Sunday, May 18, 2008

Movie Review: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

So this afternoon, the significant other and I decided we needed to see a movie. I voted Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. I was told this is not actually out in theaters yet (I don't really follow these things, but I finally saw a trailer for it for the first time last night, which made me want to go see it immediately). So we settled on a 1:50pm showing of Prince Caspian. We get to the theater and pay for our tickets, but my credit card got double charged. So I had to wait at the little desk for a bit to get my card reimbursed. As this is happening, a group of people (carrying legal pads!) comes in, looking mildly confused, and the lady helping me asks, "Indiana Jones?" My head does several 180s; she explains it's a press showing. "I have a blog! I can write a movie review!!" I go join the SO, who is standing in line to buy some popcorn. I do a recap, and a man in the next line over explains to us that it's in Theatre 15, and they aren't asking for credentials, only a name and affiliation. We decide we're too nervous (and maybe too moral) to try for it, and it's about five minutes before Prince Caspian is supposed to start, so no go. Well, actually, Prince Capsian wasn't finished yet, so we went and sat on a bench for a while, whereupon we realized that if we didn't try to see Indiana Jones—it's Indiana Jones !!!—then we would regret it. So we walked over to Theatre 15 with our popcorn and I told them we were from an Ohio State newspaper, and we walked right in.

Now, I promised a review, but, first, there's a slight problem, a dilemma if you will. See, I hate spoilers. I abhor them. I think people who spoil movies or TV shows without fair and ample warning should be drawn and quartered, or at least stripped of their right to enjoy any entertainment ever again. I don't read movie reviews because, if I know I want to see a movie ahead of time, why would I want to know what someone else has to say about it before I go see it?? I'll make up my own mind. And if I don't want to go see a movie, then why the hell would I be caring enough about it to read reviews?? It's just not logical. (And, no, I don't think that the first new Indiana Jones movie in 19 years will qualify for many under the third case of "and if I haven't heard about a film...")

As it happens, however, I happen to be dating someone who, while also having a strong aversion to spoilers, does not hold the same reservations towards movie reviews as I do. So the SO will be doing the actual review:

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is the first Indiana Jones movie to exist in the history created by the earlier films. I mean, did Indy ever talk about the stuff he'd already done before? The movies are pretty stand alone, right? There is, I believe, one little blink-and-you'll-miss-it reference to Raiders in Last Crusade, but that's it. The Indy we meet here, however, has done everything. He found the Ark of the Covenant. He found the whatever-they're-called stones. He found the Holy Grail. And he's done 20 more years worth of stuff that we didn't get to see. He fought in World War II, one way or another. He's done all this, and he's no longer afraid to talk about it. He's a guy starting to see the end of the tunnel and has learned that he likes telling his lifetime's worth of stories. This is not the Indiana Jones we met before, nor should it be. He's lived 20 more years, grown, maybe even learned a little bit since we saw him last.

This means, of course, that the movie takes place in the 50s, and if you manage to forget this fact, you'll be reminded as the film traverses every archetype (or should I say stereotype?) of the nostalgia decade before the end of the first reel. Shia LaBeouf does a reasonably good job of inhabiting one of those ----types. But not as good as Cate Blanchett, who, in her unending streak of impressing me more than I expect her to, may very well have crafted the best Indiana Jones villain ever from what is really an underwritten role. She's a wonder to behold, and she and her minions never quite manage to fall into the incompetent villain class, despite being constantly outsmarted by the heroes.

Now, I have to say something about the title. When I first heard it, my response was something like "'Crystal skull'? Really? I mean, seriously?" It really didn't seem like a sufficiently substantial object, particularly compared to the Ark or the Grail. But the movie sold me. It totally sold me. I don't want to say how exactly it does this for fear of spoilers, but it does.

My biggest complaint is that the movie sometimes seemed too eager to underdevelop a character or a dramatic situation in order to get back to another in a very long line of witty action sequences. I think that if you go in expecting the Second Coming of Spielberg, you'll be disappointed. This is not really an important film. It won't change the face of cinema as we know it like Raiders did, and it won't take Indiana Jones to a place he's never been before or will again like the Last Crusade did. All it will do is give us a few more events in the unusual life of Henry Jones, Jr. I suspect that nothing that occurs in Indy 4 is really so spectacular for him, which makes this new (older) Indy different, but it is fun to spend a few days walking around underneath his hat again.


Patrick Roberts said...

it would seem that the recipe of a good Indiana Jones film would be 1 part Nazis and 1 part Biblical Artefact... the Soviet army does a pretty good job of replacing the Nazis, but the other ingredient...

Vincent said...

Wait... so does this mean you actually liked the new Indiana Jones movie?

mollishka said...

I suppose. And?