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Indiana Jones: 4-Movie Collection - 4K Blu-ray Review

Remember that episode of The Big Bang Theory? You know, the one where Sheldon shares his love of Raiders of the Lost Ark with Amy, and after watching it, she blows his mind by attesting that the plot would have been exactly the same without it’s protagonist. I, like Sheldon, was dumbstruck by this revelation. About ten seconds after that, I resolved this: I don’t care.

Indiana Jones is one of the most iconic characters ever committed to celluloid. Is he wholly original? Those familiar with Alan Quartermaine, adventure films of the ilk of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre and Gunga Din, would say no. According to George Lucas, even Scrooge McDuck was an influence! When Indy was introduced to me in 1981 that was it for me: he was my number one movie character then, and now so many years later: STILL!

Lucasfilm, much to my surprise, has finally got a fifth entry rolling in front of cameras for 2022. Cue the Indiana Jones and his walking frame jokes (in fact, as I write this, Harrison Ford has injured himself during rehearsals!). Now owned by Disney, who are at the forefront of not pursuing 4K home media, preferring to focus customers’ dollars on their streaming platform, surprised with the announcement that 4K restorations on all four current flicks was under way and that they would be releasing a 4K box set in conjunction with Paramount this June.

Well, here we are! How did they do?

Indiana Jones: raiders of the lOst Ark

RAIDERS OF THE LAST ARK

So, the now famous story goes that Spielberg and Lucas were shooting the shit on a Hawaiian beach, waiting for the grosses of a little film called: Star Wars to come in, when talk shifted to what they wanted to do next. Spielberg mentioned his long standing desire to do a James Bond film, and Lucas’s nonchalant reply was: ‘Oh, I got that beat.’

"as good as it gets in the world of make believe"


Boy, did he! Truncating the proceeding events: they made a gentlemen’s agreement there and then: Lucas would produce; Spielberg would direct. They would make fast, down and dirty (and economical) pictures. They hired Lawrence Kasdan to write, they eventually sold the flick to Paramount to distribute and even though Spielberg had wanted him from the start, Harrison Ford was cast at the last minute when Tom Selleck was forced to pull out as Indy.

Set in 1936, we meet Indiana Jones in the jungles of Peru, amongst a group of dodgy cohorts, in search of a fertility idol. This set piece (which has little to do with the main plot) is screenwriting mastery in setting up who the character is, and what his world is all about. One thrilling prologue later, and Dr. Jones is asked by some government stiffs to beat the Nazis in their search for the Ark; the vessel in which the Ten Commandments are purported to be stored. Trouble is, Indy will have to reacquaint himself with an old mentor and convince him to part with a piece that might lead him where he needs to be. Seems Indiana had a dalliance with his mentor’s daughter that ended badly and soured their relationship. But the lure of the Ark is too much to bear. When Indy arrives in Nepal, he quickly discovers his mentor is dead, Marion, his mentor’s girl, still hates him, and the Nazis are at her bar for the same piece. A violent race to find the Ark begins, and takes Indy and Marion halfway around the world trying to beat the Nazis to it. Questions of who they really are and what is truly important challenge Indy and Marion all the way until the thrilling end.Indiana Jones: raiders of the lOst Ark

Raiders, to this reviewer, is perfection incarnate. Yes, there is the aforementioned leap in logic to accept this tale (as well as the Indy on the sub too, I might add) but everything from it’s inception, writing, casting, performing, direction, stunts to John Williams amazing score is as good as it gets in the world of make believe. Love me some Tom Selleck as well, and no disrespect to Magnum at all (his audition is first rate) but despite already being Han Solo, this is where Harrison cemented himself as a leading man. I have no doubt, with the way studios are now, that one day we will see another actor play Indiana Jones, but to me Ford is Indiana Jones. His mannerisms, his sardonic grin, his walk, his very breath is fused into that character so completely that they are still paying him to wear the hat at 78 years old.

Spielberg abandoned films of this ilk long ago (he bowed out of directing the new Indy instalment) but when he delivered the likes of Jaws, three other Indy flicks, Jurassic Park and countless others, one can remain grateful and bask in his impressive legacy.

Lucas wasn’t kidding. He did have something special. Better than Bond? To this reviewer, Raiders wins hands down.

5/5 stars

4K Details

Home Video Distributor: Paramount Pictures
Available on Blu-ray
- June 8, 2021
Screen Formats: 2.39:1
Subtitles
: English, English SDH, French, Italian, Japanese, Spanish, Cantonese, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Korean, Mandarin (Simplified), Mandarin (Traditional), Norwegian, Russian, Swedish, Thai
Audio:
Dolby Atmos; English: Dolby TrueHD 7.1; Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1; Spanish: Dolby Digital 2.0; French: Dolby Digital 5.1; Italian: Dolby Digital 5.1; Italian: Dolby Digital 2.0; Japanese: Dolby Digital 5.1; Japanese: Dolby Digital 2.0; Russian: Dolby Digital 2.0
Discs: 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc; Five-disc set
Region Encoding: Region-free playback

I almost destroyed my keyboard drooling over the 4K restoration of Jaws a while back, so get the water resistant stuff out and raise your umbrella folks, ‘cause I’m about to drool some more!

Video

This, like Jaws (courtesy of Paramount instead of Universal) is an immaculate and honest restoration. I say honest because nothing reeks of modern proclivities encroaching on this classic film. What you get is a flawlessly detailed print, grain intact, and as a result, at this 2160p/DOLBY Vision presentation is as detailed and immersive as you have ever seen Raiders. The depth of colour leaves the previous blu ray in the dust. From the opening, the darks of the jungle and the temple are ink black and colours pop off the screen. Especially impressive is the fertility idol, noticeably blazing off your display with rich and nuanced golds (the HDR working particularly well in this scene). They haven’t reinvented the wheel here. There are almost imperceptible shots that are a touch on the soft side, and the optical effects stand out more so at this resolution, but this is completely faithful to the source, organic even, and the finest the film has ever looked.

Audio

The 7.1 DOLBY Atmos mix is also another massive upgrade over the previous release. With new overhead channels mixed in, a robust soundscape awaits your ears. Again, the start of the film wastes no time in showing you the difference aurally as well as visually. When Indy escapes the boulder, you get a thunderous immersion that I haven’t experienced since seeing it in cinemas. Those who class themselves as audiophiles (which I don’t) will undoubtedly (and correctly) say this isn’t as expansive and detailed as the mixes of modern blockbusters, but I guarantee you a thrilling listen awaits.

Supplements:

Blu-ray Rating

  Movie 5/5 stars
  Video  5/5 stars
  Audio 5/5 stars
  Extras 1/5 stars

Composite Blu-ray Grade

4/5 stars

 


Indiana Jones and the Temple of DoomINDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM

By 1984 Spielberg and Lucas were at the apex of their creative output respectively. In the eyes of both the public, and more importantly the money men, they could do no wrong. Lucas had put to bed the Star Wars trilogy and Spielberg had recovered definitively from his disappointment in comedy 1941 with a juggernaut hit: E.T. Sadly, both their personal lives were not going as swimmingly as their careers, and in retrospect both of them have admitted to being in a darker frame of mind when it came to the next Indiana Jones flick.

"Tonally this is the darkest of the series"


Temple of Doom, as it came to be titled, would be a direction Raiders’ writer Lawrence Kasdan didn’t want to attempt. So they hired husband and wife team Willard Hayck and Gloria Katz, who Lucas knew to be experts on the country this new Indy adventure would be set in: India.

Set four years before Raiders in 1935 (making this a prequel not a sequel), TOD again sees Indiana in the thick of it in Club Obi-wan in Hong Kong, quickly running afoul of some Chinese mobsters trying to make a trade. After a seemingly lucky near miss, Indy finds himself on a cargo plane with his little sidekick, Short Round and lumbered with night club singer Willie Scott. But when the pilots of the plane, owned by the mobster Indy just escaped from, leap from said plane, leaving the unwitting trio at the mercy of a plane with no pilots… and no fuel, they are forced to leap out of the plane onto a mountain before the plane crashes. In an inflatable raft no less! After a ludicrous descent down the mountain into a river, they find themselves met by the elder of a village in India. His village, he claims, has been cursed. No crops will grow and all of the village’s children have been taken and enslaved. He tells Indy that believes he has been sent to help them get back a stolen sacred stone to return prosperity to the village. Indy accepts, but is ill-prepared for the horrors that await them in Pankot Palace.

This is Spielberg and Lucas’s least favourite of the series (maybe until Kingdom of the Crystal Skull anyway), and definitely ups the ante in grotesque imagery and much darker themes. Being a soulless ginger, I have always gravitated to this one and loved it when I saw it at the ripe old age of 9. Indian actor Amrish Puri steals the movie as the sadistic and terrifying Mola Ram. Harrison Ford got in ridiculous shape for this one, cutting his most athletic looking Indy of the series. Ironically, Ford badly injured his back during a fight scene, and Spielberg was forced to shoot around him for the bulk of the finale, with stuntman Vic Armstrong filling in for all but close ups. Willie Scott, played by then future Mrs. Spielberg Kate Capshaw played the nails on chalkboard singer to annoying perfection. She doesn’t work as well. Not because she isn’t good at what she does, and not because there isn’t some amusing to-and-fro between her and Ford. But because after Marion in Raiders, despite this being set before, she just doesn’t seem the type to catch Indy’s eye. It actually is far more interesting when they argue and hate each other, than when he tries to nail her. Ke Hu Quan had caught Spielberg’s eye on The Goonies and his larger than life personality in that diminutive frame is certainly an amusing contrast to Indiana.Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

The set pieces on this one range from ridiculous to edge of your seat thrilling, with the mine cart chase being a particular highlight for this reviewer. Also etched in my memory for all time (and to the chagrin of many parents and critics of the time) was the banquet scene (with chilled monkey brains and eyeball soup!). In fact, this and a few other Spielberg productions of that year ended up in the creation of a new rating for the US: PG-13.

Tonally this is the darkest of the series and I can see why some parents at the time may have balked. But for me, there is enough levity amongst the heroes to make you breathe, and more than that make care when stuff starts getting freaky. Isn’t that the key to good story telling? Is to me! Temple of Doom may be the makers’ least favourite of the series, there’s a tinge of apology in them whenever they speak of it. But for me this is damn fine entertainment; I was involved throughout the story every moment, I cared about what happened to the characters, I think this film has the strongest antagonist of the series (so far), and it was a resounding win in my books

4/5 stars

 

4K Details

Home Video Distributor: Paramount Pictures
Available on Blu-ray
- June 8, 2021
Screen Formats: 2.39:1
Subtitles
: English, English SDH, French, Italian, Japanese, Spanish, Cantonese, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Korean, Mandarin (Simplified), Mandarin (Traditional), Norwegian, Russian, Swedish, Thai
Audio:
Dolby Atmos; English: Dolby TrueHD 7.1; Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1; Spanish: Dolby Digital 2.0; French: Dolby Digital 5.1; Italian: Dolby Digital 5.1; Italian: Dolby Digital 2.0; Japanese: Dolby Digital 5.1; Japanese: Dolby Digital 2.0; Russian: Dolby Digital 2.0
Discs: 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc; Five-disc set
Region Encoding: Region-free playback

Video

This was the film to me that was gonna challenge any restoration, simply for the sheer unending onslaught of the darker palette. With a great portion of the film being set at night. Or in a subterranean temple, blacks and detail loss were a large pitfall to conquer. Conquer they did! BLAZINGLY amazing restoration! Grain is intact and at this resolution brings with it details and intricacy never before seen. Pay particular attention to lower lit scenes: the depth and complexity of colour leaves the previous offering in the dust. The DOLBY Vision HDR also brings richness and depth to the picture never seen before, from Indy and Willie’s white costumes at the start to the rich reds in the thuggee’s temple. The film’s 2160 scan is blemish free, even in compositing shots, and is the best the film has ever looked.

Audio

The new Atmos 7.1 mix ratchets the environmental channels up and makes this mix the most immersive it’s ever been. Again, those expecting a modern mix will say it’s weaker in the overheads (maybe sparing?) but the respectful nuanced mix handles environmental specificity with aplomb, peaking in the mine cart chase. This mix is as crisp as a chip!

Supplements:

Blu-ray Rating

  Movie 4/5 stars
  Video  5/5 stars
  Audio 5/5 stars
  Extras 1/5 stars

Composite Blu-ray Grade

4/5 stars


The Last CrusadeINDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE

The third film of the series’s development sparked the beginning of indecision and subsequently a protracted develop period before cameras started rolling in 1988. Spielberg and Lucas couldn’t find a common theme or a McGuffin they both agreed on, and both anguished over the direction of the assumed last Indy picture. They were both a little gun shy after the reception of the last flick, and at least agreed on lightening things up a little, but, after drafts involving magic peaches, the monkey king and haunted houses, it would take several writers before Jeffrey Boam’s draft would become the template for The Last Crusade.

"1989 was a marquee year for future classics, and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade earned it’s place among them definitively"


The Holy Grail would eventually become the object that lured Dr. Jones out into the world for another adventure. Spielberg acquiesced reluctantly, but insisted on the emotional core of the film being the relationship between Indy and his dad (which made Lucas uneasy).

Kicking off in 1912, The Last Crusade’s prologue introduces us to a young Indy, played by the late River Phoenix, trying to save a cross from fortune hunters. This amusing set piece perfectly dovetails into a repeat attempt to save the cross as a grown man in 1938, and also cleverly invents a reason for Harrison Ford’s chin scar. When Jones returns successfully to his university, he is lured by a wealthy collector of antiquities into searching for the Grail when he discovers his father had been hired to find it first… and is missing. Indy’s old foes from Raiders, the Nazis, are back and in pursuit of the same item. After Indy rescues his dad from their clutches, they begin a search for the Grail with the help of some old friends, and quickly discover all is not what it seems in the race to reach its location. Their plight will reveal more about what’s truly important than their shared goal.

This was a cracking end to the trilogy. Spielberg’s inspired casting of original James Bond, Sean Connery, as Indy’s father worked like gangbusters. His masterful combination of antagonism and cluelessness makes for the perfect foil and the dynamic between him and Ford progresses in a relatable and touching way right up until the end. It’s magical and makes the movie. The rest of cast is pretty great, with returning cast members John Rhys-Davies and Denholm Elliott as Sallah and Brady respectively being a comedic highlight. The villains, including General Veers himself, Julian Glover are serviceable but not memorable. Allison Doody is the weakest of Indy’s dalliances throughout the series; her role is more plot dependant than personality and she suffers for it.The Last Crusade

The action set pieces, added to after a rough cut because Spielberg thought the film lacked it, are also the weakest of the trilogy, but still impressive. Perhaps its just a spoiled viewer’s point of view, having Raiders and Temple of Doom’s action scenes burned into my memory for all time.

John Williams, surprise surprise, knocks it out the park again with new themes and old all melding beautifully in an evocative and at times moving score.

If this was indeed the end of the series (and some like to pretend it is) then it couldn’t have gone better. They may have dragged their heals getting it into theatres this time out, but it was worth the 5 year wait. 1989 was a marquee year for future classics, and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade earned it’s place among them definitively.

4/5 stars

4K Details

Home Video Distributor: Paramount Pictures
Available on Blu-ray
- June 8, 2021
Screen Formats: 2.39:1
Subtitles
: English, English SDH, French, Italian, Japanese, Spanish, Cantonese, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Korean, Mandarin (Simplified), Mandarin (Traditional), Norwegian, Russian, Swedish, Thai
Audio:
Dolby Atmos; English: Dolby TrueHD 7.1; Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1; Spanish: Dolby Digital 2.0; French: Dolby Digital 5.1; Italian: Dolby Digital 5.1; Italian: Dolby Digital 2.0; Japanese: Dolby Digital 5.1; Japanese: Dolby Digital 2.0; Russian: Dolby Digital 2.0
Discs: 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc; Five-disc set
Region Encoding: Region-free playback

Video

This filmic and faithful 2160 scan of the original camera negs makes it three for three in Paramount’s flawless restoration. There are no signs of DNR, and the detail is off the chart. It’s truly like looking at the film with a microscope, such is the detail and refinement of Douglas Slocombe’s camera work. As with the previous two, the transfer handles the darkest locations to the blazing desert vistas effortlessly. The rich colours from the prologue pop of the screen, the skin tones, the costumes, everything looks as good as it ever has.

Audio

Gush, gush, gush. Man, I’m boring. But what can I say? It’s another brilliant Atmos mix. There are some impressive direction effects, like tank shells flying over your head, heady and immersive sub woofer use, and clear, clean and crisp dialogue coming out of the front channels. Your system will absolutely get a workout with these films, and reward you for putting the discs in. Immersive, powerful and brilliant from the first minute to it’s last.

Supplements:

Blu-ray Rating

  Movie 4/5 stars
  Video  5/5 stars
  Audio 5/5 stars
  Extras 1/5 stars

Composite Blu-ray Grade

4/5 stars


Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL

Well, here we are at the final (until next year) entry in the franchise. One we probably never thought would happen. Lucas went off to make Star Wars prequels, Spielberg started making more adult and real world stories, and as a new millennium dawned, the (as voted) most bankable movie star of the 20th century’s career started to wane. There were always whispers and off-handed mentions from key players, including the usually aloof Ford, that if the right script came along they would be happy to make another. But that was the issue: it didn’t. If one thought that the journey to The Last Crusade was lengthy, then KOTCS said hold my beer. It would be 19 years before another entry would grace our screens in 2008… and some people lost their freaking minds over it.

"The villains, even played by the great Cate Blanchett, were the weakest of the series"


 

When I wrote the theatrical review for this entry, I have never received so much hate for one of my positive reviews in the 14 years I’ve been writing them. I got accused of being on Lucasfilm’s payroll (I wish) questions of my sanity and honesty almost to point of questioning my parentage! I said then, and I’ll say it again now: I really liked this movie. I have always been a tragic and avid lover of 50s B-movies and of course, if you have gotten this far into the review, you know I don’t half mind Indiana Jones either. This film gave me a fusion of both, completely removed in DNA from the first three films for sure, but (for the most part) I loved what they did.

Set in 1957, Indy is now a part time teacher and still getting into a mess of trouble now with Russians who want him to locate the body of a Roswell alien in Area 51. After being double crossed by a friend, fired from the university, and now suspected of being a Russian conspirator, Indy is approached by a young man who claims to be the son of Marion Ravenwood. Marion has been kidnapped trying to go to the aid of a mutual acquaintance of theirs obsessed in Crystal Skulls and the lost city of Akator. Of course, hearing Marion is in trouble, Indy decides to go get her. The usual Indy adventure ensues, facing perils and enemies and a race to the McGuffin.

What amazed me is that Harrison Ford, now well into his sixties, didn’t skip a beat meeting the challenges and physicality of the role. Indy is older, yes, but he’s still got his wits and a spring in his step. The passing of time is swiftly and gently acknowledged with photos on his desk of his now deceased father and Marcus Brody and an eloquent line to him by a throw away character: ‘We seem to have reached the age where life stops giving things and starts taking them away.’Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Let’s get what I wasn’t fond of out of the way: the replacement archetypes for Marcus Brody, Sallah, and Henry Jones are underwritten and instantly forgettable. Without looking them up, I can barely remember their names. They’re place holders and more imagination should have been expended to have Indy share his world with different personalities, instead of weaker replacements that can only be less. The overuse of CGI, while I’m sure an economical choice, certainly sets this one well apart from the trilogy. It just amplifies the artifice and disconnect from the original films. The villains, even played by the great Cate Blanchett, were the weakest of the series. And sadly, Marion wasn’t given much to do, being relegated less to afford space for those nothing characters aforementioned. I like the notion of Indy ending up with her; I was less enthused with the execution. She deserved better.

What I loved was the score, the notion of interdimensional beings, the 1950s backdrop, and yeah even Shia LaBeouf’s Mutt, CGI monkeys aside. And Ford defying his advancing years to kick ass like he was still in his forties.

Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is weaker than the others. Nearly 20 years removed from the others, it’s DNA is different, it feels different, it couldn’t possibly contain all the players, both behind and in front of the camera. But being different didn’t spoil it for me. Acknowledging the passing of time was obligated, and I still got a kick out of it, even now. The question I asked myself after the divisive reception of this film was why, even acknowledging that this is the weakest of the films, did I still get a kick out of it? The answer was clear: I already have three adventures filmed in the same decade that will always stand the trust of time. They brought my favourite character to life and, even on his off days, spending time with him is always a pleasure in my book.

Next year we see if Ford can put his career defining role to bed approaching 80 years old. I’m looking forward to seeing him do it, and I believe he can.

3/5 stars

 

4K Details

Home Video Distributor: Paramount Pictures
Available on Blu-ray
- June 8, 2021
Screen Formats: 2.39:1
Subtitles
: English, English SDH, French, Italian, Japanese, Spanish, Cantonese, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Korean, Mandarin (Simplified), Mandarin (Traditional), Norwegian, Russian, Swedish, Thai
Audio:
Dolby Atmos; English: Dolby TrueHD 7.1; Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1; Spanish: Dolby Digital 2.0; French: Dolby Digital 5.1; Italian: Dolby Digital 5.1; Italian: Dolby Digital 2.0; Japanese: Dolby Digital 5.1; Japanese: Dolby Digital 2.0; Russian: Dolby Digital 2.0
Discs: 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc; Five-disc set
Region Encoding: Region-free playback

Video

While it may be the least favoured Indy movie, it cleans up the winner trophy for 4K transfer. Made nearly two decades later, the film stock used was superior to the first three and it shows at this resolution. The picture looks flawless, organic and breathtaking. HDR from the DOLBY Vision obliterates the flatter presentation of the blu ray to provide and immersive dimensional picture that is a feast for the eyes. Paramount has knocked this set out of the park.

Audio

Absolutely flawless ATMOS presentation, rich in directionality, engrossing immersive sound from start to finish. This is a first rate mix that can equal any modern mix for sheer thump and efficacy.
Absolute feast for the ears.

Supplements:

Blu-ray Rating

  Movie 3/5 stars
  Video  5/5 stars
  Audio 5/5 stars
  Extras 1/5 stars

Composite Blu-ray Grade

3.5/5 stars

 

Art

Indiana Jones

 

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