"Indiana Jones: The Adventure Collection" DVD Review
May 05, 2008 by Zach Demeter
There are few movies from my childhood that I’d dare watch again. Every time I end up rewatching some film I loved as child it ends in tears, as I find out that my taste in movies as a kid didn’t translate to my taste in movies as an adult (i.e., I don’t like horrible films anymore). Granted, there are exceptions and there’s never been a greater exception to the rule than Indiana Jones. Young or old, watching Indiana Jones is simply one of the most entertaining ways to spend an afternoon and with the long-awaited fourth film just weeks away, what better time to review the classic Jones Trilogy?
The first three Indiana Jones films have grossed over one billion worldwide and continue to bring in revenue with the renewal of the franchise with this month’s upcoming Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull theatrical debut fast approaching. Starring Harrison Ford, the Indiana Jones series was a return to the simple things about adventure films that we love so much: action scene after action scene, plus a little romance and humor thrown in on the side. While the series could be blamed for the mindless action films that litter DVD shelves today, it’s hard to fault what came after it when the original trilogy of films was so entertaining all by itself.
Of course there are things that many don’t like about the series...well, I shouldn’t say “things” so much as “installment.” The second in the series, Temple of Doom was lambasted by critics and was so dark that it ended up spawning a new MPAA rating after its release (and yet was never retro-actively re-rated). Still, even for the series shortcomings in some areas, the films are simply so entertaining and effortlessly engaging that to avoid watching any of them would require some dislike of entertainment…or Harrison Ford, but either way I’d call you crazy.
When it was originally being conceived, Raiders of the Lost Ark was thought to be a return to the films that Steven Spielberg and George Lucas loved so much as kids. A little James Bond here and a dash of 1930s and 1940s serials spawned Indiana Jones, the globe-trotting archeologist who not only managed to research and teach about history, but to also find his way into making some of it with his various discoveries over time. Raiders enthralled audiences from the start and the films action rarely let up; when it did, it was to introduce new characters and after they got adjusted we were off again. Without a doubt, Raiders set the stage for the sequels that followed, as well as many other action films such as Romancing the Stone as well as the more modern Nicholas Cage venture National Treasure and the Brendan Fraser The Mummy series. While those films are a mere shadow of what Indiana Jones achieved, it’s hard to deny the influence that Raiders had on action adventure films.
Riding high on the success of Raiders, the sequel to the film, Temple of Doom swung into theaters three years later and opened to a lot of poor critical and audience reception. The film, taking place prior to Raiders of the Lost Ark, was much darker than the previous release. With children being kept as slaves and Indiana Jones drinking blood and becoming possessed, the film was the darkest of the trilogy and certainly the one least fondly remembered. After really getting into the Indiana Jones mythos while watching the Young Indiana series, a friend and myself decided to watch the trilogy back to back; after a rousing two hours of Raiders, we fell into Temple of Doom and were left rather bored for the entire process. While there are humorous elements in the film, provided mainly by Willie Scott (Kate Capshaw), it simply was a letdown after the adventurous Raiders. The film moved slower and the darker elements didn’t mix well with the lighthearted nature of the first film. Still, Temple of Doom is weak only when compared to the other films in the series; it’s an entertaining and interesting film in its own right…just not when you sit it on the shelf next to the other two films.
The final film in the series is by far my favorite of the bunch. When I was young I had little interest in which Sean Connery was and while he’ll be James Bond to many, he’ll always be Indiana’s father to me. This movie remains one of my all-time favorites, as the mixture of action and humor in the film cannot be beaten. On top of that, the classic angle of taking down Nazi’s is always a fun time, what with the exploding cars, bikes, and tanks that come with it. The interaction between Ford and Connery is so wildly entertaining that it easily steals the show away from the rest of the cast and story whenever they’re the focus of a scene. The Last Crusade is my favorite entry in the trilogy and if Connery doesn’t show up in the fourth installment, even for a brief cameo, my inner child will start crying. And so will my outer one too, I’m a giant baby.
It’s obvious by now, but if you haven’t seen the Indiana Jones trilogy, then you’re missing out on some seriously great entertainment. While the series impact may be lessened now with the onslaught of adventure films like the aforementioned National Treasure and The Mummy, it’s nice to know that the films that inspired directors in the 80s can still inspire kids today. Indiana Jones is, simply put, one of the best trilogies (soon to be quadrilogy) out there and remains today as a Must See.
Ok, well we’ve done this dance before. It’s no surprise that Indiana Jones is seeing a DVD re-release timed with the release of Skulls, but considering it’s been nearly five years since the last release of this trilogy (which was a single set, with the films never made available singly), it’s almost time for a refresh of the box set release…even if it’s not really warranted. The new films are all available in single-disc DVD releases or in this new “Adventure Collection.” The casing for this release is the standard slipcase, although it’s reinforced cardboard like the previous box set release, and includes some fancy embossed lettering and foil reflection on the cover. Inside the slipcase are the three thin-paks, each housing a film with the new cover art (all of which looks great, especially Temple of Doom which has a fantastic poster).
Unfortunately the awesome new covers used for these releases are where the positives end on this set, as once you start comparing them to the old releases you begin to see that the new releases most certainly aren’t better. Yes, they have new extras that are all entertaining and interesting to watch, but at what cost? Well the cost is the transfers for the film. Visually the transfers are a tad bit more compressed and when comparing the numbers, it’s easy to see why. Raiders takes the biggest hit with the films transfer falling from a massive 7.3GB from the old release to the new 6.2GB—with nearly a gig of lost data, this release is already shaping up to not be the finest representation of the films. The differences between the other two films isn’t as extreme (6.9GB to 6.2GB for Temple and 6.8GB to 6.2GB for Crusade), but it’s sad that these were compressed just to fit on the new extras. The audio remains the same, although it’s possible they chopped some of the data off in the audio portion as well. Either way, the transfers had something taken off of them in order to account for the new extras space required and considering the DVD format was released for clarity and sound, it seems silly to sacrifice that for a few superfluous extras. While their presentations aren’t anything to really scoff at, if you own the previous set, you already have your first reason for not trading up.
Menus for this release match the previous releases, although they’re a bit quicker on the animation at times. While I thought they were different at first, if you let the older release menus to sit for a bit, they eventually cycle through some animation, while the newer releases remain on a mildly animated Indiana Jones logo screen for awhile.
Now then, the extras themselves! While I pretty much lambasted them for compressing the technical aspects of the DVD, they are admittedly pretty fun to watch. Since the last release received its own bonus disc for extras we got a much more focused and broad scope of the trilogy, while these new individual releases focus more on the films themselves. Each of the three films has newly recorded intros by Spielberg and Lucas and is filled with behind-the-scenes footage as well as comments from other cast and crew. Their run times are pretty quick (Raiders - 7:46, Temple - 5:57, Crusade - 6:12), but have plenty of new cast interviews, most of which are recorded from the set of Skull. They’re fun to watch but not enough to upgrade from the old set for. Photo galleries for all three films are also included on their respective discs.
Aside from the intros each film has two or three extra featurettes to go along with them. Raiders has “Indiana Jones: An Appreciation” (11:39) which acts as a bit of a recap of everyones feelings towards the series, again with new interviews from the Skull set. We here from those involved with the old films as well as the new one, so there’s plenty of history to sort through. “The Melting Face!” (8:49) shows the original process used to create the ghastly effect in the film and using modern materials we see a recreation of it as well. Finally a “Storyboards: Snakes Alive! The Well of Souls Storyboards” (4:16) wraps up Raiders.
Moving onto Temple we have “The Creepy Crawlies” (11:53) which actually acts as a trilogy-overview, as it encompasses the snakes, bugs and rats from the three films. “Travel With Indy” (10:29) shows off the locations for all three films as well and both of these featurettes included on the Temple disc include pop-up trivia, which sometimes repeats what’s on screen but other times throws in a few cool facts here and there. “Storyboards: The Mine Cart Chase” (2:30) finishes off the disc.
Finally we move onto Crusade. Here we have “Indy's Women: The American Film Institute Tribute” (9:22) which again encompasses all three films in a short clip of interviews with the leading ladies of the three films. “Indy's Friends and Enemies” (10:45) showcases his supporting cast for the trilogy while “Storyboards: The Opening Sequence” (3:39) has a quick recap of the opening as well as the boards to go with it.
As you can see the extras, aside from the intros to each film, are hardly worth trading up your old set for, especially since the extras on that set are so much richer and deeper. This “Adventure Collection” was created to promote the new films release and little else; there isn’t enough here in terms of extra content to warrant the purchase and considering the older set is actually cheaper than this one, I’d honestly pick up the first release over this new edition. The compressed transfers and new extras just aren’t enough to trade up or purchase over the old release. Oh, and the LEGO Indiana Jones game demo? It’s just a link to a website.
This release would have been an easy recommendation for upgrade if it had a disc dedicated to the new extras, especially seeing that so few of them actually focus specifically on a certain film and, rather, encompass the entire trilogy. Hopefully we’ll get more in-depth extras and commentaries should the quadrilogy see the light of Blu-ray. For now, Skip this release or give it a Rental if you want to see the new extras. Unfortunately this release just isn’t worth it…although the Indy fan in me does love the new covers for each of the films.
Indiana Jones: The Adventure collection arrives on DVD on May 13th.