BluRay/DVD Reviews

INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL

By • Oct 19th, 2008 •

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Being a lifelong ‘Indiana Jones’ fan I followed CRYSTAL SKULL from it’s earliest internet buzz and rumors. The project went through years of sculpting, or as I would call it, botching, before Lucas settled on a screenplay that would satisfy his appetite for juvenile “comedy” and an over-abundance of computer generated imagery.

Frank (THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION, THE GREEN MILE) Darabont even came out and scorched Lucas on denying his scripted version. I thought to myself at the time; If Lucas didn’t approve Darabont’s version then this movie has to be great. Lucas is making sure this is going to be the best Indy film yet. Along with that, both Spielberg and Lucas repeatedly came out with statements that “This one’s for the fans” and “We’re using minimal CGI”. I couldn’t wait, and I was ready to love it.

What came out was a mixed bag of nuts, but mostly bad ones. There’s no denying that Spielberg hasn’t lost his touch: he knows how to tell a story as well as he ever has, and always weaves a great sense of humor into the adventure (re-watch MINORITY REPORT for some brilliant comical moments).

It’s hard to say who’s the most to blame for Indy not being the film it should have been. It starts with a script that the film claims was written by David Koepp, although I know for a fact that the script was a bit of a mish-mash of different interpretations from all sorts of writers over the years, and Koepp came in to add the finishing touches and tie it all up. Then there’s THE LUCAS DILEMMA (should be an espionage thriller, right…?). Originally Lucas wanted Indy’s whip to be CGI! Thank God Harrison Ford stepped in and said he wouldn’t do the movie unless he could hold that whip again. And with that in mind, the cast is the best thing about the film. All the players are sharp, funny and compelling. Although, disappointingly, I found Cate Blanchett’s take on a Soviet Dominatrix to be a little flat.

I keep thinking If CRYSTAL SKULL came out without having to live up to the expectations of its three classic predecessors, It would have been, on it’s own, a terrific action adventure film. But in an age where the only option is to create a digital universe, the result was just not as magical and real.

The DVD, however is one of the most magical two-disc sets of the year. The transfer is gorgeous, the sound is sharp and bombastic, and the menus are sleek and easy to navigate. On the first disc, in addition to the film, there are two features. One is called “The Return of a Legend” and deals with the long development process that took place before the cameras rolled. Harrison Ford, as it turns out, was the one who jump-started it all. Then there’s a feature called “Pre-Production” which goes, in detail, over every aspect of the process, from animatics to sword-fight rehearsals with Shia LaBeouf.

On the second disc is an amazing 12-Part Production Diary that tracks the entire shoot over its 4 month period. You get to see the actors and crew up at the early call time of 3 a.m. and move from location to location and studio to studio. Also included are a bunch of features on Makeup, Pre-Visualization sequences (a now very common way of story-boarding action sequences in the computer), and on sound design with the legendary Ben Burtt. And if you’re still drooling for more, there are photo galleries and an X-BOX Game Demo for “Lego Indiana Jones”.

Even if the film doesn’t live up to your long-gestating expectations, the DVD is still worth owning for collectors who like expertly produced 2-Disc Sets.


Read Roy Frumkes’ and Victoria Alexander’s reviews of the theatrical release.

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2 Responses »

  1. Great review. I agree, the actors make the movie!

  2. It sure would be nice to find deeper meaning (or, anyway, deeper meaning that has any intellectual force) in this movie, but it’s just a terrible, terrible picture, a plainly awful Spielberg movie to rival “1941” and “Hook.” Everything exciting and involving (the test-site sequence, as fine a thing as Spielberg has ever made) only makes the movie’s overall failure more acute. It’s as though he said, “OK, George, you want a UFO? You got it, buddy.” The screenplay is miserable, the acting indifferent and most everything else insulting. And it breaks my heart.

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