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Review Time: Indiana Jones Style

May 25, 2008

I went and saw Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull last night. I was aquiver with excitement, and, frankly, I was not let down. But then again, after three Star Wars prequels and X-Men 3, my expectations were low.

First, just let me say, when I talk about something, I try not to ruin it for other people. I don't want to know anything about the plot or the outcome of the movie when I go in, and I treat everyone else to the same courtesy. Seriously. I didn't speak to a friend of mine for like, four years, because he told me that Qui-Gon got killed at the end of Phantom Menace.

Overall, I really enjoyed this movie, and I came in a little worried about the subject material. Suddenly, Indy wasn't jaunting about the Middle East looking for Biblical artifacts, but he was involved in something a bit more...paranormal. Paranormal probably isn't the right word, since the Biblical artifacts also exhibited plenty of paranormal activity. But where the Bible is usually identified as a legitimate (albeit controversial) historical document, there's really not a lot surrounding the Crystal Skulls, other than archived episodes of Coast to Coast with Art Bell (which was one of my favorite shows to listen to during those final few months of my graduate work, as I was typically up all night doing thesis writing and NMR collecting). However, from what I understand of the Crystal Skulls, the legends pretty much fit in with the plot of the movie. I did like the inclusion of the Nazca lines into the story, however, but that's just me.

Despite this apprehension, the latest installment in the Indiana Jones movies does not disappoint. Harrison Ford seems to have stepped back into his role almost seamlessly, and though there are moments when he seems to be pushing the humorous lines a bit too hard, he continues to be believable as the world's most renowned stud archaeologist. There were times when his normal charisma did not translate to the screen, but when the move was finished, I left the theater once again thinking "Fuck this chemistry stuff! I wanna go dig shit up!"

Karen Allen looked good. Maybe not as good as when she was dropping a shirt down over her bare ass in Donald Sutherland's house, but those were several years ago. Her character, Marion, however, doesn't seem to have the seamless entrance back into the world of adventure like Indy did. Given her role in the plot, this, also, seems plausible, but her character suffered the most from the lack of development.

The true surprise--for me, at least, as I was unfamiliar with his work--was Shia LaBeouf. He was believable in his role as "Mutt", and worked into the plot easily. As far as a sidekick, he was much more believable and capable than Short Round--not to mention far less annoying. Another pleasant surprise was Cate Blanchett; even though I'm not a big fan of hers (I don't know why, I'm just not a fan), she does a decent job as the main villain in the story, though you never truly feel menaced by her presence on the screen. Only once did I want to make a Lady Galadriel joke, which is good for me.

At times, the story was a bit too goofy and some of the events were far to coincidental--the tree and the river being the one that really made me roll my eyes (if you've seen it, you know what it is) and the sudden inclusion of Spider-Man to the cast of characters (again, you know what I mean). Other times, you could tell that most of the set was done in a room on a certain ranch in northern California. Unfortunately, even Spielberg's mastery couldn't keep the stink of Lucas' touch from this movie, and were again treated to sweeping, obviously faked vistas. Also, it's good to see that Russian soldiers aren't any better shots than Stormtroopers or Nazi soldiers. BUT, the action is constant and solid and enjoyable, though the dialog is, well, what you'd expect from a movie where George Lucas had any input.

Overall, I really liked the movie. I liked it much better than the three Star Wars prequels--combined! If you're a fan of Indiana Jones, well, you've probably already seen it. If you're a fence-sitter, unsure of whether to see it or not, you should see it. Overall, it's an enjoyable movie, just remember to bring along quite a heavy dose of suspension of disbelief. It won't win any awards, but I can almost guarantee that it'll be a better X-Files movie than the X-Files movie that will be in theaters later in the summer.


Jidai said...

You know I read something that made a lot of sense. The writing of the script first took place around 98, when x-files was a big hit. So looking at that, you start to see how that might have influenced this movie.

As for the Nazi's not being a good shot. If you remember they blew up Indy's car in the last crusade and shot his dad. So that's two more shots than the stormtroopers or the Russians were able to get off. And no I'm not counting the clone troopers.

As for Shia... Disturbia... that's all I have to say...

Good review though, and remember, don't listen to what I have to say.
In fact I urge people to see it, make up your own mind. That's the beautiful thing about film, you can like and dislike whatever the hell you want.

Just don't let those coffee house intellectuals say otherwise. :) Geez this was a long comment, but I'm sure you don't mind.

Frank said...

The one thing preventing me from seeing this movie is Shia LaBeouf. Well, that and I don't have any money.

I really don't like that kid. I have some kind of jealousy complex when it comes to actors my age or younger, because it always makes me question what I'm doing with my life, and why I can't be as successful as them. Also, most of the time I think I could do a better job of acting. 'Cause I'm awesome and stuff.

the iNDefatigable mjenks said...

Jidai: I didn't let your review influence me too much, except you did make a good point that Cate Blanchett never really did seem all that threatening. Maybe it was because she was a psychic warrior or whatever.

Another thing about this movie is it's supposed to not be a campy action flick from the 30s, but more along the lines of a sci-fi and/or spy flick from the 50s, which, yeah, it pulls off. I had always heard that the fourth would be a search for Atlantis, which may or may not come around, but I think would be intriguing, but that's just me.

Frank: In this flick, Shia didn't eat any bacon. The part was all wrong for you...except for the badass part.

Rider said...

I waited until I wrote my review to read yours. Apparently you liked it more than I did. I thought it was good, not great. A rental vs. must own. The eyebrow-raising stuff was expected, and even the "Spider-Man" scene you hinted at didn't bother me much. I took issue with the movie's lack of magic, especially with nine years to hammer it out.

the iNDefatigable mjenks said...

Did I say great? I didn't mean to say great. More or less, I wasn't disappointed. In fact, I was surprised that it wasn't as bad as I was expecting.

Of course, you're also talking about a guy whose last movie he saw in a theater was the Veggie-Tales movie this past winter.