Of all the movies I was most keen to see during 2008 Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was at the top of the list. Despite some of the negative word about the numerous script rewrites, and a first trailer which seemed to miss the beat a little I still had high hopes. On May 22nd I headed to my pre-booked seats at my local Gold Class cinema prepared to be blown away; to relive my childhood; to see that cinematic magic rekindled. Was it entertaining? Yes. Was it all I hoped for? No. But that's not saying it's a bad movie by any stretch of the imagination.
Famed archaeologist/adventurer Dr. Henry "Indiana" Jones is called back into action when he becomes entangled in a Soviet plot to uncover the secret behind mysterious artifacts known as the Crystal Skulls. Along the way he befriends a young man named Mutt, and bumps into an old friend - Marion Ravenwood.
If you haven't seen this movie yet, then go into it with low expectations. If your anticipation levels are sky high then you'll likely be disappointed. What we are presented with is a great 'popcorn' flick which, given the passing of 20 years since the last movie has moved on from the Nazi's of World War II to the US/Soviet Cold War era. The movie certainly opens with a bang with a fantastic opening sequence which ends up in a rather over the top, but entertaining, escape in a fridge. Following that we are introduced to Mutt and the main adventure to discover the Crytal Skulls begins. Many key Indiana themes remain here, his fear of snakes, his love/hate relationship with Marion, scenes in the university where he lectures, and of course the whip comes out on occasion too.
So where do my disappointments with the movie lie? Well there are a couple of things. The first problem occurs about 10 seconds into the movie. The prairie dog. Why, for the love of god, do you have to have a Jar Jar inspired creature pop up in your movie? Pointless. The second issue is the editing. At times it seems a little off. Can I point to a single moment? Not really. But the movie, despite its short length, seems a little long winded in places, and lacking moments in others. I also felt that there should have been more character interaction and development. Whenever Indiana and Marion are on-screen together everything seems to liven up with their debates, but there isn't enough of this in the movie.
The big issue though is that despite claims by Spielberg that he was going to avoid the use of CG, this film is littered with it. Worse still is the fact that much of the work isn't too good and it's quite obvious what's CG and what is not. Sure, the ants have to be CG, we understand, that but the cars driving along the cliff's - you see better in Motorstorm on the PS3.
While not a terrible movie by any stretch of the imagination Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is not up to the standards set by it's predecessors. If you go into this movie just hoping for a fun 'popcorn' flick then you should be entertained. If this movie does one thing, it really makes you long for another sequel in the hope that Spielberg and Lucas can rekindle even more of that magic.
Encoded in Blu-Ray's standard 1080p resolution at the films original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 this AVC MPEG-4 encoded disc is a sight to behold. Colours are rich an vibrant, the level of detail is impressive even on the background objects, even in the many darker scenes. At times though the colouring seemed a little inconsistent between scenes.
There are so many moments which you could use as a 'reference quality' moments, but have a look at any of the outdoor scenes or the chase with the natives. One prime example of where the Blu-Ray outshines the DVD due the high resolution is when Indy throws the magnetic gunpowder into the air and it flies towards the crate Irena is looking for in the Area 51 warehouse. The finest particles and sparks are visible and it's looks wonderful.
All-in-all Indian Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is a stunning disc visually. Despite many of the scenes taking place in dark locations such as caverns, the detail remains impressive.
Legendary composer John Williams has returned to compose the music and the movie has plenty of delightful Indiana Jones score littered throughout. It's the small things though that makes this so special. The way in which the music from Raiders of the Lost Ark plays subtly in the opening scene in the warehouse where America's secrets, including the Ark, have been stored is magical.
Other languages on this disc include German, French, Italian and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks, each encoded at 640kbps. We only sampled each briefly, but there is little doubt that each will impress.
Subtitles are provided in English and English for the Hearing Impaired. Both timing and accuracy to dialogue on screen is suitable. There are fourteen other subtitle tracks on this disc including Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Italian, Norwegian, Polish< Portuguese, Spanish, Swedish and Turkish.
In typical Paramount style this disc comes loaded with extras, so much so that this is a 2-disc set to accommodate everything. Let's have a look at what you'll get on the release...
Indiana Jones Timeline: This great feature allows you to look at the Production Timeline, Story Timeline and History Timeline. There are links between each to related events, and as well as pages of text there are also numerous brief video clips for many topics.
The Return of a Legend (17:34/HD): A look at the motives behind creating another Indiana Jones movie, how the fans contributed to the decision and how they dealt with a much older Harrison Ford. Steven Spielberg and George Lucas also discuss forming the basis of the story, and the scriptwriting with David Koepp. One of the coolest, and drool-worthy, aspects of this featurette are the numerous clips from the original trilogy in High Definition.
Pre-Production (11:44/HD): Pre-production in any movie is critical and this featurette shows the amount of detail that goes into preparing to shoot the movie. This featurette includes plenty of interviews and pre-viz CG renders.
Trailers (3:35/HD): Theatrical Trailers 2 and 3 are presented here in HD. Shame the first teaser trailer isn't here for the sake of completion.
While there's some good stuff on disc one the bulk of the extras can be found on the second disc in this set. Let's have a look then...
Production Diary (1:20:52/HD): This brilliant documentary covers the entire production of the movie. Split up into six parts (Shooting Begins: New Mexico, Back To School: New Haven Connecticut, Welcome to the Jungle: Hilo Hawaii, On-Set Action, Exploring Akator and Wrapping Up!) this documentary is almost entirely made up of 'fly on the wall' styled footage with on-set interviews, and on-set footage.
The Crystal Skull (10:10/HD): Apparently there really are Crystal Skulls!! Who ever knew that... Anyway this featurette looks at making the crystal skulls used in this movie.
Iconic Props (9:58/HD): A look at the iconic props in the Indiana Jones series - from the hat to the whip and the Ark.
The Effects of Indy (22:42/HD): This wonderful featurette looks at the numerous visual effects created for the movie by ILM. There's quite a bit of detail here as it covers the practical effects as well as the numerous CG shots. This featurette really is worth a look.
Adventures in Post Production (12:44/HD): Despite finishing filming in October 2007 there was still six months of post production remaining, and this segment looks at what goes on after the cameras stop rolling including editing and sound mixing. Interestingly as well as filming on film rather then digital, so did they edit the movie. Perhaps though, editing on digital may have helped as the editing was one area where I felt the movie could have been improved somewhat.
Closing Team Indy (3:41/HD): Not really a 'production' extra this is more like a film credits sequence with most of the key participants show in video form on screen. It also hs credits for the extras on this disc.
Galleries (HD): Dozens of photos and images are provided from the pre-production through to the completed film.
Review By: Dave Warner