Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)
January 11, 2009 by Dennis Amith
“For a long awaited film, Indiana Jones demand nothing but the best for this Blu-ray release. And Paramount gives the fans what they wanted! Magnificent picture quality, awesome audio and hours of special features. Overall, a solid Blu-ray release!”
TITLE: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2-Disc Special Edition)
DURATION: 122 minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1, English 5.1 French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish & Portuguese
COMPANY: Lucasfilm LTD./Paramount Pictures
RATED: PG-13 (For Adventure Violence and Scary Images)
Release Date: October 14, 2008
Directed by Steven Spielberg
Screenplay by David Koepp
Story by George Lucas and Jeff Nathanson
Characters by George Lucas and Philip Kaufman
Executive Producers: Kathleen Kennedy, George Lucas
Produced by Frank Marshall, Flavio R. Tambellini (Aerial Unit, Brazil)
Co-Producer: Denis L. Stewart
Associate Producer: Kristie Macosko
Music by John Williams
Director of Photography: Janusz Kaminski
Edited by Michael Kahn
Casting by Debra Zane
Production Design by Guy Dyas
Art Direction: Luke Freeborn, Lawrence A. Hubbs, Lauren E. Polizzi, Troy Sizemore and Mario Ventenilla
Set Decoration by Larry Dias
Costume Design by Mary Zophres
Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones
Cate Blanchett as Irina Spalko
Karen Allen as Marion Ravenwood
Shia LaBeouf as Mutt Williams
Ray Winstone as George “Mac” Michale
John Hurt as Professor Oxley
Jim Broadbent as Dean Charles Stanforth
Igor Jijikine as Dovchenko
Steven Spielberg and George Lucas bring you the greatest adventurer of all time in “a nonstop thrill ride” (Richard Corliss, TIME) that’s packed with “sensational, awe-inspiring spectacles” (Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times). Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull finds Indy (Harrison Ford) trying to outrace a brilliant and beautiful agent (Cate Blanchett) for the mystical, all-powerful Crystal Skull of Akator. Teaming up with a rebellious young biker (Shia LaBeouf) and his spirited original love Marion (Karen Allen), Indy takes you on a breathtaking action-packed adventure in the exciting tradition of the classic Indiana Jones movies!
It had been nearly 20 years since the third “Indiana Jones” film (“Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade”) was in theaters. Popular director/producers Steven Spielberg (“Jaws”, “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”, “E.T.”, “Jurassic Park” and many more) and George Lucas (“Star Wars” films and “American Graffiti”) who worked on the trilogy billed the third film as the final film but in the last two decades, both men including Indiana Jones main actor, Harrison Ford (“Star Wars” related films, “Air Force One”, “Patriot Games”, etc.) , have been asked when the next “Indiana Jones” film will be created.
According to Steven Spielberg, Harrison Ford brought it up to him in the late 90’s about doing another film and sure enough, the stars were aligned (mainly Spielberg finding a story from Lucas that he and Ford would both approve of) and thus a new Indiana Jones film was created. The film would reunite Spielberg, Lucas and Ford with composer John Williams (“Jurassic Park” films, “Star Wars” films, “Indiana Jones” films, “Harry Potter” related films, etc.), editor Michael Kahn and Stan Winston Studio. The film would have a screenplay by David Koepp (“Jurassic Park”, “Mission: Impossible” and “Spider-Man”), cinematography by Janusz Kaminski (“Saving Private Ryan”, “Schindler’s List” and “War of the Worlds”) and production designs by Guy Dyas (“X2” and “Superman Returns”).
The film would reprise the Indiana Jones role made popular by Harrison Ford, mark the return of “Raiders of the Lost Ark” actress Karen Allen as Marion Ravenwood and star top talents Cate Blanchett (“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”, “The Lord of the Rings” films and “Babel”) as Dr. Irina Spalko, Shia LaBeouf (“The Transformers” films, “Eagle Eye” and “The Greatest Game Ever Played”) as Mutt Williams, John Hurt (“The Lord of the Rings” films, “Harry Potter” films and “V for Vendetta”) as Professor Oxley and Jim Broadbent (“Harry Potter”, “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” and “Robots”) as Dean Charles Standsforth.
“Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” kicks off with Indiana Jones and his partner George “Mac” McHale being kidnapped by Soviets led by Dr. Irina Spalko. The group has infiltrated a top secret government warehouse which one of the top secret items that Spalko is looking for is being kept inside the warehouse.
The reason the group has brought Jones and McHale is that they were working on a project relating to rumored extraterrestrial product. Jones who is skeptical of any alien life doesn’t believe in it but does know, whatever he was investigating was highly magnetic. As Jones hesitantly assists the Soviets in finding the crate containing the top secret product, while he tries to escape, he realizes that his partner Mac had been assisting Dr. Spalko and the Soviets all along. The crate is opened and inside is a metal container which is highly magnetic and when opened, inside is a preserved extraterrestrial alien.
Indiana Jones barely manages to escape but because the Soviets were able to infiltrate the facility, the FBI start are suspicious that Jones may be working with the Soviets. The situation is quite bad that shortly after returning to his teaching position at Marshall college, he is put on indefinite leave of absence due to the FBI’s suspicion towards Jones.
Packing up and preparing to move out and possibly start a new life, Jones gets on a train but upon leaving, a young greaser in a motorcycle stops him with an urgent message. The young man is named Mutt Williams who tells Jones that his old colleague Professor Harold Oxley was kidnapped in Peru after a discovery. His mother went after him and she too was captured but managed to send out a message with a map to her son, to give to Indiana Jones.
But while the two are talking at a nearby soda shop, they realize that Soviets are trailing them and immediately both Jones and Williams are being chased down. The two manage to escape and due to the seriousness of the message and map, Indiana Jones and Mutt Williams go to Peru to find out why Oxley was kidnapped and what was the purpose of the map.
VIDEO & AUDIO:
“Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” is featured in 1080p High Definition and right off the bat, this film looks incredibly gorgeous on Blu-ray. The film sports vibrant colors, detail is just amazingly clear, everything about the film showcases detail. May it be the surroundings of the Mayan jungle, the skeletons, the clothing, the people… You name it, detail is clear and the transfer is just amazing. Definitely one of the best looking Blu-ray video transfers among the many Blu-ray releases of 2008!
As for audio, audio is presented in Dolby TrueHD 5.1. and the lossless track is just as equally incredible compared to the picture quality. With the number of action sequences included in “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull”, audio is immersive as front channels showcase the action sequences and musical score, center channel showcases the dialogue which is nice and clear. LFE showcases the booms from the many explosions seen in the film and gunshots and vehicles whizzing and featured through the surrounds are also in abundance.
Personally, for a film of this caliber, I was not expecting anything less than magnificent for picture and audio quality and Paramount delivers with this awesome Blu-ray release. Audio and Videophiles should definitely be happy with this Blu-ray release.
As for subtitles, the film is featured in English, English SDH, French, Spanish and Portuguese.
If you thought picture and audio quality was fantastic, “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” is loaded with special features. Special features can be found on both discs. Here is what is included:
- Indiana Jones Timelines – This timeline showcases the creation of the “Indiana Jones” films. From the beginning of “Raiders of the Lost Ark” up to the end of this fourth film. A pretty cool feature (with text and images) for those interested in learning about the timeline of production, the history of the film and more.
- The Return of a Legend – (17:34) Interviews with Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Harrison Ford and the executive producers of the film in regards to bringing Indiana Jones back to film. Featured in High Definition.
- Pre-Production – (11:42) Interviews with the main staff and talent about working together, working with talent such as Shia LaBeouf, interviews with Daniel D. Gregoire (Pre-Visualization Supervisor) and Harrison Ford getting reacquainted with Indiana Jones whip. Featured in High Definition.
- Trailers – Featuring “Trailer 2” (1:52) and “Trailer 3” (1:55) for the film.
- Production Diary: Making “Kingdom of the Crystal Skull – (1:20:52) An informative making-of with plenty of detail on the making of the film and interview with various crew members in their department. From the various locations where the film was shot, the amount of work it took in creating the set and much more. Overall, an informative and enjoyable making-of featurette. Featured in HD, the diary can be viewed by playing all or selecting the following:
– Shooting Begins: New Mexico
– Back to School: New Haven Connecticut
– Welcome to the Jungle. Hilo, Hawaii
– On-Set Action
– Exploring Akator
– Wrapping Up!
- Warrior Makeup – (5:32) Interview with Felicity Bowring (Makeup Department Head) and how they had to provide the makeup for 26 people for the tribe-scene and the amount of hours it took in getting the actors prepared. Featured in HD.
- The Crystal Skull – (10:09) Featuring interviews with Spielberg, Lucas and Ford about the actual crystal skull. Interviews with Guy Hendrix Dyas (Production Designer) and John Rosengrant (Harry Winston Studio/Effects Supervisor) in regards to the creation of the crystal skull. Featured in HD.
- Iconic Props – (9:59) Doug Harlocker (Property Manager) introduces the viewer to the various props and how they were created. Featured in HD.
- The Effects of Indy – (22:42) Interviews with staff of ILM (Industry Lights & Magic) in regards to the special effects used for the film. Featured in HD.
- Adventures in Post-Production – (12:44) Frank Marshall talks about the editing of the film and working with Michael Kahn, A.C.E. who provided the editing for the film and working with John Williams for the music.
- Closing: Team Indy – (3:41) A video montage of the staff that worked on the film.
- Pre-Visualization Sequences – Featuring pre-CG rendered visualization screens for Area 51 Escape (3:46), Jungle Chase (5:47) and Ants Attack (4:29).
- Galleries – Photo galleries which can be viewed by using your Blu-ray remote control of: The Art Department (The Adventure Beings, Cemetery, Akator), Stan Winston Studio (Corpses, Skeletons & Mummies, Aliens & Crystal Skulls), Production Photographs, Portraits and Behind-the-Scenes Photographs.
The return of Indiana Jones is quite literally a long time coming. It’s hard to believe that 20 years have passed and suffice to say, like everyone who are fans of the original trilogy, had high expectations towards the film.
For the most part, “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” delivered when it came to action and excitement. Harrison Ford ultimately still has it, when it comes to playing Indiana Jones. Such as awesome actor, that it was great to see him again. Also, the return of Karen Allen, reprising her role as Marion Ravenwood was just fantastic. For those who loved “Raiders of the Lost Ark”, no one can help but be giddy of seeing Indiana Jones and Marion Ravenwood together again!
And of course, you have solid talent involved in the film such as Cate Blanchett as the evil Dr. Irina Spalko, John Hurt as Professor Oxley and also Shia LaBeouf as Mutt Williams.
I enjoyed the film, not necessarily loved it. In one of the featurettes, you learn that what George Lucas wanted to bring to the film is that B-film sci-fi campiness and needless to say, you can understand why the development of this film was tricky. Granted, we necessarily don’t get heavy extraterrestrial action but those elements are still in the film with these beings and of course, the crystal skull itself. I enjoyed the film so much for the adventure and action elements of the film but once the film starts to incorporate the who and what the crystal skull is. And while interesting, personally, it just didn’t feel right.
But in the end, I enjoyed the film and found it quite entertaining and as a fan of the previous films, it was just great to see Indiana Jones back again!
Overall, “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” is a solid release from Paramount. For a big Summer blockbuster, you expect the bells and whistles for this film for a Blu-ray release, but most importantly, how iconic Indiana Jones is as a character, the previous trilogy are regarded by fans as a wonderful trilogy, needless to say, anything less of magnificent would have been a disappointment.
But in the end, Paramount delivers with a magnificent release as “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” scores top marks for picture and audio quality but also special features content. Highly recommended!
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