There are only a few movie series filmbuffs would go so far as to vend their souls if it meant getting them out on DVD – one was the “Back to the Future” trilogy, released late last year, another would be “Star Wars” – rumoured to be getting a release late next year – and last but not least, the three “Indiana Jones” movies. Knowing how shielding he’s been about the original “Star Wars” trilogy and putting on the backburner its release on DVD time after time, no one really expected Producer George Lucas to let “Indy” get the digital treatment, but thankfully, he has – at long last – and boy has it been worth the wait.
Amazing what a few zillion beseeching emails can accomplish isn’t it?
The brainchild of Lucas and the conception of Steven Spielberg, the “Indiana Jones” series was a landmark moment in popcorn blockbuster entertainment. Much like Lucas’s “Star Wars” films, the movies were structured like the old 1930s serials, where villains were larger than life, heroes were as gallant as ever, and action adventure came in profusion. Best of all – and the same can’t be said about some of Lucas’s later films – the movies were made ‘Old Style’ with no – or minimalist – computer effects and simply an incorporation of plot, stuntmen, props and artistry. The authenticity of the films in turn dates back to just how skilfully they were put together. You can appreciate a genuine gargantuan boulder chasing a lead character through a grotto a lot more than you can 70 Naboo fighters scattering across a galaxy more so because it was in reality done. Looking back at the three “Indiana Jones” movies it only makes you sit and wonder why on earth Mr Lucas ever thought computers could take the place of good old fashioned moviemaking. But let’s not dwell on that…let’s appreciate the fine work he and Spielberg did from 1982 to 1989.
“Raiders of the Lost Ark” was a colossal adventure the likes of which we will have been lucky to have seen since. Quest, laughs, romance, action, and predominantly an extraordinary male protagonist you could well and truly root for. In it, Harrison Ford – straight off Lucas’s “Star Wars” – plays a 1930s archaeologist and adventurer who globe-trots around the world, hunting down precious antiques. This time, Jones finds himself in the middle of a Nazi plot to use the mysterious powers of the Ark of the Covenant to win the war.
The adventure is never ending and the stunts have to be seen to be believed. 20 odd years later, the film still plays magnificently well. In fact, near flawless.
“Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” was the imminent sequel. Though good – make that very good – the film’s darker tone didn’t appeal as much as the lighter, adventure-driven pitch of the first film. Set 10 years before the previous film, this one sees Indy attempt to rescue stolen children from a pagan cult, and though much scarier and violent, has just as much grand-scale adventure and over-the-top action sequences to keep pernickety viewers intrigued. Spielberg, on a documentary on the disc (see below) says it’s his least favourite of the three – he’s probably not alone – but he’s glad he did it because it introduced him to his wife, actress Kate Capshaw, who was playing leading lady, Willie Scott.
The third, “Indiana Jones and the last Crusade,” was a little more in tune with the first movie in the fact that it went back to the lighter, more popcornish-venture style. The kicker this time was that Indy’s now forced to get about with his Dad in tow, and who better to play his dad but Sean Connery (though only 12 years older than Harrison Ford himself). Together, they go after the much sought after ‘Holy Grail’, of course bickering all the way.
In some respects, “The Last Crusade” might even be the best of the three films. Everything comes together. It’s epic. It’s fun. It’s riddled with adventure, and unlike the previous chapter, it’s for the whole family.
Ok, but enough about the films we’ve all seen two dozen times on television, fifty times on video and thrice theatrically….how’s the DVD?
In a word: Excellent.
The transfers are super. From the impressive menu design to the first glimpse of that Paramount Logo you can tell Lucas and Spielberg have ordered the best treatment for the series on disc. All films are in newly recorded 5.1 – the first two films were only ever available in Mono – with over 970,000 of the frames cleaned up for the new print. There’s no extras on any of the discs containing the movies – yep, that means no audio commentaries unfortunately – but the fourth disc, a bonus disc choca-bloc with bonus features, is better than anything we could have hoped for.
“The Making of the Trilogy” is a three part newly-recorded documentary covering every aspect of the making of the three films. It’s just superb. Behind the scenes footage, outtakes, bloopers, audition tapes (you even get to see Tom Selleck and Tim Matheson doing screen tests as Indy!) and more, running for near three hours. It’s great that even folks who had the smallest of roles in any of the films – like Alfred Molina – turn up to talk. You don’t get to see any deleted scenes unfortunately, but this thing is sweeter than any frivolous cut bit.
There are also four featurettes – running for about twelve minutes each – covering sound, effects, stunts, and music. Best of all, these are – like the doco – newly recorded featurettes, and although a lot of it’s been said in the aforesaid ‘Making of Trilogy’ doco they still make for pleasant and informative viewing.
To cap off the set, there are theatrical and teaser trailers, a commercial for the video game, and DVD-Rom Content which takes you to the official site where you can access galleries, storyboards and posters.
Easily one of the best – if not – the best and most exciting DVD release of the year, “The Adventures of Indiana Jones” will hopefully add assurance to Mr Lucas that it’s time to introduce that ‘Galaxy Far, Far Away’ to the medium.