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Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull Blu-ray impressions

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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)

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Posted: Sunday, October 19, 2008 at 11:48 AM | Comments: 2
Categories: BD Impressions | Blu-ray | Cinema | Reviews | Technology

 
Comments

1.

I saw it in Edinburgh at the Vue....Digital cinema presentation using a Christie projector.

There was hardly any grain in the image there either....Spielberg apparently wanted this film to look like the first three....He failed in that regard.

I also didn't enjoy the movie....First bit in the warehouse was fun and like the old Indy but after that i felt the main storyline had too many characters joining Indy on the adventure and spoiling the film...John Hurt had so little to do i was surprised he took the role. Cate Blanchett was nice looking but a weak villainess.

Overall i thought it poor....I'm a huge horror fan and loved Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom....

I picked up the German edition of Silent Hill thanks to this sites recommendation....Superb image quality ( and sound )

I'll be ordering Leon ( theatrical and extended cuts ) from Germany next week...Hoping it's image quality is good but fearing the worst.

Anyways while i appreciate you enjoyed this latest Indy flick i almost fell asleep at the cinema watching it and the people around me seemed bored except for a this teenage couple or i should say the teenage girl who was laughing at it throughout.

Missed opportunity and i think Spielberg was shackled by George Lucas on this one who had too much control over the storyline and editing of the film.

Posted by: FoxyMulder, October 19, 2008 4:05 PM

2.

Hmm, well, that would imply that the grain reduction was applied at the DI stage, then. The hand of Lucas, by any chance? The DVDs of the first three films are also pretty horribly grain reduced, which will be all too apparent on the inevitable Blu-ray releases, unless they go back and redo them. Our friends at Lowry/DTS strike again…

There’s a lot of stuff I like in Temple of Doom, particularly the strong horror vibe. I can even tolerate Short Round to some degree. Unfortunately, Kate Capshaw drives me up the wall with her constant wailing and screaming. Personally, I felt she made it the worst of the series back when it was a trilogy, though now that there is a fourth film I’m not sure where I’d place it. One thing’s for sure, I found it relief when, contrary to the earlier rumours, Capshaw didn’t appear in the new adventure.

I actually ordered the German release of Leon myself the other day, along with Monster (from EMS) and Hannibal from Ufa (supposedly being released on October 27th, though I’ll believe it when I see it). Fingers crossed for a decent presentation on Leon, but given that the Deluxe Edition DVD was supposedly minted from an HD master, I’m not overly optimistic. Glad you liked Silent Hill, though - it’s a cracking disc, despite the incorrect black level.

Posted by: Michael Mackenzie, October 20, 2008 11:46 PM

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