Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
plot in a nutshell
Indy is back after almost 20 years, and this time he's fighing Commies for
another of those earth shattering secrets, long buried in the past. He's
joined by a young protege, Mutt Williams, and finds his way back to his one
true love, Marion Ravenwood.
Spoiler Free Thoughts
Of all the summer movies, I
think I was anticipating this one the most. Oh, I'm pretty geeked up about
WALL-E and Dark Knight too, but I love the original films, even the rather
odious Temple of Doom. Harrison Ford has been in many films, but none have
been as defining for him - or a generation - as Indiana Jones.
So perhaps my anticipation raised my expectations a tad too much, but in the
end I was left disappointed. The original films weren't perfect, although
Raiders of the Lost Ark is pretty damn close. Oh, there was cheesy dialog,
and some over the top moments. But there was also a heart and soul to those
films that transcended the usual popcorn movie drivel. Unfortunately, that
heart and soul is missing here.
For me, there are two main issues with the film - a weak story and too much
CGI. I like the general concept that the story line presents, but when it
gets down to the actual plot, it becomes a mess of concepts all thrown
together. Most of the dialog, particularly with Indy and Marion, is actually
quite good, but the details of the story are poorly executed.
But I could live with the weak story if not for the over reliance on CGI in
far too many of the action sequences. In the old films, particularly
Raiders, Indy did some amazing things - but they seemed 'real'. Hell, that's
because most of them were. But in the intervening years, both George and
Steven have leaned far too heavily on the crutch of special effects,
forgetting how to make truly intense action and instead giving us cartoon
action. There are only a couple scenes in this film that actually reminded
me of the old Indy movies. CGI can be used to great effect, but not when
it's used as a crutch to cover up the other flaws in a film.
When this film was announced, people were afraid that Harrison Ford was too
old. They were wrong - it's George and Steven that are too old. They were
once artists that broke new ground and blazed new trails, but it's been many
years and many movies since either did that. Now they seem only capable of
traveling back down well worn paths, exploiting tired clichés and revisiting
all too familiar territory.
That's not to say the movie was terrible through and through. There were
shining moments, like the scenes between Indy and Marion, and the
introduction of Mutt. I'll watch the film again, and I'll even buy it on
DVD. But it's not going to jump ahead of Last Crusade on my list of Indy
movies, and it's even going to struggle to compete with Temple of Doom.
Rating - See Iron Man first.
Then, if you have time, check this one out.
If you've only got one movie
you can see all summer, right now that movie is Iron Man. If you've seen
both, you'll recognize a key difference. When I left Iron Man, I
wanted more. When I left Indy, I'd had enough. By the time this
summer is over, I can almost guarantee that Indy 4 won't even make it into
my top 5 for the season, and that is enough to tell me that there's a
serious issue here.
I do think that plenty of folks are
going to give this movie a pass, much like Phantom Menace when it first hit.
But over time, and repeated watchings, I suspect the nostalgic influence
will wear off, and for most folks this will be the weakest of the four
Spoiler Laden Thoughts
You've been warned...
Let's talk about this in the old 'pros' and 'cons' style:
The Good Stuff:
- surprisingly, Mutt. I like Shia as an actor, but I thought G&S were sure
to screw up this character and his relationship to Indy ala Jar Jar. Or
worse, Short Round. But they didn't. He was introduced well, given his own
grand memorable entrance (coming out of the smoke on the bike was perfect),
and they allowed him to show emotion and a least a little range. A Mutt
movie wouldn't be an Indy movie, but I'd happily go to see it.
- Indy and Marion back together. They dropped back into their love/hate
relationship perfectly, and none of their dialog together seemed forced or
phoned in. When he tells her all the other women had one problem, they
weren't her, it's a classic screen romance moment.
- the handling of Indy's age. When confronted by people that think he's old,
Indy doesn't waste his time arguing the fact, he simply goes on doing what
it is he does, clearly unaware that he isn't supposed to be able to do that
anymore. He proves them wrong not by trying to prove them wrong, but
just by being himself.
- The Cemetery Warriors. Here was a creepy, spooky scene, using good old
fashioned techniques to build suspense. The warriors themselves were pretty
cool, although one has to wonder how good they were as guards since the mere
presence of a gun sends them running.
- The Ugha Warriors. Again, a visually cool sequence, up to the point where
they simply back off because of the skull. Didn't we just see this same
sequence in the cemetery, only then it was a gun? Still, when they dropped
down out of the walls, I was impressed.
- The fight in the middle of the ants, and the motorcycle chase at the
beginning. These were the only two action sequences that had that old heart
and soul. Sure, the ant fight was practically take right out of Raiders,
when Indy fights the German mechanic, only this time it's ants instead of a
propeller. But it captured some of that old magic, as did the opening
motorcycle chase, a sequence that wasn't as heavily CGI laden as later
- Kate Blanchette. Enough said.
- the nods to the various past films, including Star Wars. Yea, we're all
suckers for that sort of thing.
The Bad Stuff:
- a slow start. Indy films have always used the basic story device of a fast
start, similar to Bond films. They give it a shot here, but it takes far too
long to get to the action in the opening sequence.
- If I never see Shia swinging through the trees like Johnny Weissmuller
again, I'll feel blessed. This entire sequence was silly and stupid,
including the battling monkeys and the plants to the crotch. The entire
jungle race sequence was a perfect example of too much CGI and bluescreen,
and it lacked any real excitement or peril because of it.
- the entire Alien plot. Yes, I get it. This is the fifties, so we'll frame
the film with fifties themes - the Red scare, the fear of nukes, mind
control, alien invasion. Yes, that's a cute idea. But once having an idea,
there's these little things called details where the Devil lives. And when
it got to the details of telling this story, they failed. At the end of the
film when Mutt says "I don't understand", the words "join the club" jumped
immediately to my mind.
And while trying to mirror the movie themes of the period was a good idea,
maybe they should have just picked one. Throwing in every theme possible
just made the entire story a jumbled mess.
- Mac. I knew there had to be a Jar Jar in this film, but I thought it was
going to be Mutt. They surprised me with Mac, a totally worthless character
inserted just so a couple plot devices could be wedged in. Ray
Winstone deserves better than that.
- Did I mention the CGI? Yes, they rely on it far too much, and it was a
major issue for me.
- the wedding at the end. Ugh. Where the earlier scene I mentioned on the
truck was romantic and touching, this was just sappy and hard to watch.
Right up til Mutt went to pick up the hat - that I gotta admit I liked.
But even with my disappointment, I'm still uber-geeked about getting more
Indy product this summer, especially sixth scale goodies. The movie might
not have been amazing, but I'm thankful that it created a situation where I
could finally collect some amazing Indy items!