With "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" about to return Harrison Ford's beloved swashbuckling archeologist to the big screen, it's no surprise that Paramount is looking to cash in on the original Indy franchise.
"Raiders of the Lost Ark," "The Temple of Doom" and "The Last Crusade" have long been available only as part of a four-disc set, restored and remastered in 2003. There are ample reasons to prefer individual movies, though. "Raiders" is one of the greatest pure action movies ever made, while "Temple" is as dark and twisted a tale as uber-mainstream filmmaker Steven Spielberg has ever been a part of. Perhaps as an apology for "Doom" -- this critic thinks no apology was necessary -- "Last Crusade" is full of heartwarming moments, plus the comic banter between Ford and Sean Connery. All three movies can now be purchased individually for the first time or as part of the "The Adventure Collection" box set.
The big question, then, is should fans upgrade from their old set to the new? The answer, without hesitation, is "Nope." Not only does the new set use the 2003 transfer of the films, but it uses the exact same DVD menus. The 2003 set didn't include bonus materials with each individual movie, but the fourth disc included a full-length documentary on the franchise, plus several shorter featurettes. In both breadth and depth, the material on that fourth disc trumps the half-hearted mini-docs on the new DVD.
In the new set, each movie includes a fresh introduction from Spielberg and George Lucas, plus a pair of 10-minute featurettes sometimes related to that movie and a storyboard comparison to a single key scene. The featurettes are all designed to dovetail into a promo for "Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" without giving any new information or footage for the upcoming film. Each DVD also starts with an identical teaser trailer for "Indy 4" and ends with another commercial for "Lego Indiana Jones."
DVD Bonus Features:
The Good: The best of the featurettes is "The Melting Face!" from the "Raiders" DVD, which explains the mechanics of Toht's melting face, perhaps the iconic image of the entire franchise. The effect's original creator even attempts a recreation 25 years later, with less success. The introductions are all simple and informative, particularly when it comes to understanding how Lucas and Spielberg view each movie decades later, particularly their shared dislike for "Temple of Doom." While it's been edited to a measly 10 minutes, the "Indy's Women: The American Film Institute Tribute" on "The Last Crusade" is interesting if only to see how Karen Allen is the only one of the three Indy Women to really stand up for her character.
The Bad: The featurettes are uniformly terse and slapdash, as if they were thrown together during down-time on the "Crystal Skull" set, using only people working on the fourth movie. As a result, you get a retrospective look at "Raiders of the Lost Ark" without comments from Paul Freeman, John Rhys-Davies or Alfred Molina, but with plenty of inane discussion from folks like Ray Winstone and Shia LaBeouf, who can only add thoughts like "Yeah, I remember seeing the movie and thinking it was great." Or you get "Friends and Enemies," a 10-minute look at three films worth of supporting characters that doesn't include interviews with any of the surviving actors who helped make the films worthwhile. And while Ford must, presumably, have been available, he's a non-factor on the bonus features. Spielberg doesn't do commentary tracks, but getting Lucas and various technical cohorts to chat over the movies probably would have been a nice addition.
The Price: $59.98 for The Adventure Collection, $26.98 individually.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times