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Not-so-Special Edition... great film, anemic extras
on August 9, 2008
"Raiders of the Lost Ark" is universally considered to be an extremely entertaining action/adventure movie, so I won't waste your time reviewing the film itself. If you've already seen it, you know it's awesome; if you haven't... well, to quote Indiana Jones himself: "Trust me." It actually does live up to the hype. What's truly important for those thinking about purchasing this "special edition," however, is a discussion of the bonus material.
The extras on this disc definitely do NOT warrant purchasing this edition if you already own the previously-released Indy Trilogy DVD set. The extras can basically be summed up in a word: "meh." Each of the handful of featurettes is around 10 minutes or less, and there are no surprises. Some brief "making-of" clips from the filming of "Raiders" are semi-interesting, but are all very short. Another featurette is just a bunch of actors from the series making bland comments about how great Indiana Jones is, set to overly-familiar clips from the various movies (Watch Indy run from the giant ball! Now watch him shoot the swordsman!). The endless repetition of clips from the movie is one of the tiresome aspects of DVD bonus material, and serves mainly to make you so sick of the film that you don't want to see it again for awhile!
The best featurette is the one about how they did the "melting face," but even this is short and, really, no great shakes. Next is the apparently mandatory "for interest to fanatics only" stuff like storyboards and a gallery of production stills. Finally, there's a brief commercial for the Lego Indiana Jones video game, which actually (and tellingly) is one of the more entertaining of the extras.
Considering the importance and success of "Raiders of the Lost Ark," and the fact that it's being sold as a stand-alone "special edition" after having long been available as part of a trilogy set, the overall paltriness of the bonus features is a letdown. The extensive, well-produced extras on George Lucas's "Star Wars" prequel DVD's, with lengthy, thoughtful featurettes and deleted scenes, should have been the model followed here. Instead, it seems like Lucas and company were more interested in cashing in on "Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" hoopla (a trailer for this latest sequel plays automatically before the main menu pops up) rather than rewarding loyal fans with something definitive and satisfying.
Buy this disc for the awesome movie, if you don't already own it; otherwise, pass. Trust me.