Joined: October 14th, 2010, 7:21 pm

July 12th, 2012, 11:43 pm #21

2004 - Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban - Quidditch, Third Year

After a big 2002, Williams took a year off. He burst back onto the scene in 2004 with another superb score to the Harry Potter series.

The third entry in the series saw a new dramatic direction and Williams (In what would turn out to be his final Potter score) followed suit with a far more somber and reflective score. It's very different from the soaring melodies and fanfares of the first two films, but is perhaps even more effective.

Quidditch, Third Year is a brilliant piece of suspense-action scoring.

After a glorious burst to open the match, we are introduced to the cue's recurring action motif at 0:34.

The Double Trouble theme appears in intensely ominous fashion at 1:08, but it's quickly back to that wonderfully bombastic, pulsating motif.

The burst of choir at 1:27 is stunning, especially when combined with the film's extraordinary visuals.

The furious intensity in this track is palpable and is superbly orchestrated, performed and recorded. It's truly a treat and this, along with our last entry, are a great reminder that Williams is as much a master of darker, more suspenseful material as he is in crafting heroic fanfares and pretty themes.

This track's recurring motif was later utilized by composer Nicholas Hooper in his score for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. While it was nice to hear, it just made us wish Williams was still with the franchise, for its music would never reach the height of his work on the first three films.

We're up to twenty, and it's the supremely intense Quidditch, Third Year.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xmwk96mwzmg
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Joined: October 14th, 2010, 7:21 pm

July 15th, 2012, 3:00 pm #22

2005 - Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith - Battle Over Coruscant

The third and final Star Wars prequel started Williams' big 2005 off with bang.

The movie itself does the same with the spectacular space battle over Coruscant.

Titled 'Star Wars and the Revenge of the Sith' on the official album, this thrilling piece of action scoring explodes right out of the famous main titles. The film version contains a series of solo drums hits that were added after the fact.

We are quickly introduced to a spectacular, militaristic statement of The Force theme as our two heroes soar into the fray.

This is one that is hard to explain for someone with no serious music background, but it's a propulsive and energetic piece of action scoring that is thrilling both in the film and on its own. It's bold, brassy and pure Williams.

Sadly, the album version is incomplete, although it does contain the unused music for the following elevator scene at 5:05 into the track below.

I have also included a fan-made expanded version which cobbles together multiple sources to make the complete score for the sequence. The most notable omission from the album cut is the 'Get 'Em R2' cue. It begins at 5:52 and builds to a triumphant statement of the Rebel Fanfare at 6:30 as R2 blasts a buzz droid.

Album Version:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VLWfmUV_Wxw

Unofficial Expanded Version:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uMpd39-JPo4
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Joined: October 14th, 2010, 7:21 pm

July 16th, 2012, 6:12 pm #23

2005 - Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith - Anakin Vs. Obi-Wan / Battle of the Heroes

I don't think there is any question that Revenge of the Sith is the most dramatic of the Star Wars scores. Williams' music features some incredible emotional highlights (Such as the extraordinary Anakin's Betrayal).

But as you can see from our previous entry, it doesn't disappoint with the action either.

Anakin Vs. Obi Wan and Battle of the Heroes score the long-anticipated and legendary fight between Anakin Skywalker (Newly dubbed Darth Vader) and his mentor Obi-Wan Kenobi.

Anakin Vs. Obi-Wan introduces us to the 'Battle of the Heroes' theme in spectacular fashion. The sequence is crosscut with Yoda's fight against Darth Sidious aka The Emperor and Williams chooses to alternate between the fight's theme and a reprisal of material from Luke Skywalker and Vader's duel in Empire Strikes Back (Complete with powerfully ominous statements of The Imperial March).

At 2:38 the choir begins to builds in intensity, leading to an exceptional, dramatic statement of The Force theme at 3:20.

In the film this cue leads directly into a reprise of previous entry Duel of the Fates from The Phantom Menace. Note how the final chord matches the first of that famous theme.

There are several minutes of excellent material here that is unreleased including more of the Battle of the Heroes theme. This film screams out for an eventual complete score release.

Then we come to the centerpiece- Battle of the Heroes itself, a show-stopping, epic piece of action scoring propelled by orchestral might and choral power. As such, it feels like a companion piece of Duel of the Fates itself, but appropriately carries more emotional weight.

The Battle of the Heroes theme is given incredible, operatic treatment here that perfectly matches the dramatic payoff of this new trilogy.

We are once again treated to a spectacular statement of The Force theme at 1:56.

And who can resist the incredible brass blasts beginning at 2:47? Not me!

Our twenty-second entry is the incredible climax of the Star Wars prequels - Anakin Vs. Obi and Battle of the Heroes.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hcXXi2eO5Kk

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YTRAnIttKMY
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Joined: October 14th, 2010, 7:21 pm

July 30th, 2012, 5:19 pm #24

2008 - Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull - The Jungle Chase

Once again there was a lengthy absence before we heard from Williams again. And again he returned to an old friend.

The fourth Indiana Jones film was a polarizing affair for the fans, even if it did receive good reviews overall from critics.

Williams' score may not match the brilliance of the previous trilogy of films, but it's a very good score by any standards.

The action highlight is the film's thrilling jungle chase.

This is a glorious return to Williams' heavily thematic action writing with numerous statements of The Raider's March, Marion's Theme and the film's new material for Mutt Williams, Irina Spalko and the Russians.

Yet again the album version is frustratingly truncated, leaving out the entire first half of the sequence. I have included an unofficial complete version below.

The sequence kick off with a Marion's theme and continues onto the Raider's March before unleashing the theme for the villainous Irina Spalko at 0:52. It's followed by the theme for her Russian compatriots at 1:05.

The Raider's March receives some thrilling bursts here including a very welcome statement of the underused B theme at 2:42.

At 3:10 we finally catch up to where the album version begins with an epic statement of Irina's theme.

It leads to the highlight of the track at 4:11 when Williams unleashes his theme for Mutt. It's a playful and fun piece of scoring that fits well with the film's ridiculous (but enjoyable) sword fight across two moving vehicles.

The swashbuckling fun continues until 5:30, when we return to some wonderfully ominous and bombastic brass.

The Raiders March and Irina's Theme do battle all the way to the conclusion; complete with a false ending and Williams' trademark climactic brass blasts.

The Jungle Chase is a lot of fun and a great tribute to the kind of the unashamedly thematic and exuberant style that the maestro is known for.


Album Version:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=knU8TXJ_tu4

Complete Version:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zUAHVZGgoXE
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Joined: October 14th, 2010, 7:21 pm

August 14th, 2012, 11:49 pm #25

2011 - The Adventures of Tintin - Sir Francis and the Unicorn

Williams once again went into a hiatus following the fourth Indiana Jones film.

More than three years later, Williams returned for a pair of Spielberg films in late 2011.

If there was any question of Williams' continued film score mastery after such a drop in output, it was rendered absurd by The Adventures of Tintin and War Horse. These two brilliant scores made 2011 not just a notable year for Williams, but arguably one of the best of his career.

Sir Francis and the Unicorn is a superb action cue, brimming with orchestral power and melodic grandeur.

The cue opens with mysterious vocals and ominous strings before exploding at 1:35 with a brassy statement of the film's Unicorn theme, the track's central melody.

The track's rolling pace leads to several extraordinary outputs of brass and some incredible statements of the Unicorn theme with some thrilling resolutions.

This is pure masculine bravado Williams at its best.

Just one more to go... And we won't have to go far.

Our twenty-fourth entry is Sir Francis and the Unicorn.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8vR7p0MKli8
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Joined: October 14th, 2010, 7:21 pm

August 18th, 2012, 11:51 am #26

2011 - The Adventures of Tintin - The Pursuit of the Falcon

We have finally reached our last entry and it's a damn good one.

The Adventures of Tintin is filled with superb action cues, but The Pursuit of the Falcon may be the best of them all.

The entire sequence is one continuous shot and Williams' gloriously energetic, driving music is the perfect accompaniment to the frantic visuals.

It is also a very satisfying melding of Williams' old school flourish and modern bombast.

The track flows with consistent excitement and builds to a roaring statement of Tintin's Theme at 4:17. Now that is pure Williams!

Our final entry is The Pursuit of the Falcon.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m5NOgs6vqxs
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Joined: October 14th, 2010, 7:21 pm

August 19th, 2012, 1:36 pm #27

So that wraps up my absolute favorite John Williams action cues.

I hope at least some of you checked a few of them out. I wanted to share these for a couple reasons.

Firstly, it's just a joy to listen to and write about this music. I was always far more interested in film than I was in popular music and so scores became what I primarily listen to. I love this music. Some people ask if I only like scores because they remind me of the movies they are from, but I don't think that's the case. There are a lot of scores I adore that are from horrendous films, and many I love are from films I have never seen.

The scores of John Williams were certainly the most influential and I will love them until the day I die or become one with the force. It's just a pleasure to share them. Sadly, I had to narrow it down to strictly action material to keep the list from being truly overwhelming.

Another reason for this list was the current state of film music. In my opinion there are far too many scores that are not music, but noise. Many composers have become more akin to sound designers, strictly relying on electronic beats and vague thematic constructs. I won't name any names, but it's a disturbing trend.

Although Williams won't be around forever, I certainly hope his style will be. And even now there are still many fresh, young traditional composers who are doing great work, many of whom cite Williams as their musical inspiration.

But that's enough pontification. I hope at least one person enjoyed this list and sampled a few entries. Thanks to those of you who are reading and thanks to the master, John Williams.

And just because... Let's wrap this up in style.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cxezTlYuZuk
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