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Indiana Jones: The Complete Adventures Blu-ray Review - Page 1 of 2

Indiana Jones: The Complete Adventures Blu-ray Collection box art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Indiana Jones: The Complete Adventures

Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981),
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984),
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989),
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)

Director: Steven Spielberg

2.35:1-2.40:1 Widescreen
5.1 DTS-HD MA (English), Dolby Digital 5.1 (French, Spanish, Portuguese)
First Three Films only: Dolby Surround 2.0 (Spanish, Portuguese)
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish, Portuguese; Film-Only: English for Hearing Impaired
Not Closed Captioned; Most Extras Subtitled
Release Date: September 18, 2012 / Suggested Retail Price: $99.98
Five single-sided, dual-layered discs (BD-50s)
Book of Discs in Cardboard Box
Films previously released in 5-Disc The Complete Adventure DVD Collection (October 14, 2008)

Buy Indiana Jones: The Complete Adventures Blu-ray collection at Amazon.com

A couple of years ago, the American magazine The Atlantic put together a list ranking the 50 greatest film series of all time based on box office numbers and Rotten Tomatoes critics scores. Coming in fourth by grosses and third by reviews, the number one spot overall was claimed by Indiana Jones,
who edged out such sterling franchises as Star Wars, Harry Potter, Toy Story, Lord of the Rings, The Godfather, Spider-Man and Back to the Future.

The old-fashioned adventurer created by George Lucas and directed by Steven Spielberg has never boasted the glamour and gadgets of James Bond, the vast canvas of Lucas' Star Wars, or the clearly defined supernatural component of Potter and Rings. Inspired by the protagonists of early sound film serials, Dr. Henry "Indiana" Jones is merely a professor of archaeology in 1930s New England. He's got no superpowers, no great wealth, no state-of-the-art technology. What he does have: a bullwhip, a fedora, a pistol, a fear of snakes, a sense of humor, and an unquenchable thirst for answers to civilization's big mysteries. Applied to death-defying action expertly staged by Spielberg, accompanied by a classical hero's theme by John Williams, and personified by traditional movie star Harrison Ford, these fairly ordinary traits elevate to iconicity. To not know Indiana Jones is to not know cinema or American culture or historical fiction.

Having gotten past many levels of booby traps, Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) prepares to make a switch in the famous opening sequence of "Raiders of the Lost Ark."

Indy's introduction in 1981's Raiders of the Lost Ark was a little before my time. When my older brother dressed as the character for Halloween, I went as a roll of LifeSavers. Even though the series' first three installments were represented in my family's modest library of videocassettes, I never showed much interest in them,
favoring the science fiction of Star Wars, Ghostbusters, and Back to the Future.

When I decided in 2001 that I could no longer delay a proper, memorable viewing of what was then a trilogy, I approached the movies expecting bona fide classics, whose extraordinary reception from initial audiences had been more recently corroborated by the original film's inclusion in the American Film Institute's prestigious "100 Years...100 Movies" list and admission into the Library of Congress' National Film Registry. As the films were not yet on DVD, I watched them on VHS, presented in the compromised pan and scan presentations in which they were then most frequently enjoyed. I was underwhelmed. The first film struck me as no classic, the second -- 1984's Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom -- was quite a bit worse, and the third -- 1989's Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade -- was diverting, but nothing special.

I attribute my muted reaction to the series to high expectations, a subpar medium, and me being of a skeptical age between childhood and adulthood. Though I wasn't crazy about the series, I could appreciate that many people were and my enjoyment of other films by Lucas, Spielberg, Ford, Williams, and the 1980s contributed to me maintaining some respect and understanding for Indy. In expectation of the 2008 Memorial Day weekend release of the long-rumored, finally-realized fourth installment Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, I leapt at the chance to revisit the first three films on DVD, personally choosing Temple of Doom for what was sure to be a less than glowing review.

Rewatching the trilogy did not drastically change my view of the films, but the exposure continued to warm me at least to the idea of them. Realizing that Crystal Skull could very well be my last chance to experience this series on the big screen with the masses, I saw that in theaters and quite enjoyed it. Without the rose-colored glasses of childhood nostalgia, I could easily declare this 21st century production to be remarkably comparable to its predecessors: far-fetched yet fun. That succinctly sums up the appeal of this four-film franchise. It is escapism fitted with high production values, the efforts of some of commercial filmmaking's biggest legends, and just enough history, intelligence, and sophistication to warrant serious attention and praise. It's more fitting to call them crowd-pleasers than classics, but enough time has passed to give at least the first three films the reputation of sacred cinema.

The only love interest to feature in more than one film, Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen) is introduced next to Indiana Jones' iconic silhouette. The young Indiana Jones (River Phoenix) bloodies his chin in the prologue to "The Last Crusade."

With a fifth movie unlikely to materialize anytime soon, the franchise hit Blu-ray in its entirety last week in a 5-disc set Paramount calls Indiana Jones: The Complete Adventures. Naturally, the collection excludes the TV series "The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles" (later renamed "The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones"). But the four theatrical films are included, the three eldest making their Blu-ray debuts, along with a wealth of mostly recycled bonus features.

Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) movie poster Raiders of the Lost Ark

Theatrical Release: June 12, 1981 / Running Time: 115 Minutes / Rating: PG

Director: Steven Spielberg / Writers: Lawrence Kasdan (screenplay); George Lucas, Philip Kaufman (story)

Cast: Harrison Ford (Indiana Jones), Karen Allen (Marion Ravenwood), Paul Freeman (Dr. Rene Belloq), Ronald Lacey (Major Arnold Toht), John Rhys-Davies (Sallah), Denholm Elliot (Marcus Brody), Alfred Molina (Satipo), Wolf Kahler (Colonel Dietrich), Anthony Higgins (Gobler), Vic Tablian (Barranca/Monkey Man), Don Fellows (Colonel Musgrove), William Hootkins (Major Eaton)

Raiders of the Lost Ark's status as the franchise's best is hardly more disputed than the fact that it was made first, but I'm one of those who doesn't deem it Indy's most enjoyable outing. My impression of this original installment has not changed. To me, it is the character who is a classic and not the work that introduces him.

While I admit that Raiders offers an okay time, it never really exceeds that in my eyes. It is full of moments that have been quoted, parodied, and celebrated countless times over the past thirty years: the opening boulder dash, the swordsman who doesn't stand a chance, the pit of snakes, the fistfight with the bald strongman, the face-burning finale. That is a lot of indelibility to find in under two hours. The movie isn't constructed to move you from one show-stopping encounter to the next. It only feels that way as a result of its pop culture permeation.

A disguised Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) uses the Staff of Rah and sunlight to ascertain the location of the Well of Souls where the Ark of the Covenant is believed to be buried.

Raiders is heavy on action, a genre which I enjoy most in moderation. While this is pretty much the poster child for "action-adventure", much of the film only fulfills the first part of that hyphenate. After an arresting opening establishes our hero's derring-do, we settle into his day job (college professor) for some tasteful exposition. The quest for the long-lost Ark of the Covenant, believed to hold the very Ten Commandments that God gave to Moses, requires the headpiece of a staff that will then direct to the Well of Souls, where the elusive Ark is said to be buried.

With that laid out, Indy travels to Nepal, where he reconnects with Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen), his tough old flame and the daughter of his mentor. Then, it's off to Cairo, where the bulk of the movie transcends. The film proceeds with one chase after another. They unfold with much gusto, but aren't the most captivating. Or memorable, as I noticed when a sequence late in the film emerged involving a submarine that I had absolutely no recollection of. This is one of the most iconic movies ever made and one that I've seen twice fairly recently and yet this entire critical scene played like a cut bit Lucas might have restored in one of his Star Wars "special" editions. I don't mean to belabor the point, as it is unquestionably one of the more forgettable parts of a film full of memorable bits. But it seems to confirm to me that I'm not crazy for not considering this even close to being one of the greatest films ever made. It does, however, make for an obvious target for those wanting to recognize the entire series.

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) movie poster Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

Theatrical Release: May 23, 1984 / Running Time: 118 Minutes / Rating: PG

Director: Steven Spielberg / Writers: Willard Huyck, Gloria Katz (screenplay); George Lucas (story)

Cast: Harrison Ford (Indiana Jones), Kate Capshaw (Willie Scott), Ke Huy Quan (Short Round), Amrish Puri (Mola Ram), Roshan Seth (Chattar Lal), Philip Stone (Captain Blumburtt), Roy Chiao (Lao Che), David Yip (Wu Han), Ric Young (Kao Kan), Chua Kah Joo (Chen), Rex Ngui (Maitre d'), Philip Tann (Chief Henchman), Dan Aykroyd (Earl Weber), Akio Mitamura (Chinese Pilot), Michael Yama (Chinese Co-Pilot), D.R. Nanayakkara (Shaman), Dharmadasa Kuruppu (Chieftain)

It seems impossible for me to view Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom as anything but a steep step downward. Slyly a prequel before that word entered common usage, this adventure is set a year before Raiders. That Indy is the only returning character indicates the temporariness of people in his life.

In a nightclub in 1935 Shanghai, Jones is poisoned while conducting a transaction involving a priceless diamond and a powerful crime boss. Singer Willie Scott (Kate Capshaw) is thrown into the chaos as hostage and then reluctant companion as Jones scrambles for the antidote and makes a hasty getaway. Indy's young orphaned Chinese friend "Short Round" (Jonathan Ke Quan) joins the two as they board a plane. When their pilots leap off, the trio is forced to crash land in the Himalayas. They end up in a poor village in India, whose sacred stone has been stolen, resulting in grave despair.

Indy and company are asked to retrieve the stone and they get their chance in the caves around the Pankot Palace of a young Maharajah. They discover cult worship, human sacrifice, and child slavery that make Raiders' Nazis seem relatively civil.

A supposedly brainwashed Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) prepares to punish the whiney Willie Scott (Kate Capshaw) in "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom."

Temple of Doom displays an extraordinary degree of miscalculation for a director whose career has been consistently successful. Some blame must go to the husband-wife writing team of Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz, who had collaborated with Lucas on American Graffiti and would soon co-write and Huyck direct the disastrous Marvel Comics adaptation Howard the Duck. Lucas alone receives story credit, suggesting it is he who devised the film's strange design, the first half comedy and the second half darkness.

The first hour relies heavily on Willie Scott, easily the series' most annoying character. Though the diva is meant to contrast with Indy's no-nonsense demeanor, it's a weak performance whose every joke sinks. One gets the impression that Spielberg was too smitten to notice (he would marry Capshaw in 1991 and they are still together). Far more appealing is young Short Round, though one suspects an 80-pound sidekick is less useful to Indy than we are to believe. Then, after such things as a meal of gross courses (live baby snakes, monkey brains, etc.), the second half takes us to darker places than any family film has ever gone, becoming one of two Spielberg productions that year to create the need for a PG-13 rating. The few iconic moments within (the heart ripping, drinking blood from a human skull) are basically notorious for traumatizing the young. Despite the Oscar win, some climactic visual effects fall short of convincing.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989) movie poster Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

Theatrical Release: May 24, 1989 / Running Time: 127 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: Steven Spielberg / Writers: Jeffrey Boam (screenplay); George Lucas, Menno Meyjes (story)

Cast: Harrison Ford (Indiana Jones), Sean Connery (Prof. Henry Jones), Denholm Elliott (Dr. Marcus Brody), Alison Doody (Dr. Elsa Schneider), John Rhys-Davies (Sallah), Julian Glover (Walter Donovan), River Phoenix (Young Indy), Michael Byrne (Vogel), Kevork Malikyan (Kazim), Robert Eddison (Grail Knight), Richard Young (Fedora), Alexei Sayle (Sultan), Alex Hyde-White (Young Henry)

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade opens in 1912 Utah with a prologue that explains our hero's origins, from his signature hat to his fear of snakes to the scar on his chin. River Phoenix portrays the young Indy, a teenaged Boy Scout already harvesting tastes for archaeology and adventure. In the present, 1938, Indy is acquiring the golden cross that drove and eluded him on that yesteryear mission. Back in his classroom, Jones gets a familiar unannounced visit from his old colleague Marcus Brody (Denholm Elliott, returning from Raiders).

Brody accompanies Indy on a trip to Venice, Italy, where they believe Jones' estranged father Henry (Sean Connery) has gone missing in his latest attempt to locate the Holy Grail, the one said to have caught Jesus' blood and contain great powers. The chalice has intrigued archaeologists for centuries and the elder Jones more than most. Indy is enlisted by the same immortality-seeking businessman who sent his father before him. In Venice, Indy is joined by his father's Austrian colleague, Elsa Schneider (Alison Doody), and warned by fez-wearing members of a secret society determined to protect the Grail.

Father (Sean Connery) and son (Harrison Ford) get a bit tied up by Nazis in "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade."

The newly-reunited father and son are threatened by Nazis who themselves are determined to locate the long-lost Holy Grail.

While film series often run out of steam by their third outing, Last Crusade actually reaches new heights. With Lucas' space saga ended for the time being and his future uncertain and Spielberg having just completed two heavy dramas, the two return to this franchise with renewed energy and creativity. This third film gives us more story and more characters to care about, benefitting from the decision to bring Brody and Sallah (John Rhys-Davies) back from the original and letting them participate. With the stakes raised, action sequences are a little bit tauter and more meaningful. Then there is the fine use of comedy, Ford and Connery's exquisite chemistry greatly improving upon Temple of Doom's modest reach and fitting better with the rest of the film. Even with Nazi antagonists with their ubiquitous swastikas, this episode is simply a lot more fun than the previous two. And though it runs slightly longer, it justifies that, taking only as much time as it needs to conclude Indy's journey with a poetic horse ride off into the sunset. As if the subtitle didn't make it clear, than this closing scene does: this is meant to be the last we see of Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones. And yet, that wasn't to be...

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008) movie poster Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Theatrical Release: May 22, 2008 / Running Time: 123 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: Steven Spielberg / Writers: George Lucas, Jeff Nathanson (story); David Koepp (screenplay)

Cast: Harrison Ford (Indiana Jones), Cate Blanchett (Irina Spalko), Karen Allen (Marion Ravenwood), Shia LaBeouf (Mutt Williams), Ray Winstone ("Mac" George Michale), John Hurt (Professor Harold "Ox" Oxley), Jim Broadbent (Dean Charles Stanforth), Igor Jijikine (Dovchenko), Alan Dale (General Ross), Joel Stoffer (Taylor), Neil Flynn (Smith), VJ Foster (Minister), Chet Hanks (Student in Library)

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is like Spider-Man 3. It got good marks from critics, did amazing business and made moviegoers excited for a sequel. Then, within just a couple of years, the film's reputation went south, its IMDb rating plunging to the bottom threshold of respectability, and once very specific follow-up plans dematerializing. With nearly twenty years passing since its predecessor neatly and satisfyingly ended Indy's story, it was only natural that Crystal Skull faced resistance.
But the backlash it has received is a curious thing, specific to the age of Internet cynicism in which we live. For my money, this fourquel is as consistently entertaining as any of the series' installments.

In 1957 Nevada, Indiana Jones is forcefully brought to a warehouse by Russian intelligence officers, led by the humorless Colonel Doctor Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett). They demand he lead them to a particular specimen and when his longtime fellow adventurer George "Mac" Michale (Ray Winstone) turns on him, Indy has to narrowly escape using his old resourcefulness. After just barely surviving a nuclear weapons test with quick thinking that has spawned the phrase "nuked the fridge" (carrying the same connotations as the "Happy Days"-inspired "jump the shark"), Indy is questioned by suspicious FBI agents and then tracked down by a young greaser named Mutt Williams (Shia LaBeouf).

Indy agrees to try to track down Mutt's mother and family friend Professor Oxley, who have gone missing in search of the legendary city Akator (a.k.a. El Dorado) on an out of this world mystery involving a powerful, mysterious crystal skull. Naturally, Mutt's mother is revealed to be one Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen) and his father is...well, let's just say you see it coming. As Indy, Mutt, Marion, Oxley (John Hurt), and an ambiguously-motivated Mac try to make sense of the crystal skull, Spalko and the Soviet forces are on their tail.

Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) realizes that knowledge was their treasure, and shares that treasure with Marion (Karen Allen), Oxley (John Hurt), and Mutt (Shia LaBeouf) in "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull."

The biggest achievement of Crystal Skull may be that Spielberg was able to perfectly recreate the series' tone after nineteen years of dormancy. This installment picks up without skipping a beat, paying homage but also blazing appropriate new trails. Ford turned 65 during production, which made him old for leading man status, let alone an action hero. But he spares us a slow, feeble Indy, throwing himself into fights and stunts with age-defying vigor. It's fun to have Karen Allen back, even if she's clearly rusty. Actors like Winstone and Jim Broadbent are perfect fits for duties resembling those of Sallah and Brody. Blanchett makes for a formidable villain, complete with flavorful bob and accent. Even LaBeouf is a suitable young sidekick and potential protιgι.

Much of the criticism surrounding this film complains about the plot centering on aliens. But that fits with the 1950s setting as does the Cold War opposition. The previous films' quests hardly adhere to laws of science and fact. Their reliance on folklore and speculation makes this no great leap thematically. My biggest gripe about this movie is that it feels like it is winding down ninety minutes in, when it has another half-hour left. That runtime is consistent with the preceding adventures, it just isn't presented to the audience with quite the right rhythm. That's a minor misstep, especially considering how much room for error this revival presented. Some may be dismayed that the movie relies kind of heavily on CGI, a technique heretofore unused here, and not without a few seams. I find it to be a winning blend of the series' beloved traditions with modern blockbuster style. Not only does this sequel compare to the first three outings quite favorably, but it manages to be more appealing than many of its biggest contemporaries.

Continue to Page 2 >>
Video & Audio, Bonus Features, Menus & Packaging, and Closing Thoughts

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Directed by Steven Spielberg: Jaws • War Horse • The Adventures of Tintin
Produced by Steven Spielberg: The Goonies • Arachnophobia • Poltergeist • Men in Black • Real Steel
1980s: Flight of the Navigator • Voyagers: The Complete Series • Spaceballs • Teen Wolf
Adventures: National Treasure • Journey to the Center of the Earth • Inkheart • Aladdin • Captain America (1990)
Blockbusters: The Ten Commandments • Toy Story | Set in the 1930s: The Rocketeer • Chinatown • Hugo
Daytona Jones and the Pearl of Wisdom

The Cast of the Indiana Jones Saga:
Harrison Ford: Extraordinary Measures • Morning Glory | Karen Allen: Scrooged
Denholm Elliott: Trading Places | John Rhys-Davies: The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement • Glory Daze
Sean Connery: James Bond Blu-ray Collection, Volumes 1 and 2 • Darby O'Gill and the Little People
Shia LaBeouf: Eagle Eye • Transformers • Disturbia • Holes • The Even Stevens Movie
Cate Blanchett: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button | Alfred Molina: Spider-Man 2 | Paul Freeman: Hot Fuzz

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Reviewed September 28, 2012.

Text copyright 2012 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 1981-2008 Paramount Pictures, Lucasfilm, and 2012 Paramount Home Entertainment. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.