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The Indiana Jones Adventure Collection
1981/1984/1989 (2008) - Lucasfilm (Paramount)

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DVD reviews by Bill Hunt, editor of The Digital Bits

The Indiana Jones Adventure Collection

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Film Ratings (Raiders/Temple/Crusade): A/B-/A-
Video Ratings (Raiders/Temple/Crusade): B+/A/A
Disc Ratings (All 3 - Audio/Extras): A-/B-

Okay... so on the surface, The Indiana Jones Adventure Collection DVD release looks a lot like a cheap effort to cash in on the theatrical release of the new fourth film in the series. And it is. But having looked through what you get, Iíll tell you... you canít dismiss this release either. Let me explain...

These three DVDs are available individually (in regular Amaray cases, each of which includes a mini Dark Horse comic) as well as in a box set (The Adventure Collection, with the discs in Thinpaks and you donít get the comics). Paramount and Lucasfilm are calling them special editions, and while that label might seem dubious at best, considering that each of these films is presented as just a single-disc release, itís actually (and surprisingly) not.

Right off the bat, the decision to make these DVDs single-disc releases means that the video is going to be more compressed. Advances in compression, however, mean the picture and sound is actually very comparable to the original DVD release in 2003 (you can read my review of those discs, and the actual films, here). In fact, you could argue that the new anamorphic widescreen video on these discs is actually very slightly better than the original releases. Raiders is still a mixed bag Ė the original DVD was overly soft, while the new DVD is a little crisper looking. So while you do get more detail, you also see more edge enhancement and compression artifacting. Temple of Doom and Last Crusade however, look a little tighter, with slightly better contrast and perhaps a hair more detail. Interestingly, the new discs feature menus that are virtually identical to the originals, save for access to the new options, so I think the idea is that if you're a diehard fan, you're supposed to just get rid of your movie original discs (from the 2003 box set) and replace them with these. Iíd recommend doing your own A/V comparisons before you make any hasty decisions on that score, but I think most people can safely do so. Youíre not losing anything, and youíre actually gaining a lot more extras-wise than youíd expect.

Presenting these as single-disc editions logically means that each disc has only a small amount of space left for bonus material. Surprisingly, though, each disc offers about a half-hourís worth of new featurettes and other material, much of it truly new, never-before-seen. And damnit, itís good stuff! So again, it's hard to dismiss the discs entirely. Each DVD starts with the trailer for the new film, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Each disc features a new introduction to the film by Lucas and Spielberg that runs between 5 and 10 minutes. Each also includes 4 photo galleries, broken into sections covering Illustrations & Props, Production Photographs & Portraits, Effects/ILM and Marketing. This is nothing to sneeze at Ė the Raiders disc alone includes well over 400 images, including gorgeous artwork and alternate poster designs. Finally, each disc also offers a trailer and PC game demo for the new LEGO Indiana Jones videogame.

In terms of the featurettes, all are presented in anamorphic widescreen video and include both new material and interviews with the cast and crew (shot during the production of the new film), as well as vintage and behind-the-scenes material from the original films. The Raiders disc includes Indiana Jones: An Appreciation - Indy IV Looks Back at the Original Trilogy (12 mins), Raiders: The Melting Face (9 mins Ė includes a recreation of the melting face effect) and Storyboards: The Well of Souls (4 mins). The Temple of Doom disc includes Indiana Jones and the Creepy Crawlies (12 mins - with optional pop-up trivia), Travel with Indiana Jones: Locations (10 mins - also with optional pop-up trivia) and Storyboards: The Mine Cart Chase (2 mins). Finally, the Last Crusade disc includes Indyís Women: The American Film Institute Tribute (9 mins Ė and yes, Harrison Ford does appear briefly at the end), Indyís Friends and Enemies (10 mins Ė includes a tease of the new movie) and Storyboards: The Opening Sequence (3 mins). Itís worth noting that the storyboards featurettes all offer color storyboard images, as compared to the final film footage. And yeah, while you might not think that 30 minutes of material per disc is all that much, it really is pretty cool. I think fans will be very glad to see and have it.

Watching these DVDs, you quickly realize that there's a LOT more cool material for these films sitting in the Lucasfilm vault that we havenít seen yet. Which is frustrating, because what you want is a really, really elaborate special edition for each film. You know theyíre coming someday, and you know there will eventually be better looking and sounding versions of these films on Blu-ray Disc as well in a year or two. So whatís a fan to do? Well, if you REALLY love these films, and you can get this set on sale, you can take these DVDs and either tuck the discs into your old DVD cases or even swap the movie discs out entirely. The roughly 90 minutes of new extras, combined with the original box setís Bonus Material disc and the original Best Buy bonus disc of vintage featurettes (if you have it) together make one helluva good box set. Itís still not an ultimate set, but itís pretty great in the meantime.

Ultimately, I canít fully recommend The Indiana Jones Adventure Collection, because the fact is, it IS a shameless double-dip. But itís also just cool enough that I canít tell you to blow it off either. If you think of it as a sort of upgrade of your current movie discs, and a nice addition to your existing batch of extras, you might actually find it worth your time. So weíll call this a heavily qualified recommendation, and leave it at that.

Bill Hunt
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