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DVD Review

DVD cover

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull


Starring: Harrison Ford, Shia LaBeouf, Cate Blanchett, Karen Allen, Ray Winstone, John Hurt and Jim Broadbent
Paramount Home Entertainment
RRP: £24.99
Certificate: 12
Available 10 November 2008

In 1957, at the height of the Cold War, Indy barely escapes a close encounter with nefarious Soviet agents on a remote airfield. Now, Professor Jones has returned home to Marshall College - only to find that his recent activities have made him an object of suspicion, and that the government has put pressure on the university to have him fired. As he's about to leave town, Indiana meets rebellious young Mutt Williams, who has a proposition for the adventurous archaeologist: If he'll help Mutt on a mission with deep personal stakes, Indy could very well make one of the most spectacular archaeological finds in history - the Crystal Skull of Akator, a legendary object of fascination, superstition and fear...


I have to admit that I never got around to seeing Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull when it was released in cinemas. After reading the movie novelisation and graphic novel, I really couldn't bring myself to give up a couple of hours of my life to an experience I already knew wasn't going to be too promising.

So, when the DVD turned up I was apprehensive about having to review it. I loved the original three movies in the franchise (yes, even Temple of Doom), but then I was a teenager back then and have grown up (although some would argue that I haven't). So revisiting this franchise almost 20 years on, I was hoping that the character of Indiana had also grown with me. Sadly he hasn't - although Harrison Ford has. In fact I began to wonder if he'd suffered a minor stroke since last we saw him, because in more than a handful of scenes half of his face seems to be drooping noticeably as though he's not got full control of his facial muscles.

However, as the extras show on this release, Ford might be a pensioner but he did quite a lot of his own stunts including the majority of the fights, as well as the bullwhip swing and climbing up the crates in Area 51.

The plot, for the most part, feels like one we've experienced before, only very watered down. Unlike the previous movies, there's no real stand out scene that you'll be talking about after you leave the cinema. Yet again the film ends - and I doubt I'm spoiling anything here - in exactly the way I was expecting. In Raiders it was cool; in Last Crusade it was "Oh! Please! A bit of originality please"; and in Crystal Skull I'm starting to yawn. Yes, it's the same old... villain gets what they want... but... oh, wait! What they want sucks the life out of them. So we get the same old ending, but without a spectacular melting face.

Even John Williams's score isn't up to the challenge. The majority of it is too bland and he reuses a little too much of his score from the previous movies. While this is understandable when a scene is referencing the earlier films, he includes a segment of the end titles from Temple of Doom in the end credits here, which feels out of place.

In the review of the book I berated Steven Spielberg for yet again making this about aliens, so it was interesting to discover, on one of the features, that Spielberg was against the alien angle until George Lucas changed them from aliens to inter dimensional beings (not really much difference though, as for some reason even though they are from another dimension they still travel in a flying saucer).

To be honest the film is a lot better than the book and graphic novel had indicated, but it's still not a great movie by any stretch of the imagination.

There were a few things that I thought were weird. For some reason several of Ford's lines seem to have been redubbed by someone that doesn't sound much like him (it only happens a couple of times, but is pretty noticeable); in Oxley's cell wall there is a word that looks a little too close to "F*cker" scrawled on the wall; and when Mutt first meets Indiana it sounds like he threatens to kill him.

Another annoying aspect was the insistence on having shafts of light hitting the camera and creating a blue lens flare across the screen at every opportunity. While this looked great the first time it was used, it became a little too obvious every time after that - not to mention a little distracting.

One of the nice little touches was Indy mentioning he once worked with Pancho Villa (anyone who has seen Volume One of The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones will appreciate the reference).

The extras on this two-disc collection are pretty impressive - in fact some of the best I've seen on a DVD release in some time. However, the lack of any audio commentaries was a bit is a surprise and almost unforgivable.

On disc one you get: The Return of a Legend (17 min, 36 sec interviews with Spielberg, Ford and Lucas on how the fourth movie finally got made. It was interesting to hear that Spielberg really didn't want to return and that it was Ford who did most of the pushing. In fact, it was while watching this extra I noticed how much Seann William Scott (Steve Stifler in American Pie) looked like Harrison Ford and would actually have made a much better choice as Mutt); and Pre-Production (11 min, 46 sec featurette that goes behind the scenes. One of the highlights for me was seeing Ford using the bullwhip).

Disc two includes Production Diary: Making of Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (1 hr, 20 min, 20 sec collection of on-set location featurettes which can be played individually or as a single feature. This covers loads of location shoots from the first day of filming right through to the last. It also shows Ford doing his own stunts); Warrior Makeup (5 min, 36 sec showing how the makeup was achieved for the warriors and mud warriors); The Crystal Skulls (10 min, 12 sec featurette, dedicated to the late Stan Winston, which looks at how the crystal skulls and alien bodies were constructed); Iconic Props (10 min, 02 sec look at the movie's more notable props); The Effects of Indy (22 min, 44 sec which looks at numerous effects including the giant ants and the collapse of the temple); Adventures in Post-Production (12 min, 46 sec which looks at elements including editing, sound effect and music); Closing: Team Indy (3 min, 43 sec clips of the lead crew and cast); Pre-Visualisation Sequences (3 x scenes from the movie in their rough CGI storyboard form); Galleries (various picture galleries) and 3 x trailers.

While the movie is average at best, the extras on this 2-disc collection are pretty in-depth. Although, the lack of any audio commentaries was a surprise.

Watching Crystal Skull is a bit like seeing your dad dance at a party. He knows the moves but he's about 20 years out of date. I think, and I don't say this lightly, that it's time to bury Indiana Jones once and for all.


Darren Rea

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