Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark

There’s an overwhelming notion that I’ve lived with for some time, a deeply person issue that conflicts me as a pro movie watcher. Unlike so many of my colleagues, I’ve just never been captivated with superfandom, not for Star Wars, nor Lord of the Rings, not for any number of geek fetish properties. Perhaps, I’ve wondered, I simply don’t have the capacity to love. Many of my ex-girlfriends might agree.

Then there’s Indiana Jones. My hero. It takes a little bit, in each of the first three movies in this franchise, to get to the hero score composed by John Williams. You know the one. But once it hits and we meet our hero, my spine tingles and a part of my brain that’s usually deep in analytical thought is washed over with pure, unadulterated amore. Indiana Jones has always been my guy. A scientist, an adventurer, a cavalier man of the ladies. He belongs in a museum, as monument to absolute manliness. And this week, he’s making his big debut on Blu-ray. Lets explore.

The Set

The first thing you’ll notice about Indiana Jones: The Complete Collection on Blu-ray, is the packaging. It’s exceptional packaging. Sturdy, embossed on the font and has a bit of weight to it to remind you that you’ve paid for something that was meant to be collected and stored on a shelf for others to see. The interior book slides out of the outer package, opening like a book to reveal the discs of the set — four movies and a bonus disc. It opens in a manner similar to the Alien Anthology set, released earlier this year to stellar reviews. It’s another example of how packaging can make a big difference. First impressions matter, people.

Another smaller, but equally important not on the presentation set is the menus. They come right up. No trail of tears of advertising, as seen on so many other modern releases. Kudos to Paramount and LucasFilm for resisting the urge to pimp other releases in front of this one. We’re right into the simple, easily navigated menu and off to the races, just as we’d expect from a franchise with such verve.

Raiders of the Lost Ark

The only hiccup in this otherwise splendid experience is the opening sequence of Raiders. Despite being one of the great, iconic introductions of a hero — real all-time great stuff, if you ask me — there’s some serious grain and color inconsistencies throughout the opening minutes. It becomes clear later, as the movie becomes vibrant, colorful and sharp as any 80s film transferred to HD has ever been, that the remastering team really had to pour blood, sweat and probably a few tears into that opening moment. The original source was not kind to them. All the while, we’re distracted by that thrilling opening. And yes, I’d still throw him the whip, any day.

Beyond these initial problems, the rest of Raiders is pristine. From the shadow play as Indy meets up with Marion for the first time to the silly, but absolutely ingenious special effects employed in the final Ark scene, there’s a cleanliness to this restoration that sets a great tone for the rest of the series. Raiders, being the elder statesman of the franchise, looking this good provides optimism for the rest of the series.

Temple of Doom

Since seeing these films as a kid, Temple of Doom has always been a dreadful experience for me. Not because it’s any less brilliant than the other films. It’s perhaps the most exciting, action-packed adventure. But Indiana Jones travels to India, gets wrapped up in the eating of monkey brains, exploring through corridors of giant bugs, the tearing out of live, beating hearts and a little bit of blood consumption. And I simply don’t have a strong constitution for these things. That said, moment one in Club Obi Wan just pops off the screen in HD and this one never lets go. For all the problems Raiders has getting off the ground, from a restoration standpoint, Temple of Doom really hits the ground running. It’s effortlessly beautiful, even with the noticeable compositing of a plane crashing against a snow-covered mountain.

The color is rich, especially in the Temple, and dependent upon who you ask, this is either the best of the Indiana Jones movies or the silliest. Either way, it’s still a great ride.

The Last Crusade

Indiana Jones and his long-lost father chase down Jesus’ wine glass in the search for eternal life. Full of all the best of the Indiana Jones franchise, the balance between science and fate, Indy’s daddy issues and his stubborn pursuit of shinny artifacts. And it’s a grand adventure. My personal favorite film, if we’re being honest. A great deal of levity (“No ticket”) and supporting characters who bring a lot to the table (I’m looking at you, Mr. Sean Connery). Even the romance has layers. It’s the best written, most energetic effort in the series and it very well should have been left there, based on who you ask. On Blu-ray, The Last Crusade is the best of the original trilogy. The transfer is clean and without any digital artifacts. The top menu travels by map, the cinematography of Douglas Slocombe is sweeping and glorious. It’s a joy to be back on this adventure, and in such stunning form, nonetheless.

Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

And we’re just going to move past this one… It was shot with modern tech, recorded in 5.1, complete with digitized primates. It looks slick, but lets not pretend that it’s why anyone is interested in this set.

The Bonus Disc

Instead of running through every single one of the many, many extras that exist on this disc, lets talk about what is new. If you’ve owned any of the previous DVD releases of the original trilogy or the DVD/Blu of Crystal Skull (sadly), then all that stuff is here. Lots of Spielberg and Lucas on set, hanging out with the man in the sweet fedora. On the side of new is an entire documentary-worth of new bonus features for Raiders of the Lost Ark, recovered from Spielberg’s archive. Lots of new behind the scenes footage, previously unseen on-set footage and alternate takes. The two individual featurettes, titled “From Jungle to Desert” and “From Adventure to Legend,” are so much fun, it’s like being a little kid again trying to imagine what it would have been like to be on that set.

The Final Word

This one has come out just as we’ve all hoped. Just as I said when I reviewed the Alien Anthology earlier this year, this one is for the fans. A complete set of Indiana Jones movies that have clearly been remastered with meticulous care. A compendium of extras that are not just interesting, some of them have never been seen before. It’s a best case scenario kind of release, and I can’t recommend its purchase highly enough.

Images courtesy of Blu-ray.com

The Disc Specifics

For those who would like to see the full rundown, here it is:

Indiana Jones: The Complete Collection

Disc Specifications:

Disc 1—Raiders of the Lost Ark

Raiders of the Lost Ark is presented in 1080p high definition with English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish 2.0 Dolby Digital, Portuguese 5.1 Dolby Digital, Portuguese 2.0 Dolby Digital and English, English SDH, French, Spanish and Portuguese subtitles. The disc includes the following:

  • Teaser Trailer (HD)
  • Theatrical Trailer (HD)
  • Re-Issue Trailer (HD)

Disc 2—Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is presented in 1080p high definition with English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish 2.0 Dolby Digital, Portuguese 5.1 Dolby Digital, Portuguese 2.0 Dolby Digital and English, English SDH, French, Spanish and Portuguese subtitles. The disc includes the following:

  • Teaser Trailer (HD)
  • Theatrical Trailer (HD)

Disc 3—Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is presented in 1080p high definition with English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish 2.0 Dolby Digital, Portuguese 5.1 Dolby Digital, Portuguese 2.0 Dolby Digital and English, English SDH, French, Spanish and Portuguese subtitles. The disc includes the following:

  • Teaser Trailer (HD)
  • Theatrical Trailer (HD)

Disc 4—Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is presented in 1080p high definition with English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, Portuguese 5.1 Dolby Digital and English Audio Description and English, English SDH, French, Spanish and Portuguese subtitles. The disc includes the following:

  • Theatrical Trailer #2 (HD)
  • Theatrical Trailer #3 (HD)
  • Theatrical Trailer #4 (HD)

Disc 5—Bonus Features

Bonus features are presented in standard and high definition (as indicated below) in English with English, French, Spanish and Portuguese subtitles.

  • NEW – On Set with Raiders of the Lost Ark
    • From Jungle to Desert
    • From Adventure to Legend
  • Making the Films
    • The Making of Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981 documentary previously unavailable on DVD)
    • The Making of Raiders of the Lost Ark
    • The Making of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
    • The Making of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

Disc 5—Bonus Features (cont’d)

    • The Making of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (HD)
  • Behind the Scenes
    • The Stunts of Indiana Jones
    • The Sound of Indiana Jones
    • The Music of Indiana Jones
    • The Light and Magic of Indiana Jones
    • Raiders: The Melting Face!
    • Indiana Jones and the Creepy Crawlies (with optional pop-ups)
    • Travel with Indiana Jones: Locations (with optional pop-ups)
    • Indy’s Women: The American Film Institute Tribute
    • Indy’s Friends and Enemies
    • Iconic Props (Crystal Skull) (HD)
    • The Effects of Indy (Crystal Skull) (HD)
    • Adventures in Post Production (Crystal Skull) (HD)

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