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Monday, June 23, 2008

Review: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)

* * *

Director: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Harrison Ford, Cate Blanchett, Shia LaBeouf

Some things I learned from Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull:

1. You can survive a nuclear explosion by taking refuge in a lead refrigerator;
2. The ruins of South America are filled with indigenous peoples of various stripes just waiting for a nosy gringo to come by so that they can jump out at him;
3. The next big attraction at Disneyland is going to be a water ride involving a drop off of three consecutive waterfalls

The latest instalment in the Indiana Jones series is kind of silly but it’s also pretty entertaining as long as you’re willing to embrace the silliness. It’s no Raiders of the Lost Ark to be sure, but what is? Crystal Skull is a pleasant addition to the series, one that doesn’t take itself too seriously and is full of great action sequences. It nods to the original in various ways, most notably through the return of Karen Allen as Marion Ravenwood (yay!), who proves that there’s something to be said for actresses aging naturally and gracefully, and a brief glimpse of the Ark of the Covenant at the beginning of the film when Indy is forced to help some KGB, led by Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett), in their search through an army warehouse. It also effectively passes the torch from Harrison Ford to Shia LaBeouf, laying the groundwork for an Indy-free adventure next time.

The story takes place in 1957, when Mutt Williams (LaBeouf) tracks Indy down after his mother (Marion) and father-figure Professor Oxley (John Hurt) have been kidnapped in Peru. Indy and Mutt head down after them and begin to uncover the secrets of the Crystal Skull – secrets which Irina would very much like to harness as part of a KGB plot to control the minds of the world. Indy and Mutt are eventually reunited with Marion and Oxley, leading to various escapes, recaptures, and chase scenes which will culminate in an ending that will leave you sighing in exasperation or simply shrugging and continuing to go with the flow.

There’s a lot that I liked about the film, not least of which is that it’s just a lot of fun – fun not only to watch but, by the looks of it, fun to make as well (Indy’s reunion with Marion looks genuinely joyful, as do all their subsequent interactions). It’s a little heavier on CGI than I would have liked, and there are moments that are a tad gruesome (Indy can be afraid of snakes all he wants but my biggest worry will now be ants) and some which are just plain ridiculous (Mutt swinging through the jungle with a band of monkeys), but so what? I didn’t go to this movie thinking that it would be some grand revelation about the art of filmmaking; I went to be entertained and I was. Harrison Ford is an actor I like a lot and it’s nice that he’s in a movie that I actually want to see after damn near a decade of making films you couldn’t get me anywhere near if you had a gun to my head.

This may not be a movie that will hold up a decade from now and it’s never going to become a revered classic in the style of Raiders, but it’s a very entertaining film and definitely worth the price of admission. Besides, how can you help yourself from smiling when you hear that theme music and see that fedora for the first time? Watching this movie is kind of like putting on a comfortable old sweater. It just feels good.

1 comment:

Brad Hansen said...

Speaking of karen Allen, I wrote an unsolicited script for Starman 2 back in 1998. It was my first script and I quit college to finish it. It’s been gathering dust ever since. I sent it to Jeff Bridges and John carpenter, although I would prefer if Carpenter didn’t direct a sequel. I wrote some good f/x sequences and some interesting characters. I’m pretty sure I’ll never be involved, but I’d to see the f/x scene from the beach being incorporated, (Jeff’s manager Neil will know the one, totally plagiarised from another movie, but it would look great on film today). If anyone has any questions, email me at hansenfilm@yahoo.ie and I’ll answer them. (Although I won’t give away any plot points. And yes there is a son and indeed, I actually have the perfect casting suggestion!!