While I view “The Empire Strikes Back” as the best of the “Star Wars” movies, I don’t think any of the Indiana Jones sequels have reached the heights of “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” although I haven’t seen “Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” as I write this review.
In 1981, Harrison Ford was just starting to build his resume as a leading man (it’s hard to imagine now, but Tom Selleck almost wore that famous fedora), and my parents’ generation was the last one to see old-fashioned adventures on the silver screen. Therefore, “Raiders of the Lost Ark” was a revelation to kids like me, much the same way “Star Wars” was; since I was born in 1970, I was the perfect age to appreciate all of the Spielberg/Lucas output, even klunkers like “1941.”
Per my custom, I won’t waste your time with plot recitations, but I will note that the series’ quality dipped for “Temple of Doom” before rising for “The Last Crusade” and finishing the trilogy on a high note. Where Kate Capshaw screamed too much and Ke Huy Quan was the typical annoying little kid, Sean Connery restored some dignity by playing a pitch-perfect Dr. Henry Jones while Alison Doody portrayed the icy, scheming Dr. Elsa Schneider. Even River Phoenix did a great job as a young Indy. However, “Raiders” possesses a magic the final film couldn’t recapture, and I have a feeling the new movie will fall short too, although I remain open to the chance that it will exceed my expectations.
These new discs are the same ones found in the 2003 box set, minus their predecessor’s bonus features platter. The menus are the same, except for the option to access the new special features, and the video quality of the movies looks similar. These new discs start with the trailer for “Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” which you can skip.
Each DVD includes a new introduction by Spielberg and Lucas, who look back on the making of each movie with a mix of nostalgia and realism, acknowledging, for example, that “Temple of Doom” wasn’t well-received and that they had initially overlooked their obvious leading man while pursuing Selleck. The pair filmed the interviews while working on “Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” as did screenwriter David Koepp and the primary members of the cast, whose comments appear throughout the rest of the supplements.
Each disc also includes a trailer for the upcoming LEGO Indiana Jones videogame as well as image galleries covering illustrations/props, behind-the-scenes, special effects, and marketing. The other common element is a storyboard-to-video comparison that displays the original storyboards on the top of the screen, with the final video at the bottom. On “Raiders,” it’s the Well of Souls sequence, on “Temple of Doom,” it’s the mine cart chase, and on “Last Crusade,” it’s the opening scene.
Finally, each disc includes a pair of featurettes that tackle topics covering the entire trilogy, a format I suppose was chosen so Paramount didn’t have to pay for a fourth disc. On “Raiders,” we have a 12-minute appreciation of the series that even throws in a brief snippet from the remake those teenagers shot, although none of them show up with their thoughts on the movie. The disc also has a nine-minute piece on how the effects guys made Toht’s face melt, complete with a modern-day recreation. (Okay, I lied, but it’s the only featurette that focuses solely on one movie.)
For “Temple of Doom,” someone decided that the featurettes needed pop-up trivia windows, which are optional for “Creepy Crawlies” (12 minutes) and “Travel With Indy: Locations” (10 minutes). I think you can figure out what subjects those pieces cover. The former hints that something new will menace our hero in “Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” since the big three (rats, snakes, and bugs) were already used, although Spielberg doesn’t get into specifics. The pop-up windows contain interesting information, although they’re so big they cover up a big chunk of the screen when they appear.
Finally, “Last Crusade” gives us “Indy’s Women Reminisce: An AFI Tribute” (9 minutes) and “Indy’s Friends and Enemies” (10 minutes). The former is from the event held for the release of the original Indiana Jones DVDs in 2003: Karen Allen, Kate Capshaw, and Alison Doody discuss their respective roles and reminisce about their time on the set, with archival footage occasionally shown. The three characters are also discussed in the “Friends and Enemies” segment, although the three movie’s screenwriters get to chime in this time, along with Spielberg and Lucas. Afterward, I got the sense that everyone felt Capshaw’s character was too shrill and obnoxious, although no one said so in those exact words.
If you have the original 2003 set, you’re probably not missing a whole lot if you skip this one, unless you’re an Indiana Jones completist. A lot of this territory was covered in the documentaries on the older set’s fourth disc, and nothing earth-shattering is revealed about the upcoming sequel. “The Adventure Collection” is simply a way to milk a classic franchise for a few more bucks as part of the marketing effort for a new movie. I’m sure yet another set will appear when “Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” hits DVD.