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Indiana Jones: The Adventure Collection DVD Review

Indiana Jones: The Adventure Collection

May 13, 2008

Director: Steven Spielberg,
Starring: Harrison Ford, Karen Allen, John Rhys-Davies, Denholm Elliot, Kate Capshaw, Ke Huy Quan, Amrish Puri, Sean Connery, River Phoenix, Alison Doody, Julian Glover,

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DVD Review

In order to cash in on the hype of the new Indiana Jones film, The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008), the studio has re-released the trilogy on DVD with brand new extras none of which appeared on the first set. The studio has seemed to adopt a case of amnesia as they claim that this is the first time the films have been given the special edition treatment. Have they forgotten the excellent first box set that came out? So how does this new edition measure up?

Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) follows Indiana Jones (Ford) as he traverses the globe, from South America to Nepal to Cairo, in search of the Ark of the Covenant. Along the way, he hooks up with Marion (Allen), his feisty love interest and enlists the help of his trusty friend, Sallah (Rhys-Davies), to beat the Nazis to the Ark. Raiders is the first and still the best film of the trilogy. Ford’s portrayal of Indy is multi-layered with comedic, romantic and heroic elements all rolled into one character. Indy has his flaws but ultimately he gets the job done. Raiders also features the best leading lady with Karen Allen who is easily Ford’s equal. Marion can drink large men under the table and save Indy’s life when it matters. The pacing is fast but not as frenetic as today’s films. There are lulls where the audience can catch its breath and exposition is conveyed. In many respects, it is one of the best homages to the pulpy serials of the 1930s.

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) actually takes place before the events depicted in Raiders and finds Indy deep in the jungles of India. He is enlisted by the elders of a small village to rescue their missing children from working in coalmines controlled by the deadly Thuggee cult. Temple of Doom is widely regarded as the weakest film of the trilogy and with good reason. This time around, Indy is saddled with Willie Scott (Capshaw) who spends most of her screen time either whining or screaming in fright. The film also treads the fine line of racism by portraying the people of India as noble, impoverished savages that must be saved by the cultured white man. In an attempt to outdo the stunts in Raiders, Temple of Doom ups the ante but it comes across as a bit of overkill. The film lacks Raiders’ heart and soul.

Taking the criticisms of Temple of Doom to heart, Lucas and Spielberg returned to the fun, playful tone of Raiders with Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989). This time around, Indy is searching for the Holy Grail and not only has to contend with those pesky Nazis again, but also his hard-to-impress father (Connery). The dynamic between Ford and Connery is what makes Last Crusade work so well and what also makes it so watchable. To see two living legends of cinema share the same screen space together is magical. Lucas and Spielberg also brought back Marcus Brody (Elliot) and Sallah which restores the feeling of Raiders. In many respects, Last Crusade brings everything back full circle and was the perfect way to end the trilogy.

Special Features:

Being a big fan of the Indiana Jones films I find myself conflicted about this new box set. While it’s no surprise that the studio decided to re-release the films to coincide with the release of the new Indy film, they have royally screwed over fans by including a new collection of extras thereby forcing them to buy the films over again if they want them. So, is it worth it? Short answer: no. Nothing is going to beat the original box set’s two-hour, making of documentary and many of these new extras are nothing more than left over bits from it.

On the Raiders of the Lost Ark disc there is an “Introduction” that features Lucas and Spielberg talking about the genesis of the film. Spielberg wanted to do a globe-trotting James Bond-type story and Lucas introduced the idea of an archaeologist. They both agreed that they wanted to pay homage to the old 1930s cliffhanger sequels.

“Indiana Jones: An Appreciation” was done on the set of the new Indy film as Lucas, Spielberg, Harrison Ford, and Karen Allen reflect on the character and the trilogy – its impact on them and popular culture. Cast and crew from the new film also give their impressions and everyone recounts their favourite scene from the trilogy.

“The Melting Face” takes a look at how they pulled off the climactic scene when the Ark is opened and Toht’s face melts. The effects artists who did it take us through the process and there is vintage footage of it being done.

“Storyboard: The Well of the Souls” shows illustrations from this sequence with footage from the film to show how close the two match.

There are “Galleries” that feature character sketches, props, behind-the-scenes photographs taken on the set, effects shots, like Matte paintings, and models used, various designs for the film’s logo, and finally, posters from all over the world.

The Temple of Doom disc features an “Introduction” by Lucas and Spielberg. The director says that he had always wanted to make a trilogy of films and Lucas wanted this one to be darker and edgier, like The Empire Strikes Back (1980). They admit that Temple of Doom got terrible reviews but at least Spielberg met his wife on that one – Kate Capshaw.

“The Creepy Crawlies” examines how each film has some creepy element to it: Raiders with snakes, Temple of Doom with bugs, and the Last Crusade with rats. Segments from each film are shown with a trivia track option.

“Travel with Indy: Locations” examines the various exotic locales seen throughout the films. We see how Hawaii doubled for South America and so on. This featurette can also be viewed with an optional trivia track. Associate producer Robert Watts takes us through key locations while dishing production anecdotes.

“Storyboards: The Mine Car Chase” allows you to view the illustrations for this sequence along with the actual scene from the film.

The “Galleries” section is identical to the one on the Raiders disc only pertaining to Temple of Doom.

The Last Crusade disc starts off with yet another “Introduction” where Spielberg admits that he wasn’t crazy about the idea of the Holy Grail and suggested using it as a metaphor for the father-son relationship between Indy and his father. Lucas and Spielberg talk about the casting of Sean Connery and what he brought to the role.

Easily the most entertaining and engaging extra of the entire set is “Indy’s Women: The American Film Institute Tribute” reunites the leading ladies from each film: Karen Allen, Kate Capshaw and Alison Doody. They talk about their characters and working with Spielberg. They all look great and speak candidly about their experiences. In particular, Capshaw and Doody talk about the reaction to their characters.

“Indy’s Friends and Enemies” takes a look at the sidekicks, love interests, and villains in the trilogy. Spielberg speaks admiringly of the leading ladies and the strengths of each character. This featurette also explores the role sidekicks and villains play in the film with plenty of clips.

“Storyboards: The Opening Sequence” shows the sketches for the film’s exciting opening action sequence with a young Indy (Phoenix) alongside the actual scene in the film.

Finally, the “Galleries” features a nice collection of snapshots from various aspects of the film like the galleries on the other discs.

The extras on these discs are well done and interesting to watch but do not warrant you double-dipping unless you are a hardcore fan that MUST have everything. If this is the first time buying the Indy films and you don’t know which set to get, purchase the first one because each film does not share disc space with the extras and for the two-hour making of documentary which is superior to all of the extras on this new set combined.

J.D. is a freelance writer who is currently doing research for a book on the films of Michael Mann. He likes reading anything written by Jack Kerouac, James Ellroy, J.D. Salinger, Harlan Ellison or Thomas Pynchon. J.D. is currently addicted to the T.V. series 24 and enjoys drinking a lot of Sprite. This is not a blatant plug for the beverage but if they ever decided to give him a lifetime supply he certainly wouldn’t turn them down.
view all DVD reviews by JD Lafrance

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