July 09, 2008

The rest of Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

The Indian characters and culture in the new Indiana Jones movie are uniformly bad. As for the rest of the movie, the critics were right. It starts out fun but ends up tired and derivative.

Here are a few of Crystal Skull's flaws [spoiler alert]:

  • Marian Ravenwood and Mutt Williams are underused. They don’t do much more than fill the screen as they watch Indy do his thing. Although Mutt is adequate as a sidekick and son, he doesn’t have the charm, wit, or intelligence to become the new Indiana Jones.

  • The movie feels fresh when it begins. We have Indy vs. Communists, Indy in a huge warehouse, and Indy in a nuclear test site. But soon enough we're back to the usual shtick: Indy creeping through caverns, Indy fighting atop racing vehicles, and Indy fleeing from collapsing ruins.

  • As many reviews stated, the plot is muddled to the point of incomprehensibility. A Spanish explorer stole a crystal skull and had it with him when he died in Nazca. Professor Oxley returns the skull to Akator, then returns it to Nazca, then returns it to Akator again with Indiana.

  • If the skull is returned, Indy knows it could unleash a great power for evil. He should take it in the opposite direction or destroy it, but apparently he thinks he can handle it. The Communists need Indy to take them to Akator, but once he escapes they try to kill him. No Indy, no Akator. Neither scenario makes much sense.

  • The movie includes two of the most comically ludicrous stunts ever. When Mutt gets separated from the others, he swings on vines and catches a vehicle going perhaps 30 mph. Indiana and company go over not one but three waterfalls. They survive each plunge with no injuries, as if the 100-foot falls were no more dangerous than an amusement park ride.

  • Of course, this is the same series that gave us Indiana Jones clinging to a submarine’s conning tower for an entire trip across the Mediterranean. We’ve now seen the three most ridiculous bits ever in a Spielberg or Lucas film.

    The movie is undeniably a lot of fun. The special effects are breathtaking compared to anything in previous Indiana films. Even though it isn't particularly touching, it's nice to see Indy and Marian reunited.

    Harrison Ford doesn’t seem like a sixtysomething man about to retire. Except for a few cracks about his age, he’s as agile and alert as ever. He could pass for someone 10 or 15 years younger.

    As I said, the movie eventually wore out his welcome. It started out an 8.0 but ended up a 7.5. It’s worth seeing on the big screen, and Indy fans won’t want to miss it, but non-fans can give it a pass.

    For more on the subject, see Indiana Jones and the Stereotypes of Doom.


    dmarks said...

    I thought the "ancient temple that eats itself" was done a lot better in "The Mummy II"

    writerfella said...

    Writerfella here --
    MAD Magazine correctly pegged the original Indy adventure, "Raiders Of A Lost Art," as Lucas unabashedly was writing and filming an homage to one of his favorite (and writerfella's) film experiences, the multi-part movie adventure serials. You had one big McGuffin, several redoubtable enemies and villains, many sphincter-clenching perils and breathtaking escapes, and a moralistic ending where the hero wins because he is a force for good and the villains are destroyed by their own force of evil. Witness that modern television 'dramas' have adopted and adapted that format, which never really went away. The serials never attempted to be much more than they were, thrilling ways to keep a story going for all 12 - 15 weekly chapters and to keep young audiences coming back every Saturday afternoon for, "Don't miss the next exciting chapter of SEE YOU NEXT WEDNESDAY! at this theater next week!"
    Of course, the heroes fall down waterfalls and run through collapsing ancient ruins without much of a scratch. That's what happened in the movie serials and an homage isn't much of a tribute if you change the formulae. Logic never was anything near a key ingredient in serials and so even that gets its homage.
    And - horrors! - Indy NEVER would destroy any artifact he recovered because of its value to his science. Consider that real-life archaeologists and anthropologists DESPISE the Native American Graves And Repatriation Act because anything they've dug up or stolen or both is THEIRS! So much so that they possibly have cobbled together a 'Kennewick Man' to try to prove that Caucasians were on the NovaMundian continents first and those called the Native Americans are Yazzie-come-latelys.
    Apparently, with a current $737.5 million worldwide boxoffice in the 48 days since its release, Indy fans aren't missing the film and millions of new ones have evolved.
    Lucas' next intention? Revive his mostly-unseen TV series character, YOUNG INDIANA JONES, with Henry 'Mutt' Jones III off on his own adventures (with cameos by daddy) along with a new Native blood-brother character as his sidekick (oops, maybe writerfella tipped the beanpot a bit too far!)...
    Don't miss the next exciting chapter of GEORGE LUCAS STRIKES BACK, at this theater next decade!
    All Best
    Russ Bates

    Rob said...

    For my response to this, see Indiana Jones, Tomb Raider.