While housesitting over Thanksgiving weekend, Mek and I watched some of the Epix Channel’s “Feast of Fury” marathon. (Sidenote: I NEED this channel.) One of the movies that popped up? Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. And while I really want to watch all four movies in a row sometime and do a complete review of the series as a whole, I naturally couldn’t help but jot down some notes. (Also, this one has SPOILERS. Sorry. Normally, I separate them, but the majority of what I wanted to talk about is spoilerific, and I just didn’t feel like bothering. Anyway, I figure 98% of America has seen the movie, so I don’t feel too bad. Still, just another warning: there are SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS.
1.) Here’s the thing: I kind of like this movie. I do. I mean, it’s full of action, and it’s cheesy, and it’s enjoyable and fun, and I must say that while I experienced many emotions during this film (amusement, irritation, exasperation, utter incredulity) I can’t ever say that I was bored. It’s a popcorn film if I ever saw one, and there are worse ways to spend two hours.
2.) That being said . . . the first time I saw Indiana climb into that fridge, get his ass blasted across the valley by a NUCLEAR WEAPON, and then just climb out, all, Dude . . . that was close . . . I couldn’t believe my freaking eyes. I literally think my jaw dropped. That may very well have been the most ridiculous thing I have ever seen on film. And don’t forget, people, I’ve seen Broken Arrow.
Yeah, that’s me pimping out my own reviews. Ha!
3.) One of the things I do like about this film is the acting. Harrison Ford, who I’ve personally liked considerably less as the years have gone by (doesn’t he just seem crankier and more disagreeable every time you see him on TV) steps right back into Indiana’s shoes like he had never bothered to take them off. I mean, the plot’s lame, and I have all kinds of problems with the CGI, and the ending, and pretty much everything else, but for all of that, I love watching Indiana Jones run around doing Indiana Jones-like things. I especially like the quicksand-esque scene. That was pretty funny.
But Mr. Ford isn’t the only awesome actor here. Major props to everyone else too. Karen Allen’s fun, and Cate Blanchett is great as an over-the-top, Russian villain. I remember after this first came out, some people were bitching about her being too cartoony, and I’m like, Really? That’s what you’re choosing to bitch about? Seriously, she’s supposed to be over-the-top. I thought she rocked the role of evil Irina.
I also like Shia LaBeouf quite a bit too. Here’s the funny thing about Shia: I first saw him in Charlie’s Angels 2, where he was the nerdy, orphaned kid with the white boy fro. And then I saw him in Constantine, where he was the nerdy, sidekick who was generally much more likeable than Keanu Reeves. I enjoyed him as nerdy sidekick, was interested in seeing more of him . . . and then suddenly he became, like, teen dream or something, and I couldn’t figure it out. Like, really? Shia LaBeouf? Shia LaBeouf is suddenly oh-so-sexy? This, of course, made him far less appealing to me, so after he was in that shitty looking Rear Window knock-off, I found out that he was going to be in Indy 4, and I’m pretty sure I groaned out loud.
But I have to remind myself that sometimes, very, very occasionally, I’m wrong. Shia’s pretty enjoyable in this movie, teen sensation or otherwise. I buy into his whole greaser thing, and I love all the comb action. Also, he does good, sad puppy eyes. He’s fun here as Mutt . . . although, Mutt? Really? Come on, now. I’m sure everyone figured out that he was Indy’s son within the first few minutes. No need to ram it down the audience’s throat.
Still. Even with a better appreciation of Shia LaBeouf . . . that doesn’t mean I’m quite ready to see him as Yorrick in any adaptation of Y: The Last Man. Bah.
4.) Whoever decided that the CGI gophers were a good idea can go straight to Hell. Honestly.
5.) Shia swings in the trees with the monkeys! That’s . . . not quite as ridiculous as the fridge, but it’s pretty bad.
6.) About that fridge . . . on the positive side, I think Spielberg did a good job in the film really getting the feel of the era, the greasers, the diner, the car race, the Red Scare, all that. Mek posited the idea that maybe that’s what the stupid nuclear test scene was supposed to do, other than providing a cheap, ludicrous thrill; it was supposed to add to the general 1950’s vibe. And, admittedly, it does do this . . . but at what cost, Spielberg? At what cost?
7.) We haven’t talked about the aliens yet.
Er, no. No, they’re aliens. I’m sorry, but if you didn’t want the stigma of introducing ALIENS to your fucking Indiana Jones series, then you probably shouldn’t have made them look like aliens, complete with a godamned flying saucer.
It’s tricky, mixing genres. I’m not saying you can’t have a story where both God and aliens are real, but it’s hard to accept if it’s not done right. Bringing in aliens to a film series that’s never even touched on the concept of extraterrestrial life, so far as I recall . . . well, you can do it, but if it’s not freaking perfect, then you deserve your audience’s contempt. And, boy, this movie is a far fucking cry from perfect.
8.) My biggest problem with the film, though, isn’t actually the aliens, or the magical refrigerator, or the monkeys, or even those awful, little CGI gophers. No, what I really hate is the end of the movie. No, not the wedding part, but the resolution of the big crisis.
Here’s how it goes: Irina gets to the hidden alien temple, thanks to . . . triple? quadruple? . . . agent Mac, and she gets to return the crystal skull and ask for her one wish, which, of course, is knowledge. She wants to know all—she embraces that whole “knowledge is power” philosophy. Unfortunately for her, the moral of this movie is not knowledge is power but be careful what you wish for, and the vast alien knowledge pretty much explodes her brain (and the rest of her body). This, of course, makes the temple collapse and releases the flying saucer and all that good stuff. The bad guys get killed, and the good guys survive. Happy days for everyone. Well, not the bad guys.
Here’s the thing: letting the bad guys get themselves killed is almost a theme in the Indiana Jones films, especially in Raiders of the Lost Ark with the ark of the covenant. (And yes, I had some problems with that resolution too; I mean, seriously, people, a literal deus ex machina? Really?) That being said, the good guys felt even more inconsequential in this film than ever before. If they hadn’t been there, nothing would have been different. Irina would have gotten herself (and all of her people) killed, and the world—well, the world would have been exactly the same. Nothing was really averted, nothing saved. In a way, the whole film is pretty much pointless. I mean, I enjoyed some of the chase scenes, and the banter’s always fun to watch, but otherwise? What even happens?
9.) In fact, I might as well watch the last twenty minutes of The Mummy again, because it’s almost exactly the same set-up. Observe:
There are man-eating scarabs/giant ants.
Hamunaptra/the temple in Akator collapses/gets sucked away.
The funny no-good bad guy Mac/Benny would escape, but he keeps going back for more treasure from the big treasure room. And . . .
Hero Indiana/Rick tries to save Mac/Benny for no good reason but cannot. (Also: Mac’s last little wink or whatever? That’s weird. It’s a weird scene. It doesn’t play right for me at all.)
10.) I know I mentioned this before, but seriously? The dude who thought up the gophers should be SHOT.
In conclusion: Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is a fun enough movie to watch/mock, but it’s ridiculously flawed and clearly the least of all the Indiana Jones movies. Grade-wise, it’s probably a C film, but I’d likely give it a B, since it is enjoyable enough, even if it’s not very good.
I love the character of Indiana Jones, but his stories . . . I don’t always love his stories.