June 6, 2008

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull - SPOILERS

Finally saw the new Indy movie. If I had to sum it up in one sentence, it would be the following: It was a perfectly good Indiana Jones movie that someone had slowed down to between 60% and 80% normal speed. Honestly, there's nothing wrong with it that a fan-based cut, a la The Phantom Edit, couldn't cure.

I give Ford full marks, because he's doing Indy just fine, with just enough of a nod to aging to be funny, and not so much that he's explaining his slowness or hamming for the cameras. All the 'slow bits' of the movie are between Indy's antics. Sequences go on too long (mine carts in Temple of Doom-style); jokes that are obvious are spun out explicitly to their detriment; and...there's these silences. I mean, seriously - there are whole seconds of the movie, sometimes up to fifteen in a stretch, where there's no musical score or explosions. I mean, Whisky. Tango. Foxtrot.

Shia was just annoying enough to make sense, and not too annoying (to me, at least). It was great to see Marion. The Indy/Marion reunion fight was expected, but damn, I would have preferred if she'd hit him again. I have no idea what the 'Mack' character was supposed to be - crap, I understand Denholm Elliott's gone to the Last Crusade in the sky, but surely they could have gotten John Rhys-Davies? Or maybe him plus Marion would be too much to swallow?

Wait. This is Indiana Jones. And I just swallowed that whole movie.

So, in the end, I had fun - but it sure would have been an awesome movie if it had had all the same sequences and been 25 minutes shorter.

We won't even go into the actual main plot.

Okay, okay, I will. See, the first movie made sense there was a race between Good Guys (outnumbered and plucky) and Bad Guys (goosestepping and monolithic) to find an artifact of great and obvious power. One side wants to exploit it; the other wants to preserve it. Perfect. It changes hands several times, there are hijinks, and Indy and Marion work really well together. Nice:

The second movie...ugh, let's skip that for now. Suffice it to say that Crystal Skull, as another reviewer described it, is the third-best of four IJ movies.

The third movie - great! Another artifact of great importance and purity, and this time it's a race to find it - with the Good Guys still being chased by Bad Guys. The bad guys look like they have the upper hand - but the artifact itself is more powerful than both, and since the Good Guys have purer motives, they escape unscathed and unenriched. Great!

This movie? This is confusing. There's an artifact, except that it really points the way to a bigger set of artifacts. The Spaniards took it, then Ox took it, and now it needs to go home - where? Um, sorta hard to tell. Then the Rooskies are after it - why? Because it means 'power.' But without the easily-contextualized 'vulnerability' of the Ark or the Grail - i.e. powerful symbols of light, threatened by darkness - the tension just isn't there. We have no idea what we're looking for in this movie; we just have faith that Indy'll tell us. Even Indy seems at sea, relying on mystic brainwaves and the mumblings of his mad buddy to figure out what to do next. Wait, what? This is Henry Jones Jr., damn it, while he may make it up as he goes along, he ALWAYS knows what's up with the artifacts!

And then...ugh...the ending. I had such trouble with it. Here's why. First of all, if the Crystal Skull People (CSP hereafter) had been waiting all this time for the skull to be returned, why is their first act to destructively vamoose? They spent thousands of years teaching the inhabitants, and then somehow became separate Crystal skeletons sitting on chairs? What? And when the Spaniards showed up, they let them grab one of their heads? But when the head comes back (where it was originally) suddenly they're bad-ass and incomprehensible?

Um, makes no sense whatsoever. I didn't even understand what the KGB chick was looking for. If she doesn't know how to use one skull, what good will the others do her?

Yeah. The Roswell/aliens thing would have been an awesome Indiana Jones side-joke, wink wink, but it would have been more Indy if the 'real explanation' was something both more terrestrial and more mysterious. If the CSP had been caught up in the same quest we go on in the movie, and been beaten out by the obstacles - perfect. But no, there's a big fat McGuffin which was even sillier than the end of Fight the Future - and that movie won no prizes for making any sense at all, even in its own milieu.

Ah well.

Posted by jbz at June 6, 2008 2:02 AM | TrackBack

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