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You couldn’t possibly have Indiana Jones without Harrison Ford and his fedora. You also couldn’t have INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL without the rip-snorting special effects that keep the fantasy-adventure sprinting along at its delightfully breakneck pace. The special 2-disc DVD release offers both. First and best, though, there’s the film itself, which blends preposterous adventure, wry dialogue, and a sense of fun that can’t be beat. Harrison as Indy is in top form fighting Communists, an atomic blast, an old girlfriend, and an adolescent with a bad attitude this time out. This is an older Indy, but one that is just as resourceful, not to mention seemingly indestructible.

“Return of a Legend” has director Steven Spielberg explaining why Indy returned to the big screen for a fourth installment after the third ended, seemingly definitively, with Indy riding off into the sunset. Joining him in the tale of how it all happened is Ford, George Lucas, and screenwriter David Koepp, among others, who keep up a running dialogue of all the different ideas that were tossed around. The intricacies of updating Indy to the 1950s and coming up with just the right name come in for their own scrutiny, as well as the putative foes with which he would have to contend.

“Pre-Production” covers the search for the new Indy hat and coat (30 of each), Shia LeBeouf learning the fine art of the switchblade, and how Spielberg worked with 3-D animators to lay out the entire film before shooting began, and how he did it without showing the animators a script. What is emphasized in both these featurettes is how aware everyone involved was in maintaining the tradition of the Indy films while still taking our daring archeologist in new directions in his new adventure.

“Post Production” reveals the complicated finishing touches involved in a film of this type, including the way corn meal and egg shells mix to make the creepy sounds of marauding killer ants, and how a malfunctioning lamp becomes the signature sound of peculiar visitors from another time and place. This featurette takes time to look back at the first three films while explaining the continuity achieved with the fourth for a nicely nostalgic experience.

For those who can’t get enough of how the film was made, there is a wonderfully detailed production diary that starts with day one and travels the globe with the production team as the film is made. Along the way, wealth of trivia, a truckload of behind the scenes shots, and a veritable cornucopia of technical details are shared.

There is no commentary track, and no deleted scenes featured on the 2-disc set, that latter omission makes on suspect, or rather hope, that an extended cut might become available at some point, not that there is anything to indicate that this might be the case. Even if there’s nothing like that in the works, certainly, this release is as close to an encyclopedia of INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL as fans could wish for.

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Harrison Ford, Shia Lebeouf

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