Jun 10, 2008

[Movies] Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal SkullWhile I doubt you could ever call me one of the world's biggest Indiana Jones fans, I have always had a pretty good appreciation for the original trilogy. You have to admit, the Indy movies hearken back to a simpler style of movie making that was less about special effects and more about intricate plots, witty dialog and really fun action sequences.

When they announced that a fourth movie was in the works so many years at the original trilogy had ended, I have to admit that I was rather skeptical. I mean come on - all the original players were either much older or dead (no disrespect meant), and the whole genre of Indy movies just might not make the transition well into the "modern" realm of special effects heavy action films and much simpler plots in favor of wider audience appeal.

When I did finally make the trek to the ArcLight theaters in Los Angeles to catch the movie during opening weekend, I was pleased to find that it was actually very enjoyable and a great addition to the pre-existing Indiana Jones films.

Indiana Jones as portrayed by Harrison FordImage via WikipediaIndiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (which is the longest Indy title to date in terms of number of letters) is set about ten years after the resolution of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Naturally, Nazis are no longer a viable adversary so instead we're left with the Cold War Russians and still Indy (as can only be played by Harrison Ford) is still gallivanting around the world and getting himself into trouble.

This film was the most science fiction related of the series, at least in my opinion, given the involvement of mysteriously magnetic objects and mention of an incident at Roswell, New Mexico. Oh come on, you have to know what that means, right? Regardless of your recollection of pop culture, let's push on.

At the forefront of the Russion contingent is the somewhat loopy Col. Dr. Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett), who appears obsessed with ESP and all things paranormal. She is a really fun character and as single-minded and driven as any other Indy villain, although she really knows how to work her hair.

Thrown into the mix (as all the pre-movie spoilers made sure we all knew) was the involvement of Shia LeBeouf as Indy's son Mutt, and the real mystery was trying to figure out when exactly did Indy have time to sire another Jones. Shia certainly seems to be growing into better roles (and his looks to boot) and I have to admit he was a pretty good call in terms of casting for this piece.

Now overall I have to admit that this is a movie custom-made for fans of the original trilogy. There are a lot of obscure references to previous events and even recurring characters whose behaviors have changed very little over time, but you'd need to have seen the previous films to get that. This is not to say that this movie boxes out newcomers to the Indiana Jones experience, as it were. In fact the movie remains a solid piece of film-making and certainly is able to stand on its own regardless of past knowledge.

At the same time, however, I definitely can't say that this is an amazing film on its own. A lot of my personal enjoyment came from being a longtime fan of the series and its hard to judge the film without those preconceptions. I can say that it definitely is a very good Indy movie and a worth addition to the franchise. Heck, it's better than some of the prior ones, but definitely not the best in the series overall.

One definitely has to appreciate the effort Steven Spielberg put into putting this film together while still trying to retain the original style. It was reported that he tried to keep the special effects to a minimum, thus the usual stunt-driven events and sequences often degenerating into hardcore slugfests in typical Indy style.

This is a great movie to enjoy with the family since it's not racy nor is it overly violent. It has a solid story, excellent writing and something for both older fans and newbies to enjoy.
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