Just in time for this month’s 40th anniversary of the theatrical debut of Indiana Jones, this new box set presents the first four films in 4K UHD for the first time. No Blu-ray discs of the films are present, although all bonus features are stored on a separate Blu-ray.
The dashing adventurer Dr. Jones (Harrison Ford) crosses the world in search of archeological treasures, taking time to woo a special lady friend in each film. Here’s some trivia I completely forgot: name the female lead of the third film, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. The answer? Alison Doody, who was so overshadowed by the father/son dynamic caused by the addition of superstar Sean Connery that she’s largely a footnote to the film.
The films are presented in 4K UHD with Dolby Vision and HDR-10 for optimal picture quality, along with immersive Dolby Atmos sound. Each film was remastered from 4K scans of the original negatives approved by Spielberg, and remixed at Skywalker Sound under the supervision of sound designer Ben Burtt to create the Dolby Atmos soundtracks. While the colors look slightly more vivid than Blu-ray, the biggest picture improvement is darker blacks. Oddly, the film grain is more apparent on 4K than Blu-ray, so some viewers might prefer the smoother look of the older discs.
Now that the picture quality is so precise, it’s striking to see how often the camera is slightly out of focus, especially on long establishing shots such as the horse caravan that opens the third film. Digital artifacting is also still noticeable, mostly when text appears on screen or the action becomes especially hectic, so viewers used to modern films produced with 4K in mind are likely to be unimpressed by the technical image gains presented here.
Thankfully, the new enhanced soundtracks make up for the picture quality, assuming viewers have the high-end audio equipment needed to take advantage of the immersive Dolby Atmos sound. All original sound elements were utilized to remain true to the original creative intent, but the new spatial positioning enabled by Atmos results in a fully enveloping sound mix.
The box itself is gatefold cardstock with hard plastic trays in a cardstock slipcase, along with a foldout insert that includes the posters for the films on one side and a map of Indy’s adventures on the other. Unfortunately, the insert is just floating in the middle of the set without any holder, so it’s likely to arrive creased as mine was. The box is a serviceable package, but not really archival quality.
The box set features seven hours of previously released bonus features on a Blu-ray disc. Nearly half that time is taken up by three separate hour-long features about the making of the first film. The first one is all behind the scenes footage shot during the film with no narration. The second has a lot of overlap of footage from the first, but includes some narration. The third features more on-set footage along with later interviews with the cast and creators as they reminisce about the production. The other three films also have making of features, although it’s telling that each one is shorter than the last, with the final just around a half hour in length. All of the features include alternate takes and a few bloopers, along with footage of Spielberg directing the principals from inches away as he worked through the best approach for each take.
Aside from the making of features, the disc includes a dozen shorter segments about various aspects of the series, such as the stunts and music, as well as footage from an AFI tribute honoring the three female leads of the first three films. Again, there are no new bonus features here, so the minor 4K gains and more substantial Dolby Atmos improvements are the only reasons to upgrade from the previous Blu-ray set. 4K UHD digital copies of the films are also included, although only redeemable on VUDU, Fandango, or iTunes due to Paramount’s continued refusal to play ball with Movies Anywhere. Unless you have a Dolby Atmos setup, the collection is mostly worthwhile if you haven’t purchased the films before, especially for the compilation of the hours of fascinating bonus features.