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Raiders Of The Lost Ark Limited-Edition Steelbook [4K UHD]
Directed by Stephen Spielberg and release theatrically in 1981, Raiders Of The Lost Ark introduced the world to the cultural phenomena that would become Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford), Indy to his friends, an archeology professor who also has a side hustle of sorts where he works as an adventurer. He travels the world, finds his way in and out of trouble, and manages to amass various treasures and artifacts along the way.
After narrowly escaping from a temple in Peru with his life after successfully stealing a gold idol and then being almost pummeled by a massive boulder, Jones loses the treasure to his arch-nemesis, Belloq (Paul Freeman), a French archeologist employed by the Nazi regime. When Jones learns through his university connection, Marcus Brody (Denholm Elliott), that the Nazis are trying to uncover the whereabouts of the Biblical Ark Of The Covenant to get their hands on the original Ten Commandments tablets rumored to be stored inside, Indy knows that something will have to be done to prevent Hitler and his cronies from acquiring such a powerful artifact.
Allied intelligence missives reveal that Nazi forces have made good progress, discovering and uncovering the lost city of Tanis where the Ark is rumored to be stowed. Jones, at the behest of the American government, makes his way to The Middle East to try and get to the Ark before the Nazis are able to, teaming up with former flame Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen), the beautiful daughter of the man who taught him everything he knows who know runs a rough and tumble saloon and holds a key to uncovering the location of the Ark. When some Nazis, led by Gestapo officer Toht (Ronald Lacey), arrive at her bar looking for the key, they wind up leaving with an even bigger heard start on Indy, leaving he and Marian, with help from Indy's old pal Sallah (John Rhys-Davies), with their work cut out for them.
Wonderfully directed by Spielberg, Raiders Of The Lost Ark was a massive box office success spawning three sequels (at the time of this writing a fourth is in the works), a TV series, a toy line, various comic book adaptations and a merchandising blitz that meant Indy was everywhere for a certain period of time. As good as the script and the direction are, the movie also features a fantastic cast headlined by Harrison Ford, already a pop culture icon for his work as Han Solo in the Star Wars movies. He proved to be exactly right for the role, able to bring a weariness to the part that worked well with the script's more humorous moments but also very capable of handling the action in the film and the more dramatic moments in the picture as well. He and Karen Allen play off of one another really well and make for a great team here, while Ronald Lacey proves to be just as good as the sinister Toht. Supporting work from Paul Freeman, John Rhys-Davies and Denholm Elliott adds to the fun.
A classic grand adventure tale highly influenced by the pulp magazines and serials of the thirties and forties, Raiders Of The Lost Ark remains as much fun to watch today as it was when first released over forty years ago. Made with a substantial budget, the film always looks great, the action set pieces staged flawlessly and often times very ambitious. We get excellent set design and location work, great costumes and special effects work that has stood the test of time far better than you might expect. Set to an iconic score by John Williams and based off of a script by Lawrence Kasdan from a story by George Lucas and Philip Kaufman, the film is perfectly paced and always finds the right balance between action, adventure, intrigue, romance and humor.
Paramount presents Raiders Of The Lost Ark in HEVC encoded 2160p framed in its proper 2.39.1 widescreen aspect ratio on a 100GB disc with a very high bit rate with both Dolby Vision and HDR10 enhancement. Picture quality is pretty much perfect, offering fans quite a substantial leap up in quality compared to past editions, including the original Blu-ray which already looked quite nice. We get truly excellent detail from start to finish and loads of depth and texture here. The colors look absolutely perfect: bright and bold without ever appearing to be artificially boosted. The lush greens of the jungle really pop quite nicely and the brown leather of Jones' jacket looks perfect. Black levels are nice and deep but the transfer avoids any obvious crush or compression artifacts, providing excellent shadow detail even in some of the dimly lit interiors such as the iconic temple/idol sequence. Skin tones look great and the image always appears naturally filmic, retaining the expected amount of natural grain without any noticeable print damage, dirt or debris. The Dolby Vision and HDR work here is noteworthy, as the colors really do advance over past versions in a big way, the picture quality looks fantastic and fans of this classic film should be very pleased with how the picture quality has turned out on this release.
English language Dolby Atmos and Dolby TrueHD 7.1 options with optional Dobly Digital 5.1 Surround Sound mixes in Spanish, French, Italian and Japanese and Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo tracks in Spanish, Italian, Japanese and Russian. Optional subtitles are available in English, English SDH, French, Italian, Japanese, Spanish, Cantonese, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Korean, Mandarin (Simplified), Mandarin (Traditional), Norwegian, Russian, Swedish and Thai.
The Atmos mix is the way to go if you've got the hardware to handle it, as it sounds amazing. The rumble from the bolder scene really surrounds you and pulls you into the action in a big way. There's loads of surround activity throughout the movie, it is, at times, remarkably enveloping and consistently impressive. Bass response is tight and strong without burying anything in the mix, while dialogue stays clean, clear and concise. Gun shots pack a big punch, the crack of the whip sounds super sharp and the whirring of the airplane propellers sounds appropriately ominous. There are no problems to note with even a trace of hiss, distortion or sibilance here, it all sounds fantastic and leaves virtually no obvious room for improvement.
Extra features on the disc are, disappointingly, limited to a theatrical trailer, a teaser trailer and a reissue trailer. Menus and chapter selection options are also provided.
It is worth mentioning the physical packaging for this release, as Paramount has reissued the disc in a really slick looking bright steelbook that features nice art from the film's reissue poster on the front and some still imagery from the feature on the inside. It also comes bundled with an insert card containing a code that can be redeemed for a digital HD downloadable version of the movie.
Raiders Of The Lost Ark remains a classic adventure film for a reason, and that's because it's a fantastically exiting and entertaining film from start to finish. Everyone involved brought their A-game, with Ford crafting a truly iconic character with his work in the picture. Paramount's UHD release looks and sounds amazing and the steelbook packaging is very nice. It's a shame that they didn't bother doing anything in terms of actual supplements here, but the movie is so good and the presentation so strong that this release still comes highly recommended, even if it isn't the proper special edition UHD that the movie so truly deserves.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.