Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008) – Soundtrack Review

The first thing you have to know about the Clone Wars Soundtrack is that is about as different from the John Williams scores of the Star Wars saga as you can get, while still including a few of Williams’ themes in the score. The conscious decision to go in a radically different direction can be easily understood. The Clone Wars simply cannot hope to compete at the same level of the original Star Wars films. And besides, The Clone Wars is a distinctly different experience altogether – being a purely animated film. As such, the soundtrack should match and complement the film as much as possible. As such, a soaring, symphonic score from Williams would feel too out of place in the completely CGI world of this film. What we get instead is Kevin Kiner’s very spirited, eclectic take on Star Wars. And, for the most part, the results are pretty good.

Kiner’s variations on Williams’ themes are sure to spark discussion about whether or not he created something enjoyable to listen to. But the fact is, the variations are so extreme that it’s often very difficult to pick out exactly which Williams theme Kiner used at any given moment. No doubt those who study music will have a better time doing so, but the typical moviegoer will likely not hear a whole lot of familiarity with this soundtrack. And whether or not that is a liability will depend on whether or not the rest of the soundtrack stands on its own two legs.

My biggest frustration with The Clone Wars Soundtrack are the very short lengths of each track. Of the thirty-two tracks on the album, eight are under a minute, and none of them are over 4:30. The effect is to give the listener a blitz of sound with little real depth. And that’s not to say that Kiner’s score is simplistic or without diversity – quite the opposite – but by providing such short clips, it’s as if the score cannot maintain a focus. Indeed, this is where the diversity – Kiner’s makes wonderful use of percussion, electric guitar, jazz, and more – becomes a detriment because the tone and feeling shifts so wildly from track to track.

It’s a shame because there are a number of very enjoyable moments here. And a number of surprises. I like that Kiner’s score doesn’t play things safe and, in fact, takes a number of risks. The result is that, for the most part, the soundtrack has a lot of energy and vigor. If you’re looking for something to throw into your MP3 player to use for a good workout session – or maybe to blare in the background while playing video games or having to sit through a boring class – this soundtrack would nicely fit the bill.

But is it Star Wars?

That is a question that can only be answered when the soundtrack is heard with the film itself. Without the film, this hardly sounds like Star Wars simply because it’s so different from John Williams. Indeed, this score has more in common with video game soundtracks than it does with feature films. But considering the high quality of some video game scores, that is a compliment.

Overall Grade: B-

The Clone Wars Soundtrack is enjoyable, and worth listening to. Whether or not it finds a place in your heavy rotation of music may depend more on whether or not you enjoy Kiner’s brand of music than on how well he has accomplished his task. This is a stylized score. And the more stylized you get, the more you run the risk of turning off your audience. My guess is, however, with the recent success of scores like the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica, The Clone Wars Soundtrack will find a healthy number of fans.

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