Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (Blu-ray) (2008)
Featurette-Return Of A Legend
Featurette-The Crystal Skulls
Featurette-The Effects Of Indy.
Featurette-Adventures In Post Production
Featurette-Pre Visualization Sequences
Featurette-Closing Team Indy
|Year Of Production||2008|
|RSDL / Flipper||
Dual Disc Set
|Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||4||Directed By||Steven Spielberg|
Paramount Home Entertainment
|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|
|Original Aspect Ratio||2.40:1||Miscellaneous|
English for the Hearing Impaired
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
The Lucas giveth, and the Lucas taketh away. George Lucas gave us the much-loved original Star Wars trilogy, but then followed it with the disappointment of Episodes 1 to 3. Lucas also gave us the wonderful trilogy of Indiana Jones adventure films, only to follow it with one of the most disappointing sequels in recent years. A film that at first glance looks and sounds like an Indy film, but on closer inspection is merely a hollow pastiche. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull never allows itself to be the type of fun, cheesy B-Movie it wants to be - it's far too self-aware and contrived. But both Lucasfilm and Indiana Jones are finally making their high definition debut, and the quality of the BD is outstanding.
In 1981 the action-packed adventure film Raiders of the Lost Ark won over audiences worldwide with its fun homage to the matinee cliff hanger movie serials of yesteryear. Set in the 1930s, archaeology professor and tomb raider Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) sets out on a US Government mission to find the lost ark of the covenant before the Nazis. Teaming up with his spirited ex-girlfriend, Marion (Karen Allen), Indy’s fun adventures would become one of the most successful popcorn films of all time.
Producer George Lucas and director Steven Spielberg reunited in 1984 for Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, and Ford donned his now famous fedora for some more whip-cracking action. On Indy’s quest to return a stolen mystical artefact to an Indian village, he is joined by snappy, cabaret singer Willie (Kate Capshaw), and a young comic sidekick Short Round (Ke Huy Quan).
In 1989 Indy teamed up with his father, also an archaeology professor, Henry Jones Sr (Sean Connery), on a quest for the Holy Grail in Indian Jones and the Last Crusade. Filled with plenty of laughs and adventure, the Last Crusade was a fitting end to the action-packed trilogy, with Indy literally riding off into the sunset.
However rumours of a fourth Indy film started circulating in earnest over five years ago, and after many false starts, and almost 20 years after what we believed to be the final film, Dr. Jones returned to the big screen this year in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal skull. Making a fourth film all these years later would always be risky. After all, surely the filmmakers know that our nostalgic, childhood memories are at stake here. Which might also explain some of my reaction to the film: When I saw Raiders of the Lost Ark at the cinemas I wasn’t even a teenager yet, and I can still vividly recall how enthralling, fun, and exciting it was. I’ll admit my expectations of an Indy film might be unreasonably high.
Sadly, although Crystal Skull at first looks and sounds like an Indiana Jones film, and even though there are some exciting action sequences, it is merely a hollow pastiche. The film never allows itself to be the type of fun cheesy B-Movie it wants to be, it's far too self-aware and contrived. Crystal Skull is winking and knowing every minute. This hollowness becomes apparent pretty quickly. Despite all their interviews to the contrary, it almost seems like screenwriter David Koepp, as well as Lucas, Spielberg, and Ford were all forced to make this movie, and would all rather be doing something else.
Crystal Skull also suffers when you compare its cast to the original trilogy. The first three Indy films all had great supporting characters with actors providing excellent and memorable performances. But with the latest installment, we get a collection of otherwise excellent actors who are all complete duds in this film: Cate Blanchett school-play caricature of a KGB Agent is embarrassing. Ray Winstone plays Indy’s colleague, but the character and relationship is left undeveloped so there is little emotional impact. John Hurt phones in a rambling performance which is completely forgettable. Karen Allen who shone as the feisty love interest in the first Indy film has now been reduced to a love-struck getaway driver. Finally, a miscast Shia LaBeouf attempts to play a 1950s motorcycle bad-boy similar to Marlon Brando in the Wild One. But LaBeouf looks more like Richie Cunningham out of Happy Days, who has turned up dressed as the Fonze. He is so grossly miscast in the role that I truly wonder what is really behind Spielberg pushing his career, by also placing him in the other recent big-budget films he’s produced such as Transformers and Eagle Eye.
Both Lucas and Spielberg are masters at SFX, but the overuse of CGI and green-screen shooting gives the film an almost cartoon-like appearance. At no time did I actually feel the characters were in any real danger. Indeed, the only time I was really scared was when I first saw Karen Allen’s face.
Crystal Skull also suffers from action set pieces which are completely ridiculous. Not wanting to give anything away, let me just mention: 'prairie dogs', 'the fridge', 'the monkeys', 'the waterfalls', and 'the vine swinging'. No doubt most people would have seen all the publicity and trailers showing the main action set piece of the film – a chase scene in which the characters battle between two army vehicles racing through the Amazon Jungle which surprisingly, and very conveniently, has two side-by-side roads running through it - who knew?
Okay, so the original three Indy films stretched the boundaries of believability too. Was the rollercoaster chase in the mine shafts of Temple of Doom any less ridiculous than the Amazon Jungle chase scene in Crystal Skull? Of course not. But the big difference was that the first three films were so much fun, and so fast-paced, that we never had time (nor the inclination) to question supernatural arks, magic glowing stones, or cups holding eternal life. Also, by using a generic and well-known archaeological artefacts such as the Ark of the Covenant or a well-known ‘quest item’ such as the Holy Grail, the scripts never got bogged down in chatty scenes of exposition. Rather, the original trilogy just got on with the fun, the action, and developing the characters and relationships. But with Crystal Skull, the MacGuffin weighs the story down. The crystal skulls are not widely-known, and thus throughout the film there is plenty of dialogue trying to explain what the skull is, why it's magnetized, why it’s crystallized, why it’s secret, why it’s buried, why it has that odd shape . . . Give me a rolling boulder chasing Indy any day.
Spielberg’s fascination with the WWII era, aliens, and his recurrent father-son theme is well-known. But Crystal Skull seems to take a very odd turn for an Indy film with its Chariots of the Gods inspired story. The original Trilogy all had a religious, usually Christian, mythology underpinning them – not aliens. The 1930s and 40s cliffhanger film serials are very different to the 1950s UFO genre. While it is possible to mix the two film genres, the results might not be satisfying – a bit like pouring two of your favourite (but different) drinks into one glass.
The story is set in 1957 which allows Ford to look all his 65 years. It’s the post WWII-McArthy era, and everyone in the US is obsessed with the red scare. Dr. Jones is understandably now no longer a swashbuckling movie idol smiling and dropping one-liners, and more an angry and frowning university professor. The film opens in a Nevada dessert - Area 51. Indy and his partner Mac (Winstone) have been captured by the evil Irina Spalko (Blanchett) and her Russian henchmen. They have been taken to a sprawling military warehouse full of dusty old crates, and Indy is ordered to find a crate holding an artefact he discovered some years earlier. Indy manages to escape from his Russian captors, only to find that he has been suspended from teaching as a suspected traitor. A young 1950’s motorcycle greaser, Mutt Williams (LaBeouf), then enlists Indy's help find his missing mother (Allen), and a former colleague and friend of Indy’s, Professor Oxley (Hurt). The film’s MacGuffin is the mysterious Crystal Skull of Akator, which was stolen from a City of Gold in the Amazon. The skull provides psychic abilities to its possessor. Indy and Mutt journey to Peru in search of the City of Gold, pursued by the Soviets who want the power of the skull for themselves in the Cold War.
Crystal Skull is the first Indy film to be presented with a high definition transfer, having been authored in 1920 x 1080p. The film has been encoded using AVC MPEG-4 compression, and is presented in a widescreen aspect ratio of 2.40:1, in a native 16x9 frame. This is the film's original theatrical ratio.
As mentioned above, the overuse of CGI and green-screen shooting gives the film an almost cartoon-like appearance, but the transfer is true to the source. The sharpness of the image is excellent throughout, for example consider the fine detail of the writing and diagrams on the papers at 37:08. The black level is excellent, with deep and true blacks. The shadow detail is also excellent, for example look at the textures in the dimly-lit campfire scene at 56:32.
The colour is excellent throughout, with a well-saturated colour palette and accurate skin tones.
Unlike the original trilogy, there is very little film grain. There are also no problems with MPEG artefacts or Film-To-Video Artefacts such as aliasing. I never spotted any film artefacts such as small black or white marks. This is an excellent presentation of a pristine print.
20 subtitle streams are present, and the English subtitles are accurate to the spoken word.
This is a BD-50 (50 GB Blu-ray disc), with the feature divided into 16 chapters.
Crystal Skull has a great surround sound design, and the lossless surround audio does it justice.
The BD offers a few audio options for the feature: English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 (48kHz/24-bit), as well as German, Spanish, French, and Italian dubs all encoded with standard Dolby Digital 5.1 (all encoded at 640kbps). Dolby TrueHD Lossless audio is capable of carrying up to eight discrete audio channels, at a sample depth and rate of 24-bit/96 kHz. The maximum bitrate that can be encoded is 18 Mbps.
As the characters are on speeding motorcycles, or in cars, on boats, or planes, there is extensive use of ADR, but the dialogue quality and audio sync are excellent throughout on the default English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track.
The musical score is of course credited to the great John Williams, whose impressive body of work now includes the very successful franchises of the Star Wars, Superman, Jurassic Park, Harry Potter and Indiana Jones films. As with his beautifully emotive scores for ET and Jaws, it's hard to imagine an Indy film without Williams' music.
As one would expect, this movie has a very aggressive surround presence, with a great range and plenty of surround activity. The rear speakers are used effectively to help carry Williams' score and provide ambience throughout. There are also plenty of split-rear directional effects, and panning between speakers throughout. The subwoofer is also utilised very effectively throughout and carries some punch when needed.
|Surround Channel Use|
There are a large number of genuine extras presented in high definition, spread across two discs:
As with other BDs, the menu can be accessed while the film is playing.
Indiana Jones Timelines
This is a text-based featurette providing three timelines - History, Story, and Production. Viewers can drill down on certain points of interest for more information and photographic stills.
Return of a Legend (17:34)
Featuring interviews and behind-the-scenes footage, Spielberg, Lucas, and Ford discuss why they made a fourth film.
A look behind-the-scenes at some of the pre-production work such as the story boarding and animatics, the photography, costumes, training of the actors.
Trailers for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal skull
There are two trailers, a teaser and a standard theatrical trailer. Strangely, they are titled Trailer 2 and 3.
Production Diary: Making Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (80:52)
A comprehensive behind-the-scenes 'making-of' featurette, composed of the following chapters:
Warrior Makeup (5:34)
A look at the design and execution of the native warrior character makeup
The Crystal Skulls (10:10)
Featuring Spielberg, Lucas, and Ford, this featurette looks at the mysterious crystal skulls.
Iconic Props (9:59)
A brief look at the symbolism and iconography in the props used in the Indy films.
The Effects Of Indy (22:42)
Featuring Paul Huston from ILM, this looks at the evolution from physical effects and use of miniature models in the original trilogy to the use of CGI effects in Crystal Skull.
Adventures In Post Production (12:44)
A brief look at the prost-production work such as the editing, effects, and score. Composer John Williams makes an all-to-brief appearance.
Closing Team Indy (3:41)
This provides 'visual credits' for some of the many people who worked on this film.
A look at the storyboard/animatics behind three scenes:
- The Art Department
The Adventure Begins (29 images)
Cemetary and Jungle (38 images)
Akator (101 images)
- Stan Winston Studio
Corpses, Skeletons & Mummies (34 images)
Aliens & Crystal Skulls (42 images)
- Production Photographs (72 images)
- Portraits (63 images)
- Behind-the-Scenes Photographs (39 images)
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
Crystal Skull will be released globally on BD with the same content, with only minor language and subtitle differences.
The recent Mummy 3 saved Crystal Skull from being the worst blockbuster sequel released this year. But to be fair, although Crystal Skull is disappointing, and undoubtedly the worst of the four Indy films, it's still better than many of the forgettable action-adventure films that have been released in the last 20 years.
The video quality is excellent.
The audio quality is excellent.
The extras are genuine and plentiful.
|DVD||Sony Playstation 3 (HDMI 1.3) with Upscaling, using HDMI output|
|Display||Panasonic High Definition 50' Plasma (127 cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.|
|Amplification||Samsung Pure Digital 6.1 AV Receiver (HDMI 1.3)|