Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (Blu-ray) (2008)

If you create a user account, you can add your own review of this DVD

Released 29-Oct-2008

Cover Art

This review is sponsored by
BUY IT

Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Adventure Featurette-Return Of A Legend
Featurette-Pre Production
Featurette-Timeline
Teaser Trailer
Theatrical Trailer
Featurette-Production Diary
Featurette-The Crystal Skulls
Featurette-Warrior Makeup
Featurette-Iconic Props
Featurette-The Effects Of Indy.
Featurette-Adventures In Post Production
Featurette-Pre Visualization Sequences
Featurette-Closing Team Indy
Gallery-Photo-Production Photographs
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2008
Running Time 122:32
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Steven Spielberg
Studio
Distributor

Paramount Home Entertainment
Starring Harrison Ford
Cate Blanchett
Karen Allen
Shia LaBeouf
Ray Winstone
John Hurt
Case Amaray Variant
RPI $39.95 Music John Williams


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby TrueHD 5.1
German Dolby Digital 5.1 (640Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 (640Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 5.1 (640Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 5.1 (640Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.40:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.40:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles Danish
German
Greek
English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Spanish
Finnish
French
Hungarian
Italian
Dutch
Norwegian
Polish
Portuguese
Swedish
Turkish
German Titling
Spanish Titling
French Titling
Italian Titling
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

(February 20, 2012) A note here: Time, as they say in some circles, can change anything. Although my view of the entertainment value of Crystal Skull has not changed, it definitely is the worst-written of the four films. You see, the other three films, for all of their implausibility, allowed one to accept a certain diminished logic because they were tightly-written. That, in a nutshell, is the problem with Crystal Skull. As George Lucas seems to be content to have first-draft scripts form the basis of any work he is associated with nowadays, I suspect that is exactly what happened here. Make of that what you will. Of all the things I never expected to hear at this stage of my life, "let's go see the new Indiana Jones film" would have to be in the top ten, if not the number one spot. That I am now watching it in a format that has more dots per square inch than the format I originally saw the first one in has in a whole frame is just a bonus.

    Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull (hereafter referred to as Crystal Skull for the sake of brevity), like just about anything George Lucas involves himself in this days, has split critical viewers right down the middle. Some of the criticisms are valid. The main story really could have used another drafting. Some of the criticisms are just plain moronic. Why take issue with the myriad of impossible things Jones does throughout the film? It is not as if he never did anything impossible in the other three films. Hell, he goes two hours in Temple Of Doom without strangling the "heroine" in the hope of shutting her up.

    That said, the fact that Harrison Ford is now sixty-six years old (and, it must be said, looks all of eighty) necessitated a change in the setting of the story. So, approximately twenty years later, the Nazis are no longer of any concern. But history has a way of repeating, and a new enemy bent on domination of the world has risen to take their place. Hell, fifty or so years after this film is set, they will rise again seeking to cure people like Steven Spielberg of what makes them Steven Spielberg. If there is one aspect of every story in this genre that will never lose its relevance, that's the one. Anyway, as a small throng of Russian Communists break into Area 51 with an ease that can only occur in the movies, Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) emerges as a hostage. The Russians want an artifact that Jones has worked on and now resides here. Jones has about as much intention of letting them get their hands on it as he has of neatening himself up.

    The adventure proper begins as Jones sets off in pursuit of the Russians and an artefact that is somehow connected to the artifact that they liberated from Area 51. The artifact is, as the title suggests, a skull with a crystal texture. Nothing remarkable about that, you might say, but this particular skull has particularly strong psychic powers. Long story short, the Russians, as led by a scientist who calls herself Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett), want to bring the skull back to the city it originated from because they have reason to believe doing so will grant them special powers. Indiana's task is to stop them by any means he can. Taking with him a young motorcycling punk who calls himself Mutt (Shia LaBeouf), Indiana's first order of business is to track down a colleague by the name of Harold Oxley (John Hurt). Oxley is one of the unfortunate souls who dared to look into the eyes of the crystal skull, and as a result is somewhat unhinged.

    Crystal Skull is not like the other episodes in the franchise, and that is both good and bad. The good news is that as a two hour action-adventure, Crystal Skull has much to recommend it. Harrison Ford can play this role in his sleep, but the support cast acquits themselves very nicely in the bargain. The nostalgia factor also works surprisingly well. There is something about seeing Indiana Jones admit that he is old and his best days are behind him that makes him even more endearing. But for me, the ultimate appeal of the character lies in his Iron Man-like ability to outpunch and outthink his opponents, often in the same breath. Sure, Crystal Skull is no Raiders Of The Lost Ark, but it is a cut above Temple Of Doom. My biggest complaint about the film is really the tame-ness of it all. If you have already seen it, then you know what I mean when I say that I was quite miffed by the absence of any head explosions.

    Oh who am I kidding? You will have already decided whether or not to add this film to your collection by now. The question is whether this BD-Video will show the film in its best possible light.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

    Crystal Skull is presented in the aspect ratio of 2.40:1 within a 1920 by 1080 progressive window. The transfer was encoded in AVCHD, and usually hovers about 30 to 35 Mbps.

    This is a sharp transfer. Foilage, grey hairs, beard stubble, and other such fine details all leap out of the screen as can only be the case on Blu-ray. The scenes in the South American jungle are rife with so much fine detail that it makes me weep and shake my head that we did not have HD twenty-five years ago. Helping matters is the progressive formatting, which leaves no need for those pesky desharpening filters and the like. So why am I throwing out all these superlatives? Well, I happened to catch Crystal Skull in a theatre that projects digitally, and by gods it was soft there. This transfer is, by comparison, like night and day. If the studios desire the total elimination of the theatrical circuit in film distribution, transfers like this are definitely going the right way about it. Shadow detail is excellent, although infrequently called for, and there is no low-level noise.

    The colours in the transfer have a rich, larger-than-life palette, reflecting the intentions of the filmmakers. No bleeding or misregistration was noted.

    Compression artefacts were not noted in the transfer. The efficiency of the codec and the high bitrate see to that. Film-to-video artefacts were not noted in the transfer, either. If there were any film artefacts, I blinked and missed them. As one would expect from such a young film, this is a stupefyingly clean transfer.

    Subtitles are available in English and English for the Hearing Impaired. The latter are quite accurate to the spoken word.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    Matching an excellent video transfer is the kind of audio transfer that forms Chapter Two in the thousand-page epic I am writing entitled Why I Will Not Watch DVD Anymore.

    Five soundtracks are present on this disc. None of them are audio commentaries. The first, and default, is the original English dialogue in Dolby TrueHD 5.1, which I listened to. Dubs in German, Spanish, French, and Italian are also offered, utilising the regular lossy version of Dolby Digital.

    I keep finding that no matter how underspecified or limited the equipment I listen to these soundtracks on, the lossless soundtracks always manage to preserve a sense of space between the major elements. This is especially the case on Crystal Skull. The music, sound effects, and dialogue all have their little envelope in the soundstage that enables their content to be understood far more easily than will be the case on DVD. This, in turn, makes the utterances of cast members as they flee from whatever monster is at their heels much easier to decipher. No problems were noted with audio sync.

    The music consists of a score by John Williams, with a couple of interspersed songs from the period. If you have seen an Indiana Jones film before, you know what to expect. Loud, boisterous, and dominated by signature cues, the score is a fairly typical Williams piece.

    The surround channels are used consistently to provide a fairly immersive field that augments the onscreen action well. The rears are almost always active, with split surround and directional effects being the norm rather than the exception. A scant few dialogue sequences become somewhat frontal in nature, but even these have at least some surround activity to keep those speakers exercised.

    The subwoofer is used aggressively to support action sequences, music, and environmental effects. It is silent more frequently than the surrounds, but well-integrated with the rest of the soundtrack.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    A substantial number of extras are present. Much to my delight, the cover art has it that they are almost entirely in High Definition.

Menu

    The menu is themed around the film, with maps and gold-tinted footage. The Top Menu is very straightforward to navigate, and fully-featured. The Pop-Up Menu is silent, features a fast response time, and is simple to navigate. Other studios, please take note.

Theatrical Trailer 2

    A one minute, forty-six second trailer in the aspect ratio of 2.40:1 with Dolby 5.1 audio. Makes the film's pace seem faster than it really is.

Theatrical Trailer 3

    One minute, forty-nine seconds. Aspect ratio 2.40:1, with Dolby 5.1 audio.

Notes - Indiana Jones Timelines

    A menu-bound extra that presents a trio of timelines, after a disclaimer stating that they are strictly for entertainment purposes. Three timelines are presented. One is of the historical events that the film is (very loosely) based upon, one is of the events in the film, and the third is of the time between conception and completion of the film itself. The last of the three is probably the most interesting, given the six year gap between the team "getting back together" and the final version of the script being completed. Note that selecting this extra will incur extra delay, with that three-frame Indiana Jones silohuette animation, as the content is loaded.

Feautrette - The Return Of A Legend

    Presented in the aspect ratios of 1.78:1 and 2.40:1, in High Definition, with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio. It is high time we saw a making-of featurette with similar visual quality to the main feature, so this was well worth watching for that reason. Okay, it is sort of an electronic press kit featurette, but it is a much more interesting one than the expected norm. George Lucas is certainly carrying that extra chin very well. Seventeen minutes and thirty-four seconds.

Featurette - Pre-Production

    Also presented in the aspect ratios of 1.78:1 and 2.40:1, with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio. From my own perspective, this is probably the most interesting featurette in the lot, as it covers all of the technical trickery and editing aspects of the production. It could be considered a little too revealing in a sense, as it does tend to make lies out of Spielberg's statements regarding how little CGI there would be in the finished film. It also shows the truth of claims about the photographic similarities between the four films, which is possibly the most comforting element of the new film. Eleven minutes and forty-four seconds.

Disc Two

Featurette - Production Diary: Making Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull

    Split into half a dozen sub-featurettes that can be played separately or together, with a total running time of eighty minutes and fifty-two seconds. In menu order, the sub-featurettes are:

    The featurettesd are presented in the aspect ratio of 1.78:1, with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio. Most of the featurette is High Definition, but there is a fair amount of interlaced and standard def material mixed in. Again, if you have an interest in the filmmaking process at all, this is well worth a look.

Featurette - Warrior Makeup

    Five minutes and thirty-three seconds. The interest factor takes a bit of a nose-dive here, as this would certainly be one of the least interesting parts of the finished film. Presented in the aspect ratio of 1.78:1 with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio.

Featurette - The Crystal Skulls

    Ten minutes and ten seconds. Presented in the aspect ratio of 1.78:1 with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio. Your basic fluff piece that tries to play up the real-world "mystery".

Featurette - Iconic Props

    Nine minutes and fifty-nine seconds, in the aspect ratio of 1.78:1 with film footage in 2.40:1 and Dolby Digital 2.0 audio. If you cannot guess the subject matter from the title... And yes, this is slightly more interesting than the previous two featurettes.

Featurette - The Effects Of Indy

    Twenty-two minutes and thirty-eight seconds. Aspect ratio varies between 1.78:1 to 2.40:1 and a couple of intermediate stages between, with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio. Again, this featurette has the effect of showing that CGI was used a great deal more than people were expecting, with the creation of CGI car models covered in particularly loving detail. What is interesting to note is how the actors are used in context of all this effects work.

Featurette - Adventure In Post Production

    Twelve minutes and forty-four seconds. Aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and 2.40:1 with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio. This featurette covers what is still the lengthiest and most intensive stage of any film production. Sound designer Ben Burtt makes a very welcome appearance. No explanation is offered, however, for the absence of the cannon-like gunshots and head explosions. And as always, it is always quite fascinating to see John Williams conducting the orchestra as they play that piece of score music.

Featurette - Closing: Team Indy

    Three minutes and forty-one seconds. Aspect ratio 1.78:1 , with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio. Most of this featurette is basically a shout-out to the people whose names appear way down the credits list, the unsung heroes of the production.

Featurettes - Pre-Visualisation Sequences

    Three pre-visualisations of key scenes from the film, which can only be played separately. These are:

    Each is presented in the aspect ratio of 1.78:1 with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio. I cannot wait to see the video game.

Photo Galleries

    Five photo galleries:

    Really, once you have seen one photo gallery, you have seen them all.

Overall, a large without being bloated extras package.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The two discs appear to be fairly identically specified, save for less Audio and Subtitle language options on the Region A version.

Summary

    Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull is going to be the red-haired stepchild of the franchise for the foreseeable future, it would seem. Myself, I am frankly surprised that it turned out as well as it did. It is not a perfect film by any means, and one will not walk away from it with any greater insight into humanity than they previously had. But it is exactly what an honest viewer should be looking for when walking into an Indiana Jones film - a fun adventure that says goodbye to the laws of physics in the first reel and does not look back.

    The video transfer is excellent.

    The audio transfer is excellent.

    The extras are numerous, and of slightly better quality than has so far been the case on BD.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Dean McIntosh (Don't talk about my bio. We don't wanna know.)
Tuesday, November 04, 2008
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S350, using HDMI output
DisplayPanasonic Viera TH-42PZ700A. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony STR DE-835
SpeakersYamaha NS-45 Front Speakers, Yamaha NS-90 Rear Speakers, Yamaha NSC-120 Centre Speaker, JBL Digital 10 Active Subwoofer

Other Reviews
Michael D's Region 4 DVD Info Page - Roger T. Ward (Some say he's afraid of the Dutch, and that he's stumped by clouds. All we know, this is his bio.)
Michael D's Region 4 DVD Info Page - Brandon (warning: bio hazard)

Comments (Add)
Censorship details - Le Messor (bio logy class) REPLY POSTED
Quite enjoyed it... until the ending (spoilers) - Simon O'Connor (I wouldn't suggest reading my bio) REPLY POSTED