The packaging of this release looks like the old Indy movies.
The fact that this film was made by people who consider themselves intelligent adults.Imagine that you were around 8 years old when you saw Raiders of the Lost Ark. You may not have understood everything but, darn it, you knew you had just seen a great movie. Flashforward a few years and you watch Temple of Doom. You enjoyed this film so much you then rewatched Raiders and got really excited about Indiana Jones. Then you wait a few more years and The Last Crusade comes out and this movie also happens to be really good.
Years pass, you're 34 (35 as of this writing) and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of The Crystal Skull comes out. The commercials look a bit weird but you figure that's because they are showing the movie out of context. You get into the packed theater, the lights come down, 8 hours of trailers pass, then the old Paramount logo hits the screen, a mound of dirt is presented that mimics the famous mountain, and then some gophers come out of the mound like a scene from Caddyshack 3.
Now, I could use this section to explain the movie (it has something to do with Indy trying get his mitts on this skull that has magic powers) but I can't. I need for you, the reader, to understand that once the CG gophers presented themselves this wag was completely taken out of this movie. Everything looked fake. The sets, the stunts, the quicksand, and that absurd looking plastic skull. I wish I could write something better because I very much wanted to love this film, but all I can say is... George Lucas, Steven Spielberg and Harrison Ford... how could you?
The Return of a Legend
I would recommend fans and newcomers to this franchise to watch this featurette. While it isn't that amazing, it is well done and it gives people that haven't seen the other films an idea of what they can expect. Soaking us in the lore that is Indiana Jones, one can be regaled with early stories of this character's inception, and also get a sense for how Indy has evolved since he first donned his fedora in 1981.
Given to us in 12 parts, this production diary tells you everything you need to know about the making of this movie. While it really is nothing more than a puff piece for how hard it is to get a movie like this on the big screen, I would love for Spielberg to really show us how a movie gets made. I want to see a camera on Spielberg, Lucas and Ford at their most candid. I want to see these guys stressing out, throwing fits, or otherwise behaving normally. This piece is well put together but it feels staged.
Again, these behind the scenes photos are good but one knows that we are only seeing what the main players want us to see. I am sure that every one of Lucas's, Spielberg's and Ford's assistant went through every possible photo to make sure that the person in question was seen in their best light. If you really want to learn how someone like Spielberg acts when making one of these event movies, just read his sections in Julia Phillips' You'll Never Eat Lunch In This Town Again.
Widescreen Version - Enhanced for 16:9 TVs. As much as I hated how obvious all the CGI was, I would be lying if I didn't say that this movie didn't look good. Sure, it was obvious during the acting and the stunt scenes what was and wasn't real, but when that spaceship comes out in the last reel, I managed to get caught up in the whole 1950s vibe they were going for. The DVD transfer seems like it is been done with the utmost care and I can only imagine how pristine this film looks on Blu-ray.
Dolby Digital: English 5.1 Surround/French 5.1 Surround/Spanish 5.1 Surround - Subtitles: English, French and Spanish. The audio for this movie was very done. This is after all a product of the Lucasfilm/THX conglomerate. There is a richness to the sound that does its best to give us all the nuances that movie lovers seek. We are in a great time because the home theater experience often bests the "in theater" one. Sure, we don't get the feeling of watching a movie with an audience, but at the same time we don't get the experience of watching a movie with an audience.
The packaging for this release is really the best part. I say that because it recalls the other movies so faithfully. Indy stands on the front cover brandishing his whip as a gold glow surrounds him. The back cover has various shots from the movie, a small description (because nothing this byzantine could ever be summed up succinctly), a Special Features listing for both discs, a credits list and technical specs. Paramount Home Video has stored both discs in one amaray case.
For some reason I thought that I might feel different about this movie on DVD. Why this is I can't explain but I just thought that it would play better. I knew something was awry when I screened Temple of Doom recently and it just didn't have the same feeling. Perhaps the problem with these films is me? Maybe I have seen too many movies, my eyes are too sophisticated and I just can't suspend my disbelief like I used to. Afterall, Kingdom of The Crystal Skull did pull in about $800,000,000 worldwide. There will no doubt be a sequel, or at least a lot of sequel talk until this film has fulfilled its financial obligations in all the requisite ancillary markets.
At the end of the day I think what bothers me is that it's not that Crystal Skull was that bad. It's that these franchise pictures, the films that were staples of my youth, have now been co-opted to appeal to a younger, hipper, more vibrant, and more cash inclined audience. These movies from my generation are no longer being made for my generation. They are being made for younger children who like fake gophers, fake monkeys and spaceships appearing for no reason whatsoever.
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was released May 21, 2008.