Saturday, January 12, 2019

Score Sample: Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)

So John Williams has composed music for films since the 1960s. His familiar sound really entered the public mind in the late 70s with Jaws, Close Encounters of a Third Kind, Superman and of course Star Wars. But if you listen to his material from before those milestones you can hear his distinctive voice in those scores too. Over the years Williams has evolved as a composer, adding more and more complexity to his music, but still managing to capture that Williams sound and the knack for crafting memorable themes.

All this to say that when someone asks me what my favorite John Williams score is, I get overwhelmed for a moment. So much music to pick from, and from so many decades and styles. With Jerry Goldsmith, I don't hesitate. But with Williams... And then I smile and say, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

Now with it comes to the films, I'm in the "Raiders is the best one, don't even question me on this" camp. But Williams did the remarkable with his followup score. He took his main theme, because you had to have that, and then made sure to use it quite a bit. Compared to Last Crusade, which goes easy on using the main theme, Temple of Doom doesn't shy away.  It gives the whole score (and film) a more pulpy feel. I also love all the new themes introduced in the film. Sure Willie and Short Round are obnoxious characters, but they have some really great themes. Willie's theme is full of that old school Hollywood glamor. Williams uses both themes in counterpoint to Indy's theme on a number of occasions and to wonderful effect.

Then there are is the bold adventure theme used in the final third of the film, as Indy and his pals save the slave children. I love this theme, and it gets some great moments to shine in the score. Not to mention a myriad of minor motifs that pop up and play around in the score to add even more color. They are all distinct, they are all well stated (and restated so you recognize them) and they are all fun.

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is the John Williams score with everything I love about John Williams. It is in the middle of his late 70s to mid 80s style before he really started to add the layers and layers of complexity to his action music. I love it each time I listen to it, and you can't really go wrong with the End Credits which I'll present here. Enjoy!


  1. Fun score. I like the film, too, (including Short Round and Willie) despite... well, just despite.

    1. I have to be in just the right mood for this movie. I really like parts of it, and think the concept is a lot of fun. But man does Willie really get on my nerves. I also appreciate that it isn't a copy of the previous film (which you could argue "Last Crusade" really is). When I'm in the mood, the movie is a good time, which is really all it is going for.