Studio: Paramount Home Video
Aspect Ratio: 4:3
Discs: 12, 7 Feature-Length Episodes
Audio: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)
Street Date: 23 October 2007
Review Date: 25 October 2007
Spanning both time and the globe, “The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles” was intended to bring history alive in the minds of young viewers, following the formative years of the boy who would be the greatest adventurer ever known. While the history is suspect, featuring impossible scenarios, the show’s production values and sheer sense of fun makes up for any of the programs shortcomings. Nicely honoring one of the finest series of films of all time, the newly-rechristened “The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones” will delight fans of Henry Jones, Jr.
This first set contains an astounding twelve discs of information, presenting seven feature-length episodes from the Jones’ family trip around the world. Paramount’s new DVD set retains the anachronistic presentation of the episodes; however the logic of the presentation is not immediately apparent. Not recollected in broadcast order or production order, these shows jump between the adolescent Indiana and the post-pubescent version portrayed by Sean Patrick Flanery. If the logic were explicated, I would have no qualms about altering the original episodes. As it is end up as a mash up of themes, excising the contextual bookends from the reflective "old" Indiana Jones.
The first episode in this set, “My First Adventure” suffers the most from the extrication of the episodes from their original context. The first half of the episode is the first half of the original broadcast premiere “Young Indiana Jones and the Curse of the Jackal.” Transitioning abruptly from a cliffhanger ending in Egypt to a disparate storyline dealing with slavery in Saudi Arabia, this is one of the few instances where the change in the presentation order doesn’t work nor make sense.
The program’s casting is pitch-perfect, with the young Corey Carrier channeling Harrison Ford’s mischievous, irreverent, iconic performance. It is easy to see the connection between the boy in these shows and the man he will become. Lloyd Owen’s aloof Henry Jones, Sr. is eerily reminiscent of the absentminded-yet-brilliant routine perfected by Sean Connery in 1989’s “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.” Likewise young Indy’s taskmaster and tutor Miss Seymour is a fascinating character, torn between her dedication to education and her personal desire for adventure. Margaret Tyzack takes a part which could be easily played as a stereotypical teacher and injects a sense of warmth and humanity, a clear model for “Indiana” Jones, a pedagogue with a penchant for adventure.
Ruth de Sosa’s Anna Jones, the mother of the legend, is the only part that doesn’t work, primarily because she is left largely undefined. Never terribly maternal or interesting in her own right, she serves only to fulfill her description in “Last Crusade” as a woman who never understood her husband’s obsessions. While I don’t argue with portraying her based on that premise, leaving her so simplified results in a disinteresting character.
The elder version of Indiana Jones, played dashingly by Sean Patrick Flanery, is brilliant. While it’s cute watching young Henry get into mischief, his participation in a bar brawl felt somehow silly. Flanery, however, melds equal parts River Phoenix and Harrison Ford, yet adds his own distinct flourishes to the part, creating a fascinating portrait of the adventurer to be.
I absolutely adore this show, there is no denying that. Equal parts fun, excitement, adventure, and education, “The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles” is a great program. Compiling the episodes as they have here makes little sense. The subjects jump from Africa to France with little explanation; amalgamated to present a feature-length story based on a loose theme, such as the respect for life. This method of presentation hinders the show’s connection to its audience. I would much rather have seen these shows recorded in season sets or in chronological order. As it is, despite the quality of the programs, I find it very difficult to recommend this box, particularly knowing that there are two more major investments that need to be made in order to complete the series.
I am utterly disappointed with the video quality on this set. While I grant that the originating material is over fifteen years old and comes from broadcast source material, it should still look better than it does. Presented in its original 4:3 aspect ratio, the set looks atrocious. Colors are dull and lifeless, and details are washed out. A distracting amount of moiré becomes apparent during fast cuts and rapid motion. At other points the transfer appears soft, almost blurry, and shadows blend into a murky darkness that looks green and blue. While I wasn’t expecting the quality of the theatrical Indiana Jones movies, I was hoping for better than this inconsistent mess.
Properly recreating the original stereo broadcast, the 2.0 Dolby Digital English audio track is serviceable without being remarkable in the slightest. The music cues are underwhelming and dialogue clear and unimpressive.
Fulfilling George Lucas’ intention for the program to open up history to a generation who has seemingly no interest, each episode is a plethora of documentaries talking about the lives of the guest stars, such as T.E. Lawrence and Pablo Picasso. Serving as an introduction to the characters, the documentaries are largely superficial but still useful in introducing our youth to historical ideas.
Likewise these documentaries talk about the reality of archeology as opposed to the cavalier adventuring done by Indiana Jones, and the history of slavery. Asking interesting academic questions and entering into longstanding discussions, the documentaries Paramount are a fascinating expansion on the themes brought up in the respective episodes. The amount of material on this set is almost overwhelming. The quality of the content is largely on par with cable programs, as found on the History or Discovery channels.
I could repeat myself ad nauseum, but the fact is that these brief documentaries are of above-average quality.
The last disc of the set features a few different features, including an interactive timeline and game that can be accessed through your computer’s DVD-Rom drive. The program crashed thrice on my Vista computer, so I was unable to access them. There is a 40-minute documentary that tracks the progress of the 20th century, focusing on the characters that crossed paths with the young Henry Jones, Jr. Enjoyable, but not particularly original or illuminating.
This pains me. It does.
Do not buy this set.
I waited patiently for a release of “The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles.” This is not that show. It is a program that takes pieces of that show and amalgamates them into a series of feature-length episodes. Changing the name to “The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones” was more than merely cosmetic: it signifies a massive alteration to the product.
I earnestly hope the makers of this set revisit this product, give it a proper DVD restoration, and present it as it was fifteen years ago on television. The A/V quality varies from bad to mediocre, and while the extras are plentiful, I invested time in this set because I remember loving the show as a child.
Although I respect the noble admirations of Lucas and company in constructing an educational tool, this program deserves a simple release to appease fans like myself in our desire for a classic television project. This release does a disservice to the fantastic production design and writing that marked the original program.