Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
May 23, 2008

Indiana Jones movie poster

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.

Karen Allen and Steven Spielberg

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.

7 Responses  
ADD writes:  

I saw it today, too, and you’re description and reactions mirror my own. Randy Lander hated it and Ebert adored it, but I’m here in the middle with you. I think I forgave the excesses and lack of reality because of the enormous good will Ford and his alter ego have earned over the years. It was just nice seeing him go through the motions one more time, something I know I will miss with Shatner being denied a part in next year’s Star Trek movie.

Adam Arnold writes:  

I think the reason they didn’t call it “and the Lost City of Gold” might be due to the fact that National Treasure 2 covered the same exact topic just this past fall (and came out just this week on DVD). I think the title fits, though. Plus, crystal skulls aren’t new to the Indy mythology (there was a full novel trilogy based on them that are in the timeline, and young Indy was supposed to come across them in the unmade 3rd season).

I really liked the 50s sci-fi movie homages with the ants and aliens and stuff mixed in with all the classic Indy elements, so I was really pleased with how it turned out. There’s so much to take in if you really know the character’s exploits, so I can’t wait to see it again.

Johanna writes:  

I wondered about that, if there were any references to the Young Indy shows. I admit, I don’t really “know the character’s exploits” beyond watching all the movies once. And the ants were the point at which I closed my eyes!

Dave writes:  

“It should have been called �and the Lost City of Gold�, though …”

Taken: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0092534/

tc writes:  

Spielberg and the actors did great jobs, too bad the story was merely ordinary. First problem: aliens are silly, and as you said, the skull looks like a cheap toy. Second: too many secondary characters – I think they could have done away with the crazy old guy. Third: Indy has always been a “chaotic good” rule-breaker, but when it came down to it, he fought for something greater than himself – hell, even helped out God once in a while. Here, not really.

On the plus side, there were some lovely scenes – the nuke and the saucer taking off come to mind.

Dave White writes:  

The only explicit reference I remember seeing to the TV show was the mention of Indy riding with Pancho Villa…

Indiana Jones Crystal Skull DVD Exclusives » Comics Worth Reading writes:  

[…] Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull will be out next Tuesday, October 14, on DVD and Blu-Ray. As is common these days, there are a variety of exclusive editions to attempt to convince you to buy from a particular retailer, or perhaps even to buy more than one in order to get the extra goodies. (Does anyone do that?) […]


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