Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
I return from the midnight premiere of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Lots of people in my crew; we couldn’t get seats together and were scattered around the theater. However, I actually ended up sitting in the middle of the last row in the back of the theatre and shared popcorn with my friend Nesia (who has an unfortunate tendency to shush me during movies).
The guy next to me was eating peanut M&Ms.
The movie was . . . entertaining. I was certainly not bored.
However, despite some moments that I felt were very genuine and well-played, I must say that it is by far the weakest of the films.
This is not because of any specific “hokey” moment (though there were several), and it isn’t because of an on-screen chemistry (far from it). Mostly, my unease comes from what the Crystal Skull is and what that is in relation to the other three films.
One of these four is not like the others.
All those in the room who did not figure out he was Indy’s son from the credit roll and/or trailer, raise your hands.
Okay, all of you with your hands up? Leave. Just get the hell out. Your retarted, and it’s making me dumber just looking at you.
Now that we have that unpleasantness out of the way, let’s just say that he works. He and Ford have some chemistry. He plays well, as a character and an actor, and his presence serves up a heaping hot dish of symmetry that I enjoyed immensely.
There is a scene in The Last Crusade where Indy and his father are riding on a motorcycle and Indy causes another guy to wreck and get thrown off. Indy makes this wonderful smirk and laughs, pleased with himself, until he catches his father’s eye. Henry Jones, Senior, is non-plussed with this, and even checks his watch – and Indy drops the grin instantly.
This scene is echoed in Crystal Skull and it works well. Mutt plays a lot of the action role, now that Indiana is like, eighty or something (though Harrison is in shape – they make a point of showing that to you).
Cate Blanchett is good as the villianess. She’s over the top, peeled out of the pages of some pulp comic book or Lovecraftian novel. I didn’t feel her as a “Great Actress” here, but it’s not that kind of role.
Karen Allen is just as brilliantly fun in this film as she was in the first one. She truly is the only woman that Indy could possibly ever be with, because she is absolutely his equal. She did not have as much screen time as I would have liked, but there were a lot of people who needed it. Again, we see a lot of echoes here – nods to the first film in scene and dialog. She and Harrison still have the chemistry, even after twenty-five years.
The absence of Sallah is keenly felt. The other “sidekick” doesn’t fill his shoes. He’s a new character, and one we don’t really learn to care about in any way. There is no “bad dates” moment with him, and he goes to his grave without us caring at all.
The last “Great Actor” in the film is John Hurt and I’m sad to say that he’s really wasted. He’s a brilliant actor, but the character he plays is koo-koo for cocoa-puffs, so there isn’t any depth to him and we never get to see anything remotely resembling the death scene from Alien.
Okay. Chemistry class is over.
First, let us never speak again of the “Tarzan” bit. Never again. It is the movie’s Jar Jar Binks, and with the blessing of the Magical Wizard in the Sky, one day, when Lucas and Spielberg do the “Director’s Cut,” they’ll remove this bit.
Next, the atomic bomb scene. Well, that scene and the bit where the FBI accuses Indy of being a communist. Okay. You know, at the beginning, when you pasted up “Nevada, 1957” on the screen? I got that the movie was taking place in Nevada and that it was 1957. You don’t have to hammer that home with a bunch of “see! It’s the 50s!” routines. Yes, I know about the Red Scare. Yes, I know about Oppenheimer and the atomic weapons ramp-up. It is enough that the bad guys are Russkies to tell me your point.
Please, cut the atomic bomb bit when you do the director’s cut, too.
Now, I’m going to talk about the big “meh” point for me, and why it is so. All the rest is forgivable or forgettable, but the Crystal Skull itself is so integral to the story that it can’t be forgiven or forgotten.
From act one, we know that this film is really about alien life. The reason we’re in Nevada (and the Warehouse, which is actually Area 51) is because of the Roswell Crash, and the commies are after the bones of the recovered alien (this is all revealed to you in the first five minutes).
And this, right here, is where the film went off the rails for me.
The big draw for the Indy films for me is that there is next to zero scientific basis for any of it. All three of the original films are about the Holy and the Profane: the Ark of the Covenant, the dark magicks of Kali and the sacred stones that keep the children from dying, and then the Holy Grail.
Mystical powers. Forces of gods and Magical Wizards.
So, to bring space men into the mix – excuse me, trans-dimensional hive-mind beings into the mix. . . well.
One of these four is not like the others.
At the end, an ancient flying saucer rises up out of the ground and leaves the earth. It is an awesome spectacle and probably cost a gajillion dollars in special effects. But, you know, it just didn’t feel as balls-clenching awesome as when the Wrath of God melted Nazi face into puddles – and that was done with claymation and time-lapse photography.
Oh, the traps and the ruins we crawl through are excellent and very clever. They even rival the first temple in Raiders for awesomeness. But again, something gets lost when you know that they were built by alien technologies.
It feels false. It feels like something George Lucas would write. (Oshit. He did.)
I’d say “go see it and make up your own mind” but if you’re reading this you likely already plan to so that’s that.
Just don’t sit next to some guy eating peanut M&Ms, because that shit stinks something nasty.