Friday, May 23, 2008

Indiana Jones and the Spoiler Alert!

INDIANA JONES and THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL

Okay, here's the review: It's a good movie, but not great - and it should've been great. Still worth checking out, though - for sure.

Now, onto the details...

*******SPOILER ALERT!!!********
Do not read the text below unless you have already seen the film!
DOUG! THIS MEANS YOU!
*******************

Indiana Jones versus the space monsters who have been laying around in wait for thousands of years for the missing skull of their brethren to be returned so they could all merge into one alien, destroy communism, and finally fly their old skool saucer-style spaceship back home? What?!?!

That's basically what I saw in the theater yesterday. That and some seemingly pointless computer-generated prairie dogs.

Lets start at the beginning:

So first, Indy (Harrison Ford) and his old pal, Mac (Ray Winstone), are kidnapped and used by the evil K.G.B. (and Cate Blanchette's sinister Irina Spalko) to find a particular, highly magnetic crate in a warehouse in Area 51 in New Mexico (which is apparently what we were seeing at the very end of Raiders back in 1981 - a great turn-around by screenwriter David Koepp). But, just as the evil dudes are about to open the contents of the super mysterious crate, Indy is able to escape, despite being double-crossed by his dear buddy, Mac.

He is thrown into a classic Indiana Jones fist-brawl with a typical faceless henchman until they tumble onto some secret rocket project, which is far-too-easily activated by smashing the control panel, sending our hero and his opponent shooting out of a cave into the vast Nevada desert at super-sonic speeds. When he gets his wits about him again, Indy heads to a nearby suburban neighborhood, only to find that its a designated site for nuclear weapons testing. "T-minus: one-minute and counting..." Indy hides himself in a lead-lined refrigerator shell and is sent hurling into the sky, landing somewhere safe just in time to crawl out and watch a smoldering mushroom cloud climb high into the sky.

This was the best part of the movie.

After this, Indy gets fired from his job as a professor of archeology when the feds smear his name as a commie-pinko threat to America (due to his ties with Mac), meets up with and angst-ridden Wild One-Brando-wannabe kid named Mutt Williams (Shia LaBeouf), and engages in a treasure hunt with the kid, complete with mysterious riddles, MacGuffins and C.G. monkeys! It seems that the K.G.B. is seeking to possess the power of the Crystal Skull - an elongated, deformed skull made of a mysterious crystal found in the jungles of the Amazon, that remotley (and perhaps psychically) amplifies under-developed portions of the human brain, allowing the possessor to control vast legions of humans, thus granting the K.G.B the power to take over the world. (Now THAT'S a Red Scare!) Of course, Indy saves the day, but not before coming into the knowledge that this kid, Mutt, is his own son with long-lost love interest, Marion Ravenwood Williams (Karen Allen).

In short, I enjoyed scenes like the swashbuckling between Mutt and Spalko (minus the super-saturation of obvious C.G. effects), the quicksand, the motorcycle chase, and many of the very clever dialogue scenes (which were very reminiscent of the earlier films). Ford, although a bit flabbier and slower than the Indy we remember, still fills out the fedora like no one else could, but the producers allowed his age to be part of the story with grace and civility, and still engaged Indy in his signature fist-fights and cave-crawls as though a day hadn't passed since he rode off into the sunset in 1989's "The Last Crusade".

But what I did NOT like - or, I guess I could say, the thing that still hasn't gelled for me - was the overt "ALIEN" explanation for everything. This is what the Greeks defined as a "Deus Ex Machina" - or a divine intervention ending. It's a cheap and easy way out of a story. It allows the screenwriter to make up a huge, crazy, complicated story, and wrap it all up in the end by saying "The gods did it!"... or, in this case, the aliens.

Now, I know, Spielberg is into that stuff - and maybe he's been spending a bit too much time with his good buddy, Tom Cruise - and even Lucas is a space-nerd with that whole Star Wars thing - but just about every appearance of aliens in Spielberg films has been better than this one. The aliens were all C.G., they looked like all the other aliens we've seen a million times, and, when Irina Spalko allows herself to be taken in by the promise of "the great gift" of the aliens (much in the spirit of Belloq with the Ark, and Donovan with the holy grail from the previous films), she very quickly bursts into flames and is incinerated, without any of the brilliant effects-wizardry of yesteryear, without any poetic irony and without anyone in the audience giving a damn.

Then, Indy and company escape out of the cave and watch the entire area being up-heaved by a long-buried flying saucer, which then just flies away. The end.

Really? That's it? It's just aliens? The end? Ouch!

Come on, Spielberg! And for GOD'S SAKES, LUCAS! Get your acts together!

For everything they did right, I give them credit, but that stuff is expected of them! This ending was really sub-par for these masters of the genre. We're still waiting for the Spielberg OR Lucas film that re-solidifies either of them as the Kings of the Silver Screen. But even with this mighty outing - as fun a movie as it is - I'm very sad to say, perhaps their hay-day has passed.

That said, Indiana Jones ad The Kingdom of The Crystal Skull is still incredibly entertaining when compared to any other film coming out this summer - just as much fun as Iron Man. Even with all my complaints, it's still a "CAN'T MISS" movie!

1 comment:

Schwartzilla said...

Bring on Dark Knight. Hell, even Tropic Thunder looks like it will be fun. Indy had promise but there were too many parts that were giant disappointments - most of all the script.

Good thing Rambo IV comes out on DVD this week. Now that is an adventure in the jungle, and it was much more enjoyable to watch that character come back and kick ass 20 years later than it was in Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull.