Easy with that red-hot poker, Fritz: That’s not a star rating for the three movies themselves. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) remains Steven Spielberg’s peak achievement, insanely energetic, visually contagious and the true beginning of the blockbuster era. His first two sequels, 1984’s Temple of Doom and 1989’s Last Crusade, play about as well as they did 20 years ago (which is to say they’re respectively creepy and cutesy). So if you’re looking to refresh before next week’s big event, you could do worse than these bright and crisp widescreen transfers.
But there’s no getting around how this box set feels like a total quickie. The menus have a fun, hand-drawn animated feel, but the options are scant: no original trailers, no deleted scenes, no commentary tracks. (Spielberg generally eschews commentaries, but how about some critics? Or producer George Lucas? Or those kids who made the shot-for-shot remake in their backyard?)
Introductory featurettes include on-set footage of Spielberg casually rewriting the rules of Hollywood, but they’re way too short (ditto throwaway segments about the storyboards and Raiders’ melting-face special effects). And did they have to put the commercial for the LEGO Indiana Jones video game on all three discs?
Fans can keep dreaming of a definitive edition of the series, which might include Lawrence Kasdan’s landmark Raiders script; an interview with Spielberg about how Temple of Doom all but instigated the PG-13 rating; some River Phoenix outtakes from Last Crusade—and, of course, the fourth installment. Until then, I’ll quote Indiana himself, ruefully: They don’t know what they’ve got there.