Of all the summer blockbusters that will ultimately make their way onto Blu-ray disc during the second half of the year, I did not count Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull among the ones that were sure to knock me off of my sofa. And it turns out, I was right and wrong, all at the same time. Don’t worry, this isn’t the first time — and yes, I plan on explaining myself. On one hand we’ve got a great release on our hands, one that is rich with special features and in-depth behind the scenes action. On the other, we have a Blu-ray release that doesn’t give us much more than the 2-disc standard edition DVD. And with a limited quantity of additional features, it makes it awfully tough to stomach the jump in price. Allow me to explain further…
No Time for Commentary, Dr. Jones
Before we get into the few differences between Indy 4 on Blu-ray and Indy 4 on DVD, it is important to talk about one of the most annoying omissions from this release. There is no commentary track. No Spielberg, no Lucas, no Ford, not even Shia LaBeouf showed up for an alternative audio track. It breaks my heart to think that this film could be in the making for 20-some years and that none of the folks involved saw fit to sit down and lay down some commentary. As well, in a world where companies like Universal are utilizing the Blu-ray U-Control feature to layer in picture-in-picture commentary, behind the scenes features ‘on the run’ and interactive graphic overlays, it is ridiculous to see a movie like this with absolutely nothing to distract us from watching the actual film. It isn’t limited to Blu-ray either — none of the formats sport a commentary track, leaving fans with nothing more than a movie to watch — and that’s just no fun.
The Aliens, Those Were All George Lucas’ Idea
Thankfully, despite the lack of commentary, there are plenty of behind the scenes featurettes to give us an in-depth level of knowledge on what it took to get the fedora-wearing adventurer back to the big screen. In one of the featurettes on disc one, entitled ‘The Return of a Legend,’ we get to hear George Lucas, Steven Spielberg and producer Frank Marshall explain the long road that led up to the start of production. Here, we see Spielberg explaining how the Indy’s interdimensional co-stars were, in fact, the work of George Lucas — and how it was Lucas who always seemed to be the main cog in the machine that spit out the film’s somewhat polarizing story. As well, it is fun to see some of the other titles that were thrown around before the creative bodies settled on ‘Kingdom of the Crystal Skull‘ — my personal favorite: Indiana Jones and the Saucer Men from Mars. In addition to this featurette on disc one, disc two is packed with 12 other decent length featurettes — exploring everything from the various location shoots to the life of the guy who was in charge of keeping tabs on the ‘Iconic Props,’ including Indy’s patented whip. All in all, it is a pretty comprehensive set of behind the scenes features, but as I mentioned before, it is the same lineup on the Blu-ray as it is on the 2-disc DVD set — the only advantage here is that they are all in HD, which is appreciated, but not overwhelming.
In Search of the Great Indiana Jones Timeline
The only special feature that is unique to the Blu-ray release is the ‘Indiana Jones Timeline’ on disc one. This mildly entertaining, but not so easy to use feature shows three different timelines: a production timeline that walks us through the key dates in the 20-plus year journey to get the film made; a story timeline that shows, in order, the events of the film (which is not as entertaining as actually watching the film, by the way); and a historical timeline that matches the movie up with real world events. Apparently, based on the information provided on this DVD, the U.S. was locked up in some sort of arms race conflict with the Russians in the 1950s; who knew?
Not Like It Used to Be, But Still Good Enough
Perhaps the one phrase that fully encapsulates the experience of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is that for many folks, it just isn’t the same as it was with the first three films. Then again, what did we really expect? What Steven Spielberg has made in the fourth film — one that he really wasn’t crazy about making in the first place — is an Indiana Jones adventure that is good enough. And perhaps the same can be said about the Blu-ray release as it compares to the 2-disc DVD, it is good enough. Sure, it doesn’t sport a ton of additional features, but this is a movie that looks and sounds good when delivered in HD. And it is a release that features all of its behind the scenes content in HD as well, which is something that is becoming more common, but certainly has not become standard just yet. In the end, not only is this a movie that is worth owning on DVD, it is also a Blu-ray release that is worth a couple extra bucks.