June 6, 2008

CD Review: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

It was more than thirty years ago that composer John Williams etched his name into history. He was there when Steven Spielberg single-handedly created the summer blockbuster, that blockbuster film was Jaws. Since that summer of 1975 movies have never been the same. Each year since studios have competed with each other to deliver the biggest thrills, chills, and spills to an ever-waiting audience. One element that is always there, hand in hand with the film is a big score. Some of them are memorable, but many are not. It seems that some of the greatest blockbuster films are accompanied by the work of John Williams.

Between 1975 and 1982 John Williams brought us Jaws, Star Wars, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Superman, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and E.T. the Extraterrestrial. Six of the all time great scores. I do not have the greatest knowledge of film composers, but Williams name will forever be etched in my mind for these fantastic works. This doesn't even mention his work on sequels like The Empire Strikes Back and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, or his more recent work in the Harry Potter series, War of the Worlds, or Memoirs of a Geisha. Wherever his name is found, great music is sure to follow.

In past decade George Lucas and Steven Spielberg have revisited some of those early blockbusters, in doing so, they have reignited our thirst to here the classic themes again. It began in 1999 with Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (and the two subsequent Star Wars films) and continues now with the return of Indiana Jones in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Revisiting these characters and themes creates an interesting issue, one which seems to weigh heavy on this soundtrack.

The issue was apparent in the Phantom Menace score, but improved with each successive film concluding with the "best of the prequels" score for Revenge of the Sith. Now, with Kingdom of the Crystal Skull the problem of revisiting the original themes while updating them and adding new material for the new film rears its ugly head.

On one hand, hearing the classic "Raiders March" is fantastic, hearing those immediately recognizable notes either with the film or on this CD is a pure geek moment (similar to the one I had two years back when Williams' Superman theme was use in Superman Returns). However, there is something that feels just a little bit flat in its execution, an issue that spreads across the disk.

To my ears, the score, while definitely entertaining, falls a little flat. It does not sound as full and lush as I would like it to be. I am not sure if it is a result of disinterest, or just not finding the write notes, or possibly with the orchestra employed to perform it, but it comes across as just a little bit off.

The score falls prey to the same reaction I had to the film: I like it but do not love it the way I wanted to love it. I was so looking forward to this film, and while it was definitely fun and entertaining, it did not quote fly to the heights that I had hoped it would. John Williams score is the same way. "Raiders March" and "Finale" (which brings together all of the themes) are fun pieces, but they lack the punch that they should have.

Without going to far down the negative path, let me just say that I enjoy this score, I just want to get my hands on the original trilogy scores as this definitely is lacking something.

I already mentioned the "Raiders March" and "Finale," but they are not the only tracks of interest. "Call of the Crystal" offers up some eerie atmosphere that would seem at home in a 1950's era sci-fi film and "Irina's Theme" delivers some darkness and menace. More often than not, this is a fun score, an easy listen and one that does have replay value, much the same way as the movie from which it came.

Bottomline. If you like the movie or John Williams, you will want to pick this up. The disk is chock full of musical goodness. The pure entertainment value far outweighs what really are minor negatives.


Track List:
01. Raiders March 5:06
02. Call of the Crystal 3:50
03. The Adventures of Mutt 3:12
04. Irina's Theme 2:26
05. The Snake Pit 3:15
06. The Spell of the Skull 4:24
07. The Journey to Akator 3:08
08. A Whirl Through Academe 3:34
09. "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
Total Album Time: 77:30


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