Posted: 12/08/2008


Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull: Photographic Journal


Reviewed by Nathan Baker-Lutz

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With the invention of DVDs came ample space for fun features, interactive games and behind the scenes moments of our favorite movies. Whether it’s the voyeur in the viewer, wanting to be in on the Hollywood secret or just curiosity of actor insights and production, our movie-viewing society has become fixated on the never-before-seen, on the behind-the-scenes and all the in betweens.
As part of the whip-toting machine that is Indiana Jones, Lucas Books has collaborated with Unit Photographer David James to create a photographic journal of the recently released Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. David James has collected a mix of informative, narrative and artistic photos from on set and on location with Spielberg and his crew that further feeds our yearning to be behind-the-scenes.
At nearly a square foot, the journal follows the larger than life Lucas/Spielberg standard. It will be imposing on your bookshelf, eye-catching on your coffee table and the hot item in any waiting room. Page after page of full-page color photos and precision insights by David make the book a delight. The journal goes well beyond professional in every way, and should at nearly thirty dollars apiece.
David James is not only the photographer, but he also adds a brief introduction to each chapter, as well as captions for most of the photos. He captures the essence of the film’s production, from the crews in action to Spielberg setting his shots, to the actors rehearsing and interacting together. His words and antidotes are complimentary and unobtrusive as you turn page after page.
The presentation of the photographs is simple and creates the opportunity for the reader to simply flip through a few pages or read from cover to cover. David chooses six locations/scenes from the film and moves through all the elements of each. He explains the exhausting heat of shooting the Hanger 51 scenes, the surrealism of Doom Town, the history of Marshall College, the mystery of the Amazon, the complications of jungle roads and the creation of The Lost Temple of Akator on back lots scattered throughout Southern California.
Along with great insight to the locations, James also captures the family atmosphere that has become so valuable to Spielberg’s sets. He poses actors in character while the crew changes reels, he steals Ford, Lucas and Blanchett for smiling poses and he stands behind the rolling cameras to snap the perfect action shot.
As a whole, the journal creates an excellent compilation for the novice fan, but James also provides a lot of insight to diehards of the franchise, as well as the film buffs. Vast panoramics of sound stages show the scale of production and little know facts about keeping the production as tight-lipped as possible and secrets of superstition and habit give you a feeling of intimacy.
When all is said and done, the relationship that David James has with Spielberg and his main players, which started nearly fifteen years ago, is evident in the access that he is given, and then hands over to the reader. It might be hard to justify dropping 30 bucks, but the lens with which James provides the reader is rare and just might be worth the peek through the viewfinder.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull: Photographic Journal is published by Palace Press and Insight Editions.

Nathan Baker-Lutz Nathan is a graduate of Columbia College Chicago with a degree in Film and Video, including a concentration in Screenwriting. He has been writing for Film Monthly for 2 years.

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