Monday, May 26, 2008

Indiana Jones Kingdom of the Crystal Skull review

With a crazy box office opening of $311.1 million worldwide and $126 domestically over the four-day Memorial Day weekend Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull has taken the top spot from Iron Man as biggest summer movie of 2008, and I think most people would agree, intends to keep the title. And as expected I was one of the lucky masses who saw the film this weekend. Here are just a few of my thoughts on the movie.

First and foremost, overall I thought the film was good. solid. Nothing mind blowingly great and I don't think it lived up to the hopes of many of us, but it definitely lived up to my expectations, and that's not a bad thing. Somehow I feel bad saying it but the fact of the matter is, this movie could have been total crap, and the fact that they didn't completely fuck it up is impressive in itself with all the pressure and over the top fan expectations. Now I get why some people, like my friend Devon, didn't like it, there are some elements that haven't been seen before in an Indiana Jones film, and there's something about the pacing I think that makes it feel a bit more forced than the previous films, but for me those were minor and ultimately didn't detract from my general enjoyment of the movie.

Even if you read my Indiana Jones spoilerish post about the plot synopsis, you're still missing a few big elements of the story. I don't want to ruin anything here, but I will say this movie really goes into territory that is beyond the realm of obvious realism. For me that was fine though. Indiana Jones has always been a kind of larger than life comic book character; he's a traditional a pulp science hero from the 50s like Doc Savage or something only with big doses of religious mysticism thrown in, but strictly speaking he's never had a lot of science fiction. This film changes that trend. Some people, for really probably silly reasons find it easier to believe religious 'myths' than scifi ones; I fortunately do not. So my advice is to go into this film with an open mind; and just chill out a bit.

Enough excuses and reasoning. The film was solid in my books. I liked the action sequences a lot, and thought the actors all did a pretty decent job, including Shia LaBeouf. There are a few new classic Indy moments, and the relationships are believable, perhaps because the characters actually reference older events. There is a sense of history here, if you'll excuse the pun. While the Russians never really felt like as imposing a threat as the Nazis did, I enjoyed seeing the back and forth action between them that are a hallmark of the series now.

In terms of plotting there didn't seem to be quite as much mystery in this film, but its more of a character piece I suppose. I guess I was hoping for a bit more though. That said, I thought they did a great job on all of the practical elements of making the film work. Meaning the sets, the staging, the CG, music, and costumes, everything in those departments was absolutely flawless. It definitely looked like an Indiana Jones film, and I appreciated that.

The most important thing though is that this film still had the heart to it. And it still made me feel good. No, it wasn't the best Indy film, but it managed fine, and I have to smile to see Indy work his way into and out of all the crazy predicaments he's famous for. I'm glad I saw it, and even more glad it didn't suck.

George Lucas has said that he has an idea for an Indiana Jones 5 where Shia would effectively take over the franchise from Harrison Ford, and although I'm sure some would call it sacrilege, I would actually be in favor of something like that. The world of Dr. Jones is solid and likable. This is a series that should be evolved and continue. I liked Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, but I don't feel another 'wow' movie coming from this series unless something different happens. I guess we'll just have to wait and see if and what develops. For now though this film is a solid entry into the Indy mythology, and that's a pretty good thing on its own.

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