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Indiana Jones: 4-Movie Collection (4K Ultra HD)
I suspect most action-adventure film fans have owned multiple versions of the Indiana Jones movies over the years. I was quite pleased with the 2012 Blu-ray release of the franchise, which was technically proficient and offered a host of solid bonus material. Paramount continues to erase memories of its lousy early DVD releases by churning out tons of legacy titles on Blu-ray and 4K Ultra HD, and all four Indiana Jones films have been remastered here and are absolutely stunning. Those with 4K setups who do not yet own these films will want to grab a copy of this release, and, despite debatably inferior packaging and a lack of new bonus content, owners of the Blu-ray collection will find an A/V upgrade that likely warrants a purchase, too. I am delinquent in getting this review finished, so I am going to keep my discussion of the films brief. Readers may want to check out Randy Miller III's review of the 2012 set, linked above; Aaron Beierle's reviews of Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade; or Brian Orndorf's theatrical review of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull for further film analysis.
Steven Spielberg and George Lucas introduced Harrison Ford's Indiana Jones to the world in 1981's Raiders of the Lost Ark, one of the best, purest action films of its era. Archaeologist Jones is tasked with tracking down the Ark of the Covenant, which Adolf Hitler and the Nazis hope will make their armies invincible. He joins ex-lover Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen) on a quest from Peru to Egypt to the Aegean Sean that ends in a spectacular climax highlighting the dangerous power of the Ark. Paul Freeman enters the chase as rival Rene Belloq, and Ronald Lacey plays Gestapo agent Maj. Arnold Toht. From its script to the sets and costumes to the action sequences, Raiders is one of the best adventure films of all time. Raiders of the Lost Ark: ***** (out of *****). Three years later, Spielberg returned to direct sequel Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, which many cite as their least favorite film, at least before Crystal Skull was released in 2008. I get it, Temple is more camp and roller-coaster thrills than Raiders, but it is still a solid action film. After Indy survives an assassination attempt by Shanghai crime boss Lao Che (Roy Chiao), he takes orphan sidekick Short Round (Jonathan Ke Quan) and nightclub singer Willie Scott (Kate Capshaw) across India, where they learn about a stolen, sacred stone and the missing children of a local village. This prequel to Raiders originally was going to include a haunted castle, but Lucas changed the setting when Spielberg felt the plot was too similar to Poltergeist. The action sequences, including the mine-cart ride and mountain raft tumble, are some of the franchise's most memorable, and Ford and his young co-star provide enjoyable banter. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom: **** (out of *****).
In 1989's Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Jones is tasked with rescuing his medievalist father, Henry Jones (Sean Connery), who went missing while searching for the Holy Grail. Alison Doody plays Elsa Schneider, an Austrian art professor who worked with Henry before his disappearance. Using clues in Henry's journal, Indy begins an adventure in Venice that again pits him against Nazis and includes tanks, a Zeppelin and the return of Jones' friend Sallah (John Rhys-Davies). The interplay between Ford and Connery is memorable, and River Phoenix appears as a young Indy. The mood is lighter and proceedings more buoyant than in Temple, and The Last Crusade is my second favorite film behind Raiders. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: ****1/2 (out of *****). It took nearly 20 years for Ford to pick up his hat and bullwhip again, this time in the polarizing Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Set during the Cold War, Crystal Skull sees KGB agent Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett) steal a mummified alien recovered in Roswell, New Mexico, several years prior. Meanwhile, Mutt Williams (Shia LaBeouf) finds Jones and tells him that his former colleague Harold Oxley (John Hurt) found a crystal skull in Peru and that Oxley and Mutt's mom, Marion Ravenwood (Allen, returning to the role), have been kidnapped. Jones and Mutt head to Peru, where they butt heads with Spalko, who also is seeking the crystal artifact. I understand that many consider this an inferior film to the original trilogy, and perhaps it is, as even Spielberg has commented on his lack of enthusiasm for shooting the film. I do not mind Blanchett's over-the-top performance in this context, and the science-fiction elements pay tribute to the B-movies of the 1950s. There are a couple of poorly delivered scenes here, and LaBeouf did not exactly take over the franchise as originally planned. I guess we will see what is in store for Indiana Jones when he returns to the big screen in 2022. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull: ***1/2 (out of *****).
THE 4K ULTRA HD COLLECTION:
Each film receives a beautifully remastered 2.39:1/2160p/HEVC/H.265 transfer with Dolby Vision and HDR10. Some of the most stunning 4K releases are those produced from native, film-shot productions, and each of these 35mm-shot films looks amazing in this format. It is my understanding that the fine folks at Paramount used the original camera negatives and interpositives to create new 4K digital intermediates (simply, the digital version of a 35mm production) on which to apply the HDR passes for the 4K releases. The results are fantastic. I am not sure why one of the top articles found on Google if you search "Indiana Jones 4K remaster" is labeled "Steven Spielberg's Indiana Jones 4K Remaster Ruins The Original Look," but I can assure you, they do not.
Each film has minor variances, and Crystal Skull is, of course, two decades newer than the previous three films, but home-theater afficionados will applaud these lifelike, rich and fully immersive transfers. I thought the 2012 Blu-ray transfers offered strong fine-object detail, but these 4K transfers blow the HD versions away. Each film in the series offers beautiful, exotic locations; impressive costumes; and intricate sets, and these trappings have never appeared more impressive on home video. Each character's facial features are intimately visible; landscape shots are deep and beautifully resolved; and the texture of these sets and costumes is off the charts. The HDR work here is tasteful and allows for richer, more fluid blacks, with excellent shadow detail, and beautifully saturated colors. Highlights are near-perfect, even in sunbaked, outdoor scenes; colors never bleed; and skin tones appear accurate. Each film looks fantastic in motion, with a natural, fluid grain structure. Has there been some minor DNR applied here to normalize grain spikes? Probably, but it is handled so well that I cannot complain. Compression artifacts are not an issue, and any revisions to matte work are done judiciously and do not recall Lucas's other famous trilogy.
Paramount provides Dolby Atmos mixes for each film, which I sampled as 7.1 Dolby TrueHD mixes. They are also, in a word, fantastic. Completely free of technical hiccups like clipping, crowding or distortion, the mixes totally immerse the viewer in Jones' adventures. From subtle, ambient effects like crowd noise, weather and wind, to boisterous action symphonies during chases and street fights, the effects make use of the entire sound field, including the surrounds and subwoofer. Dialogue is crystal clear, whether delivered front and center or directionally, and effects never overwhelm these conversations. The music of John Williams is also treated respectfully and given plenty of room to stretch out across these mixes. Those looking for the theatrical experience at home need look no further than this 4K collection. Each disc also provides plenty of 5.1 Dolby Digital dubs and subtitle options, too.
PACKAGING AND EXTRAS:
This five-disc set includes each film on its own 4K Ultra HD disc and a Blu-ray bonus disc of extras that is identical to the bonus disc found in the 2012 release. The discs are housed in a tri-fold Digipack. Raiders has its own panel, but the other discs overlap. There is internal artwork and a poster/booklet included. This material slides inside a relatively flimsy outer slipbox. I may be in the minority, but I prefer the 2012 Blu-ray set's Digibook packaging and sturdy slipbox, though there is nothing wrong with this presentation. A digital copy code is included that redeems for all four films.
The bonus content on the 4K discs is sparse and limited to teaser and theatrical trailers. It is disappointing that no new bonus content is included, particularly since Paramount has been adding new content to a lot of their 4K releases, but I understand why, as this recycled bonus disc covers pretty much every facet of the productions and franchise legacy with abundant interviews and on-set footage. You get the following material: On Set with Raiders of the Lost Ark, (57:52 total/HD), a two-part documentary with comments from Spielberg and plenty of behind-the-scenes action; The Making of Raiders of the Lost Ark (57:48/SD), an older featurette; a newer The Making of Raiders of the Lost Ark (50:52/SD) that serves as a retrospective; The Making of The Temple of Doom (41:09/SD); The Making of The Last Crusade (35:03/SD); and The Making of Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (28:49/HD). You also get a bunch of shorter featurettes: The Stunts of Indiana Jones (10:56/SD); The Sound of Indiana Jones (13:21/SD); The Music of Indiana Jones (12:22/SD); The Light and Magic of Indiana Jones (12:22/SD); Raiders: The Melting Face! (8:12/SD); Indiana Jones and the Creepy Crawlies (11:46/SD); Travel with Indiana Jones: Locations (9:58/SD); Indy's Women: The American Film Institute Tribute (9:15/SD); Indy's Friends and Enemies (10:10/SD); Iconic Props (9:52/HD); The Effects of Indy (22:34/HD); and Adventures in Post Production (12:36/HD). Those in the know will realize that a number of featurettes included on the original two-disc Blu-ray for Crystal Skull did not make the cut, nor did a few pieces from the 2003 DVD trilogy.
Raiders of the Lost Ark is certainly the standout in a franchise where all four films are remarkably consistent, at least in providing escapist entertainment. Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and Harrison Ford deliver action, humor and intrigue in these four Indiana Jones movies. Paramount delivers top-tier 4K transfers and Dolby Atmos soundtracks here. There are no new bonus features, but the recycled content is abundant. Highly Recommended.
William lives in Burlington, North Carolina, and looks forward to a Friday-afternoon matinee.