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Monday, September 16, 2013

Indiana Jones: The Complete Adventures Blu-ray Review

Reviewed by Sean Ferguson

The man with the hat is back – and looking and sounding better than ever!  The world’s favorite globe-trotting archaeologist is, at long last, embarking on his greatest adventure – when The Complete Indiana Jones Blu-ray Collection comes to Blu-ray Disc from Lucasfilm Ltd. and Paramount Home Media Distribution. Exploding to instant acclaim, the film has now been carefully restored, alongside remastered versions of the archaeologist’s other thrilling adventures—Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.  Prepare for excitement, adventure and snakes—why did it have to be snakes?—all with pristine picture and sound when Indiana Jones: The Complete Adventures have finally made their debut on Blu-ray, using the highest possible high definition picture and audio presentation – along with a “best of” collection of documentaries, interviews, featurettes and a few new surprises.

When Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom was released, the film’s tagline said, “If adventure has a name…it must be Indiana Jones,” which is not only a perfect encapsulation for the series, but it’s also completely accurate as well. When I think of adventure movies, the Indiana Jones movies are the first to spring into my mind as Steven Spielberg and George Lucas have concocted the perfect blend of derring-do adventure, humor, action, and thrills and distilled them to create the perfection of the Indiana Jones franchise.  Despite their considerable talents, this franchise is also very dependent on it’s star, Harrison Ford who brought the character to life so indelibly that it even eclipsed his other beloved character of Han Solo from the Star Wars franchise.  No one else could have played Indiana Jones as well as he does (as we see from the included screen-tests that include original front-runner Tom Selleck and Tim Matheson) since the role fits him like a glove.
The story of the archeologist/history professor was an idea that George Lucas had long before he made Star Wars. He liked the idea of a throwback to the serials that he loved growing up that put the hero in dangerous situations that always resulted in a cliffhanger of some kind.  While vacationing in Hawaii with his good friend Steven Spielberg, while nervously awaiting the box office receipts of Star Wars opening gross, Lucas started talking about the movie. Spielberg told Lucas that it was his dream to direct a James Bond movie and Lucas told him that this project would be even better than that.  Spielberg loved the concept and everything else he heard, but hated that the character was named Indiana Smith.  When Lucas changed the last name to Jones, the two made a handshake deal to make three movies of the adventures of Indiana Jones.
They hired screenwriter (and future director) Lawrence Kasdan to write the script for the movie after Spielberg was impressed by his script of Continental Divide.  After a three day group meeting between Lucas, Spielberg, and Kasdan, they had an outline and were all on the same page as to what they wanted to accomplish.  Kasdan’s contributions to the franchise and the character of Indiana Jones can’t be forgotten because his script for Raiders of the Lost Ark is a dream come true.  It’s got great action set-pieces, humor, warmth, horror, and character defining moments that bring both the heroes and the villains to life.  The series also benefited from the addition of long-time Spielberg collaborators composer John Williams and editor Michael Kahn who added their considerable expertise to the franchise along with special effects from the legendary Industrial Light and Magic. The stars aligned for Indy, as every single person hired for their part in the series was the perfect choice and when combined, it created the most famous hero of our time – Indiana Jones.

Raiders of the Lost Ark (5 out of 5 stars)  

We first meet up with our favorite archaeologist Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) in South America where is he attempting to find a hidden Peruvian fertility idol.  Unfortunately, the men he hired to accompany him aren’t trustworthy and the idol is safeguarded by some very lethal traps including a giant boulder.  Then there’s Indy’s rival the French archaeologist Belloq (Paul Freeman) who has a tendency to steal whatever Indy manages to obtain.
From there, it’s back to America where the Feds ask Indy to track down his old mentor Abner Ravenwood since his name was mentioned in a top secret Nazi telegram that had been intercepted. The telegram also mentions the city of Tanis, where Indy and the museum director Marcus Brody (Denholm Elliot) are aware could be the final resting place of the Ark of the Covenant which may hold the remains of the tablets of the Ten Commandments that were given to Moses.
Next stop is Nepal, where Indy discovers that Abner Ravenwood has died but his daughter Marion is still there. Marion isn’t happy to see Indy since they had an inappropriate relationship in the past and she blames him for her current place in life which makes negotiations for Indy to buy her father’s medallion tricky.  Another bidder for the medallion named Toht (Ronald Lacey) shows up and offers quite a different deal than Indy’s.  After a barfight between the bidders, it’s off to Cairo to meet Indy’s old friend Sallah (John Rhys-Davies) who agrees to help Indy discover the Ark’s hidden location thanks to the medallion and a chamber known as the Map Room where the medallion will shoot a beam of light to expose the mystery spot.
It’s no cakewalk for Indy as there’s more snakes, skeletons, and Nazis than you can shake a burning torch at.  Indy will battle for the Ark on planes, trucks, ships, and subs to keep it from the Nazis.  If you're looking for the greatest adventure movie ever made, then this is the movie for you! This is Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, and Harrison Ford at the top of their game. Raiders is pure perfection across the board with a fantastic script by Lawrence Kasdan, a lean mean movie by Steven Spielberg, a career defining performance by Harrison Ford, and an awesome origin story and concept by George Lucas.  Every supporting player in this movie is ideal in their role and the villains in this installment are the best of all of the Indy films. Freeman, Kahler, and Lacey are great in their varying degrees of evilness and Karen Allen’s feisty Marion is the perfect heroine for this film and a great match for Indy.  Raiders of the Lost Ark shares the title of my favorite movie of all time with The Empire Strikes Back.  Everything you need to learn about making a great film is right here and I believe it should have topped the recent Sight and Sound poll of the greatest movies of all time.

 Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (5 out of 5 stars)  

Things take a darker turn when this sequel (which is actually a prequel) takes Indiana Jones to India after a side-trip to Shanghai where he is poisoned and has to fight some local mobsters before escaping on a cargo plane.  Indy doesn’t realize that the plane is owned by the same mobsters he escaped, until the pilots abandon the plane and parachute out.  Faced with a plane about to crash, Indy gets creative and jumps out on an inflatable raft along with his young assistant Short Round (Ke Huy Kuan) and the singer from the mobster’s nightclub, Willie Scott (Kate Capshaw).
They soon meet with a local village chieftain who claims that the Hindu God Shiva made their plane crash in response to their prayers.  The village believes that the trio has come to save not only their children who have been kidnapped, but also the sacred stone that protected the village and kept it vibrant.  Now that the stone is gone, the village’s crops have turned to dust and the people are starving.  Indy suspects that the missing stone may be one of the five sacred Sankara stones which could lead to some fortune and glory for himself if he can recover them.
Instead of going to Delhi as planned, Indy travels to Pankot Palace where the villagers claim their children were taken to.  They are greeted by Pankot’s prime minister Chatter Lal (Roshan Seth) who invites them to a formal dinner that includes Snake Surprise, beetles,  eyeball soup, and chilled monkey brains as some of the culinary choices.  Later, during a round of nocturnal studies, Dr. Jones is attacked and discovers a hidden passage.  Indy and Short Round learn that stepping on thousands of bugs sound very similar to stepping on fortune cookies, and Shorty learns that when Indy tells him not to touch anything, there’s a really good reason for it.  After a reluctant rescue from Willie, the trio come upon a Thuggee ritual sacrifice being done in the Hindu Goddess Kali’s name. Even worse, they watch as the victim isn’t even simply killed, as he gets his still beating heart removed from his body by the cult leader Mola Ram (Amrish Puri) before he’s dropped into a lava pit.  At that point, most people would decide it was time to leave, but Indy sees three glowing stones down at the altar and he decides to reclaim them himself.
Things don’t go as planned and all three are captured by the Thuggees and Indy is forced to drink a black magic beverage known as the “blood of Kali” and it makes him into a Thuggee true believer. The blood of Kali makes him show no hesitation in strapping Willie to the sacrificial platform to be dropped into the lava pit (or maybe it was just all her whining and non-stop screaming).  Lucky for both of them, Short Round knows kung-fu and he comes to their rescue.  He grabs a torch and toasts Indy which makes him wake up from the bad juju and kick some Thuggee butt. Indy decides to rescue the children before they are forced to begin making Nike shoes but that makes the Thuggess very unhappy so they flood the underground tunnels in an attempt to drown him when he proves difficult to kill. After a breathtaking mine car roller-coaster ride, it all ends in a showdown on a rickety rope bridge between Indy and a ton of Thuggees and some hungry crocodiles below.
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom was the most unjustly maligned film in the series until Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull came out. Sure, it was dark and scary, but it was also the purest all out thrill ride of the series.  It has one awesome set-piece after another and they just keep topping each other.  From the escape from the crashing plane on a raft to the mine car chase and then the fight on the bridge, it just keeps getting better and better.  Not only were Lucas and Spielberg at a low point in their personal lives (which Lucas claims affected this film), but they deliberately wanted it to be different than Raiders and they succeeded probably even more than they intended.  Despite the human sacrifices, this movie is still a quintessential Indiana Jones movie with loads of humor and action in it.  Re-watching it again on Blu-ray I was reminded just how funny the movie is thanks to the great chemistry between Indy, Willie, and Short Round.  I think it’s funny that Spielberg has tried to distance himself from the movie while Ford and Lucas maintain their affection for it.  Temple of Doom may have triggered the new PG-13 rating, but it was still a lot of fun and it also provided composer John Williams a chance to provide some incredibly evil music for the Thuggess which still gives me chills when I hear it.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (5 out of 5 stars)  

Sean Connery joins the franchise as Henry Jones Sr. because who else is cool enough to be Indiana Jones’ dad other than the original James Bond?  After a prologue that shows just how Indiana Jones (River Phoenix) obtained his taste in attire, the scar on his chin, his whip, and his aversion to snakes and we pick back up with the Jones we all know and love as he attempts to finally reclaim the Cross of Coranado that was taken from him as a kid.  When Indy learns his holy grail obsessed dad has been kidnapped, he travels to Venice Italy with Marcus Brody to pick up his trail.
His father had been hired by Walter Donovan (Julian Glover) to follow a clue to an ancient library in Venice that was said to hold a more complete inscription that would lead them to where the Holy Grail was hidden.  Henry Jones was attempting to discover the tomb of the one of the knights of the first crusade who was rumored to be one of three brothers who had pledged to protect the grail. Armed with his father’s grail diary, Indy figures out how to get into the catacombs along with Dr. Elsa Schneider (Alison Doody) and discovers the knight and his shield and a whole bunch of rats before they are barbecued by a secret society known as The Brotherhood of the Cruciform Sword, who have sworn to protect the grail from being found.
Indy learns that his father is being held at Castle Brunwald on the Austrian-German border and he manages to infiltrate his way in. He’s able to rescue his father while learning the cultural differences in the way Austrians and Germans say goodbye (he prefers the Austrian way).  After a side-trip into the lion’s den known as Berlin to get the grail diary, where Indy comes face to face with Adolf Hitler, the dynamic duo make their escape on a zeppelin where we learn that since the events of Temple of Doom, Indy has learned how to fly planes but still has to work on his landings.  No sooner has Indy rescued his dad when Marcus Brody is captured by the Nazis and needs to be saved as well. Along with Sallah and some help from the Brotherhood of the Cruciform Sword, they manage to ambush the Nazi convoy and try to rescue Marcus who has been stashed away inside of a massive tank.  It’s Indy vs. a tank along with a ton of Nazi soldiers all looking to take the man with the hat out.  If that wasn't enough danger alone, the quest for the grail means facing three lethal traps with only the clues from the grail diary to survive them.
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is fun, exciting, and very funny, and it marked a return to form for Steven Spielberg who wanted to recapture the spirit of Raiders and move past the darkness of Temple of Doom.  Spielberg’s decision to cast Sean Connery as Indy’s dad was a masterstroke since Connery has great chemistry with Ford and he is the perfect choice for the role.  It was also fun to see Sallah and Marcus return, even though their characters were tweaked so they would be there more for comic relief than utility.  Marcus fares the worst since by the end of the movie he’s portrayed as a doddering old fool.  I will continue to believe it was the result of the heat and dehydration instead of the idea that a beloved character was robbed of his dignity for some cheap laughs.  The rest of the movie is practically perfect and even though I didn’t want the franchise to end, this was a fitting way to step away with all of them riding off into the sunset at the end.  At the time, all three principles were saying that this was the last one to my deep regret, but Indy is like a bad penny, as he keeps showing up much to the delight of audiences everywhere.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (4 out of 5 stars)  

If you are one of those knee-jerk haters of this movie then just move along to the video section because despite my reservations with some aspects of the film, I still enjoyed it and was very happy to see Harrison Ford don the leather jacket, fedora, and his whip once more.  Over the years, fans had been teased with the prospect that Indy might return and we heard about many writers that had been supposedly attached to the write the script including, Jeb Stuart, Jeffrey Boam, Frank Darabont, M. Night Shyamalan, and Jeff Nathanson.  In the end, David Koepp wrote the final script with input from Nathanson and Lucas and unfortunately, no one else did another pass after him.  Almost twenty years after Last Crusade, another Indiana Jones film was released in the theaters.
Indy’s own timeline was advanced around twenty years too so now that the movie took place in 1957, that meant that my favorite bad guys the Nazis were no longer around for Indy to hate.  The only other possible foe at that point was the Russians thanks to the cold war that existed between them and the United States.  In fact the movie opens with the Russians having kidnapped Indy and thrown him in a car’s trunk and taken him to the secret location of Warehouse 51.  The Russians are led by Dr. Irene Spalko (Cate Blanchett) who may or may not have psychic powers, but she is looking for a weapon that will make Russia the superpower to beat and she believes Indy can help her.
We learn that Indy had been part of a investigation of a crash in Roswell, New Mexico and because of the heavy security and the cover-up, he never really knew the full story of what happened.  What he did know was that what Spalko is looking for is highly magnetic and he’s able to lead her to the crate she’s looking for by following gunpowder as it’s drawn through the air to the crate.  Indy makes his move and is about to escape when his longtime friend and partner Mac (Ray Winstone) betrays him and Indy is captured again.  But not for long, as Indy is pretty resourceful and during his second escape we realize that this warehouse is the same one we saw at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark, where the Ark of the Covenant was stored. In fact, we even see it as Indy makes his escape which kind of sucks for Indy that he was so close to the Ark again but didn't realize it.  If you look closely you can also see the staff that Moses used in The Ten Commandments in there too.
Indy’s race for freedom leads to a rocket sled fight and eventually to one of the more derided parts of the film where Indy is forced to survive a nuclear blast by hiding in a lead-lined refrigerator which later spawned the whole “nuked the fridge” catchphrase that replaced “jumping the shark.” Thanks to his involvement with Mac, the U.S. Government starts making his life difficult, casually forgetting his long service to his country.  Indy decides to leave the country but is stopped at the train station by a young greaser named Mutt (Shia LaBeouf) who tells him that his old friend Harold Oxely (John Hurt) is in trouble.  Following the clues left behind by Oxley, Indy and Mutt travel to Peru to try to find him only to find that he had been locked up in a sanitarium before being kidnapped by the Soviets.  Indy discovers even more clues in Oxley’s room which leads him to a cemetery where he discovers a conquistador lost from history and a crystal skull before they are captured by the Soviets and brought to Spalko who wants Indy to lead them to the missing kingdom where the crystal skull came from.  From this point forward, the movie is pure Indiana Jones, as there’s traps, derring-do, giant ants, and some exposure to unimaginable power.  In fact, Spalko is about to learn that messing with a higher power comes with a cost much like Belloq learned the hard way.
Let me say up front that there’s some choices made for this movie that I don’t agree with, namely the nuking the fridge sequence, a lot of what they did with Mutt, especially the whole Tarzan bit, but there’s also a lot that I did like.  Every time I watch this movie, I like it more because now that I’ve accepted it on its terms and not my own, I’ve noticed more and more nice little touches that I appreciate.  There’s a lot of nice throwbacks to the first three movies, from Indy’s relationship with Mutt echoing the one he had with his father, the reappearance of the Ark, the natives chasing Indy, the tributes to his dad and Marcus, certain lines, and especially the return of Marion Ravenwood. Their complicated relationship that dates back to Raiders is examined and expanded upon and their interactions in this movie were part of what I liked best about the movie.  It’s been reported that Raiders screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan returned to add their dialogue and I believe it because it’s so good and it has their perfect balance of love and conflict that characterized their relationship.
I suspect that the character of Harold Oxley was supposed to be filled by Henry Jones Sr., but when Sean Connery decided to remain in retirement the role was rewritten which is a shame because it would have been a lot better with that kind of emotional connection.  John Hurt does a fine job in the role but it just doesn’t connect like it would have if it had been Indy’s dad or even possibly the long presumed dead Abner Ravenwood which would have been cool. Oxley just comes out of nowhere but supposedly had this longtime friendship with Indy and with Marion and even was a father figure to Mutt growing up, which strains credibility for me.  I also didn’t really like the Mac character whose double and triple crosses were just tiresome and it’s hard to believe that Indy would have been friends for decades with someone like him.
I also really didn’t want Indy to be mixed up with inter-dimensional aliens, since I think the plot hook should always remain tangential to his profession as an archaeologist.  The Ark of the Covenant makes sense as does the Sankara stones and the Holy Grail.  An alien crystal skull and a bunch of undead aliens sitting in their spaceship doesn’t mix well with Indy’s established universe.  For all of its poor choices, the film is still very entertaining and better than most Hollywood releases, but when compared to the original three it does pale in comparison.  It’s no fault of Harrison Ford who is just as awesome as Indiana Jones as ever, but the decision to include aliens undermines the film. It’s actually got a lot of good lines and laughs in it, but they are overshadowed by the decision to mix genres which I believe hurt the film.

Video (5 out of 5 stars) 

All three of these movies look fantastic on Blu-ray and I’ve included my thoughts on each one below.

Raiders of the Lost Ark (5 out of 5 stars)  

When I first heard about the Indiana Jones films coming to Blu-ray, the talk was mainly about the frame by frame restoration that Raiders of the Lost Ark was supposed to get.  It wasn’t too clear if the other movies were going to be given the same kind of love and I wasn’t sure what to expect until I started playing them one at a time.  I’m ecstatic to say that the set looks absolutely incredible as a whole, but the work done on Raiders of the Lost Ark is breathtaking.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched this movie on VHS and later DVD, but I noticed details on this Blu-ray that I had never noticed before.  It’s simply amazing how razor sharp this 1080p (2.35:1) transfer is despite its age.  The colors jump off the screen like never before too.  From the opening jungle shots with their lush greens to the sun bleached dunes in the desert, it all looks better than ever before.  Flesh tones are captured perfectly with Indy and Sallah’s tan faces offer a nice contrast to the more pale Marion Ravenwood.  Black levels are inkier and darker than seen in earlier releases.  Much like Spielberg’s other recent Blu-ray release of Jaws, this is another classic that deserves the best transfer money could buy and we’re lucky enough that it got it.  Want to see an example of how good this restoration is?  Take a look at the picture below:

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (4 1/2 out of 5 stars) 

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom also looks fantastic and it benefits a lot from being on Blu-ray since so much of the movie is set in dimly lit locations.  The colors seem even bolder for this 1080p (2.35:1) transfer and there’s a lot of options from the bright yellow raft racing across the pure white snow or the sacrificial lava pit with its fiery reddish glow.  The opening sequence also looks fantastic with all of the dancing girl uniforms, the contrast between Indy and the gangster’s jackets, and of course Willie Scott’s designer dress from Paris.  Flesh tones look great once again as does the black levels which are fortunately as dark and solid as they should be which really works well with this kind of a dark subterranean film.  Just wait to see the dinner choices in Pankot Palace on Blu-ray!  If you were disgusted before, just wait until you see items like Snake Surprise in high definition!

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (5 out of 5 stars)  

I’ve got to say that Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade looks so good that it could’ve been filmed last year instead of being twenty-three years old. From the opening shot of the Utah rock formations all the way through the movie, it was obvious that this 1080p (2.35:1) transfer was something special. This picture is so sharp and detailed that you can even read Henry Jones’ grail diary which is pretty cool to finally make out for history nerds like me.  Every texture on display looks so real that you could reach out and touch it.  Colors also look very distinct and varied, from the beautiful blue skies of Utah to the docks of Venice, Italy, and to the wave of blacks and reds that make up Nazi Germany.  Flesh tones look remarkably life-like depending on the character as Indy and his father look sun-kissed while the Grail Knight looks appropriately pale and sickly.  This is an incredible transfer!

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (5 out of 5 stars)  


For the final movie of the set and the most recent installment of the franchise, Indiana Jones and Kingdom of the Crystal Skull looks as good as you’d expect.  Of course, this is also the only Indiana Jones film that had been released on Blu-ray until this set came out.  This 1080p (2.35:1) transfer looks amazing and it also has the least amount of grain present out of the four movies. That’s not to say that it’s a victim of over-zealous DNR, (because it’s not) but it looks almost digital even though I know Spielberg demanded to use film despite Lucas’ desire to use digital cameras. The image is super sharp and detailed and you can make out every whisker on Harrison Ford’s face along with every bit of dirt smudged on his face.  Colors are bright and multi-hued and the film looks especially good in the jungle scenes with all of its varied colors.  Textures are excellent as well while the black levels are pitch black and solid as can be.  Spielberg and his cinematographer Janusz KamiƄski  did an excellent job maintaining the look that was established in the first three movies by Spielberg and Douglas Slocombe.



Audio (5 out of 5 stars)  
If you thought the picture quality for these movies was good, just wait until you hear how incredibly awesome they sound!

Raiders of the Lost Ark (5 out of 5 stars)  

As soon as the movie starts, I knew that this DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix was going to be special and throughout the movie I was proven right time and time again.  Raiders has never sounded as good as it does here and honestly, the audio and visual restoration of this movie is so good that it’s worth the price of this set alone.  I’ve always been a fan of Ben Burtt’s sound design for these movies as the sounds of Indy’s punches, gunshots, and whip cracks are so iconic that they’ve become a part of movie history.  They’ve never sounded better than now either and this mix made me giddy with delight the more I listened to it.  From the all-enveloping jungle ambiance from the start of the movie, to the bar-fight in Nepal (which has some incredible sound design), to the forbidding skies filled with lightning as Indy opens the Well of the Souls, all the way to the final comeuppance for Belloq and company who dared to open the Ark.  There are some scenes that just sent a chill down my spine like the Map Room one where the music swells as Indy discovers the resting place of the Ark.  I cannot say enough good things about this lossless mix and I could sit and just listen to it over and over with a smile on my face.

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (5 out of 5 stars)  

My happiness continued with Temple of Doom since this DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix is also fantastic.  From the opening number of “Anything Goes” which sounds incredible, to the tense meeting between Indy and Lao Che that ends in gunfire and chaos, this mix delivers the action on-screen impeccably.  From the raft ride down the mountain to the whitewater rapids below, to the jungle, and all the way to the subterranean pit of evil of the Thuggees, this mix brings it all to life.  I especially liked the last third of the movie’s mix with John Williams’ chilling Thuggee chanting and the mine car chase which has never sounded more real, exciting, and fun.  When Mola Ram decided to try to drown Indy and the others, be prepared for the roar of water that races down the corridors to overwhelm the heroes.  The film’s dialogue is never drowned out by film’s sound effects or music as they are all perfectly balanced together.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (5 out of 5 stars)  

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade’s DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix is just as good as the previous installments as this is another crystal clear action packed mix that will show off your home theater system.  This mix starts off quiet in the Utah desert as we watch one of Indy’s first adventures that will follow through decades later into a full-bodied crescendo as Indy battles thugs on a rocking ship in the middle of a storm.  Hearing the waves crash onto the ship and all of the fantastic directionality during that scene (and through the entire movie) will put you into the middle of the action.  And that’s just the beginning, as the rest of the film sounds amazing too with the screeching rats in the catacombs, the boat chase in the Venice canals, the atmosphere of Castle Brunwald, all the way to the tank chase which has never sounded more realistic and awesome. When the tank starts rumbling through the desert, it'll shake your living room and when it fires at Indy you will feel it.  This is another demo-worthy disc that you can use to show off your system to your friends.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (5 out of 5 stars)  

By now, (if you haven’t already run out the door to buy this set), you should have realized that this set’s audio and visual quality is basically flawless and you may not be surprised to hear that the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull’s DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix is also just as amazing as the other three movies.  I’m not sure why Paramount switched from the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix that they used for the previous Crystal Skull Blu-ray release, but this new mix sounds just as awesome.  As with the others movies, this mix uses every channel to its full potential, while balancing the crystal clear dialogue with the film’s sound effects and music by John Williams.  Just like the other mixes, the directionality is dead on accurate and immersive and the listener will be swept along with the movie as the sonic brilliance swirls around you.  The gunfire once again sounds very impressive (especially the cracking of the automatic weapons) and there’s so many instances that sound amazing that it’s hard to remember them all.  Scenes like when Indy crashes through a wall of crates in Warehouse 51 or the ones with the rocket sled and atomic blast will hit you like a jolt of adrenaline. Another good example of the film’s sonic power is during the three drops down the waterfalls which sound realistic and completely awesome.  There’s also some cool quieter parts that show off just how accurate the effect placement is like when Indy releases the gunpowder and we hear it flow from side to side as it’s drawn to the alien casket.  I won’t spoil the final result of what happens at the end of Indy and his companions time in the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, but I will say that it sounds very impressive and powerful and the swirling objects take on a life of their own. Every one of these mixes are among the best that I’ve ever heard and I couldn’t be happier since they movies are all within my top ten movies of all time.

Extras (5 out of 5 stars)

The extras on this set don't disappoint either and there’s a lot of good ones on here that will please fans of the franchise as much as it did for me. Inexplicably, this set does not contain all of the extras that the previous Blu-ray release of the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull did.  Another thing to note is the packaging for these movies offers some mixed emotions since it looks fantastic with artwork and pictures adorning thick cardboard sleeves that hold the movies well, but they are so tight that you have no choice but to pull the disc out by holding the edge of the disc which I hate doing.  The older extras are all in standard definition with the exception of the Crystal Skull supplements which are in high definition along with the new two part documentary called “On Set With Raiders of the Lost Ark”.
Each one of these movies comes with a set of high definition trailers as their only extras.  For all of the rest of the extras, you will need to watch disc 5′s bonus features.  Here is what the set looks like:
Disc 1: Raiders of the Lost Ark 
  • Teaser trailer
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Re-Issue trailer
Disc 2: Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom 
  • Teaser trailer
  • Theatrical trailer
Disc 3: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade 
  • Teaser trailer
  • Theatrical trailer
Disc 4: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull 
  • Three different theatrical trailers
Disc 5: Bonus Features - If you love these movies as much as I do, then you will love all of these extras too.  The new “On Set with Raiders of the Lost Ark” is a revelation that will thrill you to no end as you get to witness the behind the scenes filming of just about every important scene in Raiders.  It’s like being a fly on the wall as one of the greatest movies of all time was filmed.
On Set with Raiders of the Lost Ark:
  • From Jungle to Desert – An almost thirty minutes long, this feature shows us the location scouting footage as they tried to find the perfect spot for their scenes as well as a lot of behind the scene footage shown chronologically as they filmed the movie. We also get on set interviews with Steven Spielberg, Harrison Ford, George Lucas, and the rest of the cast and crew.  I’ve heard a lot of people complain about how Harrison Ford comes across in interviews but if you see him on set and interviewed here, you’ll find an open, very funny, and talented man who isn’t afraid to joke around during filming.  I’ve never seen him this loose before and you can just see the joy and love that Ford and the rest have for this movie and franchise.  Just watch the bloopers and and outtakes included here to see what I’m talking about.  I loved, loved, loved this two part documentary from Blu-ray producer Laurent Bouzereau who once again proves he’s the best in the business.
  • From Adventure to Legend - This second part continues on with a look at the filming of the Well of Souls section of the movie with Steven Spielbeg trying gamely to interest Harrison Ford in his story-boarded sequences.  We also get to see the making of the flying wing fight where Indy tries to steal the plane with the Ark before encountering resistance from a German mechanic.  From there it delves into a look into the legendary truck chase that was story-boarded by Spielberg and filmed by Second Unit director extraordinaire Michael Moore. We see Harrison Ford joking about the danger as he prepares to be dragged for real behind the truck as he holds on to his whip and some more deleted scenes from all of the movies. We also get an appreciation for composer John Williams whose iconic scores added so much to the films and made them even better.
Making the Films -
  • The Making of Raiders of the Lost Ark (The 1981 documentary that was never released on DVD) This period documentary is great to have on Blu-ray because before this set was released, the only way you can see that footage is if you owned the old VHS tape like me. I've always liked this documentary because it gave a lot of good information about the people involved and a good look at how it was done.  We start with Spielberg talking about going to see his first movie which was The Greatest Show on Earth and how movies have captivated him since.  We also hear from producer (and flying wing pilot) Frank Marshall, who talks about the genesis of the movie and how it came together as well as comments from George Lucas and Harrison Ford.  We get an understanding of how the movie was cast and why as well as the challenges of making the movie in the extreme heat and with an often sick cast and crew.  The Well of Souls is also featured as we see Spielberg keep demanding more snakes be added to the scene and the difficulty in getting the snakes to perform as directed.  As a side note, it was quite funny to see Spielberg jokingly “direct” a snake and chastise it for ruining his movie by its failure to follow directions. One other thing to note is the fact that while Indy may hate snakes, Harrison Ford has no problem with them, bugs, or rats.  In fact, he helps spread the snakes around himself.
  • The Making of Raiders of the Lost Ark – This is a more recent retrospective as I believe this was filmed for the last DVD release of the series.  We hear from George Lucas talking about how he came up with the idea of the character and the films and how it was put to the side in favor of Star Wars. Once Star Wars was a smash hit, he decided to revive it by offering it to his friend Steven Spielberg while they vacationed together in Hawaii.  There’s also comments from Spielberg, screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan, Harrison Ford, and more talking about the movie.  There’s a lot of interesting footage here, including actual screen tests of Tom Selleck and Tim Matheson trying out for Indy and info as well like Spielberg’s original choice to play Sallah was Danny DeVito who couldn’t do it in time. Just about every aspect of making the film is covered here which fans will appreciate.
  • The Making of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom - Lucas and Spielberg had so many good ideas for Raiders of the Lost Ark that they couldn’t fit them all into the movie so they incorporated them into the sequel.  Both of them talk about why they wanted the movie to be darker and different from Raiders, and how they feel about it today.  We also hear about the casting process for the movie along with interviews with Harrison Ford, Kate Capshaw, and Ke Huy Quan who talk about their experiences making the movie.  There’s stories about filming the opening dance number and why Capshaw didn’t get to do the tap dancing in it and how much Spielberg loved the spike room scene and couldn’t get enough of it.  We also learn about Harrison Ford’s back injury that was caused by a fight scene and exacerbated by riding elephants that left him in so much pain that he had to have experimental surgery. We also hear about the film’s PG rating (which Lucas still thinks is appropriate) and how it led to a new PG-13 rating that Spielberg had suggested to the MPAA.
  • The Making of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade - For some reason this supplement and the one for the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull are much shorter than the previous installments.  In this one Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Harrison Ford, Sean Connery, and others talk about the movie and how they offered their input to the plot and their characters.  Connery in particular, changed a lot about his character as he had a definite idea on who Indy’s father should be and what his capabilities were. After all, he argued, whatever Indy does, his character did it first and did it better. They also talk about the film’s father-son theme and how it ties together with the film’s overall theme.  There’s also a lot of behind the scenes footage including some great parts covering the tank chase.  I wish this was longer because I really wanted even more.
  • The Making of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull - At just over twenty-eight minutes, this is shortest “making of” documentary of the series.  Steven Spielberg talks about why a fourth move came into being and why it was set in 1957 and how the cold war dictated some decisions such as  having the Soviets as the bad guys.  We also hear about how easy it was for Harrison Ford to put on the leather jacket again both figuratively and literally and how they felt like instead of being almost two decades between movies, it only felt like it was three.  We also hear about the casting of Cate Blancett as Spalko and g Shia LaBeouf’s training to appear to be worthy of being Indiana Jones’ son.  He had to learn to ride a motorcycle and to fence and we see some behind the scenes filming of the motorcycle chase.  We also hear about Karen Allen returning as Marion Ravenwood and what impact she had on the ending of the movie.
  • Behind the Scenes – This collection of short subjects (around ten to fifteen minutes each) that focuses on individual aspects of making the film.  They are all very interesting but I wish they had been longer.
  • The Stunts of Indiana Jones – A look at the various stunts from the first three movies and the stunt performers that pulled them off.  A special mention of actor Pat Roach is included who did all of the memorable fight scenes with Harrison Ford for the first three movies (he was the German mechanic, two different Thuggee assassins (including the one who went through the rock crusher), and a Nazi. Sadly, he passed away before the fourth movie came about.
  • The Sound of Indiana Jones - If you love the sound effects of the Indy movies like I do, then you will enjoy this focused look at the sound effects from the movies including: the gunshotsthe whip, the boulder from Raiders, the snakes, the Ark’s destruction of the Nazis, the mine cart chase from Temple of Doom, and the rats and the final sequence from Last Crusade.
  • The Music of Indiana Jones - An appreciation for John Williams and his iconic scores which should have won Oscars.  We hear from Steven Spielberg and George Lucas who talk about the films and their scores and how much they added to the movies.  We get to hear details about each one along with some behind the scenes footage of the incomparable Williams at work.
  • The Light and Magic of Indiana Jones – Another important collaborator for this series is Industrial Light and Magic who provided the special effects which brought the movies to life We see their hard work creating memorable scenes like the ending sequence of Raiders, the plane crash and mine care chase from Temple of Doom, and the villain’s demise from Last Crusade.  This is a pretty cool extra.
  • Raiders: The Melting Face! - An in depth look at the final scene from Raiders that scared me to death when I saw it for the first time as a child.  Even after all of this time, it’s still highly realistic and gross, but it’s also pretty cool and a fitting punishment for these guys.
  • Indiana Jones and the Creepy Crawlies - Here is an extra that’s not for the squeamish since it covers all of the snakes, bugs, and rats that are included in the movies to torment the leading ladies. There’s also an optional pop-up trivia track that offers some extra information like the fact that Ford had no problem with any of these critters.
  • Travel with Indiana Jones: Locations – This is a look at the various locations that appear in the movies.  Indy is a globe-trotting kind of guy so there’s a lot of places to visit.  There’s an optional pop-up track for this extra as well that offers more details about the locations for those that are interested.
  • Indy’s Women: The American Film Institute Tribute - As part of the last DVD release, AFI held a tribute that included actresses Karen Allen, Kate Capshaw, and Alison Doody who each talked about their character and the movies.  This is a great extra and it even includes a very special guest at the end, but maddeningly enough, it has been edited down to about ten minutes.  I really wish they had just added the entire panel.
  • Indy’s Friends and Enemies – A very brief look at Indy’s women in the movies for the first half and then a look at his friends and enemies for the second half.  Again, I think more time should have been spent on this since the supporting characters are an important part of the franchise.
  • Iconic Props – A look at the various props used in the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull with an emphasis on the ones found in Warehouse 51 which also includes the original Ark of the Covenant (we see it get assembled) and the staff of Moses from The Ten Commandments.
  • The Effects of Indy – This is a pretty detailed look at the effects for the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. We hear all about the various computer and miniature shots for the movie.
  • Adventures in Post Production - A look at the final film’s post-production process that includes how the film was shot and edited on film, the sound design, the score for the film and more.
  • Credits

Summary (5 out of 5 stars)  

The Indiana Jones films have been often imitated but never surpassed and that’s because they can’t be replicated. The combined imagination of Steven Spielberg and George Lucas and the performance of Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones is pure magic.  The series’ heady mix of high adventure, thrills, romance, action, and humor is impossible to resist which is why they are so beloved across the world.  Finally having these films on Blu-ray is a dream come true for me and I am so happy that Paramount took the time to to release them right.  As the crown jewels in Paramount’s collection, these films were given the respect that they deserve, with incredible restorations which made these movies look and sound better than they ever have before.  The extras are also extensive and wonderful, although I wish even more had been included, being the insatiable fan for this series as I am.  I’m not just saying that I recommend that you buy this collection, I am saying that this is a must buy for any fan of cinema!  Buy it and you won’t regret it! Trust me.
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