The mere fact that George Lucas’ brain is responsible for the existence of Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, Han Solo, Yoda, and all the other memorable characters in the Star Wars universe should be more than enough to ensure his legacy and importance to pop culture and storytelling. But when you factor in that he is also the creator of Indiana Jones, the man should be worshipped. The Indiana Jones films perfectly encapsulate the adventure film. All of the swashbuckling of the classic serials with a modern sensibility. And Harrison Ford in the role he was born to play.
There doesn’t really seem to be a need to recount the stories for the four films again, rest assured we all know them. But for this reviews sake, I will recount what each adventure is seeking. Raiders of the Lost Ark finds Indy with his old flame Marion Ravenwood in search of the Ark of the Covenant, which is believed to hold the Ten Commandments. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is actually a prequel to Raiders with Indiana and his sidekick Short Round stumbling upon a tribe whose children are being stolen my a cult in search of magical stones. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade finds Indy reuniting with his estranged father Henry, played by the imitable Sean Connery, to find the Holy Grail, the cup that Christ drank from at the Last Supper. And lastly we have Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, with Indy once again reunited with Marion and her son, Mutt to uncover the secrets of an ancient and mysterious crystal skull. So there you go, a recounting of all the treasures Indy seeks out across the quadrilogy. I personally like the films ranked 1,3,2,4 although many people dismiss the last film completely. While I don’t think it stacked up to the other films, I still found it hugely entertaining and it contained some great classic Indy moments.
Among the series, Raiders is the most accomplished and the most perfect film of them all. There simply is not a missed beat in the entire film. The action is spectacular; the dialogue sharp and witty, the acting is pitch perfect for the style of the film. This one just knocks it out of the park on every level. Temple of Doom is similar perfection, but of a different style. Doom is a little more brainless, but not in a bad way. It is an adrenaline rush of an adventure, with nonstop excitement throughout. Everything is bigger in scale and it all works very well. The mine cart chase, the rope bridge sequence, the bugs, the room with spikes, every scene is a memorable and well-staged action masterpiece. It lacks a little of the smarts and maturity of the original, but as a popcorn adventure movie, it soars. Last Crusade was an ingenious return to form. Filled with heart and regaining that smart and more adult vibe, the pairing of Ford and Connery was pure gold. Add to that an opening sequence showing Indy as a boy and where he got his start was a stroke of genius. Again filled with spectacular action and great humor, Last Crusade also returned to the realm of religious artifacts, which was more than welcome as it is the arena in which Indiana Jones truly shines. Crystal Skull took the series in a whole other direction with incorporating the idea of aliens into the mix. Reactions to this premise were mixed at best, and it did feel slightly out of place, but the action and adventure within still worked really well. The highlight was actually one of the opening scenes with Indy racing around fighting bad guys in the same warehouse we saw in the closing shots of the original Raiders. And Ford still nailed the character bringing great waves of nostalgia to fans.
The Blu-ray set from Paramount is a holy grail itself. Packaged in the same great thick cardboard box set packaging as Fox’s Alien Quadrilogy, the artwork throughout is great and suits the series perfectly. As for the films themselves, fans should rejoice. Raiders of the Lost Ark is a revelation. The opening shots in the jungle still look a little dark and murky, but that is a result of the filming itself. Once the story goes inside and Indy confronts the fertility idol, the picture is stunning. Colors are bold and deep, blacks are inky, and best of all, clarity and detail are amazing. The soundtrack is booming and immersive, with John Williams’s iconic score coming through front and centre and sounding better than ever. The quality keeps up through the other three films, naturally getting better and better with each film. This is a stellar presentation for the Indiana Jones series and by far the best the films have ever looked. It is time for us all to take a fresh look at Indiana Jones and hold them in the high regard they deserve. Incredibly highly recommended, a 100% must own set.