At long last, the soundtrack is here. I really wanted to wait to write a more fleshed-out review AFTER seeing the film, but I can't resist throwing in my quick two or three cents from what I've heard so far.
From the clear and distinguished use of themes to the overall sonic mastery of both performance and recording, I'd say we've got a winner on our hands. The moods contrast heavily between unrelenting dark and adventurous lightheartedness; if the score is any indication, film writer David Koepp may have nailed it right by stating that Crystal Skull reaches a balanced ground between Temple of Doom and The Last Crusade.
The new Raiders March is actually hardly new at all; it's a pitch-perfect adaptation of the Raiders of the Lost Ark End Credits, right down to the arrangement of Marion's Theme and reprisal of the track's finale. The performance is spot-on, but it's disappointing that Williams didn't try and do anything new or innovative here. Points for nostalgia, though; I got the same sweet vibe I experienced with Star Wars Episode III's revival of the SW Main Titles and Leia's Theme in the "A New Hope and End Credits" track.
Call of the Crystal is the first of several dark pieces, introducing both the Crystal Skull motif as well as Irina's. The complete opposite plays off of the jubilantly revved-up "The Adventures of Mutt" - the deftly coordinated speed of the strings and brass here is just awe-inspiring, a true testament to the London Symphony Orchestra's incredible talent. Irina's Theme swings back to dark; "threatening," as Poncet's review states - yet exotic, almost seducing, making it strangely addicting to listen to. I really can't wait to see how her character clicks in the film. The Journey To Akator is the biggest surprise; in addition to some spirited throwbacks to the Raiders March, we've got an unexpected segue into that Peruvian piece that Poncet mentioned. This is sure to throw any long-time listeners for a loop, but its celebratory mood is a welcome change of pace from all the orchestral bombast, and has me extremely curious to see what the sequence is about. (I wonder if this is where Williams is using the much talked about "continuum" instrument?)
The Jungle Chase, the hugely-lauded action piece in the film, has plenty going on musically. It's an exciting conglomeration of the film's principle themes, including Irina's, Mutt's and the Raiders March. (Hearing Irina here in full battle mode, in particular, is serious fun.) The Finale serves as the concert suite of the score, bringing every theme together in a nice, tight package. (With Marion's Theme, it is curious to note that other than here and the first track, you never really hear her theme throughout the rest of the score, save for what I *think* is a brief and fairly unsettling version heard in Orellana's Cradle. I'm venturing a guess that this was a conscious choice for the CD release, and that we'll likely hear more variations in the film itself.) Williams does something new for the final statement of the Raiders March, adding new harmonic flourishes, and finishing it with a brand new spin on the finale.
The rest of the score dwells on the atmospheric and ambient, something I'll probably grow a fonder appreciation of after seeing the film in context - but overall, the soundtrack as a whole is pretty excellent. It's still too soon for me to say if it'll reach the greatness that is The Last Crusade, but it's undoubtedly a worthy and befitting entry in the musical series.