Films like Jaws, Star Wars, E.T. and Willow all captured my attention in my formative years and as such both George Lucas and Steven Spielberg had great influence in shaping the type of entertainment I enjoy. One film in particular though has had the most influence on me. Steven Spielberg’s Raiders of the Lost Ark planted the seeds for my love of pulp fiction, the adventure archetype and a deep appreciation of history. My story is not a solitary one though as Raiders of the Lost Ark and its iconic lead character Indiana Jones have become cultural touchstones. From the big screen to the small, in books and video games, Indiana Jones’ influence reaches everywhere and now the entire series is available in high definition via Indiana Jones: The Complete Adventures Blu-ray.
This is the first time that the original trilogy of Raiders of the Lost Ark, Temple of Doom and The Last Crusade has been available in high definition joining the previously released Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. The set is five discs containing all four films on their own discs and a set of bonus features on the final one, packaged in a nice book style case with artwork for each film on its respective sleeve. The book slides into a nice high quality cardboard case and will maintain a low profile on your Blu-ray storage shelf.
Unlike Spielberg’s re-mastering of E.T. or George Lucas re-mastering of everything ever, the films come in their original form. One could make an argument that a digital re-working of the monkey swinging scene in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull would benefit that movie, and by digital re-working I mean deleting, but this set is the real deal. It is nice to see that Spielberg has recognized his past mistakes (with E.T.) and that Lucas let it come out as is.
The films themselves are as great (or not so great) as you remember them. All three of the original films look fantastic in HD but Raiders of the Lost Ark stands out as the true shining star of the set. The original film has been masterfully restored and looks absolutely phenomenal. Colors are vibrant and stand out and blacks are crisp and dark. It is obvious that the restoration and transfer of Raiders was a labor of love and for fans of the film, you are without a doubt getting the absolute best version ever available.
While all the films sport fantastic visuals, it is only the first three that hold up in terms of visual effects. Due to how much practical effects work was done on the original trilogy those films look just as good as they did when they were first released. However, Kingdom of the Crystal Skull’s heavy reliance on computer generated imagery does it no favors. It is easy to see where CGI was used in Crystal Skull and it just is not pretty. If ever there was a black eye on Industrial Light and Magic’s visual effects work, Crystal Skull would be it. Please do not take this criticism as another classic Indy fan putting down the new film, I actually enjoyed Kingdom of a Crystal Skull when it released, it just does not hold up nearly as well as its counterparts and is something of a blemish in terms of visuals for this set.
While Kingdom of a Crystal Skull might be the weak link in terms of how the films hold up, there is no such issue when it comes to sound. All four films sound great and once again Raiders leads the charge with a great 5.1 surround sound mix. The positional audio is near perfect and a real treat for fans watching on a properly equipped system. Gun shots sound forceful, Indy’s whip has a crystal clear snap and most importantly John Williams iconic music is layered in perfectly.
Having all four movies in one set on Blu-ray will be more than enough for most fans, however those looking for a little something more may be somewhat disappointed by the special feature offerings. The only special features on any of the four film discs are trailers and while certainly a special treat, especially for fans of the original trilogy, it is a bit bare bones. Features with any historical insight into the making of the film or its cultural impact have been placed on the bonus disc.
Sadly most of the features here were previously included on the two DVD box sets issued in the last ten years and the different versions of Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. While there is two new features here, a pair of hour long documentary styled features, everything else is previously available. For a box set of such a significant series, this collection of features is adequate but it is also somewhat disappointing that more new stuff could not be crammed in here. Most glaring of all omissions is that no commentary tracks are included meaning that no further insight from Spielberg, Lucas or any of the other important players in the series can be gleamed.
Disappointment in the bonus disc aside, Indiana Jones: The Complete Adventures on Blu-ray is a high quality set. It is currently the only way to get these classic films in High Definition and all four still deliver tons of entertainment and enjoyment. Fans of the series, or adventure films in general, should not hesitate to add this to their Blu-ray collection.