The Indiana Jones Trilogy Steven Spielberg

The Indiana Jones Trilogy Steven Spielberg
In the mid-'70s, then experimental filmmaker George Lucas wanted to tackle two different ideas: a morality tale in space, and a period recreation of the '50s weekly adventure serials he grew up on. Space became Star Wars in 1977; when it was complete, Lucas and his friend Steven Spielberg decided to resurrect the treasure hunter idea as The Raiders of the Lost Ark. As film history has shown, and as this four-disc DVD reissue makes clear, good ideas in the hands of Spielberg can become rollicking adventures and well-executed bigger-than-life cartoons without losing important character intimacy. Good ideas in the hands of George Lucas, however, can become disasters, as Indiana Jones almost did. (Just one example: Lucas wanted Indie 3 to be set "in a haunted mansion" and he discouraged Spielberg from "the whole father-son thing" that drew him to what became The Last Crusade, in which Sean Connery starred as Professor Jones Sr.) These kinds of schoolyard tales — the narrowly diverted disasters — are regularly the meat of historic DVD reissues, but are only teased here. The original films (aside from adding Indiana Jones and the to Raiders) manage to escape the hand of revisionism that has of late infected these two filmmakers, but they're still not willing to open the historical vaults too wide, unsure of what skeletons might coming spilling out. The heart of this fourth disc of "bonus material" is a feature-length making-of that relies heavily on nostalgic after-the-fact interviews. The Raiders stuff is richest and most interesting, but happily, Lucas, Spielberg and the other participants don't shy away from the missteps of the second film, Temple of Doom. (The film was what it appears to be: a series of stunts and action set pieces leftover from Raiders brainstorming, with the frame of a story written around them.) That these extras — including featurettes on sound design, music, stunts and Industrial Light and Magic effects — are self-congratulatory is no surprise, it comes with the territory. Disappointing, however, is the tendency to lump all three films under a single banner, unwilling to recognise Raiders as a distinct piece of work separate from what followed. (Lucas lied to Spielberg initially and told him he had three stories, but the ongoing process of sequels has been arduous.) In terms of the films themselves, the DVD reissues are masterful — and there's absolutely no excuse why they shouldn't be. Of course, Raiders remains the heart and soul of the series, and though it becomes harder and harder to overlook the flaws of Temple of Doom, the charming balance of ambition and intimacy helps refresh the familiar territory that Last Crusade covers. Plus: DVD-Rom access, trailers, more. (Paramount)