Of the four films, RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK is obviously the best. In fact, Iíd wager itís one of the best action films ever made, Anyone who was lucky enough to see this screened on IMAX a few weeks ago can testify to the fact that, despite being thirty-years old, RAIDERS is unmatched by any recent tent pole films in terms of action or spectacle. There are so many iconic action sequences here thatís itís hard to choose which is the best, although the half-hour stretch of film that sees Indy fighting Nazis attempting to take the ark via airplane (with his wicked mano-a-mano with Pat Roach being one of my all-time favorite on-screen brawls), and then via truck- in a chase which has been mimicked many times but never equaled, is pretty tough to match.
Everything about RAIDERS just feels timeless, as if it could have been made in any era. Those of you who havenít seen it in a while will be amazed at how violent it gets, with the gory-shoot out early on at Marionís bar, and the incredible face-melting conclusion- but again, this gory creepiness is part of what makes these movies so much fun. Of course, one mustnít forget about John Williamsí score, which Iíd wager is his all-time best, narrowly beating out his work on STAR WARS (NARROWLY).
The follow-up, INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM has taken a lot of heat over the years, with many calling it the weak-link of the series. This is something I never understood, as too me itís almost as good as RAIDERS. The mean-spirited darkness of the film is an interesting contrast to RAIDERS, and the heart-ripping scene was one of the iconic scares from my childhood. I love everything about this movie, from Short-Round (the best kid sidekick ever), to Mola Ram, to the great mine-chase. Everything about it fíing rocks. Well- except maybe the whiny Willie- but it has to be said; Kate Capshaw was really hot in that opening Busby Berkley style kaleidoscope number.
INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE was clearly an attempt to get back to the tone of RAIDERS, and again, itís a pretty terrific adventure film, although the introduction of the PG-13 rating means the violence was toned down a bit compared to the last two movies. While some parts of the movie annoy me- especially the way Denholm Elliotís Marcus Brody is turned into a total moron, LAST CRUSADE does feature Indyís dad- played by none other than Sean Connery. This has certainly got to go down as one of the most inspired casting decisions of all time, and Connery- who had just won an Oscar for THE UNTOUCHABLES, seems to be having a ball as Indyís noticeably less bad-ass father (I especially love his shocked ďlook what you did!!!Ē after watching Indy kill the first of dozens of Nazis that meet their demise at Indyís hands over the course of the film). The opening bit with River Phoenix as young Indy (which spawned the YOUNG INDIANA JONES CHRONICLES) is also pretty damn great, with us seeing how one adventure gave Indy his iconic chin scar, and fedora. Really, the series should have been left here with Indy riding off into the sunset with his Dad- but alas, the fans would not allow it.
Which brings us to INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL. Sigh. CRYSTAL SKULL stands as the one review of mine I wish I could erase from the net, as I totally got swept up by fanboy hysteria, and gave the film a rave back when it came out. After seeing it a second time in theaters, I was amazed at how bad it really was- and damn if four short years later itís virtually unwatchable. While the ďnuke the fridgeĒ scene never really bothered me, and in fact- the whole first forty minutes is not bad, once Indy and Mutt head to South America, the film takes a detour into shitsville and never recovers. Aliens? In an Indiana Jones movie? Damn. Too bad Spielberg and Co., didnít just leave this off the set and pretend it never happened.
The big new extra is the two-part On-set with RAIDER OF THE LOST ARK which is an hour long, and features exhaustive behind-the scenes footage, and deleted scenes (including the market-place sword-fight). This extra is incredible, although it's drag TEMPLE OF DOOM and LAST CRUSADE didn't get the same treatment.
The res of the bonus features consist mostly of featurettes examining everything from the music, to the famous melting-face scene, the stunts, the sound, etc. All told, they add up to another hour or so of extras. There's also a vintage making of for RAIDERS, and a lot of the extras from the KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL blu-ray are ported over. Finally, each film contains the original teaser and theatrical trailers in HD. A decent set, but I wish TEMPLE OF DOOM and LAST CRUSADE got their due.