As I have mentioned previously, my age (or lack thereof) has prevented me from seeing any of the Indiana Jones films theatrically, where they were really meant to be seen. Nonetheless, I was brought up with easy access to the films and then eagerly purchased the 2003 DVD release of the re-mastered films.
The franchise, created by powerhouse team Steven Spielberg and George Lucas harkens back to films of the early 1930s and 40s and evoke memories of daring-do and classic Hollywood. The first film, (later re-titled for video) Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark was a major success, so a sequel; Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom was fast tracked. The latter was far more violent than the first (culminating in a scene where a cult leader rips a guys heart from his chest, while it continues to beat!), and divided opinions quite heavily. Five years later Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade hit theaters, and saw a return to the more 'fun' aspects of the first film and wrapped up the trilogy in a nice way.
However, as is the nature of Hollywood and fickle audiences, nearly twenty years later we have Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. It's a film that didn't need to be made and after watching it, probably didn't deserve to be. Its biggest flaw is that after twenty years, innumerable story treatments and script re-writes, this is what we got. A half-baked and yet convoluted story, a Frankenstein-like creation that clearly plays out as a culmination of ideas from script #1, script #2 and so on.
Set in the 1950s, during the height of the Cold War, Indy is set up by the Soviets to find the remains of an alien that crashed in New Mexico. A rousing chase sequence follows which then leads to an entirely improbable, but nonetheless entertaining sequence involving a nuclear test site and a lead lined fridge. It is at this point that the plot becomes more and more meaningless and more and more about moving from one action sequence to the next, each time lessening the emotional investment within. I don't wish to ruin the film, however I must say that the film culminates in an event that is both entirely out of character for an Indiana Jones film and which broke any remaining good will I had towards the film.
I enjoyed the well of souls melting Nazis from the first film. I accepted that a man can continue to remain conscious after heart removal from the second and I liked that the Holy Grail can bring a man back to life. However, what transpires at the end of this film...this was not a jump that I was willing to make, nor accept, nor enjoy.
Despite this, I would be interested in another Indiana Jones movie to be made (and rest assured, due to the immense amount of money this film has made, the pressure is on once again), to give the once great character a final, proper send off, which Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade did perfectly well, all that time ago.
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is presented in the widescreen scope aspect ratio of 2.35:1, encoded in MPEG-4 AVC.
According to one of the behind the scenes featurettes, the film was completely filmed and then edited entirely on film. However, based on the near perfect presentation, you wouldn't know it wasn't filmed completely in the digital realm. The image is very sharp and clear, apart from a few instances of soft filters applied to hide some of the actors ages (especially Karen Allen). Throughout many sequences of the film, the colour has been desaturated slightly and bathed in a golden yellow sheen, to evoke 1950's America, a wholly deliberate effect.
If I had any complaints, I would have liked a little more film grain throughout, which would have helped to blend this film with the previous three. However, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is a winner in the picture department.
The main audio track here is an English Dolby TrueHD, encoded at 24 bits.
From the start of the film, featuring the introduction of the new THX logo, I knew I was in for a treat and it didn't disappoint. For all my complaints about the film itself, at the very least it sounds like an Indiana Jones film. Sound designer Ben Burtt dug into the archives and found the original recordings for iconic effects such as Indy's whip, so at least the film sounds like it's from the same universe as the previous entries.
Surround sound usage is high, as is some great use of the low frequencies. The action sequences, including the sequence in Nevada sound brilliant and mastered very well, making you want to pump out a few extra DB's on that amplifier.
John Williams returns to provide the score and whilst the Indiana Jones march is as brilliant as ever, Williams fails to create any new, entirely memorable cues.
Overall, a suitably bombastic track which will make Blu-ray aficionados happy.