Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Well, I guess I've put this off long enough. Grab a cold one, this could take a while. 
Here we go:
I'm not even sure how to start. We -- myself, my wife, and three kids -- went to see Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull on May 23. Ever since then I've been trying to decide how I feel about it. I've tried every way I can to avoid using the
 "D" word: disappointment. Actually, I think I've come to terms with it, and I like the movie better the more I think about it -- also, I went back and saw it again that same night. I would suggest this to you die hard Indy fans out there (though, perhaps not the same night). It's a better movie the second time around, because you are no longer in shock. 
So why was I in shock? I had basically prepared myself for the plot. I knew it would be different -- very different. Or so I thought.
This movie is nothing like the other Indiana Jones movies. At all. Getting our hopes up astronomically high never fails. You are always let down. But, I couldn't help myself. This was Spielberg, Lucas and Harrison Ford together again making an Indiana Jones movie. That's about as close to a perfect scenario as I can think of for getting one's hopes up. 
So this "review" is a bit rambling. That's because I'm conflicted. I want to be able to say this is the greatest movie of all time (or at least since Raiders of the Lost Ark). But, it's not. But it's not the worst movie ever, either. It's actually a pretty good adventure, and there are some moments of brilliance. Shia Lebouf is fantastic! Harrison Ford will always be Indiana Jones, and I'll watch him any time he puts the hat back on. 
Karen Allen reprises the role of Marion Ravenwood, and it's great to see her. The truly great moments of this movie are the same as in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade -- they are the interactions between the main characters. The plot is of secondary importance (good thing too here - because the plot really stretches credulity, even for Indiana Jones). 
I have decided, after way too much thought, that the real black sheep in the Indiana Jones series is not this movie, or even the other favorite whipping boy, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (I wish everyone would stop bagging on Temple of Doom - it's actually a very good movie) - no, the black sheep is Raiders of the Lost Ark. It was much grittier and realistic than any of the other films. It was the greatest movie of all time (Citizen Cane be darned!).
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull would be better as a series.
 I am completely open to the idea of Indy in a new set of adventures, and the end of this movie seems to hint in that direction. One bit of advice: we need a little more Spielberg and a little less Lucas. George Lucas seems to have lost his way. It pains me to write that, but this movie has his fingerprints all over it. Lucas was once a great story teller, but he seems to be more interested in what his minions, at Industrial Light and Magic, can do with a computer (and fleecing his loyal fans for every last cent), than in telling a compelling story.
To sum up: 
Is it worth seeing? Absolutely. Will I own it on DVD? Of course. Would I pay to see it in the theater again? Yeah, actually I would. 
One more thing to remember. A spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down, if you will:
Remember, nineteen years have passed since the last story - for the characters as well as for us. In the world of Indiana Jones, there has been a horrific World War. Atomic Bombs have entered the picture. Communism has become a force to be reckoned with. The cold war is about as close to being a hot war as it ever gets (with the exception of that little Cuban Missile Crisis -- which Kennedy did not just solve, he also helped cause, sorry, I had to get that off my chest). Indiana Jones has been active in the events that have swept the world over the last nineteen years. And finally, The first three movies were set in the 1930's and were an homage to the "B" movie serials of that era. Those "B" movies were adventure movies, set in exotic locales, and often moved from one cliffhanging situation to the next. This new movie is set in the 1950's and again the film makers decided that they would pay tribute to the "B' movie genre of that time period. In the 50's that meant a more science fiction type of story. Just remember that, and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull will go down much easier. 
Go see it. 
Trust me.


Aaron said...

Yeah.....ok, I agree with you. My feeling is that ever since "Raiders" the series as a whole has taken a dip.....but to be fair when you start at 100% of perfect where else do you have to go. The things I like best about a movie (any movie) is when they make it believable and realistic. Raiders did that perfectly.

The only two real stretches in Raiders that I can think of (face melting and other ark deaths aside) was when he swam out into open water and jumped on a sub then rode the sub hundreds of miles to the Nazi secret base and when he went under the truck.

Other than that, the rest of it (while being wildly improbable) was actually possible....and they made it look possible. This movie (and the others) fall into that category of what you stated earlier (and I quote): "Lucas was once a great story teller, but he seems to be more interested in what his minions, at Industrial Light and Magic, can do with a computer (and fleecing his loyal fans for every last cent), than in telling a compelling story."

(As a side note, I never thought I would read or hear those words from you)

But I digress, you are right. Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was trying to go for the 'B' movie feel, and I gladly give it what they want and that is 'B' movie status. It was OK......not great, but OK. It was enjoyable but once, it does not beckon me back for more.

So to answer, was I disappointed? was about a 50/50 split for me, half 'ok' half the 'd' word, but certainly "fallen from the purer faith."

Chris said...

Just a quick response: I agree with what you said about making it (a movie) realistic and believable. To a point. I think -- and I'm pretty certain this is what you meant -- that the characters need to be believable in the world that they inhabit. In Lord of the Rings, Gandalf can work magic, because in that world, magic is real. But you could not stick Gandalf, or say, a Jedi Knight, into the world of Indiana Jones. Nor could you have Indy, when he gets in a jam, suddenly sprout wings and take flight. I also agree that we can deal with the highly improbable, as long as it is made to look possible. In Raiders, when Indy goes under the truck, yeah it's highly unlikely that anyone could pull that off under "normal" conditions. But, what makes that stunt so cool is that they did it. That may not be Harrison Ford under the truck, but it is a very real, living human being. That's one of those quintessential "B" movie stunts, that the movie was created to honor.

Aaron said...

Exactly....hit the nail on the head.