The Adventure Collection
- Rated PG-13
- Buy the DVD
Reviewed by Ross Ruediger
urely the only movies that would be more pointless to recap than the “Indiana Jones” trilogy are the original “Star Wars” trilogy. Everyone’s seen the “Indy” films time and again, and countless consumers already own the first DVD box set. But that hasn’t stopped Paramount from reissuing them in preparation for “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.” Unlike Episodes IV through VI, the “Indy” flicks can more or less work on their own and this time around Paramount gives buyers the option of purchasing the entries individually, or together in this set. The box packages the three discs in slimline cases, and it’s weird to have such a noteworthy chunk of movie history reduced to the size of a VHS tape (you remember those, don’t you?).
Most will probably agree that “Raiders of the Lost Ark” is the outstanding entry in the trilogy. It’s a flawless film with an engaging plot, effortlessly balancing action, romance, mysticism, religion, horror and humor. Across the board, the characters are the perfect blend of depth and cliché required for re-imagining the serial adventure formula. George Lucas and Steven Spielberg are at the top of their games, and Harrison Ford unknowingly cements his future leading man status. “Raiders” is not only defining cinema for the ‘80s, but it’s one of the top popcorn flicks of all time. Its sole mission is to entertain, and nary a moment of it does anything else. Opinion, however, is divided over which sequel grabs second place, and as ideal as mother is, both children are imperfect in numerous -- yet very different -- ways.
“Temple of Doom” took the thrill-ride, crowd-pleasing aspects of “Raiders,” and amplified them to the degree that its plot is little more than a MacGuffin quest smothered in a two-hour roller coaster ride, stringing together one over-the-top sequence after another. Just to hammer the point home, the third act presents an actual roller coaster ride, after which the viewer is so exhausted that the dramatic payoff may be something of a letdown. The film also tried to best the supernatural aspects of “Raiders” by building its second half around drinking blood, possession and human sacrifice (it’s credited, along with “Gremlins,” as leading to the creation of the PG-13 rating). Instead of Karen Allen’s tough girl Marion Ravenwood, it presented showgirl Willie Scott (Kate Capshaw), a dizzy dame amusingly ill equipped to deal with Indy’s adventuring. The chief villain, evil Thuggee cult leader Mola Ram (Amrish Puri), may lack the worldly, educated charm of Belloq, but he stands as a disturbing force to be reckoned with. The cherry on the “Doom” cake is its opening musical number, which is as bizarre an artistic decision as any for this film, and yet it’s just so right. Every time I view it, I wish Spielberg would just break down and direct a musical. “Doom’s” problems are so obvious they’re hardly worth discussing. “It’s just one long chase scene.” Yeah, well that was the aim. “It’s too dark.” Says who? “What about Short Round?” He never inconvenienced me. I really dig “Temple of Doom” in spite of its faults, and because it dares to be so damn sinister and different than its predecessor.
Finally there’s “Last Crusade,” a movie I dismiss as quickly as I embrace the other two. It aims to win back viewers put off by the intensity and insanity of “Doom” by bringing back various elements from “Raiders” including the Nazis, the search for a powerful Christian relic, a rich, snotty villain, and the familiar characters of Sallah (John Rhys-Davies) and Marcus Brody (Denholm Elliott). It also sets out to rectify “Doom’s” perceived failings by attempting to spin a tale emphasizing character and humor. But the recycled iconography fails on nearly every level because it’s all presented as some kind of nostalgic joke. The Nazis are ineffective boobs and the scavenger hunt for the Holy Grail lacks any sense of urgency. Julian Glover’s performance as the villain Donovan is downright terrible and his American accent one of the worst ever to come from a Brit (and I’m even a fan of his old work). Brody, previously a respectable, scholarly figure, is reduced to mere comic relief, and Sallah’s given little more to do than play Hardy to Brody’s Laurel. The finale (which predictably hinges on Indy’s faith), is redundant, given his previous adventures; the guy has seen enough at this point that he shouldn’t question anything. Anybody remotely familiar with Holy Grail lore will find the big dilemma of “Which one’s the real cup?” anticlimactic at best. Aside from the excellent pre-credits sequence with River Phoenix as young Indy, even the action scenes are forgettable. “Crusade’s” boldest (yet flawed) move is its female lead, the treacherous Elsa Schneider (Alison Doody), who serves as Indy’s companion until his true wingman shows up. But since Elsa is really just a plot device, she barely registers -- which leaves the heart of the film in the push and pull of father Henry (Sean Connery) and son Indy, a relationship that only partially works. When it’s played for laughs (as so much of “Crusade” is) it falters, yet the handful of scenes presenting genuine emotion between the pair work so well they’re the only reasonable explanation for the hardcore love of the film -- and they are strong scenes, no doubt due mostly to the two talented actors involved.Both “Last Crusade” and “Raiders” occupy spots in the coveted IMDB Top 250, while “Doom” is left out in the cold. “Last Crusade” clearly has legions of admirers, but I remain mystified as to why – Connery isn’t that much of a gem. Given the series track record thus far, it’d be foolhardy to expect “Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” to come even close to the perfection of “Raiders,” but hopefully it’ll offer up a little something original that makes it worth revisiting the franchise nearly 20 years after the last entry.
The Adventure Collection DVD Review:
Confession: I’m one of those few who never owned the previous box set, therefore I don’t know how these extras stack up against what was previously available. For a series this big, what’s here is a fairly lean selection of featurettes, none of which run more than 15 minutes. Each disc has an introductory piece consisting of brief interviews from Lucas and Spielberg, mixed with clips and behind-the-scenes footage, as well as extensive photo galleries and the same trailer for “Crystal Skull.” Additionally, “Raiders” features “A Crystal Clear Appreciation,” a rundown of the trilogy as a whole which includes opinions from the cast of “Crystal Skull,” as well as “The Mystery of the Melting Face,” a brief look at creating the finale’s gruesome effects, and also a series of storyboards for the Well of Souls sequence. “Doom” offers up “Creepy Crawlies,” a look back at all the critters from the trilogy, a piece on the numerous locations from the movies, and storyboards for the mine cart chase. “Last Crusade” has a look back at Indy’s friends and enemies, snippets from an AFI discussion between the series’ three leading ladies, and storyboards for the opening scene.