Indiana Jones. The name alone brings up images of whip-swinging, leather hats, and religious artifacts. 30s pulp at its peak. The newest film, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (what a mouthful), is set twenty years into the future, in the late 1950s. The change is rocky, and doesn’t succeed in my opinion.
I saw this film with my roommate at a midnight showing. I’m a fan of the previous Indy films, and came into this one with moderate expectations. I’d seen the trailer once before Iron Man and enjoyed it, but had done no other digging about the film. The theater was packed, and I was cracking jokes to my roommate through the whole movie, making several “Legends of the Hidden Temple” references, and after the plot exploded, expressing my dismay.
The shift from the 30s to the 50s is most noticable in the change in Indy himself. He’s older and stouter, and several scenes make a joke at his expense, notably one near the beginning of the film when Indy is swinging on his whip and misses his target. Despite this, Harrison Ford has a ton of fun with the role, and you can tell. Also, the enemy has changed. In the previous films, Indy took on German Nazis. Two decades later, the Reds take the spotlight, led by KGB operative Dr. Irina Spalko. Played well by Cate Blanchett, Dr. Spalko is a specialist at getting information out of people, and she plays the dominatrix-esque doctor well. Overall, I was impressed with the performances of the actors, save Mutt’s mother. She annoyed the crap out of me.
The plot (which is impossible to delve into much without spoiling the experience for the viewer) is perfect for a 50s pulp movie, but it didn’t work at all for me. At the point where it’s revealed (about an hour in), I completely lost interest in the story and did my best to block it out. It just didn’t fit my vision of what an Indiana Jones film should be. I know it was Lucas’s idea, which makes it worse. It’s a growing trend in Spielberg’s films now, as well. It’s getting tired.
Speaking of George Lucas, the special effects are great. ILM really pulled out the stops for this flick. However, it’s a problem here. Green screens are used to excess, and the CGI doesn’t fit the aesthetic of the older Indy flicks. The action sequences and the places where Indy is being Indy are awesome, and Mutt has his fair share of bad ass moments as well. Despite this, several scenes take this to a ridiculous extent, especially one involving Mutt and some spider monkeys, and another featuring a series of waterfalls. I don’t have a problem suspending my disbelief during a film, especially one as over-the-top as Indiana Jones, but this was ridiculous.
The biggest problem I have with the movie is the ending. There was absolutely no payoff once the McGuffin is taken to the place of power, no great moral choice that has to be made. Add that to my other problems with the plot, and that makes this movie a waste of my money and my time, despite the coolness of the scenes featuring Indy and Mutt together, and the fight sequences.
It’s hard for me to recommend this film to anyone, because of my extreme distaste towards the plot and gratuitous use of special effects, but all the action (save a couple of ridiculous scenes) is great. If you can just put on a tinfoil helmet that blocks out the subpar plot as well as Mutt’s mother (who will remain unnamed (but still annoying) in the review), you will really like this movie. Otherwise, go see Iron Man again.