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Raiders of the Lost Ark Blu-ray ReviewBlu-ray Paramount
Dec 12 2013 07:46 PM | Neil Middlemiss in DVD & Blu-ray Reviews
- Studio: Paramount
- Distributed By: N/A
- Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
- Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
- Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA, Spanish 5.1 DD, French 5.1 DD, Other
- Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish, French, Portuguese
- Rating: PG
- Run Time: 1 Hr. 55 Min.
- Package Includes: Blu-ray, Digital Copy
- Case Type: Standard Amaray with Slipcover
- Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
- Region: A
- Release Date: 12/17/2013
- MSRP: $26.98
The Production Rating: 4.5/5
“Professor of archeology, expert on the occult, and how does one say it? Obtainer of rare antiquities.”
When Professor Jones isn’t teaching University students the importance of the careful archeological research and patient examination of history, he is Indiana Jones, globe-trotting treasure hunter and guardian of historical artifacts. When he is approached by the U.S. Government to find the legendary Ark of the Covenant – an artifact of significant biblical importance – and thwart the Germans who seek the Ark as a means to create an invincible army, Indiana sets out for adventure. From Nepal to Egypt, he follows ancient clues and markers to track down the treasure while racing against the well-equipped, well-staffed and well-armed bad-guys.
Back in 1981, Harrison Ford donned the world’s most famous fedora and whip for the first time in gratifyingly entertaining adventure as the now legendary Indiana Jones. Ford’s portrayal of the bullwhip-cracking, fedora adorned adventure hero has been highly consistent through now four adventures – with a fifth possible one day. As with his lovable rogue character Hans Solo from the Star Wars films, Ford provides Indiana Jones with a skill and prowess that is matched only by his vulnerability and venerable charm. Brains and brawn as foundation for the hero make him much more interesting a man to follow and to root for. As comfortable throwing a punch to get out of a jam as he is to decode a cypher to save his skin, Indiana Jones is without question one of cinemas greatest characters and as much a delight to watch today as he was 30+ years ago.
Raiders of the Lost Ark is immeasurably entertaining cinema. Spielberg’s directorial boldness and George Lucas’ love of Saturday morning serial adventures as inspiration for the tales by themselves guarantee a good time, but add to that another inevitably apropos score by maestro John Williams and Lawrence Kasdan’s lean and adept screenplay, and what comes about is an instant classic. The film is high-adventure with an intelligent plot, springing from location to location, mettlesome sequence to sequence, employing fine onscreen talent and gifted behind the camera personnel, and delivering thrills at every turn.
George Lucas, amidst the surge of his original Star Wars Trilogy, conjured the story of a renowned Professor of Archeology equally at ease in the jungles of South America as he is at the head of a classroom at Marshall College; a protagonist with cunning and brawn, intellectual dexterity and guardian of historical artifacts. A fascinating and loveable character dispensed to the corners of the globe on thrilling quests to discover, understand, preserve, and protect relics of significance. In Indiana Jones, Lucas found a character into which his love of matinee serials (the Doc Savage series, for example) could be gleefully poured. Partnering with his good friend Steven Spielberg, the two men ignited the thrill of adventure in moviegoers the world over.
Raiders of the Lost Ark is unquestionably one the best movies ever made. It is filled with some of the silver screens most iconic images; Indiana running from a giant rolling ball at the opening, our hero landing face to face with a cobra in the Well of Souls, and of course the closing image of a branded wooden container being wheeled into a labyrinthine storage facility. It is a delight from start to finish. Of course, much of what audiences have rightly loved for years are courtesy of Spielberg’s master choreographic hand. Within sequences, particularly high-energy chases, Spielberg weaves together with deliberate whimsy or chaos or elegance (whatever the moment requires), camera movements, actions of characters, even background elements that ebb and flow to create visual music. It is his most magical skill behind the camera, and Raiders shows it off proudly.
Harrison Ford’s portrayal of Indiana Jones is legendary. Refined and rugged, regimented and rogue, Ford imbues Indiana with a sublime balance of opposites making him as much an everyman as a square-jawed hero. Starring as Marion Ravenwood, the love interest from whom Indiana seeks an object to help him on the quest to find the Ark is Karen Allen. Spunky and courageous, Allen gives her character a tough exterior but not so much that she is too far removed from damsel in distress. But rather than a helpless damsel, she is gritty and unforgiving, giving the Marion character more dimension and appeal than this genre often gave ground to. Supporting players are all memorable, from Denholm Elliott’s inquisitive Dr. Marcus Brody to John Rhys-Davies Sallah, both of whom aid Dr. Jones at home and abroad. Indiana’s spoil, besides the small German army, is Paul Freeman’s Dr. René Belloq – a collector of relics who will happily come by his treasure in the most dishonest of ways. And of course, who can forget Ronald Lacey as the bespectacled and malevolent Major Arnold Toht – into whose hand is burned an outline of the headpiece of the Staff of Ra. A fine cast for a marvelous film.
Video Rating: 4.5/5 3D Rating: NA
In 2010 I had the chance to speak with Ron Smith, then Vice President of Preservation and Restoration for Paramount Pictures at the time, where he revealed that he and his team had:
“…done some preservation/restoration work on Raiders just ’cause…we actually wanted to make a print. You know, we wanted to be able to make a print of the film and we wanted to also be able to have a digital cinema version. We basically had the desire to show that in a movie theater.”
In the intervening months, the work on cleaning up Raiders was complete and a print created for re-release in theaters (and on IMAX screens) to the delight of fans everywhere.
Each of the first three Indiana Jones films enjoyed a 4k scanning of the original negative though Raiders of the Lost Ark was given far more attention, carefully color corrected and examined frame by frame to clean up and repair any damage. The faithful attention paid to Raiders results in a beautiful image retentive of the native film look and a mouthwatering clarity – all the while preserving the original look of the film.
Spielberg and Lucas blessed the work and what we have is a sight to behold. I cannot claim to recall how Raiders appeared on the big screen back in 1981 (I would have been 6), but as presented here, in 1080p High Definition, the original Indiana Jones tale has never looked better. When this film was released as part of the four-film collection (last year) some online commentary made issue of the color timing, with screen grabs comparing the DVD release – and its bluer hues – to grabs from the Blu-ray with hues that tend toward warmer tones. The actual movie as it appears on my HD display (73” display) doesn’t quite match any of the screen grabs. What I see is a superb image, lush colors, excellent detail and a color palette that appears wholly fitting of the tale being watched.
Audio Rating: 4.5/5As with the video, Raiders of the Lost Ark received a mighty amount of time and attention, specifically receiving a newly designed mix based upon Ben Burtt’s originals and designed with great care by Burtt himself along with Jeff Cava. The original source elements were used (transferred at 96kHz.) and the sound design produced to meet the surround standards used today. The film sounds just as we expect – booming punches, piercing cracks of the whip and the gloriously original array of sounds from the masterful Ben Burtt that accompany the various relics, adventures and misadventures. The result is to be applauded. There is dynamism to the audio that I have never heard on this film. It is throatier, with a fully enveloping surround that zips sound around, bouncing, punching, zinging and exploding in all the right measures. The audio is alive.
Raiders excellent use of the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is a joy to the ears.