Indiana Jones: 4-Movie Collection
Directed by Steven Spielberg.
Starring Harrison Ford, Denholm Elliott, John Rhys-Davies, Karen Allen, Paul Freeman, Ronald Lacey, Wolf Kahler, Kate Capshaw, Ke Huy Quan, Amrish Puri, Raj Singh, Roshan Seth, Sean Connery, Julian Glover, Alison Doody, Michael Byrne, Kevork Malikyan, J.J. Hardy, Shia LaBeouf, Cate Blanchett, Ray Winstone, John Hurt, Igor Jijikine, and Jim Broadbent.
Indiana Jones, who has probably appeared in every home video format in existence, makes his debut in the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray era with this four-movie collection. Director Steven Spielberg approved the 4K remasters of all four films, and they shine here. They’re about as close to theatrical quality as you can get. A fifth disc rounds up a big batch of bonus features, but note that nothing new was created, and some things are missing from past releases.
Minutes after I put this beautiful new 4K disc of Raiders of the Lost Ark in my player, I became 11 years old again, watching the movie in a dark theater in New Jersey. The film looks gorgeous, with a light amount of grain, superb detail, and deep blacks, particularly during the opening sequence in the Peruvian temple. Director Steven Spielberg approved this 4K remaster, as he did for the 4K remasters of the other films in this set. They’re all looking better than ever on home video.
And speaking of that iconic opener, the shot with Indiana Jones sizing up the idol simply pops off the screen: the artifact gleams in a way that I don’t recall in any previous home video release of the film. The same can be said for the Ark of the Covenant, which has a golden lid with a similar onscreen luster. It’s not hard to feel the awe and wonder of both artifacts – I imagine I probably felt that way in the theater 40 years ago, although those specific memories are long gone.
I missed the Indiana Jones films on Blu-ray (I know, I know; I do have the excellent 2003 DVD set, though), but my understanding is that they had a green tint to them and the image was a bit plastic on that format. It seems like most studios assumed people wanted a certain kind of image on their high-def TVs, so they digitally scrubbed the heck out of their movies for Blu-ray. (Side note: My understanding is that the new four-movie collection on Blu-ray, which has the same cover art as this one, uses the old transfers, not the new ones, so buyer beware.)
However, since 4K has so far been more of a niche format, the studios seem to be adhering to what film fans want, which is a print that looks as close to the original theatrical showing as possible. Universal has achieved that here with Raiders and the other films in this set, but before I get any further, I should note that you may want to hold onto past collections because not all the previous bonus features were ported over. More on that to come.
Do I need to say anything else about Raiders of the Lost Ark? It’s a classic, and even if you don’t feel particularly compelled to watch it again, I suggest you put this disc in your player and see if it transports you back in time, the same way it transported me. Three trailers are the only other items on this disc, since all the bonus stuff is housed on an accompanying Blu-ray platter.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★★★★ / Movie: ★★★★★
Moving on to Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, this 1984 release was a let down for me, like so many other fans, and it came on the heels of a similar feeling when I saw 1983’s Return of the Jedi. However, we can thank it for introducing the word “prequel” into the mainstream movie lexicon, so the concept wasn’t so odd when George Lucas started releasing his Star Wars prequels 15 years later.
Set a year before Raiders, Indy’s new adventure features a wisecracking sidekick named Short Round (Ke Huy Quan) and another “I guess I’m along for the ride” female companion named Willie Scott (Kate Capshaw). Nazis, snakes, and the Middle East are nowhere to be found, replaced by a gruesome cult operating in northern India, and this time Indy must retrieve an ancient Sankara stone from the cult leader.
We can also thank this film for ushering in the PG-13 rating, since many parents complained about some of the more icky scenes in this film, including the removal of a heart from someone’s body. (I guess they did that while taking a break from complaining about heavy metal music and Dungeons & Dragons.) As a parent myself today, though, I can understand why there was a need for this new rating to help guide families. It’s easy to say “Just watch it yourself first to see if it’s okay for your kids,” but, honestly, anyone who says that either doesn’t have kids or has hired help and lots of extra free time.
In the end, though, the gruesome stuff was just a bit too gruesome for an Indiana Jones movie, and the constantly shrieking and screaming Willie Scott was a poor replacement for Karen Allen’s tough-as-nails Marion. And Short Round is a fun character, but he always felt a bit like a gimmick to me, as if he had stepped out of a Saturday morning cartoon show (remember those?). This was more like “Indiana Jones and the Ill-Conceived Sequel.”
A pair of trailers round out this disc.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Our hero returned to form, however, for 1989’s Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Billed at the time as the conclusion to a trilogy, this installment features the brilliant casting of Sean Connery as Indy’s father and the return of the Nazis, because, let’s face it, if your hero is running around the world during the 1930s, who else makes the perfect bad guys?
The film opens with a sequence set in 1912 that sets up how Henry Jones Jr., played by River Phoenix, became an iconic hero, including the origin of his use of a whip, his snake phobia, and his hat – even the cut on Harrison Ford’s chin gets a back story here. And, of course, his relationship with his father is set up too, since that plays a huge part of the story.
This time, Indiana Jones is looking for the Holy Grail, which his father was also seeking before he vanished. The Nazis, who really were interested in ancient artifacts, are searching for it too, and Indy is off to find his father, which of course turns into an adventure to locate the Grail. Sallah and Marcus Brody return for this outing, making it feel like the kind of sequel that should have been released in 1984.
You’ll find two trailers also on this disc.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★★★★ / Movie: ★★★★
Just like so many iconic rock bands have done farewell tours only to show up again years later because, hey, Gen Xers and younger Boomers have cash to spend and want to hear the hits live, Indiana Jones was brought out of hibernation for the 2008 release of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Given Ford’s age, the setting was moved to 1957 and the Cold War, with the Russians serving as the new bad guys as the opposing forces search for a telepathic crystal skull that has a connection to aliens.
This time, the classic 1930s and 40s era serials that originally inspired Raiders of the Lost Ark were combined with sci-fi films of the 1950s, and the end result was a mixed bag. On the plus side, you had the return of Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen), along with the introduction of John Hurt as Harold Oxley, a former colleague of our hero. And, yeah, it’s a fun adventure story in the same vein as the first and third films with various nods to them, including the reappearance of a certain crate.
On the downside, you had the infamous “nuking the fridge” scene, which I agree was a bit too much, even for Indiana Jones, and Shia LaBeouf’s Mutt Williams was thankfully abandoned as the next hero in this series (assuming that was really the plan). Shia isn’t a bad actor, but I just can’t see him as the lead in an adventure series like this one, despite his role in the Transformers movies.
As of this writing, there’s a fifth Indiana Jones film in production with Ford again playing the lead, although Spielberg isn’t in the director’s chair. Ford is now 78 years old, so he likely doesn’t have many more of these kinds of films left in him. My personal view has always been that Indiana Jones should simply be handled like James Bond, with new actors taking on the role as needed. And, sure, let’s turn the character into a strong female lead.
As with the other movie discs, there are just trailers found here.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★★ / Movie: ★★★
And now we come to the fifth disc in this set. It’s a Blu-ray platter packed with tons of bonus features ported over from past editions. Unfortunately, nothing new was created for this set, and you won’t find all of the previously released extras here either, so you may want to hold onto your old copies of the DVDs and Blu-rays.
The bonus features are broken into three sections: “On Set With Raiders of the Lost Ark,” “Making the Films,” and “Behind the Scenes.” There are also credits and options for subtitles. My understanding is that this is the same bonus features Blu-ray included in the 2012 set.
The first section contains a pair of documentaries that detail the on-set experiences of the cast and crew. The first one, “From Jungle to Desert,” runs 29 minutes and moves through the movie, showing various scenes before segueing to a fly-on-the-wall view of how they were shot on location. “From Adventure to Legend” is 28 minutes and takes the same approach to many of the iconic moments, such as Indy going under a truck. There’s even a glimpse of a deleted scene that explains how Indy traveled on the submarine.
The next section opens with the 57-minute Making of Raiders of the Lost Ark documentary that was created in 1981 before moving on to modern making-of documentaries for all four films. Raiders gets the most time spent on it here, with the making-of docs for the other films getting progressively shorter until just 28 minutes are spent on Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. (Insert snarky comment here.)
“Behind the Scenes” has a big batch of featurettes that cover the stunts, the music, the special effects, locations, the “creepy crawlies,” post-production work, and more. There’s also footage from a 2003 event at the American Film Institute that featured the three main female characters from the original trilogy looking back on their work. It was shot to celebrate that year’s DVD release, and what’s included here is an excerpt from the event.
All told, there’s about seven hours of bonus content here. With many film series, that would probably feel like plenty, but the Indiana Jones movies have had many home video releases over the years, so there’s a bunch of stuff missing here, mostly from the original Blu-ray of Crystal Skull and the 2003 DVD set. I thought the Blu-ray and 4K eras would allow the studios to easily collect all previous bonus content for classic movies into sets that wouldn’t require a ton of discs, since they have a lot more storage than DVD, but with physical media sales on the decline, I suppose it’s easier to just repurpose a bonus disc from a past release.
And don’t forget that the movies look beautiful, and you get codes for digital copies too, along with a fun fold-out that has the movie posters on one side and a map of our hero’s journeys on the other. I thought that was a nice touch, since the major studios have tended to not bother with printed materials these days and leave that to the likes of Criterion and Arrow.