An okay "Indiana"

image The trailers for “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” got me pretty pumped – excited enough to catch a 12:01am screening on the day of release.  I won’t delve too deeply into the plot of this one, other than to say it involves an artifact of questionable origin, together with everything else that makes an Indy movie.  There’s the old-school Paramount Pictures logo, the opening action sequence, the setup for the main quest, lots of death-defying stunts, a creepy-crawly scene, and a villain who gets his/her just comeuppance at the end.

It’s a blast to see Ford back in the role.  After a few awkward moments at the beginning where you can tell he’s still trying to find his footing, he settles into his groove and is able to sustain it through to the end.  He may be 65 years old, but he looks and moves like someone at least ten years younger.  The other actors hold their own as well, especially Cate Blanchett as the Russian baddie and Shia LeBeouf as Mutt Williams, Indy’s young sidekick for this adventure.  It’s nice to see Karen Allen reprise her role as Marion Ravenwood from “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” too.  The set pieces are wonderfully detailed and the action sequences are mostly a lot of fun, though there’s nothing here that really tested Steven Spielberg’s mettle.  He could do all of this stuff in his sleep (and may well have on occasion).

I just have a few big gripes about this film.  First, the overly cartoonish action really took me out of the movie from time to time.  Now, before anybody lays into me over the fact that the other Indiana Jones have never been slaves to realism, I wholly accept that no human being would likely survive the kinds of scrapes Indy gets into in the previous three films.  That said, whenever he got hurt, he got hurt, and we felt his pain as he winced and limped and screamed.  In this movie, however, Indiana Jones survives the kinds of falls that would break most every bone in your body (think of a refrigerator falling from the sky) or kill you three times over (like 300-foot waterfall drops that obliterate the machinery he’s riding in).  Yet his character, and others the movie designates as Safe, just brush the dust off their clothes and keep going.  Maybe there’s a prequel movie in the works about an otherworldly phenomenon that turned their bodies into rubber.  It just doesn’t make sense to me how Indiana Jones seems to become more invincible with age.

My second problem is with the primary subplot.  If you haven’t already guessed why we’re seeing Marion and a teenage kid in this movie, I’ll give you about two seconds to think about it.  Not that I’m opposed to that kind of subplot per se (I thought it was quite well done in “Superman Returns,” for example), but it’s just not handled very well here.  And given the ending for this movie, I’m not terribly excited at present about the prospect of a fifth “Indy” film.

Overall, “Crystal Skull” has the pedigree of an Indiana Jones movie, and it’s a worthy addition to the pantheon, but you’ll be less disappointed if you go into it expecting something along the lines of the two sequels rather than a contender with “Raiders.”  That one is simply a practically perfect film, and every subsequent attempt to improve on it has just fallen flat in one way or another.  Toward the end of this film I concluded that while the Indiana Jones movies are iconic in modern film history, it’s a franchise that should have ended at one film.

Here’s how I’d rank the four movies, to give you an indication of how much you may enjoy this one:

  1. Raiders of the Lost Ark (10/10)
  2. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (8/10)
  3. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (7.5/10)
  4. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (7/10 or lower)


Alright Spielberg, you’ve had your fun little romp in the jungle.  Would you please get around to making Lincoln now?  Or the Tintin movies?  How about Interstellar?  Thanks.

3 Responses to “An okay "Indiana"”

  1. Ask and ye shall receive :)

    I think what turned Steve off was the whole alien concept. I think he thought it was a little cheesy, but I didn’t mind it.

  2. The death-defying feats didn’t bother me so much (well, the fridge did, but I rather liked the waterfalls–it felt like vintage Indy), but the film felt a little out-of-sync with the others. The finale was too much for me. (I’d like to hear your thoughts on that one.) In general, the movie could have been better, but it avoided a lot of pitfalls. Your score seems like a fair one.

    Still, an 8 for The Last Crusade?!! Criminal.

  3. The waterfall sequence actually bothered me the most, though the fridge had me going “Huh?” as well.

    I actually didn’t mind the alien-centric storyline at all. Maybe that’s because I read a Vanity Fair interview of Lucas and Spielberg from way back where Lucas admitted as much (that paragraph was wrapped in spoiler tags, of course). It seemed to make sense: as we got into the 1950s the Saturday serial adventures began to shift into the sci-fi realm, so it seemed only natural that a 1950’s “Indy” movie should do likewise.

    As for the climactic scene . . . I was reminded of the end of the first “X-Files” movie. So many unanswered questions, and they’re all just flying away. I didn’t understand everything that led up to that scene from the moment the skull was put into its place, or whether Spalko’s death was the result of malicious intent or simply wish fulfillment taken to an extreme.

    Regarding the post-climactic scene (i.e., the happy ending) . . . ugh. As I mentioned earlier, given the ending I hope this is the last in the series. Either that, or they’d better hire an extremely talented screenwriter who can inject fresh energy into the, uh, new family dynamic.

    As for my scores of the films, I’m sometimes generous to a fault. Sean Connery really elevates “Last Crusade” from the depths of self-parody. Up until his entrance in the movie, everything just seems off. Everything after that, though, is great stuff. I try to award scores to movies based on how well they accomplish their purpose for being. “Last Crusade” comes closer to the “Raiders” standard than any of the other two.

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