Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull Blu-ray impressions
Yesterday, my brother received his copy of the Blu-ray release of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, which provided our nocturnal viewing entertainment. This was my second time seeing the film and my brother’s first, but I think our impressions were largely the same: it’s entertaining, and its heart is in the right place, but you can’t compare it to Raiders of the Lost Ark, probably my favourite action-adventure movie of all time. I’m not even sure you can put it in the same league as the first two sequels… although, that said, there is nothing as irritating in Crystal Skull as Kate fucking Capshaw in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Instead, we get a somewhat underused Karen Allen, but you know what? Kudos to Steven Spielberg and co for bringing her back as a romantic interest for Harrison Ford rather than going down the more predictable route of pairing Shia LaBeouf up with a younger woman. It’s pretty unusual to see a romantic pairing between characters close to the age of drawing their pension in a Hollywood blockbuster, and dare I say it a tad more convincing than the alternatives.
It’s reassuring to see that Ford has still got what it takes to portray an albeit slightly slower, more gristled Indy, still able to hold his own in the action set-pieces. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for Spielberg and Lucas, whose direction and script are the areas in which the film feels the most stale. There’s a “going through the motions” feel to a lot of the material, and I suspect that, ultimately, neither of these men is the same person they were when they made the original trilogy. Meanwhile, the over-reliance on CGI, CGI-generated UFOs and, worst of all, CGI-generated comic relief animals, feels out of place in an Indiana Jones film. (Although I’ll grant you that the UFOs portrayed in the film are no more absurd than the notion of a cup granting eternal life, as in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.) Still, I can’t say it bored me for a second, and when the lights came up I certainly felt suitably entertained.
Transfer-wise, Paramount’s BD is very nice indeed. I’m not sure I’d put it in the upper echelon of HD presentations, as it’s not the most detailed image I’ve seen, and I’m pretty sure at least some grain reduction was done somewhere in the chain (it’s odd that Spielberg apparently fought tooth and nail with Lucas to shoot this on film rather than digitally, because a lot of the time it’s all but grainless), but there’s nothing overly destructive to glimpse. Given the technological changes that have taken place in the last couple of decades (CGI and the use of digital intermediates, to name but two), it’s unsurprising that Crystal Skull is, visually speaking, the odd one out in the series, but, regardless of Spielberg’s cinematographic choices, the film looks great on Blu-ray and is another sterling effort from Paramount.
Oddly enough, though, I can’t really say the same about the audio. We both felt that there was something lacking, and I think Dan Ramer’s review at DVD File sums it up best:
The lossless TrueHD 5.1 is quite nice, but surprisingly unimpressive. All the right elements are there. […] And yet, I came away with the distinct impression that the dynamic range is a tad lacking. I had to pump up the gain by 6 dB to attain dialog loudness parity with other BDs. And even with the gain turned up that high, the sound effects didn’t have that visceral bite that satisfies. This is a wholly adequate track, but I expected a demo-quality experience.
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
(Paramount, USA, AVC, 34.1 GB)