October 5, 2012


Every time there’s a new home video format, there are always a couple of films that wait years to hit the market. But what better way to get people excited about buying something they’ve already owned (and perhaps multiple times)? And so finally in 2012, we get Indiana Jones: The Complete Adventures on Blu-ray. It comes with all three Indiana Jones films and this other film on Blu-ray with an additional disc of bonus features. All things told, the supplements don’t warrant an upgrade, but the picture and sound quality make this a must have. Our review of the Indiana Jones: The Complete Adventures Blu-ray set follows after the jump.

indiana-jones-the-complete-adventures-blu-ray1Each of the four films included in the set are presented widescreen (2.35:1) and in 5.1 DTS-HD master audio. The picture and sound quality on all is stunning, so much so that you can spot details and defects much more easily than before. In fact, the biggest problems with the transfers seem to have more to do with how they were shot than anything technically lacking. The quality is so good that during the first big explosion in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, you can easily make out the backdrop behind the boat.

As for supplements, each film comes with trailers on its disc. There are three on both Raiders of the Lost Ark and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, and two on Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and Last Crusade. The fifth disc houses the rest of the supplements, and they’re okay, but mostly rehashes. The fifth disc kicks off with the two-part “On Set with Raiders of the Lost Ark” (58 min.), which walks through the shooting with deleted scenes, outtakes, and behind the scenes footage that’s never seen the light of day before (though does have some overlap with the next supplement). It’s great, and it does feel as fly on the wall as you can get for something made over thirty years ago. Unfortunately the end teases the other three movies and features deleted footage from Temple of Doom. This is complete bullshit. It’s like saying “oh, by the way, there’s way more stuff, but we’re not going to show it to you. Sorry, wait for the next one.” Frankly, with all the recycling here, it would have been great had they done something like that with at least Temple and Crusade. But no. Or included the gag reel with Barbra Streisand and Carrie Fisher. Etc. etc. Weak.

There are making of’s for all the films, with Raiders getting two, one of which was made in 1981. That one (58 min.) also features tons of behind the scenes footage from the shooting, and it walks through the entire making of. It’s followed by making of’s for Raiders (51 min.), Temple (41 min.), Crusade (35 min.) and that other picture (29 min.), and all are recycled from the previous special editions. That’s not to say there isn’t great information in them, and Steven Spielberg is painfully honest about Temple of Doom, which he considers his least favorite of the three, even though it’s great. But this content was on the first DVD box set of the movies, and then repackaged when the films were released on their own. You get interviews with Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Harrison Ford, Karen Allen, Kate Capshaw, Alison Doody, Sean Connery, Lawrence Kasdan and many more.

Then there’s the “Behind the Scenes” section, which – again – is all recycled. “The Stunts of Indiana Jones,” (11 min.) “The Sound of Indiana Jones,” (13 min.)“The Music of Indiana Jones,” (12 min.) “The Light and Magic of Indiana Jones” (12 min.) walk through those parts of the film, though the interviews are all good, with Ben Burtt’s section on Sound a definite highlight. “Raiders: The Melting Face!” shows ILM recreating the effect (8 min.) “Indiana Jones and the Creepy Crawlies” (also available with pop-up trivia, 12 min.) covers the series’ predilections for bugs, snakes and rats. “Travel with Indiana Jones: Locations” (also available with pop up trivia, 10 min.) is self-explanatory, while “Indy’s Women: The American Film Institute Tribute” (9 min.) gets Karen Allen, Kate Capshaw and Alison Doody to talk about their parts. “Indy’s Friends and Enemies” (10 min.) runs through the series’ supporting players, while “Iconic Props” (10 min.) focuses on the hat and whip (among others). “The Effects of Indy” (23 min.) and “Adventures in Post-Production” (13 min.) focus on this bonus movie they’ve also included. Unfortunately, if you like Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, they didn’t port over all of the supplements. Which is super silly. It’s good though that the movies look great.

steven-spielberg-harrison-ford-raiders-of-the-lost-arkIt’s better not to waste anyone’s time, but if you came of age in the late 70’s through the eighties, it’s likely you’ve got sections of the three films memorized, and you love them unreservedly.

Raiders follows Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) as he’s hired by the government to find the Ark of the Covenant before the Nazis. He has to convince Marion Ravenwood (Allen) to help him, while he’s going up against his greatest archeological adversary Belloq (Paul Freeman). Indy’s helped by colleague Dr. Marcus Brody (Denholm Elliot) and by Sallah (John Rhys-Davies), his man in the desert. It’s a race against time, but Jones has the upper hand by knowing the right dimension of the staff of Ra, but that means going into an area being excavated by the Nazis without their noticing.

I could walk though the plot more, but is there much of a point? These films have been part of a healthy cinematic diet since they were released. Director Steven Spielberg said his inspiration was the combination of the serials of the 1930’s and 40’s and his desire to make a James Bond picture, which he was supposedly denied by being American. You put those two things together and you get a great adventure movie, one to which Spielberg’s sense of build was never better. Watching the opening sequence, he sets up the booby traps and just keeps escalating things until Jones flies away. He also establishes that though the character may be completely awesome in our eyes, he never wins even when he succeeds. He always gets two steps forward and then one step back. And that push-pull functions throughout the film and it keeps the character in balance.

But where the film deals with religious artifacts that do magical things, and is silly when you think about it, it’s played completely straight, and that may be why I prefer the over the top absurdity of Temple of Doom. I think both are great movies, but Temple of Doom isn’t saying anything (really neither are), but it wants you in on the joke, and it wants you in on the joke from the start, which begins with a huge, completely unbelievable dance number. This is the film that plays it fast and loose with truth, and though it’s completely understandable why people might hate it, and it is racist in a way that’s meant to evoke the colonialism of 30’s cinema, this is Spielberg throwing the kitchen sink into the mix, and delivering the goods.

In this adventure Indy goes to India after some difficulties in Shanghai, and is asked to retrieve a Sankara stone from a cult of evil thuggies. At 118 minutes, the movie never so much as catches its breath after Jones, Willie Scott (Capshaw) and Short Round (Johnathan Ke Quan) take an elephant ride to Pankot Palace. From the moment the dinner of disgusting delicaies begins to the end of the picture, it just keeps going, and it’s amazing. It’s pure velocity.

Time and a worse sequel have made Last Crusade a thoroughly enjoyable piece. Here Jones is called in to find the holy grail, which his father has disappeared looking for. More of a redress of the first picture, Crusade gets its strength from the relationship between Indy and his father Henry Jones (Sean Connery). The two are great together, and their interplay makes the film work. This one definitely plays it more for laughs, and that means turning Hitler and Marcus Brody into a punchline, which is where the film has lost some audiences. But from the opening sequence where River Phoenix does a spot-on Ford, to Indy’s interplay with love interest Dr. Elsa Schnieder (Doody), the film fires on most of its cylinders even if it’s a little louder and sillier. Plus, there’s the amazing horse versus tank battle near the end of the film, and it’s impossible not to love the old knight (Robert Eddison). In the whole a very satisfying conclusion to the trilogy.

As for Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, it’s a reunion tour with all that entails. These are people recreating something they used to do, and now they don’t have the enthusiasm or the hunger to do it as well as they should. Here Jones is being chased by Russians because he knows about crystal skulls, which… well, they’re going to lead Russia to ultimate power or something. Oh yeah, he’s got a kid named Mutt (Shia LaBeouf), which he had with Marion (Allen, back).

There are things to like in the movie, there are great actors (William Hurt, Ray Winstone, Cate Blanchett, and Jim Broadbent to name a few), and there are a couple great moments and character things. But on a whole, it’s tired, and it’s hard to watch Harrison Ford as an old man try (and fail) to do the things he did two decades previous. I’m not as anti-alien as many are, but it feels like Spielberg’s embarrassed about this element of the film, so it doesn’t work. Ultimately, the film plays on nostalgia, and is best never watched again.

On a whole it’s great to revisit these movies, and if this can be found at a bargain, it’s totally worth upgrading to have these three films.

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