Saturday, May 24, 2008

Movie Review: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

If only we could tell you the adventure had returned, if we could say this was as good as any of the previous Indiana Jones - even Temple of Doom - we would relish the words.

But it is not to be.

Indiana Jones, we are sad to report, did not attend the words of Peter Pan. Dr. Jones has finally grown up. Oh, they tried to hide it. They hit him, dropped him, and knocked him about more than ever. But, even though he always got back up, there was something missing. Certainly no one could survive the punishment Indy endures in the original movies, but we were able to suspend our disbelief and enjoy the absurdity of it all. Here... it's just too much. Indy is an old man, though he continues to shrug off blows and atomic explosions like a superhero in his twenties.

The energy was no longer there, and we weren't there with him. There was a sense that the movie was trudging from scene to scene: the traps and enemies never seemed all that dangerous, no matter how many bullets and poison darts conveniently missed him.

The villains were too incompetent to prove much of a threat. We spent most of the movie pitying them. It's just harder to hate Russians than Nazis, and these communists never stood a chance.

No matter how hard they tried, the filmmakers couldn't capture the spirit of the first three. So they made do with digital imagery, generating backgrounds and prairie dogs alike. What remained was more of a cartoon than an old serialized adventure. Think The Mummy Returns for a reference.

Setting aside the overall feel, the movie was mixed. The actors did a fine enough job, though the story was lacking. More specifically, it was lacking logic and coherence: there were, however, several great gags and moments. But there was nothing more, nothing unifying or pulling it all together.

In concept, the movie was crafted after the pulp serials of the 1950's. Though they didn't abandon ancient civilizations and artifacts, the whole thing was more science fiction than fantasy. While the execution was lacking, we appreciate that they branched out in a new direction. Perhaps if they make another movie, Indy will battle a crime syndicate or something.

In some ways, the worst decision made may have been to craft this as an "Indiana Jones" movie: the character of Mutt Williams held more interest overall. If Lucas and Spielberg want to make future films chronicling the adventures of Indy's son, we may look back on Crystal Skull in a fonder light.

But it can't live up to its own legacy any more than it can escape such comparisons. On a scale from one to five stars, where five stars would equal any of the original films, we'll be kind and hand this three. You could do worse this summer, no doubt, but, given the choice, go out and see Speed Racer instead: it's an underrated gem than needs your love and support. Indy, on the other hand, will do fine without your money. Besides, you've seen this CG before.

No comments: