Music Composed by: Kevin Kiner
Movie Genre: Animation
Movie Release: 2008
Soundtrack Release: 2008
Label: Sony Classical

“It might be considered a weak effort next to
the other Star Wars soundtracks written by John Williams, however,
Kevin Kiner’s score is particularly interesting due to its originality.

In Star Wars plot development, there was a period of turmoil and war known as “The Clone Wars”, to which none of the Star Wars films had substantially addressed. “Star Wars: Attack of the Clones” (2002) ends at the beginning of the Clone Wars, while the sequel “Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith” (2005) starts with the last crucial battle of a space war that viewers won’t watch in cinemas until 2008. This is when George Lucas will attempt to tell us what happened in the clone wars with a new film that deviates from the expected and display the unexpected: the first animated Star Wars film! Mixing Star Wars with animation does not prepares us for something terribly exciting. After all, how seriously can we take an animated Star Wars film? Well, not that much. By the time of the film’s release in cinemas, this was the only film without the music of the ultimate master Jedi composer of this galaxy, John Williams. Which didn’t surprise anyone, of course, since George Lucas wasn’t directing and obviously we are dealing with a film of minor significance. And don’t forget the most important factor of all: the film was animated. An attempt perhaps to initiate interest on the forthcoming TV series of the same name at the same year. That’s why the baton was given to the skilled – both for his television and film work – composer Kevin Kiner. The first reasonable question that comes to mind has to do with the style of the music and the overall approach. Does the score moves in the familiar exuberant orchestral paths of the previous Star Wars soundtracks or is this film an opportunity for something different on a musical level?

“Star Wars: The Clone Wars” has a score not only with very few references to music previously written by John Williams, but also it is moving into completely different musical territory. Many new elements lay in the various tracks of the score, some of them surprising or even annoying to some. Without the main titles, end credits and an additional track, it would be really hard for anyone to come to the conclusion that he is listening music from a film which bears the Star Wars title. Only three pieces of music reminds us of John Williams’ compositions: in the end of “Fight to the End” (#31) we have a complete performance of the Force Theme, while the “Star Wars Main Title and a Galaxy Divided” (#1) and “End Credits” (#32) carry the well-known themes from main and end titles respectively, with a small though quite significant alternation. The addition of electronic percussion sounds. One might say that this decision gives a new and spontaneous dimension to the classic themes of John Williams which is justified by the atmosphere of the film, although it is expected to annoy many fans of the Star Wars soundtracks. Most of them are not used in such bold ideas. Kevin Kiner’s experimentation on a musical material so sacred, may seem to many Star Wars fans inappropriate or simply unacceptable. But music for the cinema is not composed based on the fans desires, but on the composer’s belief about how music should serve the film to the best possible way. As already mentioned, the score of “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” is far from the atmosphere of the Star Wars movies, which is not necessarily a bad thing, considering that even producer George Lucas gave the composer his blessing and urged him to move to new musical directions, even unprecedented for a Star Wars soundtrack. This translates into musical moments with modern elements, like electronic sounds and varied ethnic touches, maintaining simultaneously the familiar orchestral style and the adventurous moments that always excite in a Star Wars soundtrack. Make no mistake, though, the musical atmosphere that prevails in this score has to do mainly with the new aspects of the music stylistically, rather than the old and familiar ones.

During the first scenes of the film, the space battle on the planet Geonosis, music initiates the hostilities in a dynamic way with an imposing military march, which follows after the main title music in “Star Wars Main Title and a Galaxy Divided” (#1). The droid battle on the planet Christophsis gives us the first glimpse of adventurous orchestral moments with a choir accompaniment in the track “Battle of Christophsis” (#3). Concerning the factor “adventure”, composer Kevin Kiner does not disappoint, either when he writes music that tends to resemble the style of Williams or when he utilizes a more ethnic approach. Despite their differences, both types of adventure coexist wonderfully in the film and the score, while musically they relate to different situations and locations. During the destruction of the droid shield on Christophsis we get exciting heroic orchestral moments in “Destroying the Shield” (#10). On the contrary, the battle on the planet Teth acquires ethnic style, where the orchestra effectively joins forces with electronic sounds, ethnic percussion, exotic female vocals and electric guitar in “Battle of Teth” (#14). Jabba’s musical identity, found in “Jabba’s Palace” (#7), “Jabba’s Chamber Dance” (#19) and “Dooku Speaks with Jabba” (#30), adds to the indigenous character of the music, but differs significantly from the other ethnic moments of the score, such as those at the monastery scenes on planet Teth, where an atmosphere of mysticism prevails (in “B’omarr Monastery” #11 and “Escape from the Monastery” #24).

A new character is introduced in the film called “Ashoka”, Anakin’s Jedi apprentice. Her tender and yet playful theme will make a few appearances in the score, starting in “Meet Ashoka” (#4). Extended is the role of electronic sounds in the music, which blend remarkably with the instruments of the orchestra. Such a case in point is encountered in “Sneaking Under the Shield” (#6), where the intention of the music is to deliver a treacherous-underground feeling, as Ashoka and Anakin have penetrated behind enemy lines to destroy the droid shield. There are two tracks completely out of place and style in relation to the rest of the music, the tracks “Ziro’s Night Club” (#22) and “Seedy City Swing” (#23). Their swing/jazz atmosphere makes you think you are listening to a crime type of film score or a musical, rather than a Star Wars movie score, even if it’s animated! Their usage in the film was strictly as source music and their addition in the CD is at the least unfortunate. Their presence destroys the atmosphere and annoy the listener. Truth be told, if there weren’t included in the CD, no one would miss them.

The impressions from the score of “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” should be split in two: to those who will welcome and accept the shift to new daring musical directions, and to those who will reject it completely, just because it refrains from John Williams’ style. The latter ones, may even consider this score as nothing short of sacrilege. How dare somebody tamper with such a sacred composition like the Star Wars main title? However, we should bear in mind that this is not a usual Star Wars movie. Conditions are vastly different. Why should we evaluate this score with the same musical criteria, then? Composer Kevin Kiner took the opportunity to imprint his personal signature in a movie that needed a modern musical environment, which was formed by the use of electronic sounds, electric guitar, ethnic percussion and female vocals, combined with a large orchestra and choir. The score of “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” can not be considered as a typical Star Wars score, simply because it isn’t. Listen to it with an open heart, as a fresh attempt for a space adventure with many interesting musical details. Only then you will be able to appreciate all the qualities it possesses.

Track List:

01. Star Wars Main Title & A Galaxy Divided (1:13)
02. Admiral Yularen (0:56)
03. Battle of Christophsis (3:19)
04. Meet Ahsoka (2:44)
05. Obi-Wan to the Rescue (1:24)
06. Sneaking Under the Shield (4:25)
07. Jabba’s Palace (0:46)
08. Anakin vs. Dooku (2:18)
09. Landing on Teth (1:44)
10. Destroying the Shield (3:09)
11. B’omarr Monastery (3:11)
12. General Loathsom/Battle Strategy (3:08)
13. The Shield (1:37)
14. Battle of Teth (2:45)
15. Jedi Don’t Run! (1:22)
16. Obi-Wan’s Negotiation (2:07)
17. The Jedi Council (2:04)
18. General Loathsom/Ahsoka (3:40)
19. Jabba’s Chamber Dance (0:42)
20. Ziro Surrounded (2:20)
21. Scaling the Cliff (0:46)
22. Ziro’s Nightclub Band (0:53)
23. Seedy City Swing (0:35)
24. Escape from the Monastery (3:13)
25. Infiltrating Ziro’s Lair (2:22)
26. Courtyard Fight (2:41)
27. Dunes of Tatooine (2:00)
28. Rough Landing (3:04)
29. Padme Imprisoned (0:50)
30. Dooku Speaks With Jabba (1:28)
31. Fight to the End (3:59)
32. End Credits (0:51)

Total Time: 67:00

The tracks that stand out are noted with bold letters

Score Rating: * * * 1/2