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7/16/08

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(Seen on 5/22/08) Originally I was very against the idea of another Indiana Jones film. (I even thought it was a bad idea 10 years ago when the rumors first started popping up.) It was way too long since the last one; Spielberg is a different filmmaker and Harrison Ford is way too old. I saw no way of them pulling it off with the same style and panache that marked the first three films. Raiders of the Lost Ark is my all time favorite action film, it's so perfect in so many ways, those action scenes will live forever as some of the greatest ever made. Temple of Doom is a very fun follow-up, much darker in many ways, but again it has incredible action scenes and furthers Indy's legend. And I thought that The Last Crusade, while the least effective of the three, was a great send off; where we get to learn about where Indy came from and he has a great adventure with his father. I didn't see where another film could fit in. But as time went on, and the great teaser trailer came out for Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, I'll admit that the kid in me was yearning to see another Indiana Jones adventure. So it was with great excitement that I went to opening night. (The first big premiere I'd been to since the last Lord of the Rings.)

One of the things that worried me when I initially heard about the making of this film, was that I thought they'd try to ignore that Harrison Ford is nearly 20 years older. But they make it part of the film, with a couple of good jokes about Indy's age. I especially liked that they moved the action into the 50's, no longer is Indy fighting the Nazis, now he's got the Russian communists, which proves to be almost as great a set of villains. They were able to incorporate nuclear testing, the red scare, hot rods and make Indy's sidekick a motorcycle-riding greaser.

That was another thing I was skeptical about, Shia LaBeouf. I really like him, I think he's one of the most charismatic young actors around, but I thought he'd seem too anachronistic, that he wouldn't be able to play the era. But he did a great job fitting in, I think Lucas and his American Graffiti knowledge of the era, helped him find his character Mutt. It's fairly obvious who he is, and I'm glad they didn't drag out the surprise for too long.

I dug the other characters as well. It was cool to have Karen Allen back as Marion Ravenwood, always Indy's best girl. Ray Winstone was a lot of fun as Mac, the flip-flopping sidekick, who you're never quite sure which side he's on. John Hurt does the nutty- professor thing to perfection as Ox, who's spent too much time around the crystal skull, and has had his brain fried in the process. Best of all the new characters was Cate Blanchet, as Dr. Irina Spalko, equally evil and sexy, a completely memorable villain. She was so good, I'd consider the best of the series since Raiders' Colonel Dietrich. Having a great villain is paramount to these turn-your-brain off adventures, there has to be someone truly evil to root against.

There were a couple of really great action sequences; I particularly liked the truck chase through the jungle, while nowhere near as classic as the chase is in Raiders, it reminded me of it. Only one thing bothered me while watching it, the use of CGI. It was very apparent in a couple of instances and that took me out of the scene. But I won't completely denounce their use of it in the film, it's simply another tool; one that's pretty unavoidable these days; and the gruesomely-awesome scene with the giant-killer-ants,my favorite moment in the film, couldn't have been done without it.


I walked out of the theater totally satisfied with this new Indy adventure, and only one scene bugged me while watching the film. Which was Mutt swinging through the trees with a bunch of digital monkeys, too ridiculous, even for an Indiana Jones film. It wasn't till later, when I got a chance to reflect on the film, that more things started not to work for me. The entire end of the film, seems way too out there, and didn't seem the right fit for a series ground in earthly matters. Though I must admit, it fits nicely into Spielberg's filmography.

Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is the worst of the four Indy films, but that doesn't mean it's a bad film. There are a few great scenes, a couple that fall flat, but ultimately I was satisfied with this new adventure. Most importantly, it felt like an Indiana Jones movie; the shooting style, the way the action was staged, the dialog, the music, it all felt at home in the universe that Spielberg and Lucas have created over the last three decades. They wrapped up the series nicely, but also left it open for more. If they found the right script, and didn't wait too much longer, I wouldn't mind taking another trip with Indiana Jones. - Grade: B


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