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Star Wars: The Clone Wars
by Kevin Kiner

Star Wars: The Clone Wars

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Star Wars: The Clone Wars (Soundtrack) by Kevin Kiner
Star Wars: The Clone Wars (Soundtrack) by Kevin Kiner
Star Wars:  The Clone Wars (DVD)
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Star Wars:  The Clone Wars (Soundtrack) by Kevin Kiner

Star Wars: The Clone Wars
Composed by Kevin Kiner
Sony Classical (2008)

Rating: 3/10

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“The music of Star Wars has always been easy to identify. It has a clear personality...even the prequels, but STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS does not. It's big and bold, but doesn't seem to have any clear rules by which it plays. ”

Return of the Clones
Review by Christopher Coleman

Look at the size of that thing! No, not the Death Star, but the musical tradition of the Star Wars franchise. It seems that there are endless quotes of people who, like myself, wondered what Luke and Obi Wan's vague reference in A NEW HOPE to "The Clone Wars" was all about. Let's be honest, for those who grew up with the original trilogy (I mean those who watched them first time time in actual movie theaters), the prequels and their elaboration on the mysterious "Clone Wars" hardly lived up to our imaginations. Yet, George Lucas clearly remains enamored with the events that comprise this galactic war. Amazingly, three full features films and a couple more hours worth of animated stories, Nickelodeon's CLONE WARS, still didn't manage to satisfy Lucas' desire to tell us about the ebbs and flows of this war for galactic supremacy. I'm not sure how many of even the hardiest fans really cared to know more about what went on between ATTACK OF THE CLONES and REVENGE OF THE SITH. Be that as it may, this is the very subject of the animated feature film and upcoming television series, STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS.

It is no secret that George Lucas does what he wants to.  Not only that, but he does what he wants HOW he wants. He's got the money and the right to do just that. He has now taken the story out of the rigors of the live-action genre and put it solely in the hands of 3D digital artists. It's easier. It's faster. It's cheaper. Why not? It is a new era for the Star Wars galaxy and along with this change in sub-genre comes a significant musical shift. The musical score is now in the hands of veteran composer KEVIN KINER.

Believe it or not, STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS has shifted much further in regards to its music than it has in its visuals. With increasing frequency , the only things on-screen during the prequel trilogy were the starring actors.  But now even the "last remnants of that old republic have been swept away."  So, Lucas is still infatuated with these wars and the story of Obi Wan and Anakin, but perhaps composer JOHN WILLIAMS has had enough of this galaxy, and so new musical blood was in order. Rather than try to dance the line between stylistic continuity and "rip off" it sounds as though, deep within the halls of LucasFilm/LucasAnimation, after hours of deliberation, the conclusion was reached..."Screw it. Let's just sample a bit of all things Star Wars and hope for the best." The end result is a score from composer Kevin Kiner that hardly had any chance to be appreciated on its own merits. Nevertheless, we have to try.

We dive back into these wars with Lucas, Anakin, Obi-Wan, Yoda, Mace, Dooku and tons of expendable clones and even more expendable droids. Anakin now has his very own padawan who is as irritatingly brash as Anakin once was. The unending skirmishes between the Republic's Clone army and the Separatist Droid army rages on...only with even less interest for audiences than ever. STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS sees the return of Jabba the Hutt and somehow Asajj Ventress, Dooku's apprentice, returns. In short, both the Republic and the Separatists are vying for the favor of the Hutts and a plot revolving around the kidnapping of Jabba the Hutt's son lay at the center of the film. Around this storyline, countless battles are waged with a smidgen of exposition, making for a score that is heavy on the action side.

The music of Star Wars has always been easy to identify. It has a clear personality...even the prequels, but STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS does not. It's big and bold, but doesn't seem to have any clear rules by which it plays. This feature film score is full to the brim with new ideas and nods to past. Some of KINER's ideas work and some do not. Then crashing all of these ideas together into one listening experience simply ruins those parts which might have been acceptable on their own.

While just about all traces of John Williams' iconic themes have been lost under some Hothian snow drift, KEVIN KINER does, in his own style, make the occasional reference to some of the canonical music. The most obvious is the Star Wars title theme which launches and then concludes this feature. In track 1 "A Galaxy Divided" we get a very aggressive performance of the title theme. The strong percussion here makes the piece come off more like a Jerry Goldsmith creation than John Williams. The soundtrack also concludes with this theme being performed again with it's strong percussion, but we also get a new interpretation of the famed Rebel Alliance theme as a bonus. Smaller nods to the more familiar musical world of Star Wars can be found in obscure places as well. In track 2 "Admiral Yularen" we hear quick nods to The Cloud City theme from The Empire Strikes Back (slightly militarized) as well as a reference to a short cut used in Mos Eisely in A NEW HOPE. Then, in "Meet Ahsoka" (4) Kiner pays comedic homage to the Gungan-goof, Jar Jar Binks. Another good example of Kiner pulling in Williams prequel references can be found in "Ziro Surrounded" (20). In this piece we hear a clear reference to the introductory measures from THE PHANTOM MENACE's Battle on Naboo, before moving quickly into a segment from Obi Wan's battle with Jango Fett in ATTACK OF THE CLONES. Kiner even incorporates a bit from the first CLONE WARS animated series. In "Jabba's Chamber Dance" (19), he uses the brief heroic theme representing the Mon Calamari in Chapter 5 of that series. The arrangement and orchestration of these nods is so different from the originals that these can easily be missed. The attempt at connecting this diverse palette is admirable, but do not satisfactorily come together in the end. And then there are Kiner's own creative contributions to sort through.

Most notably, Kiner gives this new series a bold, brassy title theme that is played at peak moments of the film, which often involve Anakin Skywalker.  We hear prominent quotes of this theme in "Battle of Christophsis" (3) and "General Loathsom/ Ahsoka" (12). This reinvented galaxy is a musically eclectic one. KEVIN KINER attempts to cook some sort of Dagobahian boullabaise of world-beat, rock band, electronic and symphonic elements. We hear strong eastern and middle eastern influences used to represent Jabba's Palace and the planet of Teth (see "Jabba's Palace" (7) "Landing on Teth," (9) "B'Omarr Monastary (11)," "Battle of Teth" (14)). Jedi Master/ General Obi Wan Kenobi has been transformed into a rock star as he is now represented by electric guitar, bass and drums. This may be the most puzzling of all and is probably the biggest musical miss of the score. Kiner does also provide a new theme for the series' most significant new character, the jedi-apprentice Ahsohka. Hers is a melancholy motif most often played out on flute. Aside from the new Obi Wan representation, the most offending tracks are those associated with another new character, Jabba's uncle, Ziro. In "Ziro's Nightclub Band" (22) and "Seedy City Swing" (23), the obvious attempt at bringing back the magic of the original Cantina band was made; however, the sleazy jazz piece and "Sing, Sing, Sing" inspired swing track are painfully thin and contrived - adding nothing but another eye-rolling moment to the film experience.  Perhaps KEVIN KINER's biggest success is found in the many action sequences.  While frenetic at times, they do their job well enough.  The undermining problem remains that the style employed is just so foreign to this world of familiar places and faces.

STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS continues to move the franchise away from its roots and some fans are just not going to be very happy with that. The box office for STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS was nothing much to brag about, but the subsequent television series has brought in huge numbers for Nickelodeon. It's obvious that this feature was little more than several tv-episodes strung together. While the quality demonstrated here is certainly high in the realm of television, STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS cannot begin to compete with true feature animated films of 2008 like WALL-E or KUNG FU PANDA or even IGOR. Nor does it easily sit next to any of the feature films.  And, what many might not realize, is that a major reason that one could not watch this film sandwiched between ATTACK OF THE CLONES and REVENGE OF THE SITH is because of monstrous difference in the music.  I can hardly imagine the problems KEVIN KINER must have faced when trying to take the reigns for this series. It does sound as though he was truly trying to provide something for everyone (hard core fans, newbies, and George himself). The end result is a musical soup that even Master Yoda would have a hard time swallowing.  Perhaps over the course of this television series Kiner will be able to give this project a more clearly defined musical personality.  Asit stands now, with this initial effort, there is much work to be done to get it there.

Rating: 3/10

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Track Title Track Time  Rating
1 Star Wars Main Title & A Galaxy Divided 1:13  **
2 Admiral Yularen 0:56  ***
3 Battle of Christophsis 3:19  ***
4 Meet Ahsoka 2:44  ***
5 Obi-wan to the Rescue 1:24  *
6 Sneaking Under the Shield 4:24  ***
7 Jabba's Palace 0:45  *
8 Anakin VS. Dooku 2:18  ***
9 Landing On Teth 1:43  **
10 Destroying the Shield 3:08  **
11 B'omarr Monastary 3:10  **
12 General Loathsom/ Battle Strategy 3:07  **
13 The Shield 1:36  **
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 3:39  ***
19 Jabbas Chamber Dance 0:42  **
20 Ziro Surrounded 2:20  **
21 Scaling the Cliff 0:45  **
22 Ziro's Nightclub Band 0:53  *
23 Seedy City Swing 0:34  *
24 Escape from the Monastary 3:12  **
25 Infiltrating Ziro's Lair 2:21  **
26 Countyard Fight 2:41  *
27 Dunes of Tatooine 2:00  **
28 Rough Landing 3:03  ***
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 Running Time (approx)    




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