REVIEW SUMMARY: A fun trip down memory lane.
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Indiana Jones embarks on a quest to find the crystal skull, an object purported to have mystic powers.
PROS: Maintains much of the charm of the original series; lots of Indy-flavored action.
CONS: The script plays fast and loose with the boundaries of believability.
BOTTOM LINE: A fun ride and a nice send-off for our man Henry Jones, Jr.
Over at SciFi Scanner, I talk about the migration of the Indiana Jones films towards science fiction. But how is the latest movie itself?
Reviews of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull have been mixed. I suspect that scifi fans are put off by the sheep’s clothing of the Indy franchise. Does anyone go to an Indiana Jones movie looking for the tropes of science fiction? Meanwhile the mainstream moviegoer is put off by the science-fictional ending. Reviewer backlash we are seeing here is just the standard reaction when the uninitiated are dipped in the foreign waters of scifi. It’s no wonder the film is getting mixed reviews.
Lighten up, people.
While the film probably won’t generate new fans of the original series, existing fans will enjoy a return to the characters and adventure they loved when they were younger. And why shouldn’t they? Despite a handful of awkward moments that destroyed suspension of disbelief, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was a fun ride and a nice send-off for one of Hollywood’s most revered characters.
Here are my random thoughts on the film, as a science fiction fan who also happens to like the original Indiana Jones trilogy:
- Indy is 20 years older. Sure, he’s showing his age; he throws punches like…well…an old man. If he expended half as much energy fighting the bad guys as he did maintaining hold of his hat, he would be unstoppable. But we love him anyway and it was great to have him back.
- It was wonderful to see the character of Marion Ravenwood. She’s as spunky as ever, if a bit underused.
- Shia LaBeouf makes a surprisingly good sidekick as the generically-named greaser “Mutt Williams”. LaBeouf has impressed me since his days on The Disney’s Channel’s Even Stevens, where he came off looking like a natural, and he also made quite an impressive big screen debut in the movie Holes, where he was cast for “young tom Hanks” vibe. There is speculation that LaBeouf might wear Indy’s hat and carry the series forward. There are worse choices.
- Irina Spalko (played by Cate Blanchett playing Natasha Fatale from Rocky and Bullwinkle) makes a decent villainess who is also underused. She supposedly has psychic powers but shows no evidence as such. One wonders why the character was written that way.
- The movie takes place in a Cold War of 1957 so the bad guys are the Communists. Cold War paranoia is then used to make a parallel regarding present-day loss of civil liberties at the hands of the government in the name of national security, but the attempt seems a little heavy-handed. Indy a “Person of Interest”? Come on!
- The movie noticeably suffers in the believability department. (Can you say, “Temple of Doom”?) With all due respect to Lucas – the man whose power rivals that of God, what with his frequent “re-imagining” of the Laws of the Physical Universe – he could stand to learn a few things about science. I recommend that people in Hollywood schedule an Intervention and force (or is that “Force”?) George to take a crash-course in Physics. On the one hand, nobody falls out of a plane and survives in The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. On the other hand, there are some serious eye-rolling moments in assorted scenes involving a trio of waterfalls, a motor vehicular cliff dive and a refrigerator. Yes, a refrigerator.
- My young daughter wondered why there were no booby traps like there were in the previous films. That a great question. The new film is less about booby traps and more about hidden cities and treasure. More booby traps, please.
- Indy, reciting his Han Solo mantra of “I’ve got a bad feeling about this” was a nice treat.
- The titular crystal skull itself looks like the Alien designed by H.R. Giger, except it’s made of Lucite and looks like it’s filled with tin foil. (In another nod to Alien, John “Kane” Hurt is featured in the film as Indy’s nonsense-talking colleague. Sadly, nothing burst out of his stomach.)
- As a scifi fan, I found the science fictional ending interesting, but predictable. Lucas drops too many hints for even the casual scifi fan to be surprised when we get there. As an Indy fan, the ending is perhaps the biggest fault with the film. It’s grossly out of place and Indy is clearly out of his element. The films were never about this; they were about Indy’s “real life” adventures. There was no need to whip up some fantastic explanation behind the crystal skull and a host of other myths and legends. Personally, I’m going to pretend it never happened…denial being the first stage of grief…
Despite the misgivings mentioned above, the good outweighed the bad. I left the theater happy to have seen old friends again. Thanks for the ride, Indy!