PictureCrystal Skull pops out onto BluRay at 2.40:1, 1080p using the MPEG-4/AVC coded and it's a pretty lush affair and this of course bodes well for any future release of that long awaited trilogy.
Detail first and foremost is excellent, fine detail can be seen in textures of clothes and foliage in the jungle with those latter scenes showing an incredible depth of field and certainly providing that somewhat elusive 3-D factor that is enjoyed so much. Facial structure is more than apparent, stubble, hair and eye detail but alarmingly there is not the same pore detail as I have seen in other releases. Although that said there doesn't appear to be any DNR employed. The fact that this film doesn't have an ounce of grain (for a film reportedly shot old school as opposed to digitally) I found a little odd. Those faces do seem a little waxier than I usually enjoy.
Colours are bold and vibrant if a little muted in some of the opening desert scenes but always they are well contained within their respective borders with no sign of bleed or indeed smearing in some of the faster moving scenes. Apart from the end scenes the colour palette is somewhat narrow so don't be expecting a wealth of colour a la The Fall, but what we have on screen suits the nature of the film and the franchise as a whole. Blacks are excellently rendered in the few tunnel sequences which Indy finds himself in and even here there is no sign of crush with detail still apparent on the walls and the artefacts that he has to deal with.
Whites are equally well represented with no blooming on show, nothing to wince at and no enhancement as our characters are projected against those stark skies. Encoding is spot on with no banding, noise or blocking. It's almost top shelf stuff but I still can't get to grips with the waxy feel of some of the protagonists faces. On the whole this is an excellent transfer indeed.
SoundThe video is good and the audio is right up there with it. This English Dolby TrueHD track ticks all the correct boxes. John Williams' score is well presented from the fronts, strong and with some depth with the horns coming across particularly well. His themes migrate from a wide frontal stage through to the rears encompassing the viewer in a wall of sound and brings them closer into the movie as a whole.
Dialogue is always crisp and sharp from the quieter moments through to the extensive actions scenes, again particularly in the jungle chase scene. As in all Indy films the Foley track is a joy to listen to; the crack of the whip, the clash of steel upon steel, the march of ant and the flying objects as they pass from one speaker to the next.
Panning at the fronts and steerage to your surrounds is second to none, as missiles fire you will hear it over your shoulder and traverse into the frontal array, jeeps will migrate from one front speaker to the next with perfect placement, jungle foliage will rustle as and when expected as the chase continues down that path. The timing and placement of the sounds in these set pieces is superb. Ambiance is catered for in the quiter scenes though, always with Williams' score having some say in your rears or with creaks, weather or other effects discretely placed there as required. It's never forced and always seems natural.
LFE is catered for, never excessive but strong and tight when needed, thumping in when the moment requires it, the rapids and waterfalls for instance, adding some depth to the score when not. An excellent track indeed and one to show off to visitors when they come to see your swanky BluRay releases.
- Timelines. - Java Based.
A navigational timeline covering the story, the production and the history of the the events within the film from the conquests of South America to the nuclear testing at Trinity. There is an absolute wealth of information contained in this area and one which will take many hours to navigate through. The navigation is not as smooth as perhaps it could have been which makes it a little cumbersome to get through everything as quickly as you would like. Whilst most of this is text based, and in English only, there is a play video function with some of the snippets which will allow you to view scenes from the other extras, interviews or certain scenes from any of the Indy films.
- The Return of a Legend. - 0:17:34 - MPEG-4//1080i
Why Spielberg brought the series to a close all those years ago and why now he decided to bring it all back, not for him but for the fans. Lucas and Ford say much the same thing and how this changed from initial reluctance to joy as they were all brought back together.
- Pre-Production. - 0:11:44 - MPEG-4/1080i
How this film was taken from final script, the visualisations employed and what was finally released onto our screens. Spielberg seems to have been at the heart of most decisions made, requesting changes to said visualisations, the consistency of the colour palette with earlier versions. Ford's there saying he had to try on the original costume, which still fits him well.
- Production Diary: Making Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. - 1:20:52 - MPEG-4/1080i
6 individual featurettes which can be played individually or all together. Shooting locations, effects, production and how it was all initially set up are all discussed. The cast is mentioned and their ways of working. Production detail, filming interviews with Spielberg, Lucas, Ford, Blanchett, LeBoeuf and other members of the cast and crew. Colin Powell discusses the stunts, Guy Dyas (who I have seen on a number of production extras) pops his head up here again, it seems as though his star is certainly in the ascendancy. There is mention on how this film flowed slightly differently from the earlier incarnations yet how there are still connections with the first three films. This is an all round excellent making of piece covering all of the points any film fan would love to hear about.
- Warrior Makeup. - 0:05:34 - MPEG-4/1080i
Some of the incredible makeup effects that went into this feature. Felicity Bowring mentions how she took Guy Dyas' designs and eventually came up with the prosthetics and makeup needed for the warriors.
- The Crystal Skulls. - 0:10:10 - MPEG-4/1080i
A brief history of the original crystal skulls, and seeing that they are so enigmatic they seemed appropriate for an Indiana Jones movie. How Stan Winston's studios took initial designs, modelled them and came up with the final skulls and skeletons used.
- Iconic Props. - 0:10:00 - MPEG-4/1080i
It's all about the hat and whip really, well a little more than that, but this essentially looks at some of the props from this film including the swords, bamboo musical instruments, letters, various books, general weaponry and armour. How each item is usually made twice, one 'real' and one in rubber for more dangerous scenes. There's some interesting little items, especially those which are housed at the fictitious Area 51.
- The Effects of Indy. - 0:22:42 - MPEG-4/1080i
Paul Huston, original Raiders model maker and now ILM digital artist, discussing how it's now all gone digital. A number of miniatures were created for Indy 4 but on the whole it was all finished off in the digital domain. There's some excellent information on some of the models including the end Peruvian temple and the small mid west town which was subjected to a nuclear blast.
- Adventures in Post Production. - 0:12:44 - MPEG-4/1080i
No digital filming and no digital editing, like Indy himself things were done the old fashioned way. Ben Burtt was brought back for the sound design and they went back to a library of sounds, the crack of a whip, the thump of fisticuffs, to get that hear and feel of an Indiana Jones movie, although of course they produced new sounds for this instalment, the end climax, the fields of ants for instance.
- Closing: Team Indy. - 0:03:41 - MPEG-4/1080i
A film venture is a collaborative affair and Spielberg recognises this. He acknowledges the crew he had access to when making this film. It's essentially the final credits for the film, showing mostly who contributed, a brief snippet of film of them and their names.
- Pre-Visualisation Sequences. - 0:14:07 - MPEG-4/1080i
3 Sequences, Area 51 - 03:51, Jungle Chase - 05:47, Ants Attack. - 04:29
These days storyboards have gone to that great resting place in the sky with technicians now using pre-visualisation; the technique of rough animations to depict scenes before they are shot. Here we are introduced to three such scenes from this movie.
- Galleries. - MPEG-2/1080i
5 sets of galleries, all of which have sub sections Navigated with left and right remote controls at your own pace. Any and all images you would like to see from this film can be found in this immense gallery feature.
- Trailers. - MPEG-4/1080p
2 trailers for The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
This is an enjoyable set of extras with some good, detailed, pertinent information contained in there; it's just lacking a commentary. The set employs good use of the BluRay Java enabled technology but it would have been better I believe to have had some of these as a PiP or BonusView tracks overlayed onto the film. It has to be commended that they are all in some HD format, 1080i or p, ust a pity about the lack of commentary really.
VerdictOn the whole I enjoyed this latest Indy adventure, but only just; and I do think that's only because of the fond memories I have of the first three. Am I now watching this movie with different eyes than the ones I had some 27 years ago, undoubtedly yes a lot has happened with movie making in those 27 years. I can still see though where something just doesn't come up to the mark and this is it. Like the atrocious prequels which Lucas inflicted on us all with Star Wars he now goes and does it again with Indiana Jones; has the man no shame?
The disc set is an excellent piece of work with good video and audio backed up with a sterling set of extras which will keep all fans of this franchise entertained for more than a few hours. As such this disc does in fact come recommended, please just don't be expecting the giddy heights of anything approaching the original trilogy.
One final word... the opening THX sequence is exemplary, that ending though, well it just plain sucks.
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- Timelines. - Java Based.