Despite taking geekdom to untold heights of popularity around the world, George Lucas is not a fan favorite in the world of obsessive DVD buyers. He is the Emperor to their Ewoks. They simply want to live in peace, collecting pristine editions of their favorite movies to watch again and again in their cubbyholes; but he keeps disturbing their tranquil lifestyle with unsatisfying DVD sets of his must-have movies. And it's about to happen again.
The fanboy disfavor began with the agonizing wait for the original Star Wars trilogy to appear on DVD—which mercifully ended in 2004... but only with the late '90s "special edition" releases. For any Star Wars purist, these so-called digitally enhanced versions are insults to the sanctity of childhood memories. Furthermore, they were re-digitally enhanced with newer technology for a lethal dose of reworked imagery. But two years later, fans seemingly got what they wanted with double-disc editions containing both versions of the movies... but the originals did not appear all that well taken care of, with poor picture quality. LucasFilm took the view that the original films were just "bonus" extras to the 2004 versions, and thus did not deserve any TLC. Oh, the injustice.
Had the dark side consumed George Lucas?
With Indiana Jones: The Adventure Collection, that fear may be confirmed. If you'll recall, The Adventures of Indiana Jones box set was released in 2003. What prompted another set with all-new packaging yet little new content?
Well, LucasFilm has got this movie called Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull coming out soon, so it seemed like a good time to cash in. That and some piggyback marketing seem to be the main reasons why this new collection exists. You can't even call it an "ultimate" edition since it doesn't contain the documentaries from the previous box set—so if you want to own all the Indiana Jones goodies, you'll have to purchase both sets. This is what's known in DVD-geek circles as "double-dipping," a dread practice which entails releasing microscopically different versions of the same film in order to squeeze out as many dollars from hapless movie fans as possible (see: The Evil Dead).
But if you don't own the first box set, then The Adventure Collection is worth getting. Each film is still entertaining (to diminishing degrees), and director Steven Spielberg wasn't aiming to prove anything except that movies can provide escapist fun that still surprises.
Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark is, of course, the best of the lot. An intriguing tall tale, clever dialogue, bracing action sequences, and an iconic character—all the elements come together just so. Inspired by the movie serials of the '30s and '40s, Raiders is not only a tribute to those cliffhangers, but also to the child-like naivete we all eventually lose as moviegoers. This is as loose and natural as Spielberg has ever been; while the scenes no doubt took minute planning, they all unreel with a spontaneity that grabs your interest no matter how many times you've seen the movie. Harrison Ford's laconic delivery counterpoints the slapdash action, making it all seem believable no matter how outrageous it becomes. Dare we say it's a classic? Why not!
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom took the characters into the darker realm of an Indian cult with human sacrifices, not to mention child slave labor. (Spielberg was apparently going through a personal rough patch.) With but one plucking out of a beating heart from a man's chest, Temple of Doom brought about the age of PG-13—and earned the film a rep as the worst of the three. But it's really quite successful as a sequel: repeating the formula of the first movie while still making it seem fresh. However, Kate Capshaw nearly ruins the entire enterprise with her non-stop shrieking as Indy's new love interest.
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, meanwhile, really is the weakest entry—but makes up for it with the natural chemistry between Ford and co-star Sean Connery, playing Jones' dad. Plus, it has a Zeppelin in it.
But if you already have the original box set, then hold off purchasing the new one. This time next year, we'll surely see a brand-new collection with all four films and who knows how many 10-minute extras. And don't forget the Blu-Ray versions...