INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL (2-Disc Special Edition )|
Written by David Hillyer
October 13, 2008
18 years have passed since we last saw Indiana Jones on the big screen. There has been a TV series (which made it to DVD earlier this year) and several paperback books to satisfy most Indiana Jones fans, however nothing quite beats seeing a whip-toting Harrison Ford outwit the Nazi's on the big screen. Rumors have been flying around for years about a new Indiana Jones movie. Most proved to be wishful thinking, but over the past couple years the rumors began to become more frequent and eventually were confirmed that a script was in the works. It took some time but eventually George Lucas, Steven Spielberg and Harrison Ford all agreed on a script and started filming Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull in semi-secret in the deserts of New Mexico.
In Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, we find Dr. Henry Jones Jr. has been kidnapped by a new adversary. This time it's the Russians. They want information on a secret and apparently Indiana Jones has intimate knowledge. As usual he gets beaten up frequently by new nemesis Dovchenko (played by former Moscow Circus performer Igor Jijikine), as female Russian Col. Irina Spalko (Kate Blanchett) tries to read Indy's mind. I realize the time period of the movie necessitates having Russian bad guys instead of the usual Nazi's of the good Indiana Jones movies, but the Russians just don't seem that menacing. The Russians are kind of our friends now, and the Nazi's will always be the Nazi's. It's just feels completely different.
Indy of course escapes and heads back to Marshall where he becomes a 'suspect' commie and is sent on a “vacation” after the government baddies come calling. Shortly before his train leaves the station a Marlon Brando wannabe punk (Shia LaBeouf) asks for his help finding an old colleague and the adventure begins. Off they go to Peru to find Harold Oxley (John Hurt) and stumble across Indy's old flame Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen). The adventure continues from there to an incredibly unsatisfying yarn about aliens and other dimensions. Yes, that is correct, and yes, it is an incredibly unfortunate right turn.
The movie isn't a total loss. Some of the few good reasons to see this film are to see Indy interact with Marion again. But so many others could have been included. There is a brief nod to Marcus Brody who has passed on (as had the actor, Denholm Elliot who died in 1992), and Indy's father Henry Jones Sr. (played wonderfully by Sean Connery who couldn't be lured out of retirement for the movie). It was unfortunate to not see others such as John Rhys-Davies as Sallah. There was just so much potential for a really fun adventure movie, but I left feeling like I got a very small fraction of what could have been. I know it's nearly impossible to meet everyone's expectations with a character like Indiana Jones, but this was just a sad and unsatisfying mess.
Ben Burtt also returns as the sound designer and does his usual impeccable job. That's probably why his resume includes all the Star Wars films, Pixar films and tons of others. This is one guy who knows how to make an incredible sound mix (with the help of Skywalker Sound of course).
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is presented in English THX Dolby Digital 5.1 surround. French and Spanish language tracks are also available in 5.1 surround. In typical Indiana Jones form, the surround is aggressive and stunning. Guns, whips, and punches are all heavy on impact and literally make you feel the movie. It doesn't get any better than this, for 5.1 surround. But the question is; why didn't they include 6.1 or 7.1 DTS-ES or Dolby Digital EX encoding?
Disc 2 contains the majority of the of the supplemental material starting with the Production Diary: Making “Kingdom of the Crystal Skull”, which is broken into 6 segments. All are interesting for any fans of Indiana Jones, however they seem somewhat lacking in depth compared to other big budget production special edition DVD's. Most of the material is interviews with cast and crew primarily speaking about how great it was to be back together again.
The Effects of Indy (22:44) interviews model makers, a fake prairie dog, and how the technology has changed since the last Indiana Jones movie. It is amazing at how much movie makers now rely on digital compositing to bring their vision to life now. Adventures in Post-Production (12:47) talks about the final editing process. It still fascinates me that this movie was shot and edited on film to keep the 'feel' of the original movies. Ben Burtt returns as sound supervisor with his resume of pretty much every big movie in the past 30 years. Subtitle options on both discs include English, French, and Spanish. Disc 2 also contains an XBOX 360 demo of the Lego Indiana Jones game.
It's amazing what consumers will tolerate just to see their favorite characters again. Luckily, everyone wants to see Indiana Jones and all the other characters of our youth so he can make a bad film and still make lots of money. The saving grace of this DVD special edition is the wealth of behind the scenes material. It's interesting and fun to watch for everyone who likes to see how big budget films are currently made.