CAN: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL
Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Harrison Ford, Shia LaBeouf.
PLOT: Teacher, daredevil archeologist, lover, fighter and all around cool cat Indiana Jones (Ford) is pulled into yet another death defying adventure when his "The Wild One" wannabe son (LaBeouf) shows up at his doorstep seeking his help with mysterious drawings (what other kind would they be). Dust off the fedora and crack that whip, it's Indy time!
CRITIQUE: I LOVE the Indiana Jones franchise. Actually, I worship RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK and TEMPLE OF DOOM and only dig LAST CRUSADE. So it was with fanboy jitters that I entered the Cannes Palais to see an early screening of Doctor Jones' latest adventure. Granted, the trailers didn't bowl me over and people who had seen the film already told me it was a let down. But none of that negative joo-joo managed to tarnish my fanboy enthusiasm. That's until I saw the film.
Admitally, chills ran up my spine when the old school Paramount logo graced the screen and John Williams familiar and dare I say GENIUS score emerged. I was wiggling in my seat like a kid on too much Ritalin. I just couldn't believe that I was seeing a new Indy adventure on the big screen. Throughout the eye popping opening, stunt heavy, action bonanza of a scene (notice the Ark of the Covenant in a cameo), I was so into it! The nostalgia factor kicked in hardcore and then some! I mean here was Dr. Jones, doing what he does best; escaping bad guys with his wits and brawn, even as an old man! I bought it!
Alas once, the story kicked into high gear, the bad news began. The initial premise (Crystal skull and all) was fairly pedestrian, specially for an Indy film. I'd now KILL to read Frank Darabont's script (You know the one Spielberg said was the best thing he ever read but that Lucas rejected? Yeah that one). Indy is better than damn "been there to death" aliens! Come on! Not to mention that it negates the approach all of the other Indy films had as to their mysteries thus far (supernatural - spiritual). But hey, I tried to let it go. The action was a hoot, all of the known Indy conventions were thankfully at play (the map that arises when Indy travels, the sense of humor, the awe inspiring locations) and the endearing characters kept me in the game (congrats LaBeouf, you aced it).
I got even happier when actress extraordinaire Cate Banchett showed up as a sexy Russian bad girl (what a groovy performance - love that dame) and Marion Ravenwood finally returned to the role that made her famous. It was such a hoot to see the latter again and witnessing her and Ford (who was on and off as to the role - felt more like Harrison than Indy) bounce off each other was a pure delight. In fact, I think Karen Allen the woman (who aged mucho gracefully if I may add) was also elated to be in the movie. It's the only way I could explain the 24/7 smiles she had on her face, even when acting out the "you should be scared" scenes. The girl was happy!
At the same time though, something was nagging at me, I couldn't put my finger on it until it clicked; this felt like a George Lucas film - not a Steven Spielberg film. If you thought Last Crusade wasn't grounded when compared to the first two entries in the franchise, get ready for a shock; cause CGI heavy Crystal Skull (a la Lucas... let it go bro... the last scene of Raiders had more impact than all the CG found here) was the most OVER THE TOP of them all. It made Last Crusade look like Raiders! One angle I always loved about the Indiana Jones films was that yes, they're fiction and yes the Fedora abuser gets away from some pretty out there jams, but I always believed in them and him. Here, lets face it, Ford is much older, but I could've lived with that if that was the only problem, what took it to the grave was that the circumstances and "amusement park ride like" actions scenes were so OUT THERE, that I never felt an ounce of tension or anxiety as to our heroes' safety.
It sure didn't help matters that nobody ever looked frightened or concerned about anything. I don't know about you, but if I got peeved Russians with automatic weapons on my tail, I'd get a little tense in my jockeys, not these champs, they didn't even blink. And what was up with all the kiddy winks slapped in there? Cutesy groundhogs popping up left and right? Shia LaBeouf playing Tarzan with a pack of vine swinging CGI monkey (easily the most outlandish bit of them all, urg, I almost hurled on my lap). How did that happen?. Maybe in a different movie that would've played well (like The Lion King or something), but not in an Indiana Jones film, it was too much! COME ON!
So as the credits rolled this is how I felt; it sounded like Indiana Jones and sometimes it felt like Indiana Jones but on a whole it wasn't really Indiana Jones. The action was for the most part fun, the locations and set designs striking and the "comic banter" randomly.. well... comical. But the edge, the credibility in the characters, the energy and the freshness of the franchise was replaced by more money on CG, an added layer of slapstick and less soul. Now I won't lie, I still got solid kicks out of it, I even wowed a couple of times (that waterfall bit owned) and I will see it again one day with a fresh eye, but this won't be an Indy adventure that will stay with me like Raiders, Temple of Doom and even Last Crusade have for all those years. It's McIndiana with a side order of Jones fires, not Indiana Jones. Back to Raiders I go!
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