INDIANA JONES: THE ADVENTURE COLLECTION
Review by Michael Jacobson
Harrison Ford, Karen Allen, Kate Capshaw, Sean Connery, River Phoenix May 13, 2008
Director: Steven Spielberg
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Features: See Review
Length: 359 Minutes
May 13, 2008
you ever play Han Solo again?”
think Han would be a little thin for me at this stage in my career.”
you play Indiana Jones again?”
a New York minute.”
began as an idea in the mind of George Lucas...a throwback to the great serial
movie adventurers of his youth. But
when Lucas, the creator of Star Wars, teamed up with Steven Spielberg,
the wunderkind director behind Jaws, that singular vision of a fedora
doffing, whip cracking, globetrotting archaeologist became a cultural icon.
name was Indiana Jones, and the posters for his screen debut proclaimed “The
Ultimate Hero in the Ultimate Adventure”.
Simply stated yet unapologetically boastful, it turned out to be truth in
advertising. Raiders of the Lost
Ark was not only an instant hit and a critical favorite, it became one of
those event movies that everyone can remember clearly the first time they saw
Back when I first learned these movies were at long last coming to
DVD, my friends and I chatted up that experience. The memories were fond, and the trip down memory lane like an
adventure in and of itself. My
comrade in arms at DVD Movie Central Gordon even told me it was the first ever
movie he saw in a theatre. I’m
not sure at exactly what point I became Methuselah, but there it is…
more films would follow, completing George Lucas’ vision of a trilogy
(something he always spoke of, even at the beginning, though he would later
admit he didn’t really have two more stories in mind at the time), and further
cementing Steven Spielberg’s star as a director who gave his audiences the
most entertainment possible for their movie going buck. The films were filled with action, adventure, spectacle, vast
drama and tickling humor.
they mostly worked because of a great central character.
Indiana Jones was indeed an ultimate hero, and one fans immediately
bonded with. He was gritty and
determined, not always graceful in his methods, not always successful at first
attempt, and someone who confronted trouble by seat-of-the-pants thinking
instead of as though every move were choreographed.
He was a man of action and a man of knowledge in one, turning his
doctorate in archaeology into a ticket to adventure.
And really…who else could have ever played him besides Harrison Ford?
films are all a testament to a perfect singular vision of a character, a style,
and a love of movie making that has kept audiences infected with the spirit of
adventure for more than a quarter century now. The
fedora, leather jacket and whip have become almost as iconic as the
Tramp’s derby, mustache and cane. People
come to an Indiana Jones film expecting a good time…and Messrs Spielberg,
Lucas and Ford never disappoint, no matter how many times you might have seen
Raiders of the Lost Ark ****
do you realize what the Ark is? It’s
a transmitter. It’s a radio for
speaking to God, and it’s within my reach!”
want to talk to God? Let’s go see
Him together…I’ve got nothing better to do!”
as a thirteen year old boy, I remember sitting in a darkened theatre while Raiders
of the Lost Ark played out on the screen in front of me and marveling,
“THIS is why they invented the movies.”
all the films that were key in my formation, this one might have been the coup
de grace. Star Wars opened
my young mind, 2001 blew it away, but in between was an incredibly
imaginative adventure of guts and glory, of good guys and Nazis, and no less
than the power of God being squeezed into the aperture of a camera.
It flickered on the screen before my eyes for two hours, but it played
nonstop in my mind for a long time after.
a kid, it was everything I could want…fights, chases, explosions, adventure,
and a sense of fearless, reckless abandon.
It’s hero was everything me and my friends wanted to be…and I’d
always thought archaeology was boring in social studies class.
big aspects of the movie impressed me, but so did the more subtle ones.
As an avid Bible reader growing up, I remember how cheerfully agape I sat
when I realized that there was a movie out about a quest for the Ark of the
Covenant. Unlike many of my
friends, I didn’t need the film’s exposition to realize what a crux that was
for a story and what possibilities it entailed.
Steven Spielberg may have cultivated cinema’s first McGuffin that
actually meant a lot more than a plot kicker.
before we get into that, there’s the opening sequence that perfectly sets the
tone and introduces us to Indiana Jones as both a scholar and a man of action.
His attempt to recover a fabled artifact leads him through a jungle
populated by hostile and deadly natives and into a marvel of an ancient temple,
filled with poisoned darts, spear traps, a gaping chasm, and a giant boulder.
He faces betrayal by his comrades, the introduction of his arch nemesis
Belloq (Paul Freeman), several narrow getaways, huge spiders, and a big snake.
And that’s just the opening…we haven’t started the real story yet!
main story takes Indy on a globetrotting trek from the jungles to the mountains
of Nepal to the deserts of Egypt. Along
the way, the story of the Ark is revealed, as well as a new mythology concerning
what might have happened to it between Old Testament times and today.
He also hooks up with an old flame in Marion Ravenwood (Allen, the best
of all the Indiana Jones heroines), confronts his enemy Belloq, and races
against time to acquire the Ark ahead of the Nazis and Hitler, who would use the
most sacred and powerful of Jewish relics to lead the terror of his Third Reich
across the world.
action is quite constant…Spielberg orchestrates it like a symphony, with
multiple components working in harmony and building on one another in startling
crescendos. The only lulls are just
long enough for the audience to catch its breath, and then it’s back into it.
An escape from an underground tomb leads to a fight on a circling plane
with gas explosions and propellers turning Nazis into goulash, which goes right
into the film’s piece de resistance, a brilliantly conceived and executed
truck chase across the desert.
back at the movie with older eyes, I’m delighted at how well it still holds
up. Sure, I question the logic of a
stretch or two, I notice a continuity error here or there, and I’m more aware
of the special effects, which were stunning for the time but look a little dated
in our age of CGI. But those are
only minor bones to pick over if you really want to. The full skeletal structure is as strong as ever:
great story, striking action, wonderful characters and a can’t miss
good vs. evil mentality that lets you cheer loud and hard for the heroes while
booing the villains (the Nazis make for the best movie bad guys because it will
ALWAYS be politically correct to hate them).
moviegoers loved it, the critics praised it, the Academy showered it with
nominations…yet today, some consider Raiders to be a bit of a lark for
its auteur. It is in fact
interesting to consider that the same director who made the grittiest and most
devastating look at the Jewish experience under Nazi rule (Schindler’s
List) could use those same Nazis in a whimsical adventure story. But just consider the shot of the Ark sealed in a German
crate with swastikas crudely stenciled on.
Something in that holy artifact wouldn’t allow so anti-Semitic a symbol
to adorn it. Think Spielberg
isn’t making a statement against Hitler’s fascism?
also consider the incredible final shot and think: one government wanted to abuse the Ark for power, another
government simply dismissed and ignored it in spite of everything.
There’s something about that finale that always staggers my mind.
It’s a hell of an unusual way to end an adventurous romp…and the
movie is all the better for it.
TRIVIA: Recognize the pilot of the
circling German aircraft? It’s
none other than Spielberg’s partner in production, Frank Marshall!
could get yourself killed for your damned fortune and glory!”
since Star Wars had movie fans so eagerly anticipated a sequel, but the
buzz was hot, heavy and strong for months and months before the release of Indiana
Jones and the Temple of Doom. As
with Raiders, it became something of an event. Friends who got to see it first were surrounded by those of
us who had to wait, eager for every juicy detail, hanging on every plot point as
though we were in the theatre instead of our schoolyard.
the passage of time hasn’t been as kind to the second installment.
The film was partly driven by George Lucas’ opinion that a second
installment of a trilogy should be the darkest, a la The Empire Strikes Back.
Steven Spielberg has since said that, largely because of the darker
aspects, Temple is his least favorite of the three.
own opinion has wavered a bit over the years, so I was glad to sit down with the
DVD and see it again fresh. Once I
thought it was a mighty adventure spectacle.
Later, I thought it was a bit of a downer, with less appealing treasures,
flatter supporting characters, and unmemorable villains.
Now, I’ve finally come to accept it for what it is:
a big action fest that awkwardly but sometimes charmingly balances humor
against darker bits, and something of a leg-stretcher for our hero Indiana
Jones. He went after big quarry in
the first film, and would do so again in the third.
This film was just something for him to exercise his talents and let the
moviegoers have a good time.
was quietly billed as a prequel, with the story taking place before the events
in Raiders. After opening
with a silly musical number and a bit of action in a Shanghai nightclub (not
quite the same punch as the opening to the original film), Indiana Jones and his
kid sidekick Short Round (Ke Huy Quan) pick up a reluctant tagalong, Willie
Scott (Capshaw, who would later become Mrs. Spielberg), and the trio stumble
upon an ancient evil plaguing a village in India.
loss of the village’s sacred stone has led to famine and desolation, and even
worse, the disappearance of their children.
After a night of wining and dining in the palace of Pankot (a dinner
sequence that has to be seen to be believed), Jones and company discover a
passageway that leads right to the Temple of Doom, where an ancient cult built
on human sacrifice has resurrected. It
will be up to Indy and his friends to grab the holy stone, defeat the evildoers,
rescue the children from their slavery, and live happily ever after.
fun to be had here, circling strikingly dark centerpieces involving the cult’s
rituals and repeatedly showing children in peril. The action scenes are terrific, from an airplane jump using
an inflatable raft to a roller coaster-styled mine cart chase, to the climax
atop a suspension bridge. The fun
mostly makes up for the missing elements from the first movie…as mentioned,
better villains, a more impressive treasure, and most of all, a stronger leading
lady. Ms. Capshaw is an intelligent
woman in real life, so it’s sometimes painful to watch her reduced to the
worst kind of prima donna damsel in distress here.
Lots of film lovers really missed the spunk of Marion Ravenwood.
Temple of Doom proved there was more gold to mine for with the central
character and basic premise. Lucas,
Spielberg and Ford would dip into the well one more time, and when they did,
they struck a major lode.
TRIVIA: Owing to many parents’
outrage over the darkness and violence of this picture, Steven Spielberg
suggested the creation of a PG-13 rating to the MPAA…and got it.
people are trying to kill us!”
is a new experience for me!”
happens to me all the time!”
all accounts, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade was supposed to be
Indy’s last hurrah. George Lucas
envisioned a trilogy, and this movie would make three.
Harrison Ford was as agile and athletic as most men half his age, but he
was still getting older. And Steven
Spielberg wanted to show he could do it better than was done with Temple of
We now know that Last Crusade
is not be the final installment after all,
but one thing’s for sure…if it had been, the series went out in a blaze of glory.
This is the film that brought the fun back to Indiana Jones, with plenty
of action, lighthearted humor, and featuring the only quest that could have ever
rivaled the one for the Lost Ark.
was also a return to formula, in a way. Recognizing
they had a winning layout in the first film, we once again start with a big
treasure retrieval scene that has little to do with the main story, the return
of Indy in the classroom, the re-emergence of a couple of favorite characters in
Marcus Brody (Denholm Elliot) and Sallah (John Rhys-Davies), the Nazis back as
the bad guys, and once again, a hunt for an artifact of mythological
the main draw of the film is the appearance of Indy’s dad, Dr. Henry Jones Sr.
(Connery), a professor of Medieval literature with a lifelong obsession over the
Holy Grail, the cup used by Jesus Christ at the Last Supper believed to offer
immortality to whomever drank from it. When
an old patron Walter Donovan (Julian Glover) assembles a team to piece together
the historical clues and recover the Grail, Indy’s father is chosen to lead.
But when Dad disappears, it’s up to Indy to step in.
Rescue his father, defeat the Nazis, find the Holy Grail.
Impossible? All in a day’s
work for the younger Dr. Jones.
could sense while watching the movie that it was probably going to be the last
one. As such, Spielberg and company
didn’t seem to miss one trick. Any
idea they could squeeze in, they did. Amongst
the spectacles are a motorcycle chase, a boat racing against a gigantic mincing
propeller, an aerial dogfight, a land battle with a monstrous tank, and
more…and this is before the attempt to recover the Grail even begins.
terrific idea was the opening sequence, which features Indiana Jones as a boy on
his first big adventure. River
Phoenix is hysterically accurate with his impersonations of Harrison Ford’s
body movements and speech patterns. His
frantic run is dead-on perfect. But
even better, this bit gives us some of the history on how Dr. Jones got to be
the way he is…why he uses the whip, why he’s terrified of snakes, and how he
got that scar on his chin. You
could say that The Last Crusade spanned from the first to the last
triumphs of our favorite archaeologist.
movie could fully duplicate the magic of Raiders, and I’m not sure the
idea behind the final film was even to try.
It was just a full scale return to the whip cracking, pistol popping, two
fisted action and adventure style that helped make the series a phenomenon.
The Indiana Jones series rested well there for a long time, but it's
coming back after almost twenty years of rest...and I for one can't wait!
TRIVIA: Despite their great
on-screen chemistry as father and son, Sean Connery is actually only 12 years
older than Harrison Ford!
the films get more recent, the anamorphic transfers become more beautiful.
Raiders looks quite impressive for an early 80s movie…better
than any previous home video version I’ve seen, including the laser disc.
The digital restoration brought the colors back to full glory. Just the opening segment in the jungle is enough to convince.
The detail level ranges from strong to slightly weaker in one or two
spots, mainly against dark images like Indy’s jacket.
A little softness and murkiness is noticeable.
But consider those minor complaints.
as mentioned, as the films progress, so does the quality.
Temple of Doom, with it’s many darkened firelit sequences, is a
revelation. The Last Crusade gets
all elements right: detail is
strong in every lighting level, grain is minimal, colors are strong and
pure…nothing interferes with the viewing enjoyment.
Raiders ***, Temple of Doom ****, Last Crusade ****
the 5.1 mixes are all impressive. Raiders
is mostly good with a few sequences that are excellent; the barroom fight,
the truck chase, and the final revelation from the ark all sound exquisite, with
surround channels pumping and the .1 channel rattling your floorboards.
The final two films are perfection:
dynamic, clean, and plenty of fast moving crossover signals to bring the
action to life. Considering how
nonstop the action seems in Last Crusade, that one was a true pinnacle
experience. The THX logo on all of these discs is well merited.
There are no commentaries, but George Lucas and Steven Spielberg provide introductions to all the films, and each disc also includes galleries of photos, promos and effects, plus looks at the LEGO game demos for each film.
Raiders of the Lost Ark also includes an appreciation, a look at the melting face effect, and a storyboard sequence for the Well of Souls.
Temple of Doom features remembrances about the movie's many creepy creatures, a look at the locations, and a storyboard sequence for the thrilling mine chase.
Finally, The Last Crusade contains looks at the women of the series as well as Indy's friends and foes, plus a storyboard look at the film's opening.