All four INDY movies in five days? Not too shabby. My looks at any given series usually take a longer span of time than that. But it was good to put these in order in the course of a week, because it especially allowed me to get some perspective on the much maligned fourth film. My feeling, from seeing it once in the theater, was that it was not particularly good, but that it was no worse than TEMPLE OF DOOM. So with the aura of high expectations gone, what would an objective look at this fourth film find?

I watched INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL (2008) on 6.6.12. It was my second viewing of the film, and my first since its opening weekend in theaters.

I won’t hold out. No reason to be suspenseful here. RAIDERS and CRUSADE are in a top tier, not just within this series, but as action films. TEMPLE is a poor movie, and an unfortunate detour. CRYSTAL SKULL is somewhere in the middle. Watchable, entertaining, some great moments. But it is ultimately derailed by several poorly considered choices.

The choice to have this be Indy Meets Aliens is not my problem with this film. Spielberg has certainly done better work within the realm of the extra-terrestrial being, but CRYSTAL SKULL is not hurt too poorly by the choice. It is not coming out of nowhere, the film sets this whole premise up from the opening scene at Area 51. Furthermore, aliens are not an unbelievable turn of events for a series which has featured death by Arc of the Covenant, has shown a heart removed from a body while the victim survives, and featured a centuries old knight kept alive by drinking from the Holy Grail.

Aliens aren’t so far of a stretch, right? So let us set that aside.

What hurt this movie were decisions made before the cameras started rolling. The reason TEMPLE OF DOOM failed for me, in part, was because the action became silly. Even if the series has always had a paranormal twist, the first and third movies are better for having Indy appear as a normal man stuck in the middle of crazy situations. TEMPLE had surviving plane crashes.

CRYSTAL SKULL ups the ante by nuking the fridge. A man crawls into a fridge as a nuclear bomb is detonated. He is thrown several miles away at a ridiculous speed. He gets up and walks out. I’m not sure how good filmmakers in Lucas and Spielberg thought that would add anything to the film.

But that’s not all! Shia LaBeouf, in getting the torch passed to him, swings from vines with monkeys and finds himself back in a car chase. That car chase is ill advised from the moment two people start sword fighting while standing on two different vehicles with a straight face. A moment of that? Sure. More than a minute of that? Disarming.

But not all is bad here. The opening Area 51 sequence is smart. The first chase with Indy and his son escaping the campus is cool. The reunion of Indy and Marion, as well as their ensuing banter, is rewarding. The grave-digging scene is cool. Really, it’s just a couple of moments which pull this film away from where we want it to go, but those couple of moments become what we remember of the film, so we walk away feeling like it was worse than it was.

Because there really are some cool moments. We get a glimpse of the Arc as a box is broken at Area 51. We see a picture of Sean Connery and learn that Senior has died. The last moment with Indy not being quite ready to give up his hat works. A rear-lit scene in a tent with the physical body of Harrison Ford not being able to fill the silhouette of Indy is both telling of a man entering his senior years and ironic in that most people see this film as that exact idea: A movie unable to fill the impressive shadow left by previous films.

The look of the movie is nice. Perhaps some CGI scenes were used where practical effects would have fit the series better, but on the whole I appreciated what Spielberg did with his camera. Unfortunately, he was handicapped by a poor script before shooting even began.

I would watch this movie over TEMPLE OF DOOM any day. CRYSTAL SKULL is not worthless. Would I have liked a better final chapter for Indy? Sure, and I suppose there is some time for that. But in the end this movie is fun, while leaving far too much potential on the table.





~ by johnlink00 on June 6, 2012.

2 Responses to “johnlink ranks INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL (2008)”

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  2. I honestly don’t see the bad in this movie – I’ve enjoyed it since the first time I saw it. With that said, the thing that hurts the movie for me is the over use of CGI. The middle scene through the forest would have been so much better as live action. CGI just takes the danger out of it. The monkeys were also a bad idea. Too much alien CGI at the end, but the cast, set pieces, score, direction, and the fact that Indy is back make this a winner for me.

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