Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) is trying to outrace a sinister yet beautiful Russian agent (Cate Blanchett) to find the coveted Crystal Skull of Akator, an eerie object of fascination with hidden powers. Teaming up with his ex-squeeze Marion (Karen Allen) and her rebel son Mutt (Shia LeBeouf), the three must first find an ex-colleague of Indy's who knows the secrets of the mysterious artifact.

After nearly 20 years away from the screen, this is the best story George Lucas could come up with for one of the most iconic figures in film history? Overall, I wasn't impressed, although there are a few moments that harken back to my fond memories of Indiana Jones. The screenplay has little suspense, the stunts are over-the-top, and the CGI work is blatantly obvious—especially with the higher resolution of Blu-ray. Ford does his best with what he's given, but there are too many extraneous characters that slow the story down, and Cate Blanchett's villain seems entirely contrived.

I didn't enjoy the movie, but at least it's pretty. The AVC encode highlights inky blacks with phenomenal shadow detail. Contrast is a bit on the hot side, which causes some blooming in bright objects, and the hues are a bit overcooked, delivering a slightly unrealistic color palette. Detail wavers at times, resulting in some softness, but these instances are minimal to the overall production.

The Dolby TrueHD soundtrack is top-notch with a crisp and dynamic soundfield. The plethora of action scenes come to life with ample surround activity, deep bass, and abundant panning effects from front to back and side to side. Dialog is clearly intelligible throughout, but the highlight for me is the musical score by John Williams, whose credits include Star Wars, Jaws, E.T., and Harry Potter, but they all take a back seat to Indy's theme.

The two-disc special edition boasts an extensive assortment of supplements, most in HD. Disc one has the feature film, a pre-production featurette, an Indiana Jones timeline, two theatrical trailers, and a featurette on the movie's iconic character. I find it ironic that Spielberg needed convincing from both Ford and Lucas to direct the fourth installment, and he had reservations about the central plot—Steven, you should have listened to that inner voice!

Disc two has a bevy of features, including a production diary, the makeup, the Crystal Skull, post production, visual effects, and many more. Some of these features are more interesting than the actual film itself, which is never a good sign.

The production quality is top-notch, but the screenplay leaves a lot to be desired, which is very disappointing to me as a fan of the franchise. I didn't expect the magic of Raiders of the Lost Ark, but I was hoping for so much more. Oh well, at least it looked good and sounded even better on Blu-ray.

Release Date: October 14, 2008

Movie: 5 out of 10
Picture: 8 out of 10
Sound: 9 out of 10

Review System

Pioneer Elite BDP-05FD

JVC DLA-RS1 projector
Stewart FireHawk screen (76.5" wide, 16:9)

Onkyo PR-SC885 pre/pro
Anthem PVA-7 Amplifier
Belkin PF60 power conditioner

M&K S-150s (L, C, R)
M&K SS-150s (LS, RS, SBL, SBR)
SVS PC-Ultra subwoofer

Monoprice HDMI cables (source to pre/pro)
Best Deal analog-audio cables
PureLink HDC Fiber Optic HDMI Cable System (15 meters) from pre/pro to projector