I saw Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull today, and my general reaction was that it was OK. It felt very much like the first movie, very familiar. There’s nothing wrong with consistency and following a successful formula, but I expected a bit more excitement, something a little new, something to get the adrenaline going. It’s very over-the-top, especially when it comes to “they survived what?” but in a way consistent with its history.
The only thing that surprised me was the very ending, and that only in a quiet, “that’s nice” kind of way. Everyone did a great job — Karen Allen as Marion Ravenwood was my favorite — but it all felt a little tired. And the titular crystal skull, well, instead of awe at its introduction, I found myself thinking “what was that made of, plastic stuffed with tinfoil?” Shia LaBeouf did a decent job, although his role as written seemed like he should have been younger, due to all the “what’s that?” questioning, but then he couldn’t have driven the motorbike in a slow-feeling chase sequence. Cate Blanchett was wasted as a Communist Russian psychic scientist over-achiever.
I could predict when an action sequence was coming up, as things felt draggy up to then, and most of the thrill-chasing made me think, “that was written for either the video game or the theme park ride.” Don’t get me wrong, it’s a perfectly good way to spend a summer afternoon. It’s not annoying, hard to follow, pain-inducing, or borderline offensive, as many blockbusters risk becoming. That shouldn’t need to be said, but not falling into those categories sadly sets a movie apart positively.
It’s just, like its star, a little older and slower. And aggressively authentic: look, we’re really in the 50s! Look how much work we did in costume and hair and set direction and props! Look how hard we’re trying! Of course, they couldn’t get rid of the huge level of expectation they were facing, with 19 years gone and all — maybe this is what the fans want. It’s just not very believable — all those guns going at Indy running away in the first major chase sequence, and no one pegs him in his well-lit ass? What was with the groundhogs? And the monkeys with Shia playing Tarzan?
It should have been called “and the Lost City of Gold”, though — more in keeping with the whole franchise. And I still want to know what superpowers Indy got after that big boom.
Don’t get me wrong, I think if you’re at all interested, you should go see it. There are a lot worse ways to spend your movie ticket. On the movie scale, it’s not as good as Iron Man, but I wasn’t expecting it to be.