Raiders of the Lost Ark appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Across the board, the movie looked very good.
Sharpness was strong. The only examples of softness resulted from the source, as some shots – like a few during the opening or at Marion’s bar – have always been a smidgen fuzzy. Otherwise, the film delivered tight, concise visuals. I noticed no issues with jagged edges or shimmering, and edge haloes weren’t a factor. Print flaws also remained absent. Blacks were dense and deep, and shadows appeared nicely delineated and concise.
Did the image suffer from the use of digital noise reduction? I found that hard to say, but I suspected that if DNR got applied, it was done so in a mild manner. Grain was light most of the time and only became prominent during opticals. Perhaps some DNR lessened grain in other shots, but I don’t see negative effects, as detail remained strong, and elements that often get zapped by DNR stayed intact. For instance, the smoke in Marion’s bar showed up as it should.
Colors looked solid, though I wondered if some changes were made to the palette. The film looked a bit more arid than I expected, and a few shots seemed a little bluer than I recalled as well. On one hand, it’s possible that alterations to the color scheme occurred. On the other hand, it’s also possible that prior representations of the film – those that I’ve watched for the last 28 years on home video – were “off”and the Blu-ray finally got the hues right.
I can’t say what the palette as originally intended should be, as I’ve not seen the movie anywhere other than home video since 1983. (Because both come from the same era, I wouldn’t use the 2012 IMAX reissue as a guide to the “correct colors” – it seems likely that it and the Blu-ray share the same hues.) All I can state is that the colors looked a little different to me – not radically altered, but not the same, either.
Despite some potential concerns with colors and DNR, I still felt quite pleased with the image. This isn’t a case where I’m ignoring the visuals as originally intended and saying “source be damned – it looks good and that’s all that matters”. In this case, I’m saying that while I think some changes may have occurred, I can’t be certain, and I’m not going to fault the image without greater clarity. In addition, I feel that any potential alterations remain minor; nothing glaring or major affected the presentation. This still looked like the Raiders I’ve loved for 31 years.
Let me provide two additional notes related to the transfer. First, many will note that the Blu-ray’s case refers to this film as Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark. Personally, I refuse to use that alteration of the original title, and I’m happy to report that the folks at Lucasfilm didn’t tamper with the credits on this Blu-ray’s transfer; it still comes billed just as Raiders of the Lost Ark.
One bit of digital noodling does occur, however, during the scene in which Indy falls among all those snakes. In the original movie, one could easily see Ford’s reflection in the barrier that kept him from one of the critters. The transfer uses technology to erase that impression. It does so smoothly and works well.
While not quite on a par with modern mixes, the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Raiders of the Lost Ark seemed splendid for its age. The movie employed an almost shockingly active soundfield that presented a great deal of auditory information. The score enjoyed solid stereo imaging, and the track offered much localized material. The mix featured a lot of different auditory pieces that were placed appropriately in the environment.
These included a lot of elements from the rear speakers, and quite a lot of this showed stereo surround information. For example, during the runway fight, a plane zoomed distinctly from left to right in the rear, and the shots on the dock as Indy and Marion prepare to board the boat also featured unique elements in the two back speakers. I was surprised to get so much stereo information from the rear. The surrounds added a great deal of information to the track, and they helped make it an engulfing affair.
Audio quality slightly showed it age but usually seemed very positive. The dialogue occasionally was a little hollow, and I noticed periodic examples of awkward looping. Nonetheless, the lines betrayed no signs of edginess, and they mostly sounded natural and distinct.
John Williams’ rousing score came across as bright and dynamic, with great definition for the various parts. Effects also showed a bit of thinness, but not often. The various elements mostly seemed accurate and concise, and those pieces presented surprisingly vivid low-end. The bass of Raiders packed a real punch and helped bring a lot of life to the mix.
Actually, bass response might’ve been a bit too strong, as low-end occasionally threatened to become overwhelming. It seemed like every punch and gunshot and eyelash flutter came with a loud “thud”. This stayed within the realm of acceptability but could lean toward excessiveness. Even with that minor gripe, however, I still really liked this track and thought it added to the experience.
How did this Blu-ray compare with the Special Edition DVD from 2008? Audio sounded more robust and full; the soundscape also appeared more active and involving. Visuals came across as tighter, better defined and more natural. Prior DVDs always looked a bit “off” to me, but this one was much more accurate.
Because it comes as part of a five-disc/four-movie collection, almost no extras show up on the Raiders platter itself. We get both a teaser and a trailer from 1981 as well as a reissue trailer. The last one doesn’t provide a date of re-release, but I’m guessing this was from 1983; if I recall correctly, the movie hit theaters again in the spring of that year.
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.
More than 30 years after its debut, Raiders of the Lost Ark remains one of the greatest movies ever made. It absolutely defines the action adventure and presents a virtually perfect piece of excitement. The Blu-ray boasts excellent picture and audio. Here we get a top-notch rendition of a classic film. Without a doubt, Raiders has never looked or sounded better.
Note that as of September 2012, you can purchase Raiders of the Lost Ark solely as part of this “Complete Adventures” set that also includes 1984’s Temple of Doom, 1989’s Last Crusade, 2008’s Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and a disc with bonus materials.
To rate this film visit the Indiana Jones Collection review of RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK