DVD Review: Indiana Jones IV

When scanning the extra content, one gets the impression that even though this film was nearly two decades in the making, the usual meticulous care Steven Spielberg and George Lucas pay on a movie was a tad forced.

As Steven Spielberg explains in the mandatory, but in this case rather revelatory, making of doc, he dragged his heals about making this movie. Harrison Ford and Lucas were ready a lot sooner than him. The main problem? The use of aliens as the crux of Indy’s issues. When George Lucas renamed them “para-dimensional” aliens that Spielberg finally, and from the sounds of his confessional, just gave up.

Not that one should complain too much. When you get down to it, Crystal Skull may not rank up there with Ark or Crusade, but it still has more than its share of fun.

The rapport among the key cast members is fine overall. Shia LaBouef makes a truly grand entrance as the character Mutt Williams, copping Marlon Brando from the The Wild One. He and Ford, who plays Jones with an appropriate level of aches and pains, communicate to each other with ease. To top it, the chemistry between Karen Allen and Ford is still there. Nee further proof? You have to love the sand pit scene where Ford learns who’s Mutt’s daddy. To round the cast out, John Hurt plays the wonderfully mad archeologist Ox with panache and Cate Blanchett and Ray Winstone are solid as the main villains.

As for the aliens? Para-dimensional or otherwise, one gets the impression that this would have been a better film if we never encountered them. While one can accept the concept of them founding and running a South American empire, then becoming extinct, when they are finally unveiled the mystery that made the film such a solid experience is incredibly deflated. It’s a shame too. Extra content on the culture showed these guys did their research. It’s only that their results are a bust.

Then again, when you think about what made Ark and Crusade really superior films is the characters didn’t spend anywhere near as much time talking about the central mystery as they do with Skull. The final sequence SFX spent on Ark, where they actually open the box, is too the point and extremely effective because of it. As for the Holy Grail? Yes, its appearance is longer, but that’s in part due to Indy having about a half-dozen other things to take care of at the same time (like saving his father and not having the cave literally collapse around his feet). The final denouement of Skull feels like it goes on for way too long. To top it, for its incredible length, it really doesn’t tell you that much about the aliens, or the consequences of them being disturbed.

As for the special features, probably the best of them is on the examination of the Indy legend. Ford, Lucas and Spielberg are surprisingly straightforward about their doing the film. Their discussions of setting the film to pulp literature in the 50s and Ford’s age actually makes a lot of sense, as does setting the Red Army as this film’s main villains. The production docs, and there are several, can get annoying, but for fans of that stuff you won’t be disappointed. The only real gripe here is the inclusion of another Lego Adventure demo. One has to wonder if these things really are that necessary. They sure aren’t that entertaining.

No matter what, the key element of this set is the film. Yes, the ending left something to be desired, but getting there really was a lot of fun. There are rumors that one more film might happen, one where Ford passes the fedora to LaBouef. That being the case, let’s hope Ford, Lucas and Spielberg are in total concurrence if and when it happens. If that’s the case, it can’t be one great way to end the franchise.

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