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

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Series Overview and Film Reviews

No big deal: Indy (Harrison Ford) nonchalantly rides an elephant in "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom."

VIDEO and AUDIO

You expect films as treasured as these to look terrific on Blu-ray and indeed they do. It sounds like Raiders has been treated to the most meticulous restoration, but all four look absolutely terrific. These stunning transfers find each frame clean, sharp, and vibrant. While certain shots and parts of frames look out of focus on the first three films, I have no doubt that is how they were shot and possibly intended.

The 5.1 DTS-HD master audio soundtracks are equally delightful. The press release explains that Raiders makes use of its original master mix, which had been archived and untouched since 1981. Effects previously used in mono are now employed in the original stereo format in which they were recorded. The tracks boast depth, directionality, clarity, and precision. In picture and sound, the movies feel like they might have in opening day exhibitions only without any perceivable technical shortcomings.

George Lucas and Steven Spielberg are seen in an unusual behind-the-scenes teaser for "The Last Crusade." A much different version of Indy's fight with this swordsman is presented as a deleted scene in "On Set with 'Raiders of the Lost Ark.'"

BONUS FEATURES

The only extras appearing on Discs 1 through 4 are the film's original theatrical trailers, presented in HD and without subtitles. Raiders has a teaser (1:03) the places it in the tradition of Jaws and Star Wars, a standard trailer (2:33), and a trailer from the 1983 reissue (1:45). Temple of Doom has a teaser (1:00) that announces the project and its settings and a standard trailer (1:26). Last Crusade is joined by a teaser (1:28) that offers a rare behind-the-scenes look at production along with a standard trailer (2:13). Crystal Skull is joined by three swell trailers, numbered 2 (1:54), 3 (1:57), and 4 (1:42).
The obvious question -- where's #1? -- is one that was asked in 2008 and still isn't answered here.

Beyond those, all extras are relegated to the set's bonus disc, Disc 5.

Maintaining the emphasis on the original film, the set's one new addition is "On Set with Raiders of the Lost Ark" (57:53, HD). Randomly divided into two even parts (purely to run under a half-hour each), this documentary is composed primarily of production footage, which shows rather than tells. Showing us movie history in the making, this priceless footage goes through the film chronologically, the first half dealing with location shoots and the second moving to soundstages. It features a number of spruced-up deleted scenes (including a fairer fight against the desert swordsman), outtakes, and alternate takes. In addition, there are the occasional cast or crew remarks (like everything else, from 1980) as well as candid looks at Spielberg's direction, and things like fight and stunt choreography.

Next, Making the Films holds five uncreatively titled standard definition documentaries, one for each movie and two for Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Tom Selleck and Sean Young audition for Indy and Marion in this screen test seen in "The Making of 'Raiders of the Lost Ark.'" An all grown-up Short Round (Jonathan Ke Quan) reflects on the first of his two big Steven Spielberg movies in "The Making of 'The Temple of Doom.'"

Never released to DVD, the first "The Making of Raiders of the Lost Ark" (57:48) originates from 1981, a fact you can easily tell by its look. It places the film in the tradition of classic adventure cinema. There is a good deal of overlap with the new featurette's footage, but plenty of bits here are unused elsewhere. The piece moves logically, from finding locations to focusing quite a bit on stunts. In addition to narration, there are some interviews with principal cast and crew, who weigh in on location shooting. This program connects to other classic movies by the use of John Williams' Jaws score and "Colonel Bogey's March."

The second "The Making of Raiders of the Lost Ark" (50:52) seems to come from the film's 2003 debut. It benefits from retrospection by Spielberg, Lucas, Ford, and other important players like Karen Allen, John Rhys-Davies, Alfred Molina, Paul Freeman, co-writer Lawrence Kasdan, director of photography Douglas Slocombe, and costume designer Deborah Nadoolman. Their reflections are complemented by still more production footage. This documentary covers all the appropriate topics, paying special notice to set pieces (snakes, the serpa fight) even sharing clips from screen tests of Tom Selleck and Sean Young and Karen Allen and Tim Matheson.

"The Making of The Temple of Doom" (41:09) also hails from 2003, though its retrospection is complemented by extensive use of production footage. It covers the story, the casting, finding locations, the sets, and shooting big set pieces, with plenty of time devoted to Harrison Ford's back injury and filming the bugs and bridge scenes. To the returning principals, we get reflections from Kate Capshaw (who recalls the criticism her character received), Jonathan Ke Quan, and Roshan Seth. The most interesting revelation may be Spielberg admitting it his least favorite of the original trilogy. Mine too, Steven.

Harrison Ford hopes that staples will keep his iconic hat from blowing away in "The Making of 'The Last Crusade.'" Animal wrangler Jules Sylvester introduces Shia LaBeouf to a snake co-star in "The Making of 'The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull."

"The Making of The Last Crusade" (35:03) gets reflection from Sean Connery, Alison Doody, and Julian Glover,
while utilizing archival interviews for deceased actors (River Phoenix, Denholm Elliott). It also uses ample footage from production. It covers the sequel's origins, the casting, and action sequences.

"The Making of The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" (28:49) is a standard 2008 featurette consisting of set footage and interviews. Production design and action sequences (the warehouse opening, the campus motorcycle chase, and the finale) are given attention, as is the prospect of the series being revived and actors reprising their roles. We also get Spielberg's now standard opening and closing remarks to his crew.

An additional dozen standard-def topical listings come under the heading Behind the Scenes. All but a few of them deal mostly with just the first three movies.

John Williams conducts to the movie in "The Music of Indiana Jones." A dummy has his face melted off in a demonstration of Raiders' climactic effect.

"The Stunts of Indiana Jones" (10:56) pays notice to the men who doubled for Harrison Ford and choreographed creative scenes, with stuntmen reflections. "The Sound of Indiana Jones" (13:21) lets legendary Lucas/WALL•E sound man Ben Burtt discuss his work on the series, paying notice to what went into whip cracks, gun shots, the giant boulder, snakes, and so on. "The Music of Indiana Jones" (12:22) considers John Williams' contributions to the films, with the composer and others reflecting on his themes.

"The Light and Magic of Indiana Jones" (12:22) looks at the trilogy's visual effects, with Dennis Muren and others talking miniatures with complementary footage. "Raiders: The Melting Face!" (8:12) deconstructs what went into the horrifying climax of the original film with demonstrations of the sculpture work and torching. "Indiana Jones and the Creepy Crawlies" (11:46) discusses the trilogy's gross-out scenes featuring large quantities of snakes, bugs, and rats. Crew, animal wranglers, and cast recall filming those scenes. You can turn on pop-up creature and film facts for these. I don't know why you wouldn't.

"Travel with Indiana Jones: Locations" (9:58), also presented with optional pop-up trivia, remembers the various locales chosen to represent Indy's destinations. "Indy's Women: The American Film Institute Tribute" (9:15) brings together the three actresses who played love interests. Allen, Capshaw, and Doody take turns discussing their characters for this 2003 panel. Don't miss the surprise ending! "Indy's Friends and Enemies" (10:10) has us think about the series' allies and antagonists. Spielberg is sticking to his love of Willie Scott.

Alison Doody, the most elusive of "Indy's Women" reflects on her Nazi character in this 2003 AFI discussion. Unfazed by the dead knight behind him, Doug Harlocker talks "Iconic Props."

The final three featurettes were produced for Kingdom of the Crystal Skull's Blu-ray and Special Edition DVD. Thus, they are presented in HD and widescreen. "Iconic Props" (9:52) lets prop master Doug Harlocker show off weapons and other objects created for the fourth installment.
"The Effects of Indy" (22:34) focuses on the many layers of work that go into Crystal Skull's visuals, from miniatures to computer enhancements to pure CGI. "Adventures in Post Production" (12:36) details how new and old-fashioned techniques were used to edit Crystal Skull and create its sound effects. Also, Williams discusses the themes of his newest score.

The disc closes with 58 seconds of HD credits for the platter's recycled bonus features.

WHAT'S MISSING?

Although there is an absurd amount of bonus material, which absolutely feels like overkill when compiled almost entirely on a single disc, not everything from the original trilogy's 2008 DVD rereleases nor Crystal Skull's earlier Blu-ray makes the cut here.

Dropped from the trilogy's 2008 Adventure Collection reissues are the film-specific introductions from Spielberg and Lucas, storyboard-to-film comparisons, galleries, Lego PC game demo, and, for some reason, the featurette "Indiana Jones: An Appreciation" in which the Crystal Skull cast lavished praise on the three previous installments.

Crystal Skull's 35-minute making-of documentary has been trimmed down from its original 80-minute runtime. It also loses "The Return of a Legend", "Pre-Production", "Warrior Makeup", "The Crystal Skulls", "Closing: Team Indy", three pre-visualizations, five image galleries, the same Lego game demo, and three BD-exclusive interactive timelines.

It's impossible to come away from Disc 5 feeling underwhelmed and none of the lost material really stood out as being extraordinary. Still, it is a bit annoying to lose that readily available content, especially with some disc space to spare. At least, all of the dropped features remain in print on the films' most recent DVD editions. Still, there must be a good amount of Indy fans who bought the initial 2003 DVD collection and passed on the reissues who will remain lacking this material.

Personally, I feel that the 1993 "Young Indiana Jones" episode that guest-starred Ford or even just his few minutes onscreen would have been a terrific inclusion. You'd think that the interest it generated in the TV series would more than offset any value it removes from the volume that holds it. Alas, it is not to be this time.

Colonel Doctor Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett) wields a sword amidst Marion's letter to Mutt on the Crystal Skull Blu-ray menu. Two bearded friends have fun in the desert on the bonus Blu-ray's menu.

MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

The movies' menus play excerpts of Williams' theme while a CGI plane crosses episode-specific maps and leads the way to clips coming at us in settings inspired by that installment. Disc 5 uses behind-the-scenes clips in that same motif. While the discs support bookmarks, they unfortunately do not resume playback. Playback of the films is prefaced by a newly elongated 30-second THX logo. The original Paramount logos which dissolve into similar mountains are thankfully unchanged.

The collection is packaged in a sturdy cardboard box a bit taller and thicker than a standard Blu-ray case. A section resembling a book slides out to devote two nicely illustrated pages to each film (inside of which the corresponding disc is somewhat precariously held in a way that necessitates your fingerprints getting all over it) and two to the entire series (for the bonus disc). A contents-promoting, format-declaring wrap-around sort of attaches to an adhesive glob at the top of the outer case, though you may want to discard both that and the glob that sticks unreliably.

That great swordsman never stood a chance against the pistol of Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford).

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Contrary to their reputations, the Indiana Jones movies are hardly the best that cinema has to offer. Nonetheless, with its old-fashioned moviemaking and practical effects, the original trilogy remains exciting all these years later, its pace and production values not far from those of modern blockbusters. And as someone who is not a devout Indy fan, I will never understand the discontent with Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, a winning outing that remarkably, improbably upholds its predecessors' spirit.
I wouldn't call any of these four adventures great (Last Crusade comes closest), but they are all fun to varying degrees and practically essential viewing for everyone.

Paramount's Blu-ray collection is sure to satisfy. The feature presentations come as close to flawless as high definition allows while remaining faithful to the films' original designs. And though missing a number of significant DVD supplements, the exhaustive bonus features lend ample insight and perspective to these enduringly popular escapades. If there are any reservations regarding this set, they may be in response to a high list price. That will probably come down in the near-future, although, as with any Lucasfilm title, you do run the risk of this getting quietly discontinued and taking years to be replaced.

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

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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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Series Overview and Film Reviews

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Reviewed September 28, 2012.



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