Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull hit theatres a little more than a week ago and I finally got a chance to sit down and transcribe some coherent thoughts about the movie. This time out, it’s Indy (Harrison Ford) versus the Russians over a crystal skull and a scheme for some sort of strange uber-psychic power. Indy’s not alone on this adventure however, as he is joined by “loner/tough guy” Mutt (Shia Labeouf) and his mother, ex-Indiana love interest, Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen).I’ll leave the plot synopsis at that, because we all know that from here on out, tombs were explored, whips were cracked, and somehow, somewhere, a bad guy was going to suffer some sort of horrible flesh removing death before all was said and done.
This movie represented somewhat of a change of pace for me in regards to how I approach an upcoming film that I was really really anticipating. Most of the time I’ll read anything and everything out there, no matter how spoilerific the review or piece of information is, just to satisfy my curiosity on the upcoming project. This time however, I pretty much stayed away from most of the spoilers and reviews out there, choosing to just let the general KOTCS info that gets mass released be enough to get me through till the release date. Why did I make this movie an exception to the rule? Probably because of an uneasy feeling in my gut that if I got too hyped on the subject, I would just be let down in the end—I had after all gone through the invariable letdown that was “Star Wars Episode 1” like many other people. Well, I’m not sure if I should be happy to say this, but I think it worked—with lowered expectations, the latest installment in the Indiana Jones saga was at least a fun (yet very uneven) ride.
Ok, lets get down to the nitty gritty here and start with what I did like about this movie. Harrison Ford—still kicks ass as Dr. Jones. I was a little worried when at the very beginning of the film during the Area 51 scene, when he makes his first appearance, he seemed (for lack of a more eloquent term) a bit too unintentionally old and washed up. Well, about mid way through that sequence he sprung to life again—like he flipped on the Indy switch– and had me sold 110% for the rest of the movie. I was also digging his interplay with Marion through out the last half of the film—I liked the fact that they brought back the best female character in the Indiana Jones universe and wove her into the fold.
As far as specific sequences go I also really enjoyed the motorcycle chase through the streets of Connecticut, and the first Tomb that Indy visited in Central America. As a matter of fact parts of the first third and the second third of the movie felt like a natural, bonafied, Indiana Jones adventure.
Now we get to the flip side of the coin here, and for starters let me warn the 5 people in the world who havn’t seen this movie yet that I may drop a few spoilers here and there in relation to the end of the movie. The first thing that I didn’t like so much was Shia Labeouf and the character Mutt. In addition to a sucky nickname, I thought the character it’s self was in general mediocre at best. I’ll forgo my rant on how Shia seems to perform every role he’s in with an unwarranted smug sense of self satisfaction, but I just didn’t feel the father/son theme was handled anywhere near as well here as it was in the Last Crusade – to me it just felt like a tacked on device to further the plot, not the basis for some great character moments like it could have and should have been.
There were a few scenes that also registered a 9 out of 10 on the dumb scale as well—like the tarzan swing through the jungle, and the sword fighting across two vehicles. Something tells me that those examples sounded a lot better in someones head (George, I’m looking at you) than what actually came out on film—in other words it just plain looked stupid, and caused me to shake my head in disappointment.
Lastly, and I think most importantly, the biggest issue I had with KOTCS was a combination of the bad guys and the end goal. To put it bluntly, the Mola Rams, Dr. Belloqs, and Nazi’s in general were far more charismatic and driven as villains than the Russians of this film. I can’t really fault Cate Blanchett too much, because she seemed to try her best to be menacing, unfortunately based on what she was given, neither her nor any of the rest of her eminately forgettable Russian cronies did anything that made me wish for a satisfying “nazi-facemelt” in the end. I just didn’t really care about them enough to hate them all that much, and if you’re a villain that’s a problem….which leads me to their goals. The endgame for this movie wasn’t really that exciting or interesting—it was not the holy grail, or the ark of the covenant that was being pursued this time; it was some sort of generic, vague psychic power that the Russians thought may exist…or something. All in all, not a good end goal for what began as a cool gimmick (the crystal skulls) that they could have done soooo much more with.
Well I’m sure I’ve bored everyone enough with this review, so I’ll leave it at this: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was a generally fun movie that’s worth seeing—just do yourself a favor and don’t compare it to the previous 3, which are in a league of their own.