Review of “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” (2008) PG-13 124min
May 23rd, 2008 by Maxim · 4 Comments · 6,540 Views
19 years after “The Last Crusade”, Indiana Jones is back. So excited to see the favorite character of my childhood.
The plot: 1959. Indiana Jones is kidnapped by KGB agents to help them find the Crystal Skull, whose powers they plan to use to create a mind-controlling ultimate weapon. The expedition is sent to South America.
Part-time professor of archeology and part-time CIA operative (whoa?), Indiana Jones is now 20 years older. At the same time he’s much stronger and much more indestructible then before. Throughout the movie, he survives not one, not two, but three drops from the waterfall and even… get this!.. the nuclear explosion (doctor Jones called it “Nukelar” – he can speak ancient Mayan language, but he can’t say a simple word in English properly).
Pretty much the same formula for the movie: a [friend/relative] is kidnapped, and doctor Jones has to save him by helping the enemy amidst the [insert the war name here] war to recover [insert the artifact here]. He will have to ride a [horse/motorcycle/etc], chase/be chased by [insert enemy here], find the entrance to [chamber/tomb] and decode a riddle to dodge the traps. In the dark corridor inside [chamber/tomb] there will be skeletons/snakes/bugs. Once artifact is recovered, Indiana has to escape out of it before [chamber/tomb] collapses on him. Then the artifacts changes hands several times until finally it is [select one: returned to rightful owners/placed in the museum/placed in the warehouse]. Except in this movie there weren’t enough traps.
The good: Shia LaBeouf steals every scene – he’s great in action movies and as a comic relief. Cate Blanchett as KGB psycho-weapon specialist Irina Spalko was a lot of fun to watch – she makes a great female military villain; she mastered three short phrases in Russian. Ray Winstone was great as a CIA/KGB double agent. John Hurt had a strong and charismatic presence as professor Oxley.
Couple of moderately-exciting chases spoiled by too-obvious green-screen (so much for Spilberg’s love for real stunts). Lots of artifacts from earlier Indiana Jones movies, like portraits of dad and Marcus in the University, or the Ark in the warehouse.
Amazing cinematography by Janusz Kaminski, who seems to be Spielberg’s camera man of choice since Jurassic Park days. That also may explain why so many sequences in the movie felt like the theme park ride – old habits die hard. Stunts look pretty good too. How much of them were CGI is hard to say.
The bad: Silly. The story seems to be stitched up from different ideas - this is the worst Indiana Jones movie story-wise. I blame George Lucas – he bollocksed up the last three Star Wars movies and now another beloved character. No wonder Harrison Ford didn’t want to have anything to do with sequel for the past 19 years. He feels really tired in the movie and seems to not want to be in it. At the same time Indiana Jones is completely indestructible and much stronger then before. He still wears the same greasy shirt, pants and hat and still as skillful with the whip as before. A lot of references to McCarthyism and the Cold War in the movie. Unfortunately it feels like the movie was made during the Cold War – so stereotypical and cartoonish the characters are, both Americans and especially Russians. The Russians are practically Nazis from the “Crusades” in Soviet uniforms. They threaten murder and torture left, right and center, their machinery and tools are crude, they can’t shoot straight, they all have square jaws, and they drive around all over South America with full ammunition, with guns and trucks – how did that happen? CGI and green-screen are over-used, and that too helps to reduce the credibility of the events on the screen. Lots of continuity problems, such as broken nose got healed, wet clothes became dry etc. Irina can apparently read people’s minds, but not Jones’s: “Hm, your mind is hard to read, Mr. Jones“, she says.
A lot of artifacts from Spielberg’s earlier movies. At times it feels like the ride in the theme park like Universal, in particular when Indiana Jones and a big Russian solider are ejected from the warehouse on a jet-powered chair or something like that, or the ride down the Amazon on a Russian amphibian car. Irina Spalko tried to read Indiana’s mind like E.T.: “Your mind is hard to read, Mr. Jones”. Such a pathetic scene.
The ending was a rip-off from “X-files: the movie”. Is it possible that Spielberg and Lucas ran out of ideas?
Lack of chemistry between Indiana Jones and Marion Ravenwood is off-putting. She still wears same clothes as in the last movie 20 years ago.
The summary: entertaining, but the story is not at all credible. It still has some good energy, and you’ll be humming the theme music for some time after the show.
Dr. Jones: “Damn, I thought that was closer!”
Irina: “Wiz zis weapon… we will change you, Mr. Jones. We will turn you into us! Zis is what comrad Stalin wanted” .
The cast: Indiana Jones – Harrison Ford | Marion Ravenwood – Karen Allen | Mutt Williams – Shia Labeouf | Irina Spalko – Cate Blanchett | ‘Mac’ George McHale – Ray Winstone | Professor Oxley – John Hurt
The credits: Director – Steven Spielberg | Writers (Screenplay) – David Koepp | Writers (Characters) – George Lucas, David Kaufman | Writers (Story) – George Lucas, Jeff Nathanson | Producers – Kathleen Kennedy, George Lucas, Frank Marshall, Denis L. Stewart | Original Music – John Williams | Cimenatography – Janusz Kaminski (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Munich, War of the Worlds, The Terminal, Catch Me If You Can, Minority Report, Saving Private Ryan, Jurassic Park etc.)
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