Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Overblown Sequel

Posted by Andrew Groves | Posted in | Posted on Tuesday, May 27, 2008

WARNING: This review contains material that may spoil the movie for you. If you haven't seen the movie and plan to, stop reading now.
Well, the time has come for me to review the highly anticipated movie "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull." After almost twenty years, everyone's favorite archaeologist adventurer returned to the silver screen this past Thursday. His reception thus far has been less than stellar, but for good reason. Indiana Jones has fallen prey to excessive special effects and bad writing.

It seems that the George Lucas trend of redoing good, old movies badly has carried over into this new film, much to my dismay. Recently, Lucas has relied heavily on special effects rather than story in his films, a strategy that has proved unsuccessful three times in a row with his Star Wars prequels "The Phantom Menace," "Attack of the Clones," and "Revenge of the Sith." The same is true of Indiana Jones, I'm afraid. Extravagant CGI backgrounds populate the film and distract from rather than enhance the plot. The action sequences are so extreme that the element of realism is lost. While the previous Indiana Jones movies certainly weren't known for their realism, an element of belief existed in the audience that these events were truly happening to the title character. Not so in "Crystal Skull," as Indy survives a nuclear blast by hiding in a refrigerator, escapes debris flying through the Amazon by simply ducking his head, and goes over three waterfalls with hardly a scratch.

The new film also lacks the quick-witted writing found in the previous films. The father-son duo in The Last Crusade is reciprocated in this film with the introduction of Mutt Williams, Indy's son. But the chemistry that existed between Harrison Ford and Sean Connery does not carry over into this new relationship. With the exception of a few humorous asides, Mutt and Indy barely bond at all in the movie. Reintroducing Marion Ravenwood (now Williams) was a nice idea, but the spunky and adventurous Marion we all came to love in "Raiders of the Lost Ark" is reduced to a minor character who swoons at Indy’s every word in “Crystal Skull.” Their marriage at the end of the movie adds insult to injury as a tamer, more family friendly Indy is unveiled.

In addition, the villains in the new film are more eccentric than evil. Leading the group of Soviet soldiers is Irina Spalko, a Russian “scientist” of the paranormal, played by Cate Blanchett. Indy’s finicky sidekick Mac is equally odd as he switches loyalties about every ten minutes or so. Both characters can’t even compare with the treacherous archaeologist Belloq, the creepy Nazi named Toht, the savage Thuggee cult, or the double-crossing Elsa Schneider from the previous movies. Whenever Indy is captured, you don’t fear for his safety because Spalko and her minions aren’t that frightening to begin with. Throughout the movie, it seems as if Indy is eager to help the bad guys because of his curiosity regarding the skull. Whatever happened to the old Indy―the one who was willing to blow up the Ark of the Covenant just to save his girl?

Also, the movie’s plot is the most confusing and farfetched in the series thus far. With “Crystal Skull,” the series has strayed away from its supernatural roots into the extraterrestrial. The movie’s climax is a mixture of “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” with Spalko being consumed by flames, and “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” with the aliens departing from our dimension to explore the “space between spaces,” whatever that means. The rest of the movie consists of Indy and Mutt stumbling through curiously well lit tombs to put the pieces of the puzzle together.

The only positive thing I can say about the film is that Harrison Ford has still got it. He can pull off Indiana Jones, even at age 65. The opening chase through Area 51 reassures us that Indiana Jones can still get it done. But can we put up with all the other garbage they crammed into this movie? Sadly, no. Harrison Ford’s performance isn’t enough to salvage “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.” It seems that the series will forever have an ugly stepchild tacked onto it. On a more personal note, I was incredibly disappointed with this movie. As I texted my brother after watching the film, “I need to cleanse my movie-watching palate; there’s a bitter aftertaste in me.” Let’s hope that the bitter aftertaste isn’t prolonged by another overblown sequel in the future.
RATING: 1 (out of 5)

Comments Posted (2)

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.
  2. Just as I feared, it seems that George Lucas is already considering a sequel to the lastest Indiana Jones film. In "Indiana Jones 5" our beloved hero may even be taking a backseat to his son Mutt, played by Shia LaBeouf. I'm cringing right now...