Thursday, May 22, 2008

Kingdom of the Crystal Sequel

I just got back from seeing Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and I feel… satisfied. I am satisfied in the knowledge that I was right. Crystal Skull was good. It was not great, but it was a good movie and I had fun. Also, because it was a midnight showing and we were let in two hours before the movie started, some people brought beach balls and my friend Robert stabbed one with a four inch knife. Little did we both know it would be so foreshadowing.

I did not have high hopes for the movie and it did not let me down at all. The subplot of the artifact and the chase for it were far fetched and implausible, but the real story was the characters and their relationships. We get a lot of information in the beginning from what Indy was doing during the war to what happened to older characters. Instead of fighting Nazis in the Great War, now Indy is battling Commies in the Cold War. And to really believe it’s the Fifties, in the first twenty minutes we get Elvis, coupes and Shia LeBeouf, looking like Brando from The Wild One, as Mutt Ravenwood. A name as ridiculous to type as it is to say. The best part of the film, like Last Crusade, is the interaction between Indy and Mutt and the movie moves swiftly to give us the two of them adventuring together through South America to find alien artifacts before the Russians do. Once the movie reintroduces Karen Allen as Marion Ravenwood, it does not stop to take a breath until the finale.

I enjoyed the movie for the all the nods to other Lucas/Spielberg movies, from the obvious Close Encounter nods to the not so obvious like Indy hiding in a refrigerator. There were the requisite Indy moments with snakes and fedoras. There were great Harrison moments like his back and forth with Marion, echoing Raiders and Empire, and saying, “I’ve got a bad feeling about this.” Cate Blanchett was excellent in her role as a KGB spy, as was the extended Jones family, Allen and LeBeouf. And I even liked how Spielberg somewhat subtly implies that the Red Scare might be the same as our current political climate. It was a fun movie and I had a great time watching it.

But, it was not without flaws. Besides the Spielberg Revisionist History 101 lesson, I was disheartened with some of the action sequences. Especially after Spielberg’s insistence they would shoot on film and do everything as practical as possible. As it turns out, not even the men behind Star Wars and Jurassic Park can do everything. The simple sequences are old school absolutely, but the more exciting sequence is very badly green screened and becomes a letdown. Once Shia and Cate pick up swords, it swiftly becomes a CGI-a-thon. For being over two hours, it seems very short, even as I desperately had to go to the bathroom at the end, when water is rushing through the temple. Ray Winstone’s double crossing friend and even the presence of the FBI agents at the beginning feel like something that could’ve been dropped from the final draft. Also, story wise, Indy and Mutt just seem to click to well together for a father and son who didn’t even know the other existed. And when Mutt remembers he has a grudge, it rings false because you can see the sheer joy and affection in his eyes both as a character and an actor.

I enjoyed the movie, but it was certainly not the best of the franchise. While I was not so quickly deflated like a beach ball, I was bummed that I had waited almost twenty years for a movie that was not so awesome. Even with Phantom Menace, I knew Vader would grow up and fight Ewan McGregor. No such luck here, unless Shia becomes Sith Lord, Darth French Beef. If he is being primed to take over as the next Indy, then forgetting his other work and going off this film alone, I would look forward to watching it. He and Harrision are the best part of the film and if they make another one with the two of them on another adventure, I bet it will be better than this. Let me know what you think out there, as I’m sure we’ll all go see it this weekend.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is now playing everywhere. Like, everywhere. Find a theater, it’s there.

No comments: