"INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL"
DVD Review
by Kevin Carr


    MOVIE: ***** (out of 5 stars)
    DVD EXPERIENCE: **** (out of 5 stars)

    STARRING
    Harrison Ford as INDIANA JONES
    Shia LaBeouf as MUTT WILLIAMS
    Cate Blanchett as IRINA SPALKO
    Karen Allen as MARION RAVENWOOD
    Ray Winstone as MAC
    John Hurt as OX

    Rated PG-13
    Studio: Paramount

    Directed by: Steven Spielberg
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This summer, I was a very vocal supporter of the new Indiana Jones film. Sure, it had its flaws, but for me who was only nine years old when “Raiders of the Lost Ark” came out, it was a joy to see a new film about the swashbuckling archeologist.

Not everyone agreed with me. Some thought the alien subplot of the film was straying too far from the other movies. Others thought the silly Tarzan scene was overdone. And the whole refrigerator sequence gave birth to the phrase “nuking the fridge” to take over the out-dated term “jumping the shark.”

All of these are good points. But that still doesn’t trump the giddy feeling I got when I popped the disc of “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” into my DVD player. I know there are some very vocal critics of this latest film (most notably and hilariously Trey Parker and Matt Stone, who vented their frustrations with the movie in the uncomfortably hysterical mid-season premiere of “South Park”), but they just need to lighten up.

It’s been almost 20 years since Indy cracked his whip on the movie screen, and it was a hoot to have him back this summer. “The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” takes place in the 1950s, so the Nazis are traded in for Russians and the mystical religious artifacts are traded for saucer men. It may seem jarring at first, but it makes sense in keeping with the cinematic traditions of its time.

In the new film, Dr. Jones is trying to get his hands on a crystal skull that will give awesome power to anyone who returns it to the lost city of gold. Along for the ride is the young upstart Mutt Williams, played by Shia LaBeouf, and Marion Ravenwood from the first film.

If you come to this film looking for flaws or see Indiana Jones as an untouchable icon, you’ll find some fault, but for someone like me who has been a fan since childhood, this film is just as fun and exciting as the first ones. It’s a worthy successor to the Indiana Jones name and well worth the 19 year wait.

The DVD release is worthy of the series’ name. There’s a nice mix of professionally shot featurettes and fly-on-the-wall production diaries. Sure, the subjects gush over the film series and can get a little self-congratulatory at times, but this is pretty common when it comes to DVD features. There is no commentary track, which would have been nice (although Spielberg and Lucas don’t often lend their voices to the entire films), but the dynamic duo are interviewed extensively in the special features.

Of particular interest to me was the disc one featurette “The Return of a Legend,” which gives a history of the long journey between “The Last Crusade” and “The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.” Lucas and Spielberg explain (pretty effectively, in my humble opinion) why they made the choices they did. This answers the critics who complained about the alien subplot and other elements that differ from the other three films.

The bottom line is that Lucas wanted to take the series into the 50s, and this was in the flying saucer heyday. Just be grateful they didn’t go with his original title, which was “Indiana Jones and the Saucer Men.”

This discussion shows the development of the script with all of its warts – from the long list of suggested titles to screenwriter David Koepp’s struggles to keep things cogent in the script. I would have appreciated a nod to Frank Darabont’s much publicized lost screenplay, but even I know that’s a bit much to ask.

Other DVD features include spotlights on the multiple aspects of pre-production, a 12-part production diary, pre-visualization sequences, galleries, trailers and the Xbox demo of “Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures.”

Rumors have been flying since summer that Lucas & Company are kicking around the idea of “Indiana Jones 5.” After seeing the movie in theaters more than once, then revisiting it again on DVD, I’m game for whatever they come up with, and I look forward to a new film in the next couple years.

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