Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark 4K SteelBook review

Jun 03, 2022- Permalink

Last year, Paramount released 4K standard and SteelBook 4-movie collections of the Raider of the Lost Ark franchise. The artwork and packaging on the sets, especially the SteelBooks, left some feeling underwhelmed. This year, Paramount is releasing the four films individually on SteelBooks with much improved artwork. Whether you call it double dipping or an attempt to right a wrong, the SteelBook artwork is much improved and it will be tempting for some collectors to pick up the new ones. As I had previously reviewed the discs themselves last year, I’d normally point to that review for the technical info. That review, unfortunately, is one of the entries that got blown up in a database fiasco, so while I work on recovering it, I’ll give my fingers some exercise and cover the same ground again. First up is the film that started it all, Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark. Now hold on a second, you say, isn’t the film called Raiders of the Lost Ark? Yes, that’s the way I saw it in theatres. However, in 1999, Paramount added the Indiana Jones… part to the video releases to keep the title consistent with other entries in the franchise. Call it what you want.

The film follows Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford), an archaeologist trying to beat the Nazis to finding the Ark of the Covenant, which is said to make armies invincible. The Germans have an army and the help of a rival archaeologist, Dr. René Belloq (Paul Freeman). Indy has the help of a feisty ex-girlfriend, Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen). My money’s on Indy.

Just to clarify, the 4K disc is the same 4K disc that was released as part of the four movie set last year. The 2160p HEVC / H.265 native 4K digital transfer with Dolby Vision and HDR10 is in a 2.39:1 aspect ratio. The video presentation looks fantastic. The image is sharp, clear and colourful. Obviously, this 1981 classic was shot on film and the transfer is wonderfully filmic, with a light grain texture. Sand, faces, buildings and textiles reveal details galore. The colour palette is amazing too and the HDR colour grading amplifies all the improvements. Bright golds, dark browns, sun-bleached sand and colourful bazaars cover the spectrum. Whites are dazzling and the black levels are deep, with great detail still available in the darker scenes and shadow areas. There’s no evidence of print damage from this forty-year-old film and there’s no digital noise or compression artifacts to speak of. This transfer is a treasure.

On the audio side, your ears have the choice of English Dolby Atmos and Dolby TrueHD 7.1 soundtracks as well as Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby Digital 2.0, French Dolby Digital 5.1, Italian Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby Digital 2.0, Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby Digital 2.0 and Russian Dolby Digital 2.0 tracks. Subtitles are available in English, English SDH, French, Italian, Japanese, Spanish, Cantonese, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Korean, Mandarin (Simplified), Mandarin (Traditional), Norwegian, Russian, Swedish and Thai. The upmix into Dolby Atmos works very well, with the overhead channels finding work with the famous rolling boulder and other elements like planes. The action elements playfully dance through your surrounds and you’ll be tempted to duck. Low frequencies add additional thrills. John Williams score is powerful and dynamic, while dialogue is clear, centred and well-prioritized.

This time around, the SteelBook artwork is head and shoulders above the previous SteelBook release with a whip-cracking Indy front and centre, surrounded by other characters from the film. The back of the SteelBook features a world map with the Ark above it. The packaging includes a digital copy code and the interior artwork is an image of Indy and Sallah (John Rhys-Davies) lifting the Ark. A fold-open poster of the original art is also included. The four-movie set included a Blu-ray disc of bonus materials but sadly this one does not, so the only bonus materials on the 4K disc are three trailers.

If you buy this standalone Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark 4K SteelBook, you are buying it a) because you want the much better SteelBook artwork for collecting purposes or b) you didn’t buy last year’s four movie set. I just want to be clear: This is the same disc as last year with better individual packaging and no bonus features. It’s the same great video and sound as last year, but with a different outfit and no bonus elements to speak of. The other three films in the franchise are on their way in solo SteelBooks as well.