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Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

The most biting issue regarding this film is it is Indiana Jones and with this comes expectations. Indy 4 is a give and take film. In any other context, Harrison Ford would not pass as an action hero any more, at least to the extent he is portrayed here. This is the only 'give' aspect its predecessors offer, the chance to see a much loved screen icon around again. However, the 'take' is far more substantial, and like many reviews the negatives are easier to list but unlike many reviews that remain firmly subjective, cutting slack plainly because it is Indy, i will attempt to be more objective. I have recently watched the originals so don't think my memories will be merely reminiscing either

If the film wasn't set in the established world if Indy and with a different hero, it probably would have been a fine movie but the dichotomy of context or content undermines the film at almost every step. The opening shot is CGI, now i know it's nearly unavoidable nowadays for a Hollywood film not to use it but here it seems to be done for the sake of it, or for sheer spectacle. The two main examples are the nuclear explosions and the finale. The latter i'll save spoiling, as for the former at a basic level you can argue it sets the era but considering the installation testing it had been wiped out, i'm not sure how they even went ahead with it. Apart from the odd extravagant setting, where does this happen in the originals? It seemed like a Roland Emmerich set piece. Next, what i loved about the originals was their ability to immerse the viewer into the location, blue-screens are completely alienating.

I'm surprised there aren't more critics of the action. Most comments are on the plausibility, bar the one silliness in Temple of Doom (and i figured the three waterfalls were an allusion to this), in most of the originals action pieces, it could be believed that someone could do that. And in most of them someone does do them, the tightly choreographed action and stunt scenes were far more enthralling in the originals then "let's do it all in CGI". Thus Indy 4 lacks the skilled directing craft to create enthralling moments were there is actual tension and realism about the character and the beating they're taking. I do not want to see a computer animated Shia Lebouf rope swing through the jungle with an army of CGI monkeys. Not only is that not Indiana Jones, it's the polar opposite. A lot of it belonged in a cartoon.

Possibly the biggest gripe i've noticed is the alien plotline. For clarity, i've no problem with aliens or skepticism about them appearing in films. Their inclusion goes back to earlier, give and take. We are given a Crystal Skull which is explicitly flaunted visually through out the story, removing any enigma about the artifacts plus it is a bit ridiculous, i couldn't get AvP out my head where she uses the alien skull as a shield. Anyway, we're given the narrative marker of the skull and then it takes us completely out the diegetic world created around Indiana Jones. There's not one hint towards extra-terrestrial life in any of the films. Making a firmly established genre of traditional adventure into a science-fiction yarn is pretty cheeky. But like i said earlier, it would have been fine in any other film but with Indy it doesn't belong. I know most people counteract this criticism with The Ark being supernatural thus also a strain on believability but 'The Ark' was kept as an enigma through the film and in the climax when it was opened it, there had to be something decent as the pay-off. But furthermore, Indy's eyes are closed so it doesn't necessarily have to happened like that. The odd ghost and religious artifacts are what we are told is natural in Indy's world. I wouldn't have minded exploring the mythos they took, but if they'd left it ambiguous and more on suggestion, it would have been far more successful and less like Close Encounters.

Maybe this is the standard starting point for reviews but it seemed so irrelevant i didn't think it worth addressing the story first. The whole script is heavy handed, from explaining Brody and Connery to recycling plot devices from the Last Crusade and then failing to expand them. The clues and actual 'adventure' where far too easy, more over they were excuses for set pieces. Take finding the the clue under the waterfall, there's no indication how they get all the way up there or the final clue in the temple Ox couldn't get being a pretty dull answer. I never once felt any sense of discovery, as a viewer or on Indy's behalf. I would rather call the characters under-written opposed to un-developed. Winstone, for example, i thought was fine but the way characters reacted around him wasn't natural nor was his fate. Blanchett's villain was tame and failed to make a worth adversary for Indy when she should have been either ruthless or a reflection of a different Indy. It was by the time Mutt and Indy had the chase around the city i'd settled with the older Indy being action orientated, however couldn't help noticing how slack his trousers were, looked like proper Grandad style.

The film was thoroughly flawed but that's from a subjective viewpoint of what Indy was and what Spielberg and Lucas have done now. Except for the lovingly created 50s and the admittedly brilliant Mutt (i've liked Shia since Even Stevens) i fail to see this as a continuation of the series. Personally, it seemed like Lucas using CGI wherever possible and Spielberg getting bogged down in his penchant for extra-terrestrial. It's not an inherently 'bad' film but it is flawed in a lot of respects and considering what it could, and should have been- a classic stunt orientating adventure, it fails to deliver.