Crystal Skull is a what? Indiana Jones Review

Indiana Jones Movie Poster

Quick Review Description: I’ll give my general comments without spoilers, and I’ll warn you before getting into any specifics.

I got a chance this weekend to see Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Overall I thought the movie was pretty entertaining and stayed true to the certain aspects of the series, although I had some serious reservations about this new story as well.

Overall – no spoilers

This latest installment in the IJ folklore had a lot of the same subtleties and aspects that followed very closely on the heels of its predecessors. The humor was spot on, with Jones’ slide comments and facial expressions, odd and ackward situations, and funny/incompetent grunt men. I’ve always loved that they haven’t played Indi up to be some “super” man, he losses just about as many fist fights as he gets into and it’s usually his wits that saves him from complete loss. There isn’t much emphasis on a “realism factor” in any of the movies, Indi and company continually get saved by the skin of their teeth and quite implausible circumstances. Shia LaBeouf was a great addition, he fit very nice into his role and pretty seamlessly introduced himself into the Indi tradition

However, there were some serious differences from the norm. I understand that technology has advanced greatly and that many more things are possible now than they were when the originals were shot, but the first three did very well without the heavy dependency on special effects this one had. A lot of the time during this movie the special effects themselves added a level of fakeness to the movie, cheapening the story and feel of the film. I also didn’t appreciate the filming color style, whatever filters or aftereffects they applied to the film made it seem like it was trying to emulate other modern films – Indiana doesn’t need airbrushing – let the story and action speak without needing to “update the look”.

One of the most captivating and enthralling aspects of the old films are the riddles and archaeological puzzles Indi has to solve to get to the goal. This movie was seriously lacking any riddle, there was a brief decoding of a letter Shia gives to Indi to get things started but from then on out the movie depended on the action and not the solving of the plot. This was a huge setback from previous films, the riddles and Jones’ great capacity to solve them was what kept viewers entertained, not the solely the action.

Specifics – warning spoilers may follow

Now for the details. First the story was just plain bizarre. I love science fiction, but don’t want it intruding into my Indiana Jones. The whole alien aspect put this film way over the top. The past stories have all had supernatural aspects to them, the ark swallowed up souls, hearts pulled out of the body burned up, and “choosing poorly” when picking the Holy Grail ended pretty horrifically, but aliens? Come on. The old films had to deal with some serious historical artifacts and the imagined outcomes of the supernatural attached to their power. Aliens takes this supernatural way too far. I’m not sure if they were going for shock value or what but it didn’t work for me – if anything I felt cheated and slighted by two childhood loves of mine being thrown into the same mixing bowl without any reverence for the respective natures of each genre. I’ve read they rejected four other scripts to finally come to accept this, I shudder to think what they rejected if this was the best plot they could muster.

I did appreciate the progression of time in this film. Ten years into the future from the grail film allowed for a good continuation of characters without feeling old hash and similar to previous movies. We were able to say goodbye to previous characters (such as Sean Connery) and say hello to new ones (such as Shia LaBeouf). The Soviet Communists and KGB were a great aspect of the movie. One of the great things about Indiana is that the movies always have a complex historical aspect (see Nazi Germany) that allows for a superb story setting without having to waste time explaining much. Here Indi gets thrown into a complex web of Communism and McCarthyism which adds an excellent aspect of conflict into the movie that most all viewers can understand and get very quickly from the onset of the movie.

Many of Indiana’s exploits and surviving them are very humorous and very unlikely, but it fits the films. There are many, many near escapes and super lucky leaps that always end good for Indi and company, you know this the whole time but still love to see it. The jump from the cliff after the ant scene is exhibit A on this subject – way over the top, yet you have to love every second of it. Not to mention the quintessential person getting eaten whole by some bug/reptile/etc.

It’s difficult to follow up such a great series as the Indiana Jones movies (and Lucas especially has been struggling as of late – see Star Wars and the huge disappointment of the three prequels). The new Indi does well in many key points but also fails severely on others. I know you’re trying to expose a new generation to Indi, but there were reasons the old ones were hits – if it’s not broken, why fix it? The new Indi held true to little points, but completely let go of much of it’s appeal. I have a very conflicted opinion toward this new installment and would love to get some answers as to why major aspects of Indiana’s appeal were thrown out of the window.

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~ by veniatregnum on June 2, 2008.

One Response to “Crystal Skull is a what? Indiana Jones Review”

  1. Great review. Thanks for the detail review versus just DUDE IT WAS SO GOOOD!

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