I am pretty sure I saw Raiders of the Lost Ark when it came out in theaters initially when I was 9 years old and I thought it was the best thing I ever saw. And in watching the film again for this review for the umpteenth time recently, the thing I was taken by was that I still feel that way I did when I was 9. The film still gives you action and adventure, with a contemporary serialization of its protagonist, and all the characters seem to roll with it to some degree also, no matter what side of the story they find themselves.
For the few unfamiliar, Lucas conceived the story that Lawrence Kasdan (Wyatt Earp) wrote into a screenplay that Steven Spielberg (Lincoln) directed. Set in the mid to late 1930s (ahead of the surge of power by the Nazis), Harrison Ford (Paranoia) plays Indiana Jones, an archaeology professor who moonlights as an explorer of sorts, hunting for historical artifacts. His latest quest comes to find him seeking out The Lost Ark of the Covenant in a race to find it first ahead of said Nazis. He runs into an old flame in the process, Marian Ravenwood (Karen Allen, Scrooged), who plays a part of Indy's hunt for the Ark.
Obligatory talk about spoilers in case you still have not seen the film at this point. That and the requisite scolding for still not having seen the film to go and seek it out already.
So much has been written about Raiders that it is hard to find new ground for it (other than Paramount's strange Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark title for this Blu-ray as a revisionist way to pass the baton from Ford to Shia LeBeouf), but what continues to strike me about Raiders in recent viewings is how much fun the story has and the characters have in it. Take for instance Ronald Lacey, who plays Major Toht, the leather coat wearing Nazi who we see early on in the film at Marian's bar in Tibet, only to show up later. The dude is creepy as hell from the jump and he suffers that gruesome burn on his hand. He comes back with his burned hand and meets Marian again, and we think he is coming to basically break her, but he pulls out a weapon that eventually is a coat hanger and makes for a nervous laugh for newer viewers and hearty ones for vets. It is not the only moment like that for the movie, but it is the one I always stick with.
Moreover, I think that Ford's performance as Indy makes it very easy for the viewer to get involved with the character early on and stay involved in it. From the opening moments when he is in the jungle to his escape on the airplane, the viewer sees that Indiana Jones is bold when it is required, but it is played against expressions or moments that expose a vulnerability that makes you feel like Jones is a bit of an everyman in Raiders. His quest is yours whether you are 9 or 90.
That Raiders can still stir the emotions in anyone down to the same level of wanting to do what Indiana Jones does is a testament to just how much it has going for it and what type of film it is. There is a certain degree of kismet to the film but the story and Ford's performance and work opposite Allen (saying nothing of his scenes with Denholm Elliott and John Rhys-Davies) make the film more than just a fun romp and something that strikes a resonant entertaining chord with people. God help me I love it so.
In attempting to watch Raiders against the disc in the Indiana Jones boxset, this AVC-encoded 2.35:1 widescreen Blu-ray appears to sport the same transfer as its 2012 brother, and that is not bad at all. The disc looks great, with the great Kauai colors in the opening jungle sequence having new life breathed into them, and the Tunisian sandy browns looking just as good, and none of the film's colors suffer from any real saturation problems. It lacks some of the image detail fitting other discs, but to do so would potentially open the film up to DNR issues or other problems. It looks superb, save for the subtle erasing of the plastic shield in the pit of asps and cobras of course.
Just as superb is the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track, and in its lossless glory, the film's sound designer Ben Burtt returned as part of the remastering of the films for Blu-ray, and Raiders sounds great. Directional effects in the jungle sequences help bring a convincing level of immersion to the experience, and the subwoofer gets involved in smaller sequences like trees almost falling when the idol is approached, and the boulder shakes the room as you would expect it to. In quieter sequences dialogue is well-balanced and consistent through the film, and the effects, low-end and channel panning are all present and abundant through the listening experience. It may be the same track as the 2012 disc but it is without complaint.
The only extras are a teaser (1:03), trailer (2:33) and reissue trailer (1:45) to go along with an iTunes digital copy. So sure, it is nice that you can buy the Indiana Jones films separately now, but the bad news is you get none of the extra materials from prior releases. Nice thumb in the eye, Paramount.
On its own, Indiana Jones and the Raiders of The Lost Ark is a great flick, and looks and sounds simply spectacular. However, if you are a huge fan of the film and want the extras associated with it, the complete four-disc set is priced reasonably at the moment, with a virtually identical transfer and soundtrack. So if you do not care about the extras and want just the movie, this is an easy choice.