Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull DVD

After 17 years away from the big screen, Indiana Jones has dusted off his trusty fedora and bullwhip in one of the most eagerly awaited returns to the screen in cinema history. Harrison Ford once again plays the rough and rugged archeologist who is as equally adept in the classroom as he is in the depths of an ancient trap laden chamber.

In “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull”, audience are re-introduced to Jones, who is by now an older, and wiser man who spent the years of WWII as a special operative which earned him not only the rank of Colonel, but numerous medals and citations.

The film opens with a group of bad guys forcing Indiana to locate an object from a gigantic storage area in the infamous Area 51. Since Jones was part of a team that examined said object nearly a decade earlier, his services are greatly desired, and he is forced to play along with his captors.

Of course Indiana Jones is still a man of action, and soon turns the tables on his captors in a daring and humor filled action sequence that quickly answers those that doubted Ford could pull off his charismatic character in his 60’s.

The events of the situation do not go unnoticed by the U.S. government who suspect Jones of collaborating with the enemy, and in the Red Scare America of the 1950’s Jones soon finds himself suspended from his teaching position and looking to head overseas.

As Indy’s train heads out of town, he is approached by a motorcycle riding messenger who says his name is Mutt (Shia LaBeouf), and he has been sent to find Indy by a former college of Indy’s Professor Oxle (John Hurt). Intrigued, Jones listens to the tale Mutt tells him that people have kidnapped Oxley and his mother, and he shows him a letter that Oxley instructed him to pass along to Indy should anything happen to him.

Before Indy can dig further into the mystery, he and Mutt are accosted by thugs and after a daring race through traffic on Mutt’s motorcycle, find themselves on a plane to South America in search of Oxley and Mutt’s mother as well as the fabled Crystal Skull that legend says will grant amazing powers to anyone who returns it to the fabled Golden City.

Thinking that his old friend Oxley may have succeeded where Indy was unable to many years earlier, Jones takes up the cause of locating the fabled artifact and the city as he believes that they are also the keys to locating his missing friend. The film really slows down here and devotes a good amount of time to advancing the story and characters and thanks to the amazingly detailed sets and enjoyable characters; you may find yourself not minding the change of pace.

Of course there are plenty of bad guys to add to the mix, including the evil Irinia Spalko (Cate Blanchett), who is leading a team of Russian soldiers who also have designs on the skull, as it would give them the power to read and control the minds of the leaders the world over, amongst other powers that would be used for their aggressive agendas.

What follows is an effects-laden adventure leading to a grand finale that is not as spectacular as past films in the series, but enjoyable nonetheless. When the action comes it is solid, and while some of it seems to be a retread of some of the classic moments of the series, it does deliver enough thrills to keep fans happy. There are some very welcome moments in the film such as a nice tribute to Sean Connery and the Late Denholm Elliot as well as a cleverly placed cameo early in the film during the warehouse fight.

Shia LaBeouf is an interesting addition to the series and his scenes with Ford are very enjoyable. They have a natural chemistry and do not seem forced like the Short Round character from “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom”. I was also very happy to see Karen Allen return to the series as Marion Ravenwood. She has truly proven to be the only love interest in the series that truly measures up to Indy, and her fiery temper with a girl next door charm is the perfect foil for Jones.

The effects in the film are not groundbreaking, but solid, however some may find that the films plot is a bit to complex and takes too long to setup. There were funny moments in the film to go along with the action and viewers who pay close attention will catch some very subtle nods to other moments in the series.

I was pleased with the sets in the film as Director Steven Speilberg and Producer George Lucas clearly paid attention to details in the look of the film. The tombs and exotic chambers depicted in the film had a very immersive nature to them much the same way that classic Disneyland rides like Pirates of the Caribbean and The Haunted Mansion place guests right in the middle of the spooky and exotic locales. From cobwebs, skeletons, and insects and well as treasures galore, it was like being in on the adventure with Indy.
The series does have some life in it and while the film does not measure up with the first film in the series, I would say it is on par with “Temple of Doom” and was for me, more enjoyable than “The Last Crusade.” The film leaves the door open for yet another adventure, and if comments from Speilberg and Lucas are to be taken seriously, we may see the beloved archeologist back on the big screen in the not too distant future.

4 stars out of 5.

The DVD transfer is top notch as thanks to the widescreen format and the 5.1 Dolby suoound sound, the picture and audio quality rivals that of the best theaters. I watched the DVD on a HDTV and the crsip audio and visual quality blew me away with the clarity.

The 2 DVD set is loaded with bonus materials including The Return of a Legend Featurette, and animatic pre production sequence, a 12 part in depth look at the creation of the film, pre-visulaization of 3 of the films action sequences, behind the scenes photo galleries, and X Box 360 Lego Indiana Jones Trailer.