Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (Blu-ray)

January 28, 2012 9 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

It was a well-known fact that before the arrival of “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull”, “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” was the weakest of the Indy movies. Well step aside Temple of Doom, your reign at the bottom is no more! For those that don’t know, the fourth installment in the “Indiana Jones” series of movies is something that’s been kicked around since the mid 90’s with star Harrison Ford and creators George Lucas all very interested. Well, Lucas got sidetracked doing a little thing called “Star Wars” and Spielberg made a few movies here and there too. Finally, after countless script revisions, there was a script, the stars and everything was ready to go. What was the problem? Well, the once young Harrison Ford was now in his mid-60’s and it’d been nearly twenty years since the last installment (“Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade”). This begged the question, would it work? In a word, yes. “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” was one of the movies this summer that really lit up the numbers and it garnered over $300 million at the domestic box office. That said, I think it was simply because it had been so long since the last installment that it did so well. More on that later.

I’ll go on the assumption that everyone reading this is at least somewhat familiar with Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) and that he’s a part time professor and part time archeologist who has managed to get out of some slippery situations in the past. It’s now the late 1950’s and Dr. Jones has been forced to help the Soviets recover some ancient artifacts known as the crystal skulls. Jones manages to escape with the crystal skull, which possesses some mysterious powers, and escape to Peru with a mysterious young sidekick knows as Mutt (Shia LaBeouf, looking like he just came off the set from “The Wild One”). We see the re-emergence of Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen) who hasn’t been seen since “Raiders of the Lost Ark” as they try to elude Iriana Spalko (Cate Blanchett) and the rest of the Russian forces. As with the previous three films, there’s plenty of action, plenty of whip cracking (though not so much as before) and plenty of death-defying stunts that feel a little too much this time around. Will Indy be able to keep the crystal skulls away from the Soviets or will their power be turned over the wrong hands?

Ok, I get it. The whole plot of the movies hearken back to the films of the 1950’s and questions about Area 51, Invaders from Mars and whatnot. Spielberg and Lucas have been known to entertain an audience every so often, but for me this just didn’t work. The “Indiana Jones” movies have been steeped in the supernatural on pretty much every installment with the Arc of the Covenant in the first to the Holy Grail in the third, but this fourth entry was just a little too much for me. The acting seemed very wooden, Ford seemed to be going through the motions (but for a man of 65 he does look pretty good, I’ll admit) and the entire movie just seemed a bit forced. As happy as I was to see an “Indy 4”, it just didn’t have the same appeal that the first three did and that’s a shame, because it could have been really good. If you’re one of the few who hasn’t seen the original trilogy, do yourself a favor and watch those. Watch them a few times, actually as they’re some of the most enjoyable movies I’ve ever seen. But “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” is something that’s best left in that big warehouse full of boxes.

Video: How does it look?

Despite what’s going on screen, I have to say that “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” does look pretty darn good on Blu-ray. All four of the Indy movies have been shot in a very wide aspect ratio filling the screen with nonstop action. This 2.40:1 AVC HD transfer is amazing and something that we’d expect from a big budget studio movie. As we might expect, a majority of the movie contains a lot of natural, earthy tones with browns being the most prevalent. Flesh tones look average, though some of the time they appear to be a bit on the reddish side. Detail is amazing and when you can see the individual threads in Indy’s shirt, you know it’s a good-looking transfer. Fans will marvel at how good this looks and though it’s not the best transfer out there, it’s close.

Audio: How does it sound?

Just as impressive as the video is the uncompressed Dolby TrueHD soundtrack. Ok, let’s face it when you have a movie that’s been created by George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, you pretty much know you’re in for a treat, audio-wise. This soundtrack covers every inch of the spectrum and we even get a nice and nifty THX certified disc (not that that means a whole lot anymore). Just about every speaker is active for the entire movie. Little things like darts or gunshots seem to whiz by in a literal 360 degree sound field that makes the movie come alive. This is one of those soundtracks that makes you turn your head and literally say “Wow.”

Supplements: What are the extras?

Paramount knows that this will easily be one of the top selling titles of the year and hence they’ve loaded this title down with not one, but two discs full of supplements. The first disc gives us a few featurettes “The Return of a Legend” focusing on, well, the return of Indy to the screen. We also get “Pre-Production” which is pretty self-explanatory. A few theatrical trailers are also included. The second disc is where the lion’s share of the supplements are housed and we dive right in with “Production Diaries” in which six micro-featurettes are all included. Running around an hour and twenty minutes, this gives the viewer plenty of information about the pre-production and the production of the film in general. Next up are “Warrior Makeup” and “Crystal Skulls” both of which give us a glimpse on the physical look and feel of the crystal skull prop and the warriors set to defend it. “Iconic Props” shows us the somewhat vintage look at the props used in the film. More interesting is “The Effects of Indy” which shows us ILM (Industrial Light and Magic) technique for adding CGI into the film and from a leader in the industry, some of their effects could use a bit of work. “Adventures in post production” shows us the final touches on the film with an interview with composer John Williams. There are some still galleries and “Pre-Visualization Sequences” which show some rough sketches of the scenes before they’re shot and CGI’d. Lastly, disc one gives us a very interactive timeline of all the Indiana Jones films in terms of history, production and story. Very interesting indeed.

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