Written by David Koepp
Directed by Steven Spielberg
Running Time: 2:04
for adventure violence and scary images.
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was, in a word, OK.
It's 1957 and Dr. Jones is looking a little beaten up. He's been kidnapped by the Russians to try and find a needle in a haystack. But this needle could hold the power to control the entire planet. Needless to say, Indy isn't really happy about having to help and does all he can to try and foil the Russians. The journey leads them from Nevada to Peru and into the heart of the Amazon. Joined by an old friend, some new friends, and a traitor amongst them, Indy's team discovers a mystery that has lasted for thousands of years. And a large pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
It's been almost two decades since we've seen Indiana Jones, and he sure has gotten old. I found it a little distracting throughout the entire movie, because even if you accept the bizarre storyline, having a 66-year-old man getting into fights and flying through the air with the aid of a bullwhip was hard to take. He still looks in decent shape but there were plenty of times it was obvious it wasn't Ford doing the stunts. And from what I remember, back in the old days of the Indy films, he did a lot of them. He also didn't have the same spark and energy he once has. The Indy of old was always quick with a quip and fast on his feet. This Indy was slower and more methodical. Yes, it's playing to the facts of aging rather than playing to the character of the past, but it still felt like the movie dragged a lot. The most exciting chase sequences in the film featured Shia LaBeouf doing more than Ford. To be perfectly honest, I felt like Ford was more or less mailing in the performance, as a favor to Lucas and Spielberg.
Then there was the storyline. I won't ruin it for everyone, but I will say the rumors you've heard about are mostly true. And it was really weird. OK, this is where I may ruin a few things for people, so if you don't want to know the story, skip ahead to the next paragraph. The past films dealt with spiritual/supernatural things that may or may not have been real. But they were grounded in human terms. Was there really a Holy Grail? Did the Ark of the Covenant really exist (and it makes a cute cameo in the film)? These are stories that some people believe and some don't, but we've all heard of. The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is based on the idea that aliens have landed on Earth at various points in the past. One set of aliens landed in South America and helped an ancient civilization create things that wouldn't be seen again for centuries. But someone stole one of their skulls (not quite sure how) and since then, these aliens have been laying dormant. None of it felt grounded in any acceptable form of reality. Even if you're willing to believe in aliens and that any of this could have happened, I didn't find myself caring. The story had no heart. The past films I believed that Indy and his crew needed to find the things they were looking for. That they were archeological artifacts that the world had to know existed. This time I didn't feel any real urgency.
Now some of the lack of energy or heart can be blamed on the writing and the directing. This simply did not feel like a true adventure film to me. Maybe the problem is that in the last decade there have been a bunch of adventure films that I've enjoyed. Take something like the two National Treasure movies. Say what you will about them, but they're lighthearted, fun and constantly moving. There was always something going on. I know the films were inspired by the Indy films but geared more towards a modern audience. The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull moved ahead to the late 50s and just felt out of place. We see Shia looking like a cross between James Dean and Marlon Brando, getting into a ice cream shoppe fight between the clean cut college kids and the greasers. It felt too much like I was watching a movie, if that makes sense. Shia plays this 'tough' kid who combs his hair all the time and carries a knife. He was the young blood in the movie to try and counteract the age of Indy, but it didn't really work for me. The name of the movie has Indiana Jones and he wasn't up to the task.
Don't get me wrong, I'm a fan and I was looking forward to the movie, but it didn't live up to expectations. If this were Doug Halfner and the Search for the Crystal Skulls and starred, oh let's say, Mark Wahlberg… it might have been an acceptable film. But to have the titans come together one more time, Spielberg, Lucas, and Ford and to make this the summer movie event. It was a letdown. Now, that's not to say the entire movie was bad. The action sequences, when they occurred, were enjoyable, if a little odd (Shia at one point turns into Tarzan). I enjoyed some of the supporting characters and I thought visually it looked good. There is an extended sequence in a forest that involves a chase, some sword fighting, and some really nasty bugs that is a little tough to watch. That 15-20 minutes was arguably the best part of the film. There were a couple of funny lines/moments that were fun as well. But the story bogged down the film, and the ultimate ending wasn't the happy/exciting moment I was looking for.
The 2-Disc Special Edition DVD comes with a bunch of extras dealing with the history of Indiana Jones and everything that lead up to the current production. It seems they the principals have been discussing the movie since a couple of years after the last one was done. I wondered at what point they'd all just give up and move on but you can tell from the many, many documentaries that they all have a certain love for the films and the characters and were very happy to revisit Indiana again. What I did notice watching the movie on TV is that the little issues I had with it in theaters disappeared. I don't know if that's because I knew they were coming or not but the movie played better the second time around. That being said, Indy surviving a nuclear blast in a fridge and Mutt flying through the air like Tarzan were still hysterically ridiculous. But all in all, if you've never seen the movie or were so-so about it like I was (or obviously if you loved it) the Special Edition is definitely worth picking up.
THE BOTTOM LINE
So overall, I thought Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was just an OK film. It didn't live up to expectations and didn't pack the entertainment punch of the first three films in the series. There just wasn't that excitement and good natured fun you expect from an Indiana Jones film.
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