Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull

DVD Rating: *****

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Read Anton Bitel's film review of Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull
Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull

In many ways, this is the perfect DVD extras package, cut up into neat sections, each of which has its own fascination. Also, it feels so personal, as if we are intruding into “the family” of director Steven Spielberg, producer Frank Marshall and others close to the core.

What comes across is a passion for detail and when dealing with the best operatives available, you would expect perfection, but it’s not simply a question of paying more money, rather paying more attention.

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Apparently it was Harrison Ford who set the ball rolling for Indy IV. Five years after The Last Crusade, Spielberg and Ford were constantly being asked, “When is the next Indy coming out?”

“They are so much damn fun.”

He contacted George Lucas, who contacted Spielberg.

“I was the hold out,” Spielberg admits. “I’m done with these movies.”

Lucas carried on regardless, playing with plot ideas.

“Let’s do aliens,” he suggested.

“I don’t want to do aliens," Spielberg said. "I’ve done aliens.”

In order to humour Lucas, he “sort of went along with it, thinking, we’ll get some young kid to direct it.” Of course, as the storyline evolved, they started gathering together the stalwarts from the other three movies, until it really did begin to feel like a family affair. The title remained a moot point. Indiana Jones & The Saucer Men was an early Lucas favourite, as was Indiana Jones & The Attack Of The Giant Ants. Screenwriter David Koep wanted Indiana Jones & The Son Of Indiana Jones before Lucas came up with The Crystal Skull, insisting upon adding Kingdom as an imperial touch.

Once shooting began in the deserts of Santa Fe, Spielberg stayed with the film throughout and afterwards in the editing suite (“We did not edit digitally, which is very rare today”). The casting of Mutt was Spielberg’s decision and once Shia LaBeouf was chosen, he made him watch The Blackboard Jungle, Rebel Without A Cause and The Wild One. He wanted Mutt to be based in part on Brando’s performance in The Wild One. Shia was given two props – a comb and a flick knife – and, while Ford was practising his whipmanship, he took a six-week training course in cool motorcycle riding.

The crew had been carefully selected. Gary Powell, the stunt co-ordinator, had worked with Spielberg (“We blew him up every second day”) on Saving Private Ryan. “Later I saw Casino Royale and said, ‘Get me the guy who did those stunts.’ It turned out to be Gary.” He was amongst a number of prominent Brits on the team.

An air of secrecy about the project was strenuously maintained, so that the film was called Genre during the shooting. Ford had a selection of whips – 8ft, 10ft and 16ft – to choose from and 30 leather jackets and 30 hats, specially made. They didn’t pinch on iconic essentials. The scene in the cemetery, when Indy and Mutt are attacked by native warriors, involved 26 make up artists. The extras, playing the warriors, had to shave their entire bodies before enduring five to six hours in make up every day, with two people working on them at a time.

Hawaii doubled for the Peruvian rain forest and Yale for Marshall College. Ford did most of his own stunts, often with the help of wires, and Lucas gave Shia lessons in comb etiquette, Fifties style. Industrial Light & Magic created the creepy crawlies. “It was a great team effort, working for two years.”

The DVD bonus features tell you everything you ever wanted to know about why the Indy films are something special.

Reviewed on: 10 Nov 2008
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The whip-cracking archaeologist hero returns.
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Product Code: PHE9818

Region: 2

Ratio: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Wide Screen

Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1

Extras: Making Of featurette; The Return Of A Legend; Welcome To The Jungle; On-Set Action; The Warehouse; Iconic Props; The Effects Of Indy; Warrior Make Up; The Cemetry; Pre Production; Adventures in Post Production; Closing Team; Pre Visualization Sequences; Galleries; Trailers

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