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DVD Review: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull 2-Disc Special Edition

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For goofy action and adventure, there is perhaps no better DVD release in all of this year than the pulpy and extravagant Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. I first examined this film during its theatrical release and was less than enthralled. However, things change over time and I’m not ashamed to admit that I enjoyed it much more the second time around.

Harrison Ford returns with the whip and the fedora for this fourth instalment of the rousing action-adventure serial. A throwback to the old-fashioned Sunday matinees of days gone by, the Indiana Jones series always brimmed with gobs of adventure, thrilling action sequences, a touch of the supernatural, and anything else Steven Spielberg and George Lucas could think of.

Perhaps Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull exemplifies the “kitchen sink” approach more than any of the other Indy films. Perhaps it doesn’t matter.

We meet Indiana Jones again after all these years in classic fashion, as his dusty fedora is picked up and put atop his head in a brilliant swirling shot that brings it all home. He and his sidekick, Mac McHale (Ray Winstone), have been taken by Soviets (no Nazis this time) led by the evil Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett). The Russians want Indy to snag a crate he saw there years ago that will hopefully lead them to the mysterious and powerful Crystal Skulls.

As per usual, Jones escapes from the clutches of the Soviets only to learn that Mac has betrayed him and that he’s under suspicion for being one of the Reds. Mutt Williams (Shia LaBeouf) shows up and tells Indy that an old colleague, Harold Oxley (John Hurt), has disappeared after discovering a Crystal Skull near Peru. After a ridiculously fun chase, the pair heads off to South America and discover more than they bargained for when they are captured again by the Russians. The Russians are also holding Jones’ old flame, Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen). An escape is in order, again, and the action spirals through South America to locate the Crystal Skulls, defeat the Soviet enemies, and restore order to the universe.

The plot devices in Indiana Jones films exist for one reason only: to serve as backdrops for the action sequences. And Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is no different. Each sequence works to set up another more ludicrous sequence, with Mutt Williams’ swinging through the trees with the monkeys topped only by Marion’s driving the jeep over the side of a cliff to land in a tree that works as a slingshot to dispatch the Commies.

As usual, it is absolutely astonishing that Indy and his pals aren’t killed fifty times over with the risks they take. Yet somehow our heroes are able to dust themselves off, pick themselves up, and perform one stupid manoeuvre after another until we can’t take it anymore. Such is the pulp fiction action-adventure of Indy 4.

Harrison Ford owns the role, of course. In his mid-sixties, he prepared for the role by hitting the gym and going on a special diet. Indeed, Ford looks a good ten-to-twenty years younger and yet still makes something out of the jokes about aging. If there was a theme to Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull that went beyond the action and the spectacle, aging would be it. Characters are old, not necessarily wiser, and new responsibilities and revelations change the fabric of their existence. Jones doesn’t navigate as well anymore, for instance, and crashes through a vehicle’s windshield because he “thought it was closer.”

The 2-Disc Special Edition DVD packs the movie and a slew of extras in for a hell of a fun set. Spielberg, Lucas, Ford, and Co. explain the background to the film in an illuminating and enticing feature called, suitably, “The Return of a Legend.” And a pre-production feature takes viewers behind the scenes of some of the work that went in before the flick started shooting.

Other bonus features include an extensive “Production Diary: Making Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.” Divided into 12 parts, this in-depth look at what went on behind the scenes of the movie includes some dazzling and insightful footage that should answer many of the “How did they do that?” questions. A pile of photos are included as a sort of slideshow and a feature on the pre-visualization sequences serves to show how extensive the process is when it comes to shooting some of the film’s many action scenes.

Fans of action-adventure goodness will be immensely pleased by the Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull 2-Disc Special Edition DVD. Packed with features, this is an ideal set for an early Christmas present for a loved one or a special treat for yourself. For goofy fun and adventure, it doesn’t get any better than this.

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