With Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull finally hitting the big screen this week, we knew it was time to refresh our memories of Indy’s original travels before diving into his next (and presumably last) archeological adventure. The original Indiana Jones trilogy is an absolute classic, right up there with Star Wars, The Godfather and The Lord of the Rings, and as far as pure adventure franchises go, it easily tops the list. Needless to say, it’s a special series. In fact, Paramount feels it’s special enough to warrant the DVD release of Indiana Jones: The Adventure Collection, a compilation of special-edition versions of each film sold either as a set or individually for the first time.
The Indiana Jones trilogy first released on DVD five years ago, re-mastered and sweetened for modern TVs, A/V receivers and DVD players. At the time, the set was only available as a complete trilogy, so Paramount is positioning this release of The Adventure Collection as the first opportunity to buy Raiders of the Lost Ark, Temple of Doom and The Last Crusade individually. But let’s be honest: who in their right mind would truly by one of these films? These movies are like salt and pepper — you always pick them up together — so in our mind, the re-release is nothing more than a marketing ploy to capitalize on Indiana Jones fever. And we really don’t care.
Going into an actual movie review for each of these films is pointless, because if you’re reading this article, you already know what happens in each: Indiana Jones seeks a priceless artifact that “belongs in a museum,” encounters some Nazis, meets a girl, takes down some baddies with a bullwhip or pistol, and either gets what he’s looking for or ensures it will never fall into the wrong hands. Formulaic? Sure, but it’s not the “what’s going to happen?” that entices viewers, it’s the “how will Indy get from Point A to Point B.” And that, boys and girls, is where the Indiana Jones trilogy really shines.
The video in The Adventure Collection is identical to the aforementioned DVD set released in 2003, which was already adjusted for color balancing and a few other visual miscues that could be fixed by modern technology. The quality of this transfer is perfectly fine, and although they’re DVDs and thus don’t support 1080p natively, we fully expect Paramount to release an uber-collection of Indiana Jones on Blu-ray Disc once Kingdom of the Crystal Skull becomes available for home viewers. With any luck, those video transfers will go back to the source yet again.
All three films in the Indiana Jones: The Adventure Collection perform admirably in the audio department as well, with full Dolby Digital 5.1 support and THX certification. In a refreshing change for “old” movies, each film in the set also makes great use of the surround channels, particularly The Last Crusade, which probably just benefits from being produced at a later date, when viewers and producers were paying more attention to the immersive, surround-sound experience.
The question begs to be asked, then, “If it’s all the same from 2003, why should I buy this new set?” The answer: because it’s not all the same from 2003; The Adventure Collection includes a few unique bonus features as well. Just not a lot of them.
Each disc includes a storyboard sequence for a notable scene from the respective film, as well as an interactive gallery of production stills and posters. These are nice, but generally forgettable when you consider the new introductions for each movie featuring George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. Actual commentary tracks aren’t found in the set, but that’s understandable considering the production timeline of Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (and presumptive financial quandary of getting certain high-profile cast and crew to sit down for six or so hours to “shoot the breeze”). Yet the introductions with Lucas and Spielberg make up for this somewhat, as their comments are surprisingly insightful and much more engaging than the traditional “we loved making this movie, thanks for buying it for the third time, I’m going to get a mojito.”
About an hour of new featurettes has also been produced, divided into six documentaries spread among all three films. Raiders of the Lost Ark includes Indiana Jones: An Appreciation, in which members of the cast and crew talk about why they’ve grown to love Indiana Jones more each year (yawn), and The Melting Face!, an entertaining documentary about the sequence at the end of Raiders when the Nazi leader’s face melts off after the Ark of the Covenant is opened.
Temple of Doom, meanwhile, includes Travel with Indy: Locations, a documentary about the various places the films were shot, and Creepy Crawlies, which talks about the franchise’s tradition of having a sequence with bugs or snakes or other creatures that give viewers goose bumps.
Finally, The Last Crusade talks about Indy’s Women, a bonus feature that really needs no explanation, and Friends and Enemies, a sort of academic study of the appeal and value of various characters throughout the series.
Because each film was technically designed to be sold separately, the archival footage and certain comments on each disc can repeat on occasion, but such incidents are infrequent enough to be forgivable. Heck, The Lord of the Rings Collector’s Edition DVD bonus footage repeated on occasion too, although to be fair, those films had a lot more room for repetition just due to the sheer length of the bonus features.
So with new introductions by Lucas and Spielberg, and with a few snippets of original insight and footage not heard or seen before, are these DVDs worth picking up as a set or individually? Honestly, probably only if you don’t already own them — and the chances of that are slim. If you’ve somehow misplaced or damaged one of your DVDs since their original release in 2003 and need a replacement, this Indiana Jones: The Adventure Collection finally lets you do just that. But even when the movies are this great, you still only need one copy of them. Our recommendation: keep your current DVDs and wait for the inevitable Blu-ray release. You just know it’s coming.
- Score: 8
— Jonas Allen