Let me be up front and tell you that I usually can't stand Harrison Ford. I know he was Han Solo -- the embodiment of the cool rascal for an entire generation. Yes, he's played the president. He's also been Tom Clancy's perpetual hero Jack Ryan, and Deckard in Blade Runner. He's so iconically American, with his smirky grin and lanky frame, that some friends have even suggested that my distaste for Ford borders on being an un-American activity.
But I must admit I like him in the Indiana Jones movies. Cast as a globe-trotting archaeologist, Ford's charisma, cinematic sense of humor and limited acting abilities manage to merge into a solid character that is the embodiment of all things derring-do and action-packed. Indiana Jones, as played by Ford, doesn't need a backstory or psychological motivation -- he just has to fulfill our childhood fantasies of creepy adventures and white-knuckle escapes. And Ford is good at this.
Of course, some credit for the series' success goes to the creative team of George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. Their work behind the scenes is the subject of an entire disc on the recently released Indiana Jones Complete DVD Movie Collection.
Unfortunately, if you're not all that interested in Dr. Jones and his adventures, you might find the abundance of force-fed content on the "Bonus Material" disc to be tiresome. Gone are the usual un-edited, un-prepared shots and behind-the-scenes footage. What interesting stuff there is, is bundled into several tidy "documentaries" (Sound, Effects, Stunts, Making), and that's that.
However, the digitally remastered movies themselves are wonderful. The first, Raiders of the Lost Ark, is the film that brought back the wonder and adventure that the early years of motion pictures, with their serialized globetrotting adventures, had promised. Lucas and Spielberg just had to wait until they were rich and famous to make it happen with a big budget. Some fans think they got carried away by effects in the second film, Temple of Doom, but rewatching it, it comes across as Ford's most successful work, where his comedic and serious sides are shown to his best advantage. The third film, The Last Crusade, is the weakest of the lot, hurt by a desire to treat Indiana and his father (Sean Connery) as real people. Silly filmmakers -- that's not what we pay good money to see. We want adventure, mystery, coolness -- and on all those counts, this set delivers.
Publication date: 11/06/03