Simply put, fans of the Indiana Jones series of films, can not afford to go without the Blu-ray version of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. The film itself isn’t the only reason, although it does successfully re-ignite the long-dormant franchise in exhilarating fashion.
The real reason fans of the Indie universe will want the Blu-ray, and what continues to impress me about the format, are the graphically stunning and informative bonus features in the set.
Lucasfilm clearly worked feverishly on its debut Blu-ray disc release, working with longtime Steven Spielberg documentarian Laurent Bouzereau to create a two-disc set that’s extensive and comprehensive. The high-quality video material is presented entirely in 1080 HD, and is nicely organized to play out like a movie itself, so the narrative is powerful and satisfying.
Set in 1957, the film stars Harrison Ford, Cate Blanchett, Karen Allen, Shia LaBeouf, Ray Winstone and John Hurt, following Indy on a perilous adventure to find the coveted Crystal Skull of Akator. From the ivy-covered halls of Marshall College to the verdant jungles of South America, Indy is pursued by sinister Soviet agents who will stop at nothing to get their hands on the eerie object of fascination.
- The Return of a Legend (Featurette in HD, 18 minutes) – Things begin with this look at the long development process behind Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. All involved with the franchise discuss how they felt the series was done with Last Crusade, only to find that the fans demanded a new film. As with all the featurettes, there are interviews with just about everyone involved with the film, including Spielberg, George Lucas and all the major stars and crew, plus tons of behind-the-scenes footage. The best part here is the numerous clips from the first three Indy films, which give fans a first glance at the classic trilogy in high-def format.
- Pre-Production (Featurette in HD, 11 minutes) – This featurette follows Steven Spielberg as he creates animatic sequences, as well as Shia LaBeouf learning to swordfight. Script elements are discussed, including locations and costumes. Casting reunions are also featured, including the return of Karen Allen. Also nifty here, is a look at all the Indy jackets and hats from the films, along with a cool and funny montage of various, discarded titles for the new film.
- Theatrical Trailers (HD) – There are two film clips, a teaser and a full trailer.
- Indiana Jones Timelines – This text and graphics feature makes use of the Blu-ray format’s BD-Java functionality. There are three timelines, including Story, Production and History. Each is a sequential series of screens that completes a narrative. Story relays plot history about the Crystal Skulls and various characters in the movie. Production gives milestones in the long development process of Crystal Skull. And finally History gives fans background on key real-life events that shaped the script. History was my personal favorite of the three timelines, as it gives a glimpse into the methodology of a screenwriter and their research. Plus I am a fan of history. I do wish the timelines were integrated with the main feature somehow.
- Production Diaries (HD, 80 minutes) – Disc two begins with the center of the production featurettes, a six-part dissection of the production process. The Making of the Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls is astoundingly comprehensive, with key sequences dissected frame by frame. The documentary is organized in a clear way around each location, with six sections including Shooting Begins: New Mexico, Back To School: New Haven, Connecticut, Welcome to the Jungle: Hilo, Hawaii, On-Set Action, Exploring Akator and Wrapping Up!
- Warrior Makeup (Featurette in HD, 5 minutes) – A short look at the design and make-up for the film’s temple natives.
- The Crystal Skulls (Featurette in HD, 10 minutes) – Apparently crystal skulls really do exist. The various historical story elements are discussed, along with the creation of the extensive props from the movie.
- Iconic Props (Featurette in HD, 10 minutes) – Steven Spielberg explores the film’s mass of props, including the various vehicles, costumes and Indy’s famous bullwhip.
- The Effects of Indy (Featurette in HD, 22 minutes) – The most detailed of the added docs, this visit to ILM examines the film’s effects elements. There is much discussion of how CGI composites have now replaced matte paintings and other traditional effects techniques. Also interesting is Spielberg chiming in on how the computer age has changed the way stunts are employed in an Indiana Jones film.
- Adventures in Post-Production (Featurette in HD, 12 minutes) – A quick overview of the finishing touches, including final effects, fine-tuning the story, and a much-welcome visit with composer John Williams.
- Closing: Team Indy (Featurette in HD, 3 minutes) – The main featurettes wrap with a curtain call of all major cast and crew.
- Pre-Visualization Sequences (HD, 14 minutes) – Three four-minute segments are shown here, each a rough CGI rendering of an action sequence. They include Area 51 Escape, Jungle Chase and Ants Attack.
- Still Galleries (HD) – Topping off disc two is an impressive set of still galleries. The navigation is intuitive and the graphics clean and well-produced. There are over two hundred images, divided into three sections. All images are in HD resolution.
As for the video quality, the transfer looks incredible. Paramount and Lucasfilm also provide an English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround track (48kHz/24-bit) for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, making the audio even stronger than the video quality.
The set is a must have for fans of the Indy franchise, and a must have for fans of Blu-ray and its possibilities.