No one can say that the Indiana Jones franchise has dealt with anything other than the fantastic. From flesh melting souls to thousand year old knights, the series staple is its absurdity and enjoyable ridiculous action. Kingdom of the Crystal Skull takes that to heart – a very large, overbearing heart.
This is a movie where Harrison Ford survives a nuclear bomb blast inside a refrigerator. Really.
There’s no question the film is loaded with well planned out action scenes. A jungle car chase is incredibly thrilling, filled with a jeep crossing sword battle, vine swinging monkeys, and more bullets shot than some of the Rambo flicks. Of course Indy manages to survive all of it, and that’s acceptable.
However, this is a movie where Harrison Ford survives a nuclear bomb blast inside a refrigerator. Seriously.
It’s hard to fathom how a rather oddball storyline that brings in Cold War era fears, space – err – interdimensional aliens, and Shia LaBeouf can have anything in it that borderlines on the unacceptably absurd. Every movie has a base of logic, but here Spielberg and Lucas take the audience’s acceptance level too far and without any real reason. The bomb itself plays no role in the storyline and exists simply to put a mushroom cloud on screen.
That, and to have Harrison Ford survive a nuclear bomb blast inside a refrigerator. No joke.
Maybe focusing on that singular moment is too one-sided. It’s not particularly fair to the fine performances and humor-laden dialogue that’s as snappy as it’s ever been for this now four-film series. LaBeouf fits nicely into the sidekick role, and serves to pull Karen Allen back into her 1981 role as Marion Ravenwood.
Spielberg’s direction relies heavily on superb shots involving shadows, giving a noir-like feel to the proceedings. Excessive (and sometimes obvious) green screen effects are purposefully added to give Crystal Skull a specific, colorful tone. While the brightly enhanced shades and almost dream like focus don’t mesh with the previous three films, this is a globe trotting adventure, taking place in an entirely different era.
An era that allows Harrison Ford to survive a nuclear bomb blast inside a refrigerator. Yeah, it happened.
The Crystal Skull itself is a unique creation in that it makes for an excellent visual piece, but this causes problems with the movie’s rules of its magnetism, which seems to turn on and off with a mind of its own. It’s hard to notice little flubs such as that when you’re along for the wild action sequences, but it can become a slightly too convenient plot device.
Crystal Skull does a fine job of paying homage and respecting the films before it. Little touches are strewn about for fans to latch onto, including the Ark, the map shots showing the path of the travels, and of course a snake. Ford nearly plays the character into self parody at times for a couple of laughs, but this enhances Jones as an aging adventurer who is slowly losing a step a or two.
Thankfully, the movie wouldn’t have a scene where Harrison Ford survives a nuclear bomb blast inside a refrigerator. Oh wait, it does.
Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is undoubtedly on the lower scale of the Indy efforts, though arguably without going as far down as Temple of Doom. It sits nicely with franchise canon, yet if there’s another attempt to bring Jones back, it needs to an extremely careful step.
Oh, and it cannot, under any circumstances, have Harrison Ford surviving a nuclear bomb blast inside a refrigerator. Please.
The Blu-ray presentation is everything a modern film should be. Colors are simply gorgeous (and flesh tones are dead-on accurate), and the stunning contrast created with incredibly rich black levels is nearly miraculous. Sharpness is as high as it could be. The video is remarkably clear. On occasion, there is some blooming or haziness, both of which are representative of the original theatrical presentation.
Dolby TrueHD is the chosen audio format, and it’s a good one. Bullets whiz by constantly during the action. Bass is outstanding, delivering a deep, strong rumble where needed. Movement is tracked flawlessly in all channels, and every action scene is alive in your home theater. That sounds like a marketing line, but it’s the truth. Any of the action sequences are true demo material.
Split into two discs, this is a packed Blu-ray. The only thing missing is a commentary, unfortunately the norm for Spielberg. Return of a Legend is a featurette that discusses why Indiana Jones was brought back. It runs slightly over 17 minutes. A nice interactive multiple-segment timeline is great for fans. A short featurette on pre-production follows, and rounds off disc one.
Disc two begins with production diaries — a lot of them. Split into six sections, they run nearly 90 minutes in total. It’s a loaded piece that should cover it all, yet there’s more. Six individual featurettes focus on specific areas of the film, including props, make-up, and visual effects. They last a little over 50 minutes combined. Some pre-visualization and a stack of surprisingly excellent galleries that are worth looking through end the second disc.