Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008) - 2-Disc Special Edition

Genre(s): Action / Adventure / Comedy / Science Fiction
Paramount || PG13 - 122 minutes - $39.99 || October 14, 2008
Reviewer: Brian Oliver || Posted On: 2008-10-12


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.:: F I L M ::.
The Film

S P E C I A L
.: F E A T U R E S :.

Special Features

.:: V I D E O ::.
Video

.:: A U D I O ::.
Audio

.:: O V E R A L L ::.
Overall
.::MOVIE INFORMATION::.
Director: Steven Spielberg
Writer(s): George Lucas and Jeff Nathanson (story), David Koepp (screenplay)
Cast: Harrison Ford, Cate Blanchett, Karen Allen, Shia LaBeouf, Ray Winstone, John Hurt, Jim Broadbent


Theatrical Release Date: May 22, 2008


.::DVD INFORMATION::.
Supplemental Material:
  • The Return of a Legend
  • Pre-Production
  • Production Diary: Making of Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
  • The Crystal Skulls
  • Iconic Props
  • The Effects of Indy
  • Adventures in Post-Production
  • Warrior Makeup
  • Closing: Team Indy
  • Galleries Section
  • Pre-Visualization Sequences


Technical Information:
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Widescreen (2.35)
  • English (Dolby Digital 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 5.1), Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English, French, Spanish

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.::THE FILM::.

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I initially gave Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull a decent 3.5/5 and while my second viewing still contained some entertainment value, its replay value was easily diminished and thus I have bumped it down a quarter of a star, and I can’t think subsequent viewings will help much either. With that said, it is good for one viewing, but those flaws I mention in my review are too much to ignore.

ORIGINAL THEATRICAL REVIEW (EDITED):
Harrison Ford returns as our favorite professor turned adventure-seeking archeologist in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull which, for the sake of space and time will be known as Indy 4, the first Indiana Jones movie since 1989’s Last Crusade.

It is 1956 and Indiana Jones is still getting himself into trouble. Indy 4 opens with Dr. Jones kidnapped by the Russians who have invaded and a secret U.S. military base to steal an artifact that Indiana had earlier recovered for the government. Cate Blanchett plays the ruthless Irma Spalko, a determined woman who wants to help mother country and leader Joseph Stalin by recovering something called the “Crystal Skull” that has some kind of mind controlling powers. You see, the person who returns the skull to its rightful place will have the ultimate power and treasure to, um, control people’s minds... or something like that. Point is Stalin wants it. She’s determined to get it. Of course, Indiana, even in his 60s, still has what it takes to make a mess of things.

Early on, Indiana meets a young greaser named Mutt Williams (LaBeouf), a young fella who steps right out of the 1950s with the slick back hair, leather jacket, a kick ass bike and an aggressive attitude. He has sought Dr. Jones for help as his mentor, Professor Oxley (Hurt) has been kidnapped by the same Ruskis that had earlier taken him. With the college believing he is a traitor, due to him helping the Russians (this ordeal includes a very funny role by member of “Scrubs”), he has been put on leave and so he sets out with Mutt to find Oxley – who is also a personal friend of Indiana.

Indiana and Mutt journey to South America where they once again encounter the Soviets who are after the same thing. After some grave digging and some suspense and fighting, the two are captured as Ms. Spalko still has plans for Indiana. You see, they also have Oxley in their camp, but the power of the Crystal Skull has made him crazy and she believes that Indiana is the only one who could translate the gibberish that could lead to the location of the Kingdom... of the Crystal Skulls! While in the Soviet Camp, one more surprise is revealed: they also hold captive Mutt’s mother who is none other than... Marion Ravenwood (Allen)!

Adventure and suspense follow as Indiana, Mutt and Marion go up against Spalko and her Russian cohorts’ battle by car and water. It is up to this point that the film sputters along but still is quite entertaining but then it would seem the hand of the man who created Jar-Jar Binks made his presence known. After being thrown from a car up into vines in the jungle, Mutt encounters some monkeys and goes Tarzan on us swinging from vine to vine as he makes his way back to the convoy. Yes, it is quite the site to see Mutt swing through the jungle with hundreds of monkeys around him... but it is not in a good way.

Since I have already revealed a good portion of the plot, I’ll leave it at that but must mention the biggest reason as to why this entry pales in comparison to the rest. While each of the other Indiana Jones movies make use of the fantasy aspect of the genre – Raiders of the Lost Ark and the melting face; Temple of Doom and the cult leader who pulls out beating hearts; and Last Crusade where Indiana and Henry Sr. discover the Cradle of Life where the cup of Christ has healing power. So the finales in the Indiana series usually stretch the plot out to the extreme, but at least they work.

Where Kingdom of the Crystal Skull fails is it is nowhere near as good and goes into Sci-Fi territory. Trust me, it will make you go “What the fu**?!?” Whether that is good or not depends on how much you can forgive/accept Spielberg and Lucas’ vision. Personally, I’m mixed on it. On the one hand, it does fit in well with the 1950s serial that Spielberg originally developed the series on. But on the other hand, it was just too out there even in this franchise...

What does work in the film is, of course, Indiana himself, Harrison Ford. At the age of 66, he still looks great and is believable even after all these years. He still has that classic Indiana bark and with Shia LaBeouf’s Mutt Williams character, the duo makes a great pair, better than his previous sidekicks like Short Round. It is in their relationship we see why LaBeouf was handpicked up Spielberg for this role. I’ve become a fan of his since Disturbia and even in Transformers, a film I did not care for, LaBeouf showed he has charisma and personality.

Indy 4, even with its flaws, was still a fun movie that brings back some nice nostalgia of yesteryear. Spielberg brings back the style of the series even if the opening doesn’t quite matchup. But the film still looks fantastic and even with some questionable writing (vine swinging and the finale), David Koepp and George Lucas actually don’t do too bad of a job developing an interesting story, even if it’s thinner by comparison to the others. Yeah, many will harp on Lucas because of what he did to their “childhoods” after “butchering” the Star Wars saga (not being a big fan, I could care less).

Those same people probably will say the same thing after this, but having enjoyed the original trilogy, it still wasn’t a part of my childhood thus any faults Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls has, does not offend me the nth degree. I thought this was an enjoyable movie worth the price of admission and shows that Harrison Ford still has what it takes to be the action star we all know and love.



.::SPECIAL FEATURES::.

The Return of a Legend (17:36) – This featurette has interviews with Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and others discussing the road to getting the fourth Indiana Jones movie from script to screen over the years. It doesn’t go into (at all) the ordeal with Frank Darabont, but I didn’t expect it to.

Pre-Production (11:46) – Next is another featurette that mainly features Spielberg and other technical crew members working on pre-viz and just getting certain elements lined up and ready.

There are also 3 Indiana Jones trailers.

The following are only available on the “2-Disc Special Edition” DVD/BD:

Production Diary: Making Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (80:13) - Excellent and detailed ‘making-of’ that takes you from day one through the final day of production. It features more interviews with just about everyone involved from Spielberg to Harrison Ford to the first assistant director. This is not the best “video diary” I have ever viewed, but it’s pretty damn good.

These next six, yes six, featurettes would actually fit under the “Production Diary”, but are listed separately. First up, Warrior Makeup (5:36) details putting the tattoos, piercings, etc on all the extras; The Crystal Skull (10:11) chronicles the design of the skull and how the prop makers actually made it to make it look crystal; Iconic Props (10:03) shows the making of some of the more recognizable Indiana Jones props (hat, whip) by using the one’s that appeared in the original films and making new ones (and weathering it down to make them look older); The Effects of Indy (22:43) is the most extensive of the bunch and goes into how some of the shots were accomplished both on set and in the digital realm; Adventures in Post-Production (12:47) features some more sound bites from the filmmakers and talks about editing, scoring and that is involved after shooting is finished; and finally Closing Team Indy (3:43) is a nice wrap-up.

Pre-Visualization Sequences (14:10) – Three sequences have been included (Area 51 Escape, Jungle Chase and Ants Attack. Not my favorite thing to watch, but it does give you an idea of how much planning goes on before shooting.

Lastly is a selection of galleries: The Art Department, Stan Winston Studio, Production Photographs, Portraits and Behind-the-Scenes Photographs.

The disc also features a game demo of “LEGO Indiana Jones” for the X-Box 360 (available only on the DVD).



.::AUDIO & VIDEO::.

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Paramount presents Kingdom of the Crystal Skull in anamorphic widescreen with a 2.35 OAR. I was impressed with the visuals and as with any Steven Spielberg movie, he rarely disappoints. Colors have that tint one is used to seeing in an Indiana Jones movie and it seems that overall it was a clean transfer void of dust, scratches or other imperfections. Black levels seem to be about right as do skin tones and other colors.

The DVD features a Dolby Digital 5.1 track, typical for a Paramount release. Of course it’s a Lucas Film Production so its YHX certified and for the most part it’s a solid track. Bass levels seemed to be good and audio was coming through fine on all the speakers. I don’t think it’s one of the best I’ve heard on DVD, but it is still more than satisfactory.



.::OVERALL::.

Despite the fact Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull does not stack up with the rest and that the story just isn’t very good, I still think it retains some entertainment value that fans of the series will appreciate. As for the DVD, it is jammed packed with features and the documentary alone is worth checking out. Only think that would’ve made this perfect – outside a better script – would be a commentary track, but Spielberg does not include them on his DVDs.