One of the most iconic characters in cinematic history has finally made his Blu-ray debut, and let me tell you, it was worth the wait. Indiana Jones: The Complete Adventures sees all four Indy adventures digitally remastered and released in one very nice hi-def package, with a bonus disc that holds over seven hours of bonus footage so that every would-be archeologist is sure to feel like they’ve hit the jackpot when they get their hands on this highly anticipated set.
In fact, Raiders of the Lost Ark was given a frame-by-frame full restoration that makes it look as though it could easily pass for a film that was made just last year. Each of the individual film discs have trailers for their respective film as that disc’s special features, and when you look at the Raiders trailer, and compare it to the absolutely breathtaking restoration they did with it, if you’re not blown away by the work they did fixing it up, well, you may need to get your eyes checked.
Now, some may wonder why all three of the original films from the 1980s weren’t fully restored frame-by-frame. But fear not. The Temple of Doom and The Last Crusade both look absolutely stunning in their remastered state, to the point where if nobody brought it to your attention, you’d likely think they were restored too. Of course, The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is included as well, though with that being a more recent release, it simply remains looking fantastic. Though the fact that Raiders, which was made over 30 years ago, looks just as good shows the true magic of restoration and high definition.
The sound on each disc is also mind-blowing, and if you’ve got a surround sound set-up, prepare to be impressed. However, even if you don’t have a system, and are simply working off your television speakers, this entire set sounds just as good as it looks, with John Williams’ fantastic score constantly impressing alongside a wonderful audio transfer.
The thing about the Indiana Jones franchise is that it’s easy for people to have different favourites for different reasons. For that reason, I’ll go through each film and give a quick mini-review of each with a mini-score as well. Overall though, know that no film ever feels as though it was given favouritism during the transfer treatment, as these are all some of the best looking Blu-rays on the market today.
Raiders of the Lost Ark
Raiders of the Lost Ark is simply a fantastic film, with so much to love about it and very little (if anything) to dislike. This was one of two stories that George Lucas wanted to tell for a long time, with the other being set in space. We all know which one he decided to go with, and so the adventuring archeologist was put on the shelf, and left there until Lucas went on vacation with Steven Spielberg. When Lucas mentioned this story to Spielberg, the young director jumped at the chance to take on this homage to old TV serials, and the rest is history.
The script, written by Lawrence Kasdan (by hand, on lined paper!) is filled with so much quick wit, and hilarity that it really brings the characters to life even before great actors like Harrison Ford and Karen Allen became attached. The story sees Indiana Jones on a journey to discover the lost Ark of the Covenant before the evil Nazis can get their hands on it. It’s such a simple premise, yet it’s delivered in such an epic fashion, that it’s easily one of the greatest adventure stories ever filmed.
It may surprise some who don’t know too much of the film’s history, but Ford wasn’t the first choice to play Indiana Jones. Well, he was Spielberg’s first choice, but Lucas was weary of being looked at as the guy who always goes to Ford to play a part in his films (he’d already played a role in American Graffiti, as well as a little known part in a flick called Star Wars). So Ford was out before he was really considered, and one of the most recognizable characters in movie history was incredibly close to being played by Tom Selleck. So close, in fact, that it would have been a done deal had Selleck’s television show Magnum P.I. not been picked up shortly after his Indy audition.
So with Selleck out, Spielberg mentioned Ford again to Lucas, who caved and gave Ford a call – and we’re all happy he did. Ford just embodies everything that you could want in the character, and that’s evident every time he’s on screen throughout Raiders. He carries the entire film on his shoulders with ease, and in all honesty, is one of, if not the main reason that Indiana Jones is as recognizable and iconic a character as he is today.
Raiders of the Lost Ark is just a masterpiece of filmmaking, and a film that stands up just as well today as it did 31 years ago. This – along with Star Wars – helped propel Ford into the top tier of actors, and he’s never looked back, and Spielberg just continued to prove why he’s one of the best directors of all time.
Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom
Much like The Empire Strikes Back, Lucas wanted to take Indy down a dark path in the sequel. This time around, Jones finds himself in India fighting a demonic cult who kidnaps, sacrifices and forces children into slavery to achieve its evil goals.
The movie is actually a prequel to Raiders of the Lost Ark, which many find confusing since Indy claims to not believe in magic during Raiders. It’s a minor hiccup in a series where things like that shouldn’t really be focused on, but alas, it is what it is and the debate will continue forevermore.
The feeling is different at the very start, with Temple of Doom opening with a big musical number in a night club where Indy has a deal going down. Things continuously go from bad to worse for our beloved hero, as a few twists of fate find him – along with his trusty little sidekick (Jonathan Ke Quan – aka Data from The Goonies) and a new female companion – and a future Mrs. Spielberg (Kate Capshaw) – being talked in to helping a village in India that has fallen victim to this evil cult I spoke about earlier.
The story is a lot darker, and while there’s a small sense of archeological conquest to be found, the story is driven more by Indy aiming to do the right thing by stopping this cult and freeing the kidnapped children. This is the main difference between this installment in the franchise, and the rest, as those were all more or less driven by Indy’s desire to treasure hunt, and find a lost artifact, and this story takes place by chance.
That’s not to say that hinders the film any; in fact, I’d say it actually helps mix things up a bit, and helps keep the stories fresh, with different tones and themes throughout. One thing that does hinder at least the first half of the film is Capshaw (through no real fault of her own), as her character Willie Scott can get quite annoying. Of course, even the film pokes fun at this, with Indy mentioning, “The biggest problem with her is the noise.” That couldn’t be truer, as Willie is constantly screaming at just about everything for the first hour of the film, and it isn’t until the second half when she calms down a bit that her character becomes somewhat tolerable. Hell, even Capshaw mentions in the special features how frustrating it was that Willie screamed so much, so I know I’m not alone in thinking this.
Overall this is a highly entertaining film, and a good change of pace from the original – albeit, not as strong. Still, it looks great, and there’s an incredible amount of action scenes, with plenty of wild scenarios to keep things fresh and fun throughout.
Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade
In my opinion, The Last Crusade is the closest to the original in terms of all its qualities. There’s just so much to love in this installment, with the chemistry shared between Ford and Sean Connery being at the forefront. Connery plays Indiana’s father in the film, and the two are magnificent on screen together, playing off one another perfectly and delivering some truly hilarious moments.
The story this time around focuses on the Holy Grail, and after Indy’s father goes missing while looking for it, it’s up to our favourite archeologist to find both his dad and the Grail before the Nazis do. They always seem to be getting in the way, don’t they? While it may seem convenient to have Nazis as the bad guys once again, it works really well, so why not go with it? They don’t feel like they’re tacked on, and during this time period it makes sense that during Indy’s globe trotting adventures that he’d constantly be bumping into them.
The father-son dynamic is a great theme for the story, and The Last Crusade gives us a deeper look into Indy’s personal life more than any other movie in the franchise. Alison Doody plays the love interest of sorts this time around, and she’s great in her role, really adding an interesting element to the story. Meanwhile, a lot of our favourite characters from Raiders return who missed out on Temple of Doom due to it being a prequel.
The Last Crusade may not be the masterpiece that Raiders of the Lost Ark was, but this third film in the franchise comes closer than any other in that area. There’s loads of fun to be had here, with a fantastic cast, an interesting story, and an epic adventure that you soon won’t forget.
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
Ah, now here’s a film that proves twenty years of anticipation, a new generation, and a forum to base any and all opinions through the Internet can make a solid film sound bad. The film was a major box-office blockbuster; however, many ripped into it for being a story about aliens, and how silly that was. Really? What about the power of God tearing through anyone looking at the Ark in Raiders? A cultist leader who could tear the still beating heart out of someone, then watch it burn in his hand after that same person was lowered into a pit of fire? Or the water from the Holy Grail healing mortal wounds? All of those things are okay, but aliens is over the top and lame?
Now I’m not saying any of those above examples are lame, I’m just saying it’s ridiculous to say that this film was completely over the top and far-fetched, while referring to the original three as the way it should be. The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull brought the series from the Nazi-heavy 1930s, into the science fiction focused 1950s, so the transition works, and it’s done so in an archeological way, so I’m not sure what not to love.
Indy is older, he’s still up to his adventuring ways, and there are a few more twists to discover along the way as well. Of course there are some crazy moments, like when Jones finds himself trapped on a nuclear test site, and jumps into a lead-lined fridge in order to escape the blast. But this is a popcorn flick, and it’s all in good fun. During Temple of Doom when Indy is hanging onto the bridge in the final act, and the cultists are shooting arrows at him from the other side, it’s comical that 40 arrows can land all around him at once (literally, there’s just so many arrows being shot at him) and yet none of them hit him. Ignoring reality is what makes these films so enjoyable. There’s enough realism in them to make it so we believe in this man’s journey, and yet, once he’s on it, if you don’t believe that the impossible can happen, then you’re not going to have any fun.
That’s not to say that Crystal Skull doesn’t have its faults, but it’s still a great Indy adventure, and a welcome updated edition to the franchise. There’s some CGI used throughout, of course; however, many complain that it ruins the movie and takes away from the novelty that is Indiana Jones. To them I say watch it again, as there’s so much stuff that makes Indy so great to be found as well. This may not be completely evident if you waited 20 years for a sequel and have the originals on a pedestal, but if you watch them all back to back, you’ll see that there’s almost just as much to love in this globe-trotting adventure as their was in the first three.
Indiana Jones: The Complete Collection is a must-own for fans of the series, and pretty much a must-buy for anyone else who simply owns a Blu-ray player. These are some of the greatest adventure films of all time, and the original three films look so good that they could easily be mistaken for being made over the past decade. The entire series holds up incredibly well, and these remastered versions are some of the best Blu-rays on the market today. Don’t miss out on this adventure! Highest recommendation.
I spoke about this a bit above because the great job done in the transfer is such a vital part of this release that it deserves being credited twice over. The video restoration of Raiders of the Lost Ark is just immaculate, and the remaining films all look just as great. Watching these will definitely bring back memories for many, and the clarity and beautiful look of them will make it all the more enjoyable. The same can be said for the sound transfer, which is just phenomenal, and really helps put the viewer right into the adventure along side Indy.
Special Features Disc:
First and foremost, while it’s somewhat understandable why they’re not there, it would have been awesome to have had commentary tracks for the films this time around. While there’s plenty of insider information given in the features below, a play by play with the greats just couldn’t be beaten. Also, for some reason they chose not to transfer over a quite hefty and extensive couple of features from the earlier Blu-ray release of The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. There’s no real reason why they shouldn’t have included it, as it really would’ve made this incredible stack of extras that much better.
Each of the main discs holds the trailers for that respective film, and all the rest of the bonus features are found on a fifth disc. A lot of them are presented in standard definition and show their age; however, that also adds to their charm, as it really places the viewer into the time period these films were made, and shows how much things have changed. Add on to the fact that it’s such an intimate look into the making of each film (especially Raiders), with interviews, and behind-the-scenes segments that really treat the viewer like they’re part of the crew and part of the Indy family. That, and they’re just so damn addicting to watch.
On Set with Raiders of the Lost Ark – There are two features found under this menu and they are as follows:
From Jungle to Desert – This feature is just under half an hour in length and is all on-set footage from Raiders of the Lost Ark, mixed in with interviews from Spielberg and Ford from back when they were filming. There are also a bunch of outtakes shown that usually culminate in showing what the final scene turned out like in comparison. Really fun stuff that’s a must watch (like every extra on this disc) for Indy fans.
From Adventure to Legend – This feature is also just under 30 minutes in length and is more behind the scenes footage, though this time it’s in a studio where they’re building some of the huge sets used in the film. There are some hilarious bits found here, and some great interaction between Spielberg and Ford while going over storyboards before shooting. Again, so much to love here, and I’d recommend just hitting “Play All” and watching both of these features for one continuous hour.
Making the Films – There are five features found under this menu, which are as follows:
The Making of Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) – This feature runs at just under an hour in length, and covers a lot of the making of aspect for the film. There’s a bit of narration that goes through some of what was happening at the time, but there’s mostly a lot of interviews with Ford, Spielberg, Lucas and other members of the cast and crew. They give some inside information on what it was like on location, as well as various pieces about Ford performing his own stunts and so forth. Again, great piece, and a must watch, with only a bit repeating as far as the above feature was concerned.
The Making of Raiders of the Lost Ark – This is a more retrospective piece about Raiders, where Spielberg and Lucas talk about how it came to be, and the story of how Spielberg came on board. There’s a lot to this feature, which also runs just under an hour in length, and just when you thought you’d seen enough Raiders behind-the-scenes features with the above three, they add a fourth that’s just as awesome and addictive to watch.
The Making of Temple of Doom – This is a piece where Lucas and Spielberg talk about how Temple of Doom came to be, and how a lot of the ideas from Raiders that didn’t make the final cut were transferred over to this one. They talk about casting the film, various scenes as well as inside information about Ford being away from set after surgery, and the controversial PG rating, and whether or not it was appropriate for kids. The piece is just over 40 minutes in length, and again, gives some great insight into the making of this film.
The Making of The Last Crusade – This feature runs at 35 minutes in length, and sees both Lucas and Spielberg getting their way somewhat as far as the story goes. Lucas wanted to go with the Holy Grail, while Spielberg wanted to avoid that and go with a father/son relationship story, and as we both know, these two masterminds combine these ideas to create what is, in my opinion, the best sequel to the original. They talk about casting Connery, working with him on set, and the chemistry he and Ford shared instantly. Again, lots of great info, with almost too much to cover. Another must watch.
The Making of The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull – This feature runs at just under 30 minutes in length and talks about why they chose to take it in the direction of aliens, and about how it felt like no time had passed once the old team got back on set. While we see it in the movie, it’s still crazy to see just how good Ford looks still, and even Spielberg mentions that it just blew his mind to see that Ford looked just as good now as he did in the original. Some great information and fun inside stories about the latest installment in the series, and another must watch for fans.
Behind the Scenes – There are 12 behind the scenes featurettes, which can’t be viewed all at once. However, they are pretty solid in their length (with most ranging around the 10 minute mark, with one going as high as 22 minutes total.) The featurettes are as follows:
The Stuns of Indiana Jones – This featurette is just under 11 minutes in length, and goes over the big stunts from the first three films, while also showcasing the stunt crew, and trying to make things bigger and better with each sequel.
The Sound of Indiana Jones – This piece is just over 13 minutes in length and takes a pretty solid look at the sound effects and sound recording for the original trilogy. This is great stuff, especially for those interested in this sort of thing.
The Music of Indiana Jones – Coming it at just over 12 minutes in length, this is the piece that talks about the epic score of John Williams, and the history behind it.
The Light and Magic of Indiana Jones – This piece also comes in at just over 12 minutes in length, and touches on more of the effects found in some of the more memorable scenes throughout the trilogy.
Raiders: The Melting Face – This is the shortest featurette, which comes in at just over eight minutes in length, and gives an in-depth look at one of the most famous scenes from Raiders.
Indiana Jones and the Creepy Crawlies – This featurette comes in at just under 12 minutes in length, and is a look at all the different things they’ve used throughout the trilogy (from spiders and snakes, to rats and bugs). Lots of neat information to be found here.
Travel with Indiana Jones: Locations – This featurette comes in at just under 10 minutes in length and shows the various places that Indy has traveled to throughout the series. There’s an option to turn on a trivia bit that will give tidbits of information about locations and shooting, if that interests you.
Indy’s Women: The American Film Institute Tribute – This featurette comes in at just under 10 minutes in length and sees the three leading ladies from the films all together under one roof being interviewed by AFI’s Jean Firstenberg. They discuss filming, and their characters, and if you watch all the way through, there’s a special guest that they get to meet.
Indy’s Friends and Enemies – This one comes in at just over 10 minutes in length and while it does cover Indy’s friends and enemies, pretty much 50% of it focuses on the ladies once again. Of course, they did all play vital roles in the films, so this makes sense.
Iconic Props – This piece comes in at just under 10 minutes in length and is mainly there to highlight props used in Crystal Skull. Of course, the beautifully placed cameo of the Ark is also touched upon, which was definitely a great touch to the film for fans of the series.
The Effects of Indy – This is the longest feature, which runs at just over 22 minutes in length and focuses on Industrial Light and Magic’s work on Crystal Skull, and all the major effects upgrades they used in the latest installment.
Adventures in Post Production – This is the last featurette, and it comes in at just under 13 minutes in length and it once again focuses on Crystal Skull. They talk about the sound effects, the theme song, as well as editing the film together and so forth. Fun stuff!
Indiana Jones: The Complete Adventures is a great set, and it’s hugely recommended for fans of the series, as well as for those who have yet to see them. This is a set where you really can’t go wrong, as there’s just so much good stuff here that it’s pretty much a must-buy for everyone who can play it.
Paramount Home Entertainment presents Indiana Jones: The Complete Adventures. Directed by: Steven Spielberg. Starring: Harrison Ford, Sean Connery, Alison Doody, John Rhys-Davies, Julian Glover, River Phoenix, Denholm Elliott, Karen Allen, Shia LaBeouf, Jim Broadbent, John Hurt, Ray Winstone, Cate Blanchett, Paul Freeman, Alfred Molina, Ronald Lacey, Kate Capshaw, Jonathan Ke Quan, Amrish Puri. Running time: 481 minutes. Rating: PG. Released on Blu-ray: September. 18, 2012. Available at Amazon.com.
Tags: Alfred Molina, Cate Blanchett, George Lucas, Harrison Ford, Indiana Jones, Jim Broadbent, John Hurt, Ray Winstone, Sean Connery, Shia LaBeouf, Steven Spielberg