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Steven Spielberg
Harrison Ford, Cate Blanchett, Karen Allen, Shia LaBeouf, Ray Winstone, John Hurt, Jim Broadbent, Igor Jijikine
Writing Credits:
David Koepp (screenplay), George Lucas (story and characters), Jeff Nathanson (story), Philip Kaufman (characters)

In May, the adventure continues.

Steven Spielberg and George Lucas bring you the greatest adventurer of all time in "a nonstop thrill ride" (Richard Corliss, Time) that's packed with "sensational, awe-inspiring spectacles" (Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times). Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull finds Indy (Harrison Ford) trying to outrace a brilliant and beautiful agent (Cate Blanchett) for the mystical, all-powerful Crystal Skull of Akator. Teaming up with a rebellious young biker (Shia LaBeouf) and his spirited original love Marion (Karen Allen), Indy takes you on a breathtaking action-packed adventure in the exciting tradition of the classic Indiana Jones movies!

Box Office:
$185 million.
Opening Weekend
$126.917 million on 4260 screens.
Domestic Gross
$316.670 million.

Rated PG-13

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1
English Audio Description
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 122 min.
Price: $99.98
Release Date: 9/18/2012

Available Only as Part of the “Indiana Jones: the Complete Adventures” 5-Disc Set

• Trailers


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull (Indiana Jones: The Complete Adventures) [Blu-Ray] (2008)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (September 17, 2012)

When a legendary movie franchise returns after a long hiatus, the results don’t usually seem to be pretty. In 1990, The Godfather Part III attempted to live up to its two classic predecessors and failed miserably; it offered a decent flick at best, but not one that remotely compared to the earlier movies.

The Star Wars series returned from a 16-year break with 1999’s The Phantom Menace. Though the flick earned tons of money, it inspired widespread derision from fans. Very few – if any - find the “Prequel Trilogy” to match up to the “Original Trilogy”, and many fans see Phantom Menace as the worst of the bunch.

Back in the 1980s, the Indiana Jones films reigned supreme. 1981’s Raiders of the Lost Ark, 1984’s Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and 1989’s Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade all found massive audiences and entertained a generation of fans.

And that was that. Crusade ended with Indy’s literal ride into the sunset, and we never figured to see him on the big screen again. However, rumors persisted for years that a fourth Indy flick would materialize, and after many aborted attempts, the franchise finally came back with 2008’s Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

Commercially, the film was a hit. It made $312 million, a figure not reached by the first three movies (unless we adjust for inflation, of course). This seemed to be a “soft” blockbuster, though, as Skull appeared to fail to inspire the popular response that greeted The Dark Knight and Iron Man. I think the Indy reputation drew in fans more than anything about Skull itself.

Set in 1957 – 19 years after the last Indy adventure - Skull takes our hero (Harrison Ford) to a secret military base in the Nevada desert. Soviet spies captured him and his cohort George “Mac” McHale (Ray Winstone) so they could make sense of a mysterious discovery. Led by a mysterious psychic named Colonel Dr. Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett), the Russkies want Indy to help them with the remains of an alien who crashed at Roswell 10 years earlier.

In the midst of this, Indy starts to make his escape, only to find his “buddy” Mac sold his services to the Reds and turns on him. Even without Mac’s help, however, Indy inevitably finds his way out of the bind and escapes, though the Soviets manage to make off with their prize. When the FBI interviews him, they suspect he aided the commies, and he loses his teaching job due to the witch hunt environment.

Before Indy leaves town, however, he learns that an old colleague named Professor Harold Oxley (John Hurt) has been abducted and will be killed without intervention. He learns this from Mutt Williams (Shia LaBeouf), a young greaser close to Oxley. They discuss a spooky crystal skull that may be used to open the powers of a mystical lost Amazonian city called Acator. Thus launches Indy’s big quest to find Oxley, outwit Spalko, and solve the mystery of the crystal skull.

I think Skull is a perfectly entertaining movie, but it’s not in the same class as its predecessors. Honestly, it can be tough for me to separate my feelings about the film that exists and the film that I hoped to see. Just as The Godfather Part III and The Phantom Menace suffered from years of pent-up anticipation, fans entered Skull with enormously high expectations. Maybe someday I’ll be able to view the flick better on its own merits, but right now I think it’s difficult for me to watch Skull without the interference of my dreams of what could have been.

I feel that Skull provides the most muddled of the four Indy movies. If you look at the stories of the first three, they’re all pretty simple in terms of what Indy needed to do. Raiders and Crusade went with basic quests to find magical objects. Temple was a bit more complex due to the elements with the religious cult and related complications, but it still was pretty simple good vs. evil.

Some of that informs Skull, and viewers will likely experience some déjà vu, as the flick’s Soviets play and feel an awful lot like the Nazis in Raiders and Crusade. It’s as if the folks behind Skull just took the old German antagonists and slapped new clothes on them; there’s very little to distinguish this flick’s Soviets from the Nazis of the earlier movies. That’s one moderate drawback, as it’d be nice to get some villains who feel less familiar.

I realize that Skull has a tough time related to its distinction between familiarity and originality. On one hand, viewers want something that bears the unmistakable Indiana Jones feel, but on the other, they want something fresh and new. Like Crusade, Skull probably relies a little too much on the tried and true, though unlike Crusade, it doesn’t bring a lot of verve to the presentation. While Crusade definitely smacked of Raiders Revisited, it had enough pizzazz behind it to succeed. If nothing else, the chemistry between Ford and Sean Connery made it a delight.

No such sparks fly in Skull. Clearly the movie wants to make Ford and LaBeouf into a new team, but they don’t really connect, at least not on a level close to that of Ford and Connery. Ford and LaBeouf do fine together, but their interactions never boast much zing. We always feel like LaBeouf is there mostly to be groomed as a future action star, not because the story really needs him. Mutt is a generally forgettable character.

At least Skull offers the revival of Ford. He’d lost a lot of his movie star luster in recent years, and he often seemed bored in the films he did. His return to Indy gives him a real spring in his step and demonstrates that he still has life to him. Ford is the best thing about the movie, as he almost recaptures the spirit of the earlier movies.

I recognize that this review largely consists of complaints, and that displeases me. In truth, Skull offers an entertaining little flick. It has a mix of good action scenes and just enough excitement to keep us interested. The problem stems from my feeling that it simply doesn’t live up to its predecessors. Skull offers a generally good action film, but that’s not quite enough when one considers the legacy of the Indiana Jones series. Chalk it up as a bit of a disappointment, but an enjoyable one.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture A-/ Audio A-/ Bonus NA

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Virtually no concerns occurred here.

Sharpness looked positive. A couple of early shots looked a smidgen soft, but those weren’t a distraction. The vast majority of the movie boasted excellent clarity and delineation. No issues with jaggies or moiré effects occurred, and edge enhancement remained absent. As for print flaws, they stayed away here. I noticed no signs of any defects in this clean and distinctive image.

Colors looked solid. The movie varied between amber and teal and didn’t present the world’s broadest palette, but it included a good enough range of hues that consistently came across as tight and vibrant. The tones never seemed overly heavy, and the film gave them good definition. Black levels seemed deep and dense, and low-light shots demonstrated fine clarity and never became too thick. I found little about which I could complain as I watched the consistently positive visual presentation of Skull.

In addition, the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull seemed very good. The mix offered a broad and engaging experience. Music showed nice delineation and spread, and the effects created a good sense of atmosphere. Effects seemed appropriately placed and blended together smoothly. Those elements moved cleanly across the channels to demonstrate a fine feeling of place.

Surround usage was strong. Quite a lot of information – from bullets to explosions to vehicles to spooky skull effects -–popped up from the rear, and the back speakers acted as an active aspect of the mix. The track didn’t often dazzle and present a stunning surround mix, but it provided a consistently engaging affair.

Audio quality appeared fine. Speech was distinct and concise, and I noticed no issues connected to intelligibility or edginess. Music was fairly vibrant and dynamic, as the disc displayed the score with vivacity and solid clarity. Effects were clean and rich, and they never suffered from any signs of distortion or other problems. Bass response was deep and firm and brought good punch to the package. I liked this track quite a lot and thought it merited an “A-“.

How did this 2012 Blu-ray compare to the original 2008 version? I think both looked and sounded a lot alike. The Blu-ray swapped the original’s Dolby TrueHD track for this one’s DTS-HD MA mix, but I’d be hard-pressed to identify any differences between the two. The visuals also came across as very close to what I viewed on the original. Both the 2008 and 2012 Blu-rays offered high quality representations of the film.

Because it comes as part of a five-disc/four-movie collection, almost no extras show up on the Skull platter itself. We get three trailers. These are listed as trailers 2, 3 and 4, which makes one wonder what happened to trailer 1.

Note that I didn’t give this disc a grade for bonus materials because of its place in the “Complete Adventures” package. When I review the “Bonus Features” platter, I’ll offer an overall supplements grade.

After 19 years out of cinemas, could the return of Indiana Jones live up to expectations? I think it could have done so, but it didn’t. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull provides an amiable and occasionally exciting affair, but it’s not one that matches up particularly well with its three predecessors. Though it shows periodic signs of life, it doesn’t maintain them strongly enough to become better than “pretty good”. The Blu-ray brings us strong picture and audio. While not a great adventure, Skull still can be fun, and the disc makes it look and sound terrific.

Note that as of September 2012, you can purchase this version of Crystal Skull solely as part of this “Complete Adventures” set that also includes 1981’s Raiders of the Lost Ark, 1984’s Temple of Doom, 1989’s Last Crusade, and a disc with bonus materials. As linked earlier, however, a standalone Blu-ray of Crystal Skull from 2008 remains available.

To rate this film visit the Special Edition review of INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL

Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main