Spielberg still has his touch, even if this meeting of action/adventure and science-fiction—two passion genres—shows the director trying too hard to please the awaiting crowd. The action sequences, specifically the mid-car chase sword fight through the Amazon jungle between wild one “Mutt” Williams (Shia LaBeouf) and Soviet antagonist Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett in a bob cut), at least, are exhilarating.
But that’s a freebie. All Indy movies are structured, quite similarly, around such sequences. The rest—punchy one-liners excluded—is throwaway for most of the audience. Kingdom…, as required, reintroduces plot elements from the original trilogy. The best throwback to the ‘81-’89 movies is the return of Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen, still with that charming smile), missing-in-action since Raiders of the Lost Ark.
This all might be sufficient for some. But for those waiting on the edge of their seats since ’89, we want more…but not the “more” that Lucas and Spielberg slapped into the story. New characters George “Mac” McHale (Ray Winstone) and Harold “Ox” Oxley (John Hurt) are fine, but could never replace favorites Marcus Brody (Denholm Elliott, deceased) and Dr. Henry Jones, Sr. (Sean Connery, retired).
Flaws aside (and there are many, no doubt most of the extraterrestrial type), the overtly cartoonish movie isn’t quite the raping that this season’s South Park suggested. But there is a reason Indy rode into the sunset nineteen years ago…
The Return of a Legend (17:37): Steven Spielberg, Harrison Ford, George Lucas, and others sit down to discuss the return of the character and franchise of Indiana Jones, covering plenty of ground between the lot of them, from the snags (Independence Day put a brief halt in the story’s development) to how Kingdom of the Crystal Skull positions with the original trilogy.
Pre-Production (11:47): Interviews and behind-the-scenes footage cover early computer animation, recreating Indy’s trademark costume, Shia LaBeouf’s casting/training, and the return of Marion Ravenwood.
Production Diary: Making of Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (1:20:10): This six-part documentary details the film’s production, from day one to wrap. Consisting of interviews and terrific behind-the-scenes footage, Spielberg and company give us an inside look at the making of one of the most anticipated movies in years.
Warrior Makeup (5:37) details makeup department head Felicity Bowring’s attempts to create the look of the temple warriors.
The Crystal Skulls (10:12): This featurette briefly covers the mystery surrounding crystal skulls before shifting focus to the creation of the prop.
Iconic Props (10:03): Property master Doug Harlocker takes us inside his warehouse to show off the many props used in the film.
The Effects of Indy (22:44): The artists behind the special effects discuss their techniques (miniatures, CGI, etc.), offering insight into the Area 51, Temple of Akator, jungle sword fight, and killer ants sequences.
Adventures in Post-Production (12:47) focuses on the editing (Michael Kahn), sound design (Ben Burtt), and scoring (John Williams) of Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
Closing: Team Indy (3:44) is a behind-the-scenes montage of footage of the crew.
Pre-Visualization Sequences offers early computer-animated presentations of “Area 51 Escape,” “Jungle Chase,” and “Ants Attack.”
The Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures Game allows Xbox 360 owners to insert Disc Two into their players for a free demo. How fun is it? Beats the hell outta me; I don’t own one.
Rounding out this 2-Disc Special Edition are Galleries and Trailers.
A box set with all four films is likely to hit shelves within a year, so fans should be hesitant to pick up with disc, even though the extras (some of which overlap others) might be tempting.