The adventure of Indy is now at its most visual best. This much-awaited 4k release sees a full restoration of all of the Indiana Jones movies and it is a release to celebrate. It took me a bit of time to power through this incredible film series, but the work was worth it. These are some of my favourite movies and a series that I grew up with as a kid, and these movies also stand the test of time. Even the visual effects hold up remarkably well along with the humour and sheer entertainment value throughout.
There was a time when movies would play at the cinema for six months, a year, or even longer…and RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK was one of them. This movie caused a sensation when it was released in the summer of 1981. It was expected to do well, but the combination of Harrison Ford as the leading man, the impressive special effects, non-stop action and adventure along with the stunning look and humour throughout made the movie a colossal hit. Audiences went back multiple times for more and the movie took a life of its own in the 80s, spawning the 1984 sequel INDIANA JONES & THE TEMPLE OF DOOM which I am a massive fan of and yet there was a lot of critical and audience disagreement over this. I loved the change in tone and the overall horror of the temple sequence followed by a rousing finale sequence, but your milage my vary. A few years later in 1989, we got another thrilling adventure in INDIANA JONES & THE LAST CRUSADE, which is the movie I saw first in the series as a kid and then immediately saw the first two after.
This is one of the finest motion picture trilogies ever made that I also didn’t really explain much about the movies themselves. I feel like everyone already knows about these movies and has either seen them already. Harrison Ford as Indy is one of cinema’s greatest, iconic characters and it’s always a thrill to watch these adventures over and over again through his unique perspective.
And yes, there’s also has a later 2008 movie, INDIANA JONES & THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL that I seem to be the only person who enjoyed it, warts and all, and even though I understand it was too little, too late, I still…kind of enjoyed it overall. That said, I really feel like the series should be capped here and that always talked about “fifth movie” can just sit on the shelf. What is here is enough.
About the 4k release:
There is a lot to go through on the technical aspects of each movie. All of the movies have been fully restored into 4k/HDR 10/Dolby Vision and these are all exceptional releases. This really is a disc release to upgrade from the also terrific Blu Ray edition, are miles ahead of whatever is available on streaming services, and it’s also important to me to break down each movie and its original look. If you are 4k disc capable, this release is a no-brainer.
I have seen RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK many many times in theatres and on home video. I owned a VHS tape, a laserdisc, a DVD, a Blu Ray and now a proud owner of this 4k disc. I have also seen the movie on 35mm film along with more recent DCP releases and an IMAX re-release. So I have been able to experience Douglas Slocombe’s thrilling cinematography and design many times, and naturally this 4k disc is mind blowing. This I would imagine being as close to an opening night 70mm blow-up presentation with a great film grain level, intense detail and colours. All of the 35mm anamorphic cinematography has never looked better here. There are also some sections here where there is some blur and softness in the image, but this is due to the movie’s original cinematography; one shot of snakes on Alfred Molina’s back has a lot of light diffusion, but this is a result of the original cinematography and not the transfer itself. ALSO, to this day I can still not see the plexiglass in the famous Indy sequence where he meets the snakes, but others have told me that they can see it. I know it’s there, but I am still not convinced.
Note that RAIDERS is also “unrestored” as well, with a few examples of “Special Edition” retooling that Spielberg also did with ET has been reversed for this and all future releases both on home video and in theatres. Bravo!
TEMPLE OF DOOM is another great example of a full on restoration and Slocombe’s thrilling cinematography here has a bit more polished look at times. The curtain-raiser opening music performance followed by the Club Obi-Wan action sequence has a stunning display of whites and reds, and later there is great visual detail when the action moves to India. I find for the color balance, this is the best of the restoration work.
That said, I found THE LAST CRUSADE to have the overall best look and the most vibrant. Having seen the movie originally in 70mm as a kid, this was also the first time I noticed wide-screen in a movie along with a subsequent Siskel & Ebert episode on the importance of widescreen versus pan & scan that completely made me a widescreen fan. This 4k disc really brings it all back with such an impressive amount of detail, film grain and color balance that really showcases the original cinematography well. I greatly admire that all three movies have a through line but a SLIGHTLY different overall look, which is more than I can say for more recent franchises that all look flat and uninteresting.
Even CRYSTAL SKULL, which is the only movie that was digitally graded from 2k for its theatrical release and still looks like an upscale from the Blu Ray, looks awesome. It probably helps that Spielberg and now Janusz Kaminski’s cinematography is so thrilling here that any potential quibbles in the transfer are very hard to see. While I understand that this was more of an “upscale” from its 2k digital scan source, it still maintains a great look and feel far different from the original trilogy.
Sound-wise, all of the movies are loud, proud and take full advantage of its dynamic split surround mix in the restored Dolby Atmos soundtracks, which will liven up your home theatre setup regardless of how many speakers you have. RAIDERS especially has a vibe of an old 70mm magnetic track. TEMPLE OF DOOM was known to have one of the loudest split surround tracks ever, and it holds up here. LAST CRUSADE even goes further in the use of surrounds and is still one of the strongest multi-channel soundtracks even to this day.
While the movies themselves have respective commentary tracks, all of the special features are included on the fifth Blu Ray disc, and it’s a treasure trove of original documentaries mixed with newer-ish docs made for the previous Blu Ray release. I also liked the “treasure map” slip included in the box which also nicely features the original theatrical posters for the movie.
If I only had one caveat, it’s the packaging. This five disc set is set up in a somewhat awkward paper/plastic case combo where a couple of the discs are sitting above other ones, and it’s a pretty awkward process to remove a top disc to remove a bottom one. The more recent STAR TREK 4k set had a much nicer and proper plastic case setup where the discs were much easier to get out. Yes, I know it’s a comment on the packaging rather than the movie itself, but I thought I would mention it as I wish this release would come in similar packaging.
There are also Digital Copy codes that redeem to Apple TV and are all 4k/Dolby Vision/HDR and absolutely worth also having in your library. These Apple versions are also the same restorations, and if you already purchased these in the past they will automatically upgrade to 4k.
As mentioned before, this INDIANA JONES set is an essential set for anyone who has a full 4k monitor and disc set up. This set is absolutely recommended even if you are not a fan of CRYSTAL SKULL, and who knows, you may find some things about it worth enjoying on a repeat watch.
The INDIANA JONES collection is now available on 4k disc, and there is also a separate new release of RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK on Blu Ray. A huge thanks to Paramount PR for sending along a copy for review.