The Empire Strikes Back!


On 5/2/2021 at 9:44 PM, Incanus said:

And Williams has been very fluid and loose with his use of themes in these films when dramatic instinct demanded something less obvious to be employed for e.g. emotional effect.


Wagner could be said to do this too!


I've yet to hear a good explanation as to why he uses the Sword theme (nobody give me this "Wotan's great idea" crap!) when Wotan salutes Valhalla. In fact, its telling that Wagner himself contemplated having Wotan pick up a sword left behind by the giants at this moment. And then there's the "renounciation of love" theme when Siegmund draws the sword from the trunk.


And that's early on. In the latter parts of the Ring, the leitmotives get used in more free association manner: @Falstaft had mentioned the Tarnhelm infecting other music, which it does, but in Gotterdamerung the Tarnhelm (which is a magical device of delusion and deception) is used more broadly as a sort of deception theme, and/or for magic. I wouldn't say its quite breaching the theme's meaning for emotional effect, but its still a step or two removed from Rheingold. It could even be argued that Wagner (having abandoned the Ring for a decade) had by now confused the original association of the theme.


And that's just the Ring. In Tristan, Meistersinger and Parsifal, there are a lot of musical cells, but most of them have extremely blurred and overlapping meanings, if any at all. Reading lists of "leitmotives" for Tristan is especially funny: sure, there's clearly-defined stuff like "Tristan's Suffering" but otherwise its mostly stuff like "Longing", "Passion", "love", "love's overwhelming power", "love's lust", "love's bliss", "the magic of love", "love's felicity", "love's caresses", "love's desire", "love's ectasy", "love redemption" - you get the picture...

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58 minutes ago, Incanus said:

I love the similarly wonderful ending of the Force Awakens end credits with the interplay of Rey's and the Force theme that finally ends in that sweet subtle quote of Luke's theme.


On a musical level it's really damn slick and effective, but narratively it doesn't do so much for me because, due to the nature of JJ's approach, the  score _has_ to set up the sequels in such a cliffhanger way. That interplay feels like a portention of what is to come, but Williams doesn't really do much with it in the other two scores, even when arguably the link becomes even _more_ appropriate by the end of the trilogy.

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10 hours ago, Nick Parker said:

The interplay between Anakin's Theme, Across the Stars, and the Imperial March at the end of the AOTC credits tells the whole story of the prequel trilogy in just a single minute of music. I believe the word for that is...uhhh, checking....



Do you have the timecode for that? I didn't know about this!

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  • 1 month later...

Found another instance of the first 15 seconds of Young Anakin's theme in ROTS, in its original key from TPM suite no less:





Also the cellos after the trumpet statement of Young Anakin sound like a possible variant on the B section of Anakin's theme where, instead of several notes going down, but rising back up, the melody just keeps falling, possibly to show how Anakin has fallen. 





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