Sunday, May 25, 2008

"Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull"-- A Review

I was one of the few people who clapped at the end of this fourth installment of the Indy franchise. I think I have to explain myself!

In the opening moments, I was back in Indy country. The opening sequence wasn't brilliant, but it was palatable. Ford was a bit creaky, but passable. Then the film proceeded with a highly improbable scene involving a refrigerator and a miraculous escape from death by Indiana Jones and I started to wonder. However, we're then introduced to a young man, played by Shia LeBeouf, dressed (exactly) like Marlon Brando in The Wild One, who brings Indiana news that an old colleague of Indy's is in trouble. A motorcycle chase ensues which is up-to-par with the Indy franchise of old, if, again, just a bit off. And then the adventure proper begins which takes Indiana Jones and his young protege-of-sorts on a mysterious journey in which they must return a crystal skull of unknown origin back to its rightful home.

However, before long, it soon became apparent that this installment, unlike the previous three, had set piece after set piece that were somewhat generic, not at all intrinsic to the plot, and, more often then not, extremely unbelievable and outrageously over-the-top. So, at about the 45 minute mark I had a movie-going epiphany. The gang had just waited too long to make another Indiana Jones movie. Even though anything is possible and perhaps a genuinely great movie still could have been made, it was always highly unlikely that we'd have anything resembling those great '80s flicks. So, with this in mind... I just let go. I put my brain in full nostalgia mode. Here I was in 2008 watching Indiana Jones up on the big screen. I started to just have a good time.

To take a critical stance for a second, a few of the ideas were interesting (particularly one involving a swarm of ants) and Cate Blanchett, despite having a hopelessly underwritten part, had a certain presence that at the same time didn't overshadow our hero. There were a few talky moments but mostly it was a forward moving ride. The final action set piece had an eye-candy quality on a purely entertainment level. The motives of the Russians are vague at best. Ford and Allen kinda sleepwalk through it (although I really liked Ford's boyish look when he first lays eyes on Marian again). And there was a very distant, studio-bound quality to the whole affair. But, again, I give it a pass.

The movie on the whole is best seen as it was entered in at the Cannes film festival-- "out of competition." Of course we're all set up for a Shia LeBeouf Indy trilogy-- but I truly hope this doesn't come to pass. This was just a last-chance trip to the well. One for the road. A toast to old times.

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