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The Episode II score: is it really so bad?


Sandor
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Just reread my Episode II review from 2002. I was really enthusiastic about it then and guess what: I STILL feel about the score the same way as I did years ago.

I quote here my entire 2002 review:

John Williams is a very lucky man.

From the beginning of time there have been stories. Some never leave the bedroom of a child, others become timeless. The story of Jesus Christ, Hercules, King Arthur, Alladin, Hamlet; they are part of our culture, part of who we are. They will be told and re-told untill the end of time.

Personally; I consider the story of Anakin Skywalker, who becomes Darth Vader and is saved by his son Luke Skywalker, to be o­n par with the classics from the past. It follows the rules of myth, the hero-journey formula. I think it's great that I have been able to witness the birth of a classic story.

And everyone involved with the Star Wars franchise is very lucky. It's a film story that will be around long after most films have been simply forgotten.

And so John Williams continues to shape what will undoubtly be regarded as o­ne of the most important and classic musical statements of our time; the original music for a modern myth. Assuming that people will still be interested in the story of Yoda, Princess Leia, C-3PO and R2-D2 in a 100 or 500 years from now (like we are still fascinated by the story of The Odyssey for example) I think this should cloud our judgement of Williams latest: Star Wars: Episode II - Attack Of The Clones. It isn't just a score - it's destined to form the musical influence for generations to come.

I'm glad that Williams isn't aware of the importance of Star Wars or isn't burdened by it, because the music flows so freely and easy from the composer's mind. And the music IS good...

All superlatives and speculation for the future aside, let's get to the score...

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I was completely blown away by Attack Of The Clones. It's genuine Star Wars, but different too. It's approach is darker and less accesible - but that never becomes a bad thing! It's thematically less driven than, let's say, The Phantom Menace. Phantom had many, many new themes looking back at the score now. The problem I had with that score was that with the exception of Duel Of The Fates none of the new themes were either melodically memorable or were expanded upon enough. Anakin's Theme was, for me, emotionally hollow, because of it's great (and unneedful) complexities and the themes for Jar Jar or Qui-Gon Jinn were o­nly used of snippets. The Trade Federation March lacked any kind of personality and sounded to come straight out of Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade.

To sum it up; I was dissapointed by The Phantom Menace. I wanted it to be as good as Duel Of The Fates, but it turned out that that piece stood head and shoulders above the other material.

Perhaps my expectations for Attack Of The Clones were considerably lower. Still; I have a feeling that I would have liked this score more than The Phantom Menace. Why?

Because of Across The Stars...

Across The Stars, the love theme for Episode II, is my idea of a Star Wars theme. Even more than Duel Of The Fates. THIS is what I wanted to hear during the more tragic scenes in Episode I. The theme forms the heart of the score and used many times throughout. This is my track-by-track analysis and I will elaborate o­n the usage of the love theme throughout the score.

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Track 1: Main Title and The Ambush o­n Coruscant

The Main Title Theme sounds great (but is it lifted from the recording of The Phantom Menace?). The first new material is heard during the Ambush o­n Coruscant part. It starts with a great statement for brass followed by this motif at 1:50 which is a repeating motif throughout the score. It sounds very Goldsmithian to me. The music is dark, foreboding and suspenseful. At 2:25 the motif returns and sounds like it comes straight out of Raiders Of The Lost Ark - GREAT!. At 3:00 a new motif is heard (Count Dooku's motif?). It's brooding and dark. 8/10

Track 2: Across The Stars (Love Theme)

The greatest track o­n the album and o­ne of Williams' finest themes ever. The melody is gorgeous and is repeated several times. It's a fairly long-lined melody which could have served Braveheart or Conan The Barbarian very well too. At about 2:30 the music becomes dark and brooding and builds up to a truly fantastic repeatment of the love theme. It works incredibly and is the first of this album's numberous great transition moments. More o­n that later. The piece ends with the theme o­n harp (very Morricone-like ambience) and o­n oboe. 10/10

Track 3: Zam The Assassin and The Chase Through Coruscant

This track clocks over ten minutes and is full of surprises. It's outragous action music that Williams-fanatics will love. It's isn't very melodic or thematically driven, but still very enjoyable. Williams incorporates an electric guitar to wonderful effect - in truly enhances the music and gives it a unique personality (if o­nly for two very short moments - at 3:20 and 5:10). The track is dominated by wonderful percussion. This would be the heavy metal music among orchestral works! 8/10

Track 4: Yoda And The Younglings

It starts with a nice, playful melody. At around 0:50 Across The Stars first appears followed by Yoda's Theme. Then at 2:00 a gorgeous choir is introduced. Not really performing a melody, but focussing more o­n ambience. At 3:30 the track closes with a wonderful and full version of the Love Theme.

7/10

Track 5: Departing Coruscant

The shortest track o­n the album (1:44) and probably also the least interesting. The Force Theme appears, but o­nly half of it. It ends with music very close to The Phantom Menace. 7/10

Track 6: Anakin And Padme

Like Yoda And The Younglings it starts with a nice, playful melody. At 1:00 we hear o­n the love theme o­n a keyboard (sounds great and funky). The music then becomes more subdued and draining. Turn up your stereo to hear it. 7/10

Track 7: Jango's Escape

Typical of this score's action music; great arrangements and orchestrations (some of Williams' very best ever), but lacking any thematic drive. Still; I love this music! It's loud, it's bombastic, it's crazy! It's pure Williams. It ends with an Arabic sounding motif which is quite interesting. 7/10

Track 8: The Meadow Picnic

The third track starting with a playful melody which doesn't seem to be a part of the scores principal themes and motifs. It's quite mellow and relaxing. At 1:40 the Love Theme kicks in tremedously. It works so well and wonderful. The track reminds me somewhat of Seven Years In Tibet (the Palace Invitation music). The track ends mysteriously with the motif from the first track. 7/10

Track 9: Bounty Hunter's Pursuit

Another great action piece. The brass really kicks in. During the middle part it becomes more queit and suspenseful, but it gains your attention all the way through. At 3:00 the Trade Federation March from Episode I slams in. 7/10

Track 10: Return To Tatooine

Playful opening. It goes into a variation of the motif from Ambush At Coruscant and then at 3:10 a wonderful, classic version of The Force Theme followed amazingly by a short snippet of Duel Of The Fates (with choir and slamming paino!). This is another GREAT transition. I think it will work wonderful in the film. It ends creepy and dark with a variation of the second motif presented in the opening track. 9/10

Track 11: The Tusken Camp and The Homestead

A creepy atmosphere, mostly created by a continues ticking woodblock, starts this track. Then it goes into a very sad part, mostly dominated by low brass like the more tender moments in Saving Private Ryan. At 2:30 the track becomes furious and menacing. Anyone familiar with the story will undoubtly know what scenes this music will support. The Imperial March is heard for the first time, but not fully in terms of orchestration and melodic content. It ends chaotic and relentless as it should. At around 5:20 a great, dark male choir is introduced for a short musical statement. 8/10

12: Love Plegde and The Arena

The first two minutes present a gorgeous version of Across The Stars. It form the single best two minutes of the score and some of Williams' most remarkable music EVER! These two minutes alone are worth the price of this album! I can listen to it a thousand times. The track then becomes a great action piece, this time supported by thematic material. A new variation o­n the Trade Federation March is used as the basis for most part of the track. Parts of The Force Theme and The Love Theme are used. It is a wonderful track with a great Star Wars feel to it. It clocks over 8 minutes. 9/10

Track 13: Confrontation With Count Dooku and Finale

A GREAT track! It starts menacing and dark with a fantastic female solo at around 1:20. It builds into a variation of the motif from Ambush At Coruscant; very atmospheric and brooding. Then at 3:00 it becomes truly AMAZING! The Imperial March is heard in a fabulous rendition and it segues into The Love Theme! And now you realise completely how well the new theme actually works with the existing Star Wars themes. It is MAGIC. At 4:40 the End Credits suite is introduced. The Love Theme, the o­nly true new theme from the score, follows the classic Star Wars march. The ending is the work of true musical genius! It ends with Anakin's Theme followed by The Imperial March o­n low strings. You have to hear it to believe it. It's truly amazing! This tracks runs over 10 minutes. 10/10

Track 14: o­n The Conveyor Belt

A wonderful action piece! This will make a GREAT concert performance! 9/10

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The main critisism towards Attack Of The Clones could be the lack of new thematic material besides The Love Theme. Sure; I would have liked to hear two or three more great new themes, but that wouldn't nessicarily improve the Star Wars musical legacy. There are already so many themes established, a lot of them are used in this score, that perhaps Williams felt it would be better to write o­ne great new theme that will attract as much attention.

And what a great new theme Williams wrote!

In consider this score about 8/10. It's o­ne of my favorite Williams scores. I love it as I hope the above review shows.

-- Roald

For those who see the Episode II score as one of the worst scores ever please post your opinion. And for those who don't consider it that bad at all this is the place for you too.

Thanks!

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I really like the AotC score and just can not see why some people don't. I personally like it a whole lot more the RotJ, which does have many moments of greatness, but the Ewok music really didn't help. I also used to like AotC better then my TPM soundtrack, but now that I am getting to hear the TPM music as it was meant to be, I'm not entirely sure anymore. I didn't use to like TPM very much, but my appreciation is greatly increasing.

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I was not an opponent of Attack of the Clones, but it started to grow on me after hearing some of the final duel music and some other unreleased parts, and after hearing it more chronologically. It very much lacks a complete centrepiece finale cue though, and this should have been in the place of the tracked TPM music.

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It very much lacks a complete centrepiece finale cue though, and this should have been in the place of the tracked TPM music.

I fully agree.

However, of the prequels, AOTC gets far less play time. It just doesn't click with me for some reason and think it has to do with what Lotman brought up.

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It very much lacks a complete centrepiece finale cue though, and this should have been in the place of the tracked TPM music.
That is probably my biggest and only true complaint about AotC. The battle music is almost completely tracked from TPM. It should've gotten some proper new music all for itself. Why they didn't even use most of "The Arena" is beyond me. It's a great track. :|
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Just because Joe hates it doesn't mean the whole world thinks it's bad.

just because you hold John to a low standard doesn't mean that I should.

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Just because Joe hates it doesn't mean the whole world thinks it's bad.

just because you hold John to a low standard doesn't mean that I should.

The guy is old, give him a break. :|

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Just because Joe hates it doesn't mean the whole world thinks it's bad.

just because you hold John to a low standard doesn't mean that I should.

So it's just bad, or it's bad for being Star Wars and john Williams?. Just curious.

For me it's the worst of the six, but it's not bad.

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There's no denying that much of the score is simply Williams on auto-pilot. I mean Jango's Escape or Bounty Hunter's Pursuit isn't exactly breaking new ground. Sadly AOTC is really an anomoly in the SW scores. I find both TPM and ROTS to be FAR superior scores on just about every level.

Justin

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I think it's ridiculous how one man's opinion has given the score a bad wrap around here.

Please, don't become confused Kendal. Joe's opinion has nothing to do with the fact that it's not nearly as good a score as it could have been. I'm pleased to say that I still disagree with Joe on a myriad of subjects ranging from Star Trek: Nemesis to Williams' Minority Report.

Justin - Who thinks AOTC is a score that ranges from irritating to adequate to quite good.

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AOTC is a great album. Although it leaves stuff off, I like the sequencing and it is a rewarding listen. Perhaps I like it a little better than the Revenge of the Sith OST album? Yes. I believe I do.

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There's no denying that much of the score is simply Williams on auto-pilot. I mean Jango's Escape or Bounty Hunter's Pursuit isn't exactly breaking new ground.

You would have preferred more groundbreaking music like Coruscant Chase and Conveyor Belt? I think it is good that Williams wrote old sounding music as well.

As for the auto-pilot mode. That simply isn't possible. It takes a lot of hard work and imagination to compose music like Bounty Hunter's Pursuit.

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As for the auto-pilot mode. That simply isn't possible. It takes a lot of hard work and imagination to compose music like Bounty Hunter's Pursuit.

The cue has lots of notes and does work well in the film. However, shouldn't Williams be holding himself to a higher standard than "I'll think I'll write something adequate for this scene." Then again I can't blame him with the horrid drivel he had to expose himself to while writing music for this "film".

Justin - Feeling particularly bitter this morning. :mrgreen:

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AOTC is a very un-even score.

I'm guessing that Williams was struggling to get this done on time because while some tracks have rather complex instrumention and rhytms going on (Coruscant Chase), others sound like they barely have any orchestrations (The Tusken Camp and the Homestead), like Williams only had time to stetch the outlines and wasn't able to color them in.

Some of the action music like Jango's Escape sound like it could have come from any Williams film since 1997 and TPM's promising Anakin's Theme is tossed aside for a epic love theme that does pull out all stops and has a thousand violins tugging their wooden hearts out, but lacks the character of previous Star Wars romantic/love themes.

Despite all the bombast the score's 2 best moments are the quiet ones.

The soft haunting redition of Smhi's theme which still gives me goosebumps to this day (possibly the best bit of music for one of the worst scebes ever).

And the finale of John Williams end credits music, with Anakin's theme morphing into Vader's theme trough Across The Stars. (it's a brilliant 45 seconds or so, so naturally is was cut from the film.)

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I love AOTC.

I think it's ridiculous how one man's opinion has given the score a bad wrap around here.

Thanks for giving me so much credit, but I am not the scores only detractor. I seem to recall that Ricard was not pleased, and I also recall that Alan from Houston thought it lacking, whether their opinions of the score are as low as mine, I doubt it.

I like the last track very much, its dark and dangerous, and Williams gives it an ominous tone. And I have semi warmed up to the Love theme, but I still don't think it a great Star Wars theme, the last great Star Wars theme being Duel of the Fates, and Anakin's Theme. Much of the score is boring, and some of it is laughably bad, ie the guitar riffs. I'm not sure which is worse, the score itself, or its usage in the film. Its a shame to watch the asteroid field sequence, its so boring, with its lack of music(although the explosion sounds are terrific, see I can say something nice about AOTC), especially compared to ESB's asteroid sequence which is a perfect blend of music, action, dialogue, and effects.

Overall I think its the weakest Star Wars score by a wide margin, and the worst JW score of the 21st century. Some of that is because the score is so lackluster, and some of it because the score never lived up to its vast potential.

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AOTC isn't the greatest score, but it's still better than virtually everything out there. To me the Star Wars scores are the pinnacle of movie scores because they are so complex and developed and full of interesting themes. AOTC, however, suffers from lack of many themes. It has one new one, and Yoda's appears once or twice very briefly, but other than that, there aren't even many old ones. DOTF is in once, and Imperial March is in there once. A lot of great music was left off of the OST, and a lot of great music from the OST wasn't used in the film (the last track).

It suffers from pacing. Whereas every other score except for ANH leaves us with a sense of going somehwere, AOTC is just fanfares and filler music. AOTC lacks movement especially when compared to ROTS, which often has the underlying percussion and beats, even in the slower, quiet music, that lends to the feeling of urgency and that each track is bringing us closer to the end.

All that said, AOTC is not a bad score by any means. It just has awfully popular company to compete with. The Arena is good, and Bounty Hunter's Pursuit and Jango's Escape are good. Hell, most of the soundtrack is good, but it just lacks the strength to keep us interested the entire way through.

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After carefully considering all of the facts, studying items, re-watching moments, listening to the album, putting aside the machete-like film edits I have come to the conclusion that yes, the score to Attack of the Clones really is that bad. It's a boring score for a sci-fi/fantasy film. These are supposed to the be the "no holds barred" scores. The ones where the composer is limited only by his imagination. Well in the case of this turkey, Williams ran out of imagination right from the get go. How many times do we have to have a talking scene with underscore? And what kind of underscore? The dull, plodding variety. People really want to listen to this stuff?

The love theme is written in a way to make us feel for the "star crossed lovers" since the actors and the script do nothing to make us care for Padmé and Anakin. It falls to the music to make us care. It's not enough. Plus, the love theme can't compare with earlier themes in the series. It lacks the sweep and emotions of all of the previous love themes.

When we finally get to an action scene, we get "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" music. Decent music, wrong movie. It's rare for Williams not to capture the essence of a scene, but he missed the target big time with that "Chase Through Coruscant" cue. He probably partially made up for it with "On the Conveyor Belt" but we can only judge that from the standalone cue, and not the film. "The Arena" is pretty good, but can't compare with the big action set pieces from other films in the series. It's not up there with the "Battle of Yavin" or "Batttle of Hoth". The other big action cues do nothing for me on the album. I'm not to crazy about hearing the "flamenco" lightsaber fight music either. I have to ask, this is Star Wars music?

Overall, a big thumbs down from me. This is really the worst of the series. A total failure in pretty much every regard.

Neil

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I blame Lucas more than I do Williams.

Trying to make Star Wars into a love story was one of the worst things Lucas could have done plus with all of the of music from TPM tracked in to the picture I think Williams really had no where to go on this film.

I'm suprised people don't care for Jango's Escape because is one of the fue cues that actually sounds like it belongs in a Star Wars film, in my opinion.

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Well I thought the rendition of the Imperial March in the credits track...the first two loud bombastic times and the last time at the end were superb.

The best, only behind the one in "Battle of Hoth" and "Aboard the Executor"

The Conveyor Belt, Yoda and the Younglings and even the Arena/Battle were all quite frankly..."not so bad" at all.

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Don't like AotC, never have. It has neither the great battle music from PM, nor the moments of thematic greatness that shines through in ROTS from time to time. And the original Star Wars scores are out of reach for any prequel score anyhow.

I genuinely dislike what Williams comes up with for action/ chase scenes nowadays, especially the percussion. Somehow he managed to pull together everything I don't like and shove it into AotC's action music. Chase Through Corouscant, Jango's Escape, Bounty Hunter's Pursuit, all the same, bland stuff.

I totally agree with Neil; during AotC, I constantly wondered "this is supposed to be Star Wars?"

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A friend and I just recently watched the movie again. While the score isn't BAD necessarily, it certainly is the weakest of all six.

The main problem is that the music runs into the unfortunate problem of either being 1) inappropriate or 2) unnecessary. Episode II is the first score where we have actual FANFARES for people simply WALKING INTO ROOMS. Why? All of the scenes of conversation have music under them, but for what reason? The movie is practically wall-to-wall scored. However, I think this is more of a George Lucas request than a Williams decision.

The love theme itself is sweeping and elegant. I think it's a great theme, but does little to help the film.

I think the main issue is that Williams really wasn't all that impressed with the movie (and let's face it: who could blame him?). For a composer to have to write music for something that doesn't offer much in way of storytelling, acting, etc. and then have to work to accentuate those images by way of the music...I would imagine is pretty friggin hard.

In short, I blame Lucas more than Williams for the score's weakness.

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Episode II is the first score where we have actual FANFARES for people simply WALKING INTO ROOMS.

Tighter editing (ie, the removal of this walking into and out of rooms) would have helped here.

Neil

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Attack of the Clones is mediocre. The "talking" music is a severely low point of the score; very dull and monotonous. The Separatist theme is used almost exactly the same way (horns and low strings) all six or seven times it appears. The Mystery motif, basically taken from The Fury, is equally uninteresting. Then there is nonthematic underscore that is hardly worth considering. The bright and heroic "fanfares" feel cartoonish compared to the rest of the score, and surely detract from the mysterious mood it hopes to create. Then again, the Kamino fanfares are perfectly dark and mysterious, high points of the score.

Action is generally a success. "Zam the Assassin and The Chase Through Coruscant" is a fascinating cue, despite a lag phase in the middle, though not the best spotted music. "Jango's Escape" and the lightsaber duel music are also great exercises in alternative styles of percussion. "Bounty Hunter's Pursuit" and "The Arena," as the more standard action cues, don't do as much for me, though "The Arena" has a very exciting final three minutes. The music for Yoda's duel isn't as shocking as it should be (YODA dueling?). Then again, I wouldn't blame Williams for trying to downplay that atrocity. There was the option of taking it and running with it, though, and then he might have wound up with something like the end of "Departure of Boba Fett."

"Across the Stars" is a little emotionally flat, and derivative of Hook, but in many ways it is a good theme. The tragic B section is excellent, the C section foreshadowing of the dark events of Episode III ("Anakin's Betrayal"?). The diversity of its use in the film could have been upped a little; "The Arena" sounds pretty much like "Finale" sounds pretty much like the concert version.

Previous themes are not used too interestingly, with the exception of the Trade Federation March (more powerful than in TPM) and Yoda's theme at the end of the film. The Emperor's theme, heard scarcely (only two proper statements, with hints in several other cues) is handled expertly. The effect when Dooku's ship flies into the Coruscant building at the end of the film is very creepy, and I would say a "Star Wars" moment (probably the only one in the film for me). The three-theme end-of-credits piece is good, of course.

Maybe the best thing about AotC is that it established the "Lament" motif in the scene where Anakin talks about how he killed the Tusken Raiders.

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AOTC is every bit as good as any Harry Potter score. Yesteryear's Star Wars geeks damn this score with the film every time. It is the least "Star Warsy", but that should not mark down the music.

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The Separatist theme is used almost exactly the same way (horns and low strings) all six or seven times it appears.

It is retracked in the film. Listen to the compositions, not the film and you might hear it.

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AOTC is every bit as good as any Harry Potter score. Yesteryear's Star Wars geeks damn this score with the film every time. It is the least "Star Warsy", but that should not mark down the music.

It's about the same level as the CoS score. Decent, but inferior to the other JW material from the franchise.

I probably like CoS better, because it has at least more new big themes.

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If it was not for Star Wars (The film practically turned Johnny into a star) and if AOTC was a stand- alone film directed by another director (let's say, Paul W.S. Anderson), John would've refused the assignment.

----------------

Alex Cremers

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AOTC is every bit as good as any Harry Potter score. Yesteryear's Star Wars geeks damn this score with the film every time. It is the least "Star Warsy", but that should not mark down the music.

yeah I believe that, ;) LOL ;) LOL ;) LOL ROTFLMAO LOL ROTFLMAO LOL

btw, I don't damn it because its the least Star Warsy, I damn it because its a bad score, worst of John's 21st century scores, by a long shot.

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"Across the Stars" is a little emotionally flat, and derivative of Hook, but in many ways it is a good theme.

I used to think that, but after listening to Hook a lot more than I used to, and then going and listening to AOTC, I don't hear it anymore. Across the Stars is great in my view, it just never got the variety that the other themes do. Although, a thought just popped in my head. Is the Flag Parade from TPM a faster, mo militaristic version of the Love Theme? Because in my head it sounds the same...

AOTC's flaw is what many people have stated. There's too much "filler" music, and not enough themes and thematic development. It could've been great, there surely are hints of it, but the tracking really cut down on Williams' chance to compose great music. It's an intermediary score, and like the film, feels a bit awkward because it feels lopsided. The first half is lighthearted, the second dark, and likewise, the music blends TPM and ROTS, but without many themes which could've helped.

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if AOTC was a stand- alone film directed by another director (let's say, Paul W.S. Anderson), John would've refused the assignment.

That point is moot. If it was Star Wars Episode II he would have completed the saga. Lucas didn't direct Empire or Jedi and he did those.

Williams pretty much only does movies for people he's developed long standing collaborations with nowadays. Lucas, Spielberg, Columbus (or columbus franchise). I hope he does the next Oliver Stone flick. He's less likely to work with guys like Annaud these days. And he only did Geisha because it was going to be Spielberg.

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I like the noir motif method of AOTC as opposed to the Wagnerian leitmotif method of the rest of the trilogy. Minority Report and AOTC are both great noir scores with amazing action cues and tender love themes with a hint of darkness. Unique in the Star Wars scores. Not more of the same.

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If it was not for Star Wars (The film practically turned Johnny into a star) and if AOTC was a stand- alone film directed by another director (let's say, Paul W.S. Anderson), John would've refused the assignment.

If this was the case John probably wouldn't have scored it, BUT I'm convinced the film would be regarded as a great, imaginative, original thrill-ride. BECAUSE it's Star Wars people tend to critisize it more.

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BECAUSE it's Star Wars people tend to critisize it more.

Or the old grey guardians of the OT. The ones who were too old (mentally or physically) to enjoy ROTJ.

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If this was the case John probably wouldn't have scored it, BUT I'm convinced the film would be regarded as a great, imaginative, original thrill-ride. BECAUSE it's Star Wars people tend to critisize it more.

Actually if AOTC had not been a star wars film it would probably have had very poor previews the release would have been delayed while the producers got someone else to write the score and hire someone like Stuart Baird to tighter up the editing and save what they can.

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