Blu-ray Review: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Paramount Home Entertainment
Release date: October 14th, 2008
MSRP: $39.99

Director: Steven Spielberg
Stars: Harrison Ford, Cate Blanchett, Karen Allen, Shia LaBeouf, Ray Winstone

This, along with The Dark Knight, was my most anticipated film of the year. While I had no doubts that TDK would deliver the goods, I was a little concerned about Indy. I had read the various tales of of the numnerous drafts they had gone through. I had read one such draft that I thought was pretty good. Would the final be better?

Indy IV (The title is too damn long) is set in 1957. Indy is mixed up with the Russians this time. He has been forced out of his teaching position because of suspicions of being a communist sympathizer. I am pretty sure that Sen. McCarthy was a thing of the past and the paranoia was waning. George and Steven might have wanted to check a history book before scripting.

Out of a job, Indy is approached by a younger greaser named Mutt (Shia LaBeouf). Mutt has been sent, by his mother, to find Indy. His mother turns out to be MARION (Karen Allen), last seen in Raiders of the Lost Ark (Goofily renamed Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Arc by Lucas. But we will always call it Raiders of the lost Arc). Before long, Russian agents are after the pair.

I would explain the rest of it, but my head hurts when I try to figure it all out. True comprehension might result in actual hemorrhaging.

We are treated to some nice performances; Harrison looks like he is having fun. I can’t remember the last Ford film in which we saw that sparkle in his eye. It is here and is a wonderful sight to see. Kate Blanchatte is also great as the sinister Russian agent leading the nasty communist hordes. When I heard of her casting, I had fears of another character like SSS from Last Crusade…my fears proved untrue as Cate knocks it out of the park.

And perhaps the most wonderful thing about the film is the return of Marion (Karen Allen). It has been too many years since the first film. She and Ford almost pick up where they left off, with an ending that should having everyone grinning ear to ear.
That being said, Crystal Skull does not hold a candle to the original trio.

I don’t know that Indy IV is a bad film, but the pacing is off. The first half moves relatively well, but the last third feels like it goes on forever. I had that feeling originally, and it was the same when watching it at home.

Each of the films has contained aspects that require suspension of disbelief, but this one felt too far out. It was as though George spent an afternoon in the New Age section of the local bookstore. The oddness I might have been able to handle, but combined with the poor pacing I was only too happy to see the credits roll by. I also have to confess that I noticed several continuity flaws.

I will accept the possibility that I might be holding this film to a higher standard, but the monkey army belongs in a Kiddie film, not with Indiana Jones.

The HD presentation is damn impressive. The contrast is good and the colors are warm. The rain forest scenes are especially good, with a picture so real looking you would think you could climb right into it. In a way, this made me a little sad, as I feel as though the film should have a grainy look, like I am watching something from the past.

I doubt most will feel this way; it may have something to do with my watching the original on a crappy screen on a Saturday afternoon as a kid.

The audio is delivered in Dolby TrueHD 5.1 and will knock you senseless. The bass is powerful and the score of John Williams sounds downright magical.

You get serious bang for your buck.

There is an interactive Indiana Jones Timeline. This contains 3 catagories: Story, History and Production. You can go to various points on the timeline, and toggle between the three, for various info. You can also press play on some for interviews and film clips. Suffice to say, this is very cool.

Return of a Legend runs about eighteen minutes and has Ford, Lucas and Spielberg talking about how they came to agree to do a fourth film. It also has George blathering on about the difference between space aliens and interdimensional beings…I am not sure if I have any better an understanding having watched it.Pre-production looks at the prep work needed for making the film, including LeBeouf getting ready for the physical demands of the film.

Disc two contains an immense Production Diary. This contains six segments (Shooting Begins: New Mexico, Back to School: New Haven, Connecticut, Welcome to the Jungle: Hilo, Hawaii, On-Set Action, Exploring Akator and Wrapping Up!) that run anywhere from seven minutes to almost thirty. We are treated to the filming of key shots of the film and hear from cast and crew. Indy fans will savor every moment.

There are also a handful of featurettes that look at the post-production side of things, covering make-up, special effects, props and whatnot, with galleries (Photos, pictures and art) and 3 “Pre-Visualization Sequences” that use storyboards, among other things.

Bottom Line: If you enjoyed Indy IV the first time around, you would have a blast with this set. The extras are great and the film looks amazing. Whatever issues I have with the movie itself, I can’t help but sing the praises of the release.

Order Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull from Amazon.

Jeremy Lynch
For more reviews from myself, and the rest of the Crimespree crew, check out the index of reviews.