Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. While not an exceptional transfer, the presentation pleased.
Sharpness usually looked positive. A few of the wider shots presented some slight softness, and light noise made things a little messy at times. Otherwise, though, the picture appeared nicely detailed and crisp. A few slight instances of jaggies and shimmering popped up, but these stayed minor, and the smidgen of edge enhancement also failed to create any real distractions. As for print flaws, they stayed away here. I noticed no signs of any defects in this clean and distinctive image.
Colors looked solid. The often gold-tinted movie didn’t present the world’s broadest palette, but it included a good enough range of hues that consistently came across as tight and vibrant. The tones never seemed overly heavy, and the film gave them good definition. Black levels seemed deep and dense, and low-light shots demonstrated fine clarity and never became too thick. I found little about which I could complain as I watched the consistently positive visual presentation of Skull.
In addition, the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull seemed very good. The mix offered a broad and engaging experience. Music showed nice delineation and spread, and the effects created a good sense of atmosphere. Effects seemed appropriately placed and blended together smoothly. Those elements moved cleanly across the channels to demonstrate a fine feeling of place.
Surround usage was strong. Quite a lot of information – from bullets to explosions to vehicles to spooky skull effects - popped up from the rear, and the back speakers acted as an active aspect of the mix. The track didn’t often dazzle and present a stunning surround mix, but it provided a consistently engaging affair.
Audio quality appeared fine. Speech was distinct and concise, and I noticed no issues connected to intelligibility or edginess. Music was fairly vibrant and dynamic, as the DVD displayed the score with vivacity and solid clarity. Effects were clean and rich, and they never suffered from any signs of distortion or other problems. Bass response was deep and firm and brought good punch to the package. I liked this track quite a lot and thought it merited an “A-“.
Across this two-disc Special Edition, we find a mix of extras. On DVD One, two programs appear. The Return of a Legend lasts 17 minutes, 37 seconds and provides notes from director Steven Spielberg, producer Frank Marshall, story/executive producer George Lucas, screenwriter David Koepp, executive producer Kathleen Kennedy, and actors Harrison Ford, Karen Allen, and Shia LaBeouf. “Return” looks at the decision to bring back the franchise, story issues and script development, challenges connected to staying true to the Indiana Jones world, cast and characters, some influences, and the flick’s title.
Across this set’s two discs, we’ll encounter a lot of this sort of material, and “Legend” launches these components well. Not only does it feature all the prominent participants, but also it spills some good dirt, primarily when Spielberg gripes about how he never really wanted to do another Indy flick. The featurette provides a slew of interesting details and proves to be quite entertaining.
DVD One also features the 11-minute and 47-second Pre-Production. It features Spielberg, Ford, Lucas, LaBeouf, Kennedy, pre-visualization supervisor Daniel D. Gregoire, director of photography Janusz Kaminski, and Ford’s costume designer Bernie Pollack. The show looks at pre-viz, cinematography and visual design, costumes, new cast, training, and what it felt like to return to the franchise. It offers a good continuation of the trend started with “Legend” and provides a consistently satisfying little piece.
Over on DVD Two, the main attraction comes from a six-part documentary called Production Diary: Making Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. It fills a total of one hour, 20 minutes and 11 seconds, as it presents comments from Spielberg, Lucas, Marshall, Ford, LaBeouf, Kaminski, Koepp, Allen, Pollack, Kennedy, supervising location manager aerial unit/production supervisor Mike Fantasia, costume designer Mary Zophres, production designer Guy Hendrix Dyas, property master Doug Harlocker, co-costume designer Jenny Eagan, stunt coordinator Gary Powell, co-producer/unit production manager Denis L. Stewart, special effects coordinator Dan Sudick, hair department head Kelvin R Trahan, Stan Winston Studios effects supervisor John Rosengrant, snake handler Jules Sylvester, makeup artist Bill Corso, set decorator Larry Dias, first AD Adam Somner, and actors Ray Winstone, Cate Blanchett, Jim Broadbent, Igor Jijikine, and John Hurt. “Diary” covers the start of the shoot in New Mexico, other locations and set design, stunts, special effects and second unit work, new cast and characters, costumes and props, lighting, and a few other topics.
“Diary” presents a very good mix of on-set footage and interviews. The former shots give us a great glimpse of the actual production, while the latter offer solid perspective. “Diary” continues the fine work from DVD One’s featurettes to create an engrossing examination of the various production topics.
Six more featurettes show up on DVD Two. Warrior Makeup goes for five minutes, 37 seconds and include notes from Trahan and makeup department head Felicity Bowring. As you might guess, this show looks at the work done to give the South American warriors their distinctive looks. Short and tight, we learn a lot here.
For the 10-minute and 13-second The Crystal Skulls, we hear from Spielberg, Ford, Lucas, Dyas, and Rosengrant. We get some thoughts about the real-life inspirations for the movie’s skulls as well as their film design and creation. Expect another concise and informative piece that deserves a look.
Iconic Props goes for 10 minutes, four seconds and features Spielberg and Harlocker. The shows concentrates on elements unique to Skull but also tells us a little about returning pieces like Indy’s whip. Harlocker gives us a nice tour of these items and lets us get a good look at them.
Next comes the 22-minute and 44-second The Effects of Indy. It provides info from Spielberg, Lucas, ILM digital artist Paul Huston, ILM animation supervisor Steve Rawlins, ILM digital model supervisor Dave Fogler, ILM view paint supervisor Steve Walton, ILM digital compositing supervisors Sean MacKenzie and Jay Cooper, visual effects supervisor/aerial unit/unit director Pablo Helman, ILM digital matte supervisor Richard Bluff, Kerner Optical model supervisor Brian Gernand, ILM lead TD supervisor Craig Hammack, ILM associate visual effects supervisor Marshall Krasser, ILM digital production supervisor Jeff White, ILM creature and simulations supervisor Eric Wong, Kerner Optical lead model maker Nicholas A. D’Abo, and ILM visual effects art director Christian Alzmann. While the prior programs included some notes about practical effects, this show looks exclusively at CG elements, models and miniatures. Though a bit dry at times, “Effects” covers its topics well and turns into another valuable show.
After this we get Adventures in Post-Production. The 12-minute and 47-second piece involves Spielberg, Marshall, Kennedy, editor Michael Kahn, sound designer/supervising film editor Ben Burtt, re-recording mixer/additional sound design Christopher Scarabosio, and composer John Williams,
We go over editing, sound design, and music. Don’t expect much about the editing, as the featurette barely discusses that topic. However, we get very good notes about the audio, and Williams includes some nice thoughts about his score. Those aspects of the piece make it worthwhile.
For the final featurette, we find the three-minute and 45-second Closing: Team Indy with a few remarks from Spielberg. However, it essentially acts as visual credits for the movie, as it spotlights many of the folks who worked on the flick. That makes it nice for them but not essential for us, especially since we already got to know most of them through the featurettes.
Three Pre-Visualization Sequences fill a total of 14 minutes, 16 seconds. We get “Area 51 Escape” (3:54), “Jungle Chase” (5:50) and “Ants Attack” (4:32). These let us see crudely animated renditions of the various movie scenes. I’d have liked to view them as comparisons with the final flick, but they’re still cool.
Under Galleries, we see stills under five subdomains. These cover “The Art Department” (168 images across three sections), “Stan Winston Studio” (76 across two areas), “Production Photographs” (72), “Portraits” (63) and “Behind-the-Scenes Photographs” (39). All include nice shots, though the first two provide the most valuable production information.
Some ads appear in the Trailers heading. This area presents “Theatrical Trailer 2” and “Theatrical Trailer 3”, which makes me wonder what happened to “Theatrical Trailer 1”. We also get “Indiana Jones: The Ultimate Action Hero”, a promo for the Indy DVDs.
The set finishes with a ”Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures Game” XBox 360 Game Demo. This lets those with Xbox 360s to give the game a spin. I don’t have one, so I can’t try it. (I have played the Nintendo DS version of the game. It’s okay, but not as fun as the “Lego Star Wars” game.)
After 19 years out of cinemas, could the return of Indiana Jones live up to expectations? I think it could have done so, but it didn’t. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull provides an amiable and occasionally exciting affair, but it’s not one that matches up particularly well with its three predecessors. Though it shows periodic signs of life, it doesn’t maintain them strongly enough to become better than “pretty good”. As for the DVD, it provides very good picture, audio and extras. I like the movie and the package enough to recommend it, but don’t expect classic Indiana Jones.