Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

John Williams

" The score needed to recreate the old Indiana Jones tone and reports indicated it has done justice to this sound. But has it? "

Written by Thomas Glorieux - Review of the regular release

How do you begin a review on what is probably the most anticipated movie score since Star Wars in 1999? Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is Steven Spielberg and John Williams bringing back nostalgia. 1989 was the year that we said goodbye to Dr. Jones and his amazing adventures on the big screen. Frankly it was a good ending to a brilliant entertaining saga. Why it had to return we will never know, but movie and score fans smiled big time at the idea alone. Think about it! To resurrect a hero and to let the greatest composer bring back that hero, through one of today's most famous tunes. Anticipation is nothing compared to the basic fact that Indiana must do one thing, and one thing well. Whip us away.

First we look at the movie! Did the movie blew me away? Well no! This is the kind of film that was fun but not necessary. Especially not to close the saga with. The effects are great and the adventure pieces are really cool (10 second shots all the time) but the humour and wit is gone. We miss the old movie's charm and the plot is really silly. It doesn't fit with an Indiana Jones movie at all. So it was fun but it didn't have to be made.

People are perhaps wandering if I'm not too harsh? Probably I am. For me it needed to transport me back to that eighties feel. That's harsh and unfair but alas that is the intention of the movie. That same intention is held for the soundtrack as well. The score needed to recreate the old Indiana Jones tone and reports indicated it has done justice to this sound. But has it?

I'd say it's a pretty good effort but we are not quite there yet. You can't dismiss that between Indy 3 and Indy 4 lies a 19 year hiatus, resulting in 19 years where Williams could develop and alter his voice. It hasn't got the thematic structure that fuelled countless adventure scores of him in the 'eighties. But it does have the rhythmic brassy voice that ignites now most of his action scores.

What I don't like is that "Raiders March" opens this soundtrack. This means the album is already beginning an adventure that hasn't begun yet. The eerie opener of the movie would have worked fine, with the Ark theme putting this show on the road. Now the cool as ever sounding march (and Marion's theme) starts this party too soon. An opener ala Temple of Doom or the Last Crusade would have worked so much better.

There's a drop of Harry Potter and a wink towards Basic Instinct in "Call of the Crystal". It's a perfect mix between that mystery and eeriness. The forming of the melody that in the end will present the big revelation of the Crystal theme shows that Williams can still hack it. "The Adventures of Mutt" is the first action cue. A little bit Far and Away and Hook, this is Williams' light alternate version of the Indy theme. It is not as heroic as the famous Raider's march, but it works perfectly representing the youthful spirit of Mutt. This cue stands for Williams' biggest '80 sound in a long time. What a thematic joy! "The Snake Pit" comes close to that age as well, but hops along without the Mutt theme this time.

The Potter / Basic Instinct mood returns in "Irina's Theme". In here the mood of the Crystal Skull is heard again and evidently so. Irina's character wants to discover the Skull's mysteries the most. The Ark theme holds no secrets anymore and it pleasantly revokes back the Indiana charm in "The Spell of the Skull", using Irina's and Indy's theme as side-tunes.

You must notice however how the whole score is structured. Eerie track, rhythmic track, eerie track, rhythmic track. This makes that the score loses its appeal. The score would have worked much better when it was presented into the order of the film. Anyhow "the Journey to Akator" track covers the famous flying / map scene (using naturally Indy's soaring theme). "A Whirl through Academe" by then moves back to the rhythmic flavour of adventure. In here the new John Williams is holding the baton and the rhythmic voice has the new Star Wars sound written all over it (except the occasional Indy note from time to time). Notice as well how brilliantly Williams fades out the action (2.53).

From this point on the change between eerie and rhythmic is starting to become noticeable and regrettable. "Return" has the Crystal theme once again and "Orellana's Cradle" doesn't change the tone at all. Notice as well that the call theme is actually a 3 note variation of the Potter fanfare used in Sorcerer's Stone and Chamber of Secrets. In between these two lies the much shortened and most thrilling Indy piece there is. "The Jungle Chase' starts like it omitted three minutes and begins from the middle. It nonetheless has Mutt's, Irina's and the Skull's theme, while the fanfare revokes back the feel from "Belly of the Steal Beast" of Indy 3. It is clear that the fluent heroic scoring of the previous 3 and the brassy rhythmic style of the Williams of today are battling one another to win this shortened chase cue.

The "Hidden Treasures and the City of Gold" track is probably the finest of the non action tracks there is. Sure the Skull's atmosphere dominates this cue from start to finish but Williams' build up to the finale is still astounding.

However I can't stop to point out how much sinister music this Indy score seems to have. "Oxley's Dilemma" is another example. The frenetic "Ants!" cue on the other hand holds several good moments, but this is again saturated in the new Williams style.

The final tracks bring us to the revelation of the Crystal Skull and Williams throws in the theme for one final whirl. And "Temple Ruins and the Secret Revealed" will whirl believe me. The build up is a loud one but the climax is never reached. That, they saved for "Departure" which has a bold finishing touch. What you expect the "Finale" to have, it does! Marion's theme, the Raider's march, Irina's theme, Mutt's theme, the return to Marion and an appreciated variation on the final March version.

However, I can't imagine to put Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull before any of the previous Indiana scores. It doesn't have the magic, the thematic action tracks nor the brilliant solo themes Williams packed the trilogy with (Slalom on Mt. Humol, Slave Children's Crusade, the Grail theme ...). No this Indy score has too much eerie mystery, while presenting in its action too much the rhythmic voice of today's John Williams. That he however came close shows that he really tried. Like the movie, this album comes in 4th place. Outside the Indiana Jones category this album is a hoot and a wonderful score. Inside it shows that time does age on some classic heroes.


1. Raiders March (5.05) Excellent track
2. Call of the Crystal (3.49) Excellent track
3. The Adventures of Mutt (3.12) Excellent track
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 (3.07)
8. A Whirl Through Academe (3.33)
9. Return (3.11)
10. The Jungle Chase (4.22) Excellent track
11. Orellana's Cradle (4.22)
12. Grave Robbers (2.28)
13. Hidden Treasures and the City of Gold (5.13) Excellent track
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. Departure (2.26) Excellent track
19. Finale (9.19) Excellent track

Total Length: 77.29
(click to rate this score)  
(total of 108 votes - average 3.8/5)

Released by

Concord CRE-30825-02 (collector's edition 2008)

Conducted by

John Williams

Orchestrations by

Conrad Pope & Edward Karam

Performed by

the Hollywood Film Chorale