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Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
2008 Regular

2008 Set

Composed, Conducted, and Produced by:
John Williams

Orchestrated by:
Eddie Karam
Conrad Pope

Performed by:
The Hollywood Studio Symphony

Hollywood Film Chorale

Labels and Dates:
Concord Music Group (Individual)
(May 20th, 2008)

Concord Records (Set)
(November 11th, 2008)

Also See:
Raiders of the Lost Ark
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
War of the Worlds
Far and Away

Audio Clips:
10. The Jungle Chase (0:31):
WMA (204K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

13. Hidden Treasure and the City of Gold (0:32):
WMA (211K)  MP3 (269K)
Real Audio (189K)

18. The Departure (0:30):
WMA (200K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

19. Finale (0:31):
WMA (202K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

The initial single CD album is a regular U.S. release. The 2008 set (called "The Soundtrack Collection") is a regular commercial product with a retail price of $60 but initally sold for $43 to $45 at primarily major online outlets.

  The score and the track "The Adventures of Mutt" were both nominated for Grammy Awards.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
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Buy it... if you consider yourself any fan of John Williams or the Indiana Jones franchise whatsoever, for despite its flaws, this score is a fun encounter with an old friend.

Avoid it... if you require this score to rival the classic Raiders of the Lost Ark or be as coherent and memorable as any of the previous scores in the franchise.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull: (John Williams) Like the franchises for Conan the Barbarian and The Terminator, among others, speculation about yet another sequel in the Indiana Jones series long consumed fans through the 1990's and 2000's. The publicized reason for the 19-year delay since Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade often involved perpetual revisions on a story penned by George Lucas, and a yearning by Lucas and director Steven Spielberg to perfect it before dragging a nearly senior-aged Harrison Ford back into the fold. Lucas didn't ultimately get his wish to allow aliens and UFO's to completely dominate the script, but their involvement caused many fans and critics to scratch their heads. With the lovable part-time professor and whip-cracking archeologist faced with a different set of villains in the 1950's, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull shows a quest for the title's artifact of legend with new and old sidekicks and Russians in hot pursuit. The film's script, which has been the source of much of the criticism aimed at the production, attempted almost too hard to merge elements from the first and third films in the franchise (The Temple of Doom doesn't factor compared to the others) into the new material for The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Between the plethora of references to Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Last Crusade and Lucas' obsession with aliens, reaction to The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was often summarized by an affinity for seeing Indy continue his adventures, but a general disappointment with the material he had to work with. Both the reliance on the aforementioned two films in the franchise and the popular response to the film can also be applied to John Williams' score for The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. After a flurry of motion picture production in 2005, the composer's attention strayed away from Hollywood for two years and gravitated towards classical writing, concert conducting, and, perhaps most famous, an original theme for NBC's "Sunday Night Football."

Anticipation from film score fans for Williams' return to both the big screen and, even more importantly, the Indiana Jones franchise, was as palpable as that of hardcore fans of the franchise itself. All three of the Indiana Jones scores had been nominated for Oscars, and the first is commonly considered a classic. Many collectors of Williams' works took the opportunity to rehash debates about how the maestro handled the long-awaited return to the Star Wars franchise in 1999. Perhaps more actively than in any of the Star Wars prequels, Williams relied on the themes and foundational structures of the first and third Indiana Jones scores to guide his work for the belated sequel. The ties between The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and what has come before are quite strong, and any fan requiring a firm set of musical references to the franchise should be very pleased. Four primary themes from Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Last Crusade all receive multiple performances in this newest installment, each generously stated and serving the story's continuous desire to make such connections. The composer also takes the opportunity to write a handful of new themes and motifs for The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, giving the film so many thematic ideas through which to rotate that it maintains itself as a perpetually interesting study. If there is negative criticism to be aimed at this score, and there's certainly some merit to such mentions, it's not related to Williams' loyalty to the new and old themes. Instead, The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is a parade of friendly themes that don't particularly form a personality when viewed as a whole. The evidence of its clear duty as a sequel score is heard in the lengths to which the old themes are the heart and soul of The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, rather than emphasizing the fresh themes to such an extent that the old ones are forced to adapt to the new style. In terms of maturation and development, this Indiana Jones score makes little attempt to steer the franchise's overall sound into a new realm. Of course, that applies to moments outside of the generally bizarre alien plot elements specific to this entry.

Some Williams collectors may be tempted to compare the somewhat aimless overall direction of The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull to the stream-of-consciousness style of score that Williams provided for Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith. Indeed, both scores seem to lack an anchor with which to punctuate the end of their franchises (assuming this is the conclusion for both), making one wonder if there really was a "point A" and "point B" in either series of scores. But the similarities end with those generalities, however, for The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is a score far more at home in its franchise. It will likely be described as the weakest of the four Indiana Jones scores, but considering how high a standard such scores are held to, The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is quite admirable. No matter how you cut it, this is not only John Williams music at its most adventurous, but despite whatever problems the new material may present to the listener, it's great to hear it in action once again. The more interesting debate about The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is not about the thematic choices that Williams made, but the execution of those ideas. The new themes are very well adapted into a variety of emotional circumstances, proving their versatility in nearly every major cue. The statement of the previous franchise themes is where the true debate exists, for many of the most obvious uses of those themes are seemingly lifted directly from Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Last Crusade with only minor alterations. There are parts of The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull that seem like a "cut and paste" job while other parts that call out for treatment similar to identical situations in previous films are left hanging. This latter dilemma is likely the result of Williams' own maturation of compositional style; the days of overwhelmingly simplistic, easily graspable statements of rhythm and theme have been replaced by an even higher level of complexity. While it's now technically superior, sometimes a good musical punch to the face is best delivered without fancy tricks.

It should be mentioned before proceeding with this review that the 77-minute listening experience provided by the Concord Music Group on album is by no means representative of everything you hear in the film. While some fans have exclaimed their satisfaction with the album, others are bothered by the 35+ minutes of material absent from it. Evaluating a franchise score like The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is a difficult proposition when based on the album alone; in this case, the presentation of the music on the product is badly rearranged, out of order, edited or in an alternate mix, mislabeled in a few cases, and entirely missing some of the most poignant references to previous material. With these circumstances in mind, most of this review will speak in general terms about the score's thematic usage. Tackling the new themes first, it needs to be mentioned that there is some debate about exactly how many new themes actually exist in formality. The most obvious idea exists for the mystery of the crystal skull concept. This theme is actually two motifs overlaid throughout most of the work; the first is an octave-spanning three-note progression repeated in hypnotic fashion by middle range instrumentation, while the second is a rhythmically-staggered six note motif of eerie atmosphere for the upper ranges. Williams states these ideas simultaneously over timpani and other bass region pounding that moves with the same hypnotic and deliberate stature as the three-note progression. The lack of synchronous movement in this pairing is quite effective, as is each of the two ideas when separated. The three-note motif exhibits the same tormenting attitude as Williams' similar theme for Lord Voldemort (introduced in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets). The high-pitched rendering of the longer motif, along with the occasional choral accompaniment, accentuates the other-worldly nature of the artifact. Among Williams' fantasy themes involving unknown or alien elements, this is one of his most effectively frightening. This also, unfortunately, makes it a tougher experience on album.

In customary fashion, Williams provides concert suite arrangements of his major new ideas for the film. The first and lengthiest of these on album is "Call of the Crystal," which offers two crescendos of the theme that never quite reach the brass-blasting power of the massive performances in "Hidden Treasure and the City of Gold" and "Temple Ruins and the Secret Revealed," both of which use a high choir to suggest the fantastic origins of the skull. The suite does conclude, however, with a wicked set of descending brass figures to accentuate the key. A lengthy, psychologically gripping performance of the theme exists in "Return" and is reprised to lesser extents in "Orellana's Cradle" and "Oxley's Dilemma." Perhaps the most interesting performance of the theme is its final one, shifting into a high brass, chime and triangle-banging, major key fanfare for the spectacle of "The Departure" and proving that it represents a far broader element than just the crystal. As the credits roll, the lack of this theme in the closing suite is somewhat of a curiosity. A theme for badgirl Irina Spotka is even more liberally quoted throughout the score than the crystal skull theme (including a place in the end credits), used almost constantly during the character's appearances and suggested actions. This theme is a brilliant combination of both the sensual and sinister sides of the character, using a saxophone, muted brass, and classic noir progressions (in the theme's even-numbered, descending phrases) to balance out the turbulent undercurrents that run through its low tones and tense string renditions. Aside from a brief exploration of this theme in the suite "Irina's Theme" (which appropriately closes with hints of the crystal skull theme), this idea is given significantly dark shades in "The Spell of the Skull," action variants in "The Jungle Chase," and an agonizingly appropriate death in "Temple Ruins and the Secret Revealed." While this theme is heard in short bursts throughout the album, there exist three or four distinct cues with the theme that remain unreleased (as opposed to the crystal skull theme, which the album only really fails to cover once).

A theme for the Colonel Dovchenko and his Russian forces is precisely for The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull what the German fanfare was for The Last Crusade, though toned back in its saluting brass statements for a more stately attitude here. This theme usually appears, logically, with Irina's theme, rarely venturing onto its own (as in the cue "Ants!"). Further exploration of this theme would have been welcome, especially if Williams had merged its militaristic tones in some way into Irina's material. The final new thematic ideas for The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull represent the character of Mutt, Indy's motorcycle-driving sidekick (and a little bit more). Whether the material in the suite "The Adventures of Mutt" actually constitutes a theme is an interesting debate. The character is treated to a frenetic spirit not much unlike the "Scherzo For Motorcycle and Orchestra" or "Escape from Venice" cues from The Last Crusade, but with an even more classically-complex playfulness that points to Far and Away, Hook, and various Harry Potter equivalents for comparison. The rollicking staccato rhythms even employ some of the meandering woodwind ideas from The Terminal, making the "theme" a collection of generally charming, swashbuckling techniques from the library of Williams that may suggest a lack of grounding in the character. With the title theme for Indy mixed into package, you might want to search a bit harder to see if there's a piece of another theme from Raider of the Lost Ark included as well. One aspect of the Mutt material that is somewhat obnoxious is that Williams has a tendency to litter such boisterous performances with false conclusions, and Mutt's music has several (in multiple cues). The fragments of this suite are integrated into "A Whirl Through Academe," "The Jungle Chase," as well as a more cohesive restatement in the end credits suite. It's difficult to find satisfaction in this theme, for while it represents the character well enough, its lack of clearly delineated statements (in both its primary and secondary passages) leave you without much to remember or admire after its conclusion.

As for the old favorites, Williams is extraordinarily loyal to four of the themes from Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Last Crusade. The "Raider's March," commonly associated with the franchise as Indy's theme, is worked into roughly 20 of the score's 40 major cues (with only half of those twenty heard on album). Most of its statements are brief and well integrated into surrounding material, but Williams does offer a few guilty pleasure moments for the theme. Most obviously, he uses it as the bookends of the end credits suite and during the famous map/travel sequences. Fans will rejoice in the composer's liberal usage of the secondary passage of the theme, which has arguably held up better over time. He also freshly recorded the official "Raider's March" suite for the opening of the album release. The theme for Marion Ravenwood is obviously the interlude in that original suite, and the performances of the theme here are as lovely as ever. Aside from a few brief uses of the theme in the unreleased portions of "The Jungle Chase," the idea's major contribution to The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull comes in full form as the series ties up loose ends in "Finale." It also leads into the familiar latter half of the end credits suite. Whimsical high string counterpoint to the theme reminds of a different generation of Williams' writing, when beauty such as this highlighted similar themes for Superman and Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back frequently. Also considered an old friend is the theme for the Ark of the Covenant, which scarred the memories of children in theatres with its proficiency in melding peoples' faces during Raiders of the Lost Ark. The Ark makes a cameo in the early warehouse scene in The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, and Williams treats it with two reprises of its mysterious theme (only one of which is featured on the album release). Both are more substantial than the theme's cameo usage in The Last Crusade. In fact, Williams even copies over a snippet of the associated, militaristic digging motif from Raiders of the Lost Ark in "The Spell of the Skull."

The final theme to be reprised from the franchise is that of the relationship between Indy and his father in The Last Crusade. Considered by some to be a theme for Henry while others look upon it as a secondary idea for the Holy Grail, Williams clearly establishes this now as the Jones family theme. He inserts the theme twice in The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, first as Indy returns to his college life and remembers his father, and finally as the film resolves its familial connections in the aftermath of the action. Neither cue is included on the album, which is especially a shame in the case of the latter, 2-minute cue. Other snippets referencing Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Last Crusade litter the score for The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, some of which a bit too obvious for comfort. With some of these tied so close in structure and performance, there might be some room for temp track speculation. For instance, the stop-and-go action and humorous instrumental solos in "The Snake Pit" beg for comparisons to "The Basket Chase" from Raiders of the Lost Ark. The use of the Ark theme in "The Spell of the Skull" pulls 45 seconds of material almost identical to the first film's "The Map Room: Dawn" sequence. The "Flight from Peru" cue from that film is quoted several times in the fourth installment, with the most obvious pull existing over the first map/travel sequence. The album lists this cue as "The Journey to Akator," though this would seem to be a mistake. The similarities between Mutt's material and that of The Last Crusade's more ambitious rhythmic cues has already been discussed. There are also connections between the propulsive movement of "The Jungle Chase" and "Belly of the Steel Beast" from The Last Crusade, though there are also hints of "Desert Chase" from Raiders of the Lost Ark in the percussion of this cue. Unfortunately, there is no action piece in this film as rousingly consistent as "Desert Chase," which emphasizes the point that Williams' maturing style of writing has abandoned that kind of blatantly ballsy writing.

There are singular moments in the score for The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull that warrant some mention. First, the latter half of "Hidden Treasure and the City of Gold" obviously repeats the overbearing and menacing bass-tone rhythm from Williams' more recent War of the Worlds. After the traveling sequence of "The Journey to Akator," Williams unleashes a mariachi-style motif of two minutes in length (too long, really, for a source-like cue) that marches with pan pipes, acoustic guitar, trumpet, a variety of medium-range percussion. The wild rhythms of percussion and low piano in "Grave Robbers" resembles Williams' Jurassic Park and, in the aerosol can-shaking effects, even raises memories of Danny Elfman's original Batman. The two cues with significant choral effects, "Hidden Treasure and the City of Gold" and "Temple Ruins and the Secret Revealed," are interesting due to their texture (they almost sound like synthetic voices in their mix), though Williams' integration of shades of Marion's theme into a crescendo during the first of those cues is quite remarkable. The map sequences in these films are always fun; the second (and more subtle) of these is heard at the end of "Secret Doors and Scorpions." Many of the other notable singular moments exist in the 35 or so minutes of music not heard on the album. These include the extended sections of "The Jungle Chase," which in sum runs about ten minutes but only reveals four of those minutes on album. The lack of the two-minute cue in between "The Departure" and "Finale" is also a disappointment, given that the development of the Jones family theme there is arguably more compelling than anything heard in The Last Crusade. The first twenty minutes of the film (involving the warehouse) is badly represented on album, with only the four minutes of "The Spell of the Skull" existing (and mislabeled) here and leaving out significant thematic exploration for Irina and the Russians, as well as performances of three old favorites.

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In conclusion, The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is an engaging, interesting, and, at times, thrilling score. Williams' loyalty to themes both old and new deserves significant kudo points. Many of the weaknesses of the score, including what some may refer to as an over-reliance on quotes from previous scores in the franchise, is a flaw attributable to the film and therefore not solely the responsibility of the composer. On the other hand, none of the new themes is a knock-out, with Mutt's material nebulous at best, the crystal skull theme effectively horrifying but occasionally obnoxious in its hypnotic qualities, and the Irina and Russian themes often lost in the shuffle. The action material compares unfavorably to Raiders of the Lost Ark in the same way that Jurassic Park: The Lost World did to its superior predecessor; the noise and sophistication is there, but the memorable appeal is not. This is the point of comparison that some fans also, to varying degrees of success, can make when applying the mold of the Star Wars prequel scores. One last note needs to be made about the performances and mix of the ensemble. Williams recorded this score in Los Angeles, and the difference between the performance and recording there and those in London is nowhere as evident as in the "Finale" cue from The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Compare the closing wedding cues in this score and in Star Wars: Attack of the Clones, both featuring melodramatic love themes leading into the respective title marches, and London's superiority will be confirmed. In the end, despite its flaws, this is still an Indiana Jones score and, as such, it's a fun and necessary inclusion in the collection of any Williams fan. The fifteen minutes of suites at the start of the album badly constrains the presentation of the music actually heard in the film; the "Raider's March," while a delightful mainstay, begs to be skipped, and perhaps someday a more representative album will do this score better justice. Unfortunately, that expanded album did not come with Concord Records' 2008 set of 5 CDs of Indiana Jones music, a set that added no new material from the fourth score. Indy being Indy, you can't help but smile at an encounter with an old friend, no matter how the concept and the composer's style have aged. **** Price Hunt: CD or Download

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 Track Listings (All Albums): Total Time: 77:19

• 1. Raiders March (5:06)
• 2. Call of the Crystal (3:50)
• 3. The Adventures of Mutt (3:12)
• 4. Irina's Theme (2:26)
• 5. The Snake Pit (3:15)
• 6. The Spell of the Skull (4:24)
• 7. The Journey to Akator (3:08)
• 8. A Whirl Through Academe (3:34)
• 9. "Return" (3:12)
• 10. The Jungle Chase (4:23)
• 11. Orellana's Cradle (4:22)
• 12. Grave Robbers (2:29)
• 13. Hidden Treasure and the City of Gold (5:14)
• 14. Secret Doors and Scorpions (2:17)
• 15. Oxley's Dilemma (4:46)
• 16. Ants! (4:14)
• 17. Temple Ruins and the Secret Revealed (5:51)
• 18. The Departure (2:27)
• 19. Finale (9:20)

(Contents on CD4 of the set are identical to those of the previous product)

 Notes and Quotes:  

The original, individual album is offered in the form of a slipcase digipak. Its removable insert contains the standard note from Spielberg about the score.

The set contains bloated packaging with extensive photography and short notes from the composer and director, but it surprisingly contains no analysis of the music itself.

  All artwork and sound clips from Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull are Copyright © 2008, Concord Music Group (Individual), Concord Records (Set). The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of Filmtracks Publications. Audio clips can be heard using RealPlayer but cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 5/24/08 and last updated 12/28/08. Review Version 5.1 (PHP). Copyright © 2008-2015, Christian Clemmensen (Filmtracks Publications). All rights reserved.