Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
Stacked in it's favour was the huge love in the audience for the Indy character and the fact that the men behind the success were returning. Stacked against was the fact that the men behind the success were returning and the turmoil over the script and the journey that it took to get made.
Then things became a little darker when word arrived that Lucas had a big hand in the story and David Koepp's script, and there was talk of the big alien storyline. Both these had me concerned that they were going to try and create a new instalment in a series that didn't need one, and that might not survive a big update in the realm of modern action cinema, filled with CGI and huge effects.
However I was determined to see this hero return and return strongly, despite the obstacles set in his way.
So once again many thanks to Edinburgh's Ocean Terminal Vue Cinema for continuing to support Filmstalker and helping out with this review. It's definitely my favourite multiplex in Edinburgh, without a doubt.
Now back to the review. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull may have a silly title, but it does deliver the original Indy action and joy, if just for a part of its two hour running time.
The story begins almost instantly as Indiana Jones is captured by Russian operatives within the US and taken to a secret government complex to find a crate that's been locked away from the rest of the world. The Russians plan to accomplish something with this crate, although what that was is beyond me as the action quickly changes to concentrate on a crystal skull which has been found by an old friend of Indy's.
Indy is recruited by a young friend of a Professor whom he went through University with and together they head off to find their missing friend and in the process become involved in the hunt for the legendary crystal skull.
It is all too easy to rip apart a big film and concentrate on the negatives and I really have tried not to, however the negatives are rather big and although the feeling of Indy is there, for me it wasn't there enough and was mixed through with scenes that felt just too big and too modern for the character.
So let me start by saying that the character of Indy did return well, and despite my fears about how Harrison Ford could return to the character he did fit into that hat perfectly once again. They have managed to capture an older Indiana Jones perfectly, however there does seem to be a lot less work that's gone into the other characters.
Mutt Williams is the strongest character next to Indy, and he's played well by Shia LaBeouf and well written for the screen, even if his secret is one of the worst kept we've seen in a long time. After Mutt though the characters are pretty flat and dull.
Cate Blanchett plays the evil character well, apart from when she says “know” she sounds more English than Russian which grated with me a little. Despite playing the character well there's not really much for her to do, a problem that all the baddies suffer from. None of them ever really seem that scary or life threatening, in fact all they seem to do is chase after the good guys and occasionally appear with guns pointed.
At no real point do you feel that Indy and his colleagues are in any real danger, and that really does lessen some of the Indy escape moments. What I found was that I was sitting watching the action play out rather than feeling part of it and being excited and wowed by the way that Indy had escaped this time.
Ray Winstone was another welcome face to the film and he was given a little more to work with than most as his character is a little deeper. Yet his progression is overly confusing and he becomes little more than a distraction in the film, not really serving a purpose other than to give Indy someone to play off of.
Then there's John Hurt who is utterly wasted playing a character who rambles nothings, dances and grins at the camera. You almost wonder why he's even there, apart from kicking off the whole crystal skull adventure.
Marion Ravenwood, Karen Allen, also returns, that's the first Indy love interest who makes a welcome return, and she's good. There is one scene where she's packing the same fire and bite from the original film and her and Indy fire off each other in a scene that captures their relationship once again. Yet that's about it and she's flattened off all too quickly just like the other characters.
Although Marcus has been replaced by the new Charles Stanforth character played by Jim Broadbent, he's still in the film in various small nods to the character once played by Denholm Elliott. There's also a mention of Sean Connery as Indy's father, although there is a little question about why he's passed and Indy is getting older since they both drank from the Holy Grail to receive immortality. That aside these little moments do add to many of the classic Indy moments in the film.
Yet for all those classic moments there are some big non-Indy moments - what is it with all the animals in the film? At times I was wondering if I was watching Caddyshack, The Mummy, Tarzan or some National Geographic show. I couldn't understand what these were about and didn't fit with the “I hate ...” moments we've seen in previous films.
Oh I have to specifically pick out the over the top Tarzan scene with LaBeouf. If this is the sign of things to come if the Indy series was to continue, I'm definitely avoiding them. Daft, too much CGI, and completely at odds with the rest of the film.
The real issue for me though were the huge set pieces, scenes which I felt were just too big for Indy and his adventures. Not too surprisingly, as the Star Wars films would confirm, too much CGI and too big.
The CGI does play a big part in the film and makes up two of the biggest scenes, one seeing Indy escape ground zero of a nuclear bomb detonation in the most insane way, and then stand infeasibly close to the explosion itself. The other is the ending which dwarves Indy and feels more like your average action/adventure film rather than an Indy movie, it feels more like the end of an X-Files film than anything else.
One other thing that the ending does is rapidly tie up loose ends from the series and pave the way for LaBeouf to take over the helm. It does give you a good feeling and capture a little of the original Indy feeling, as does the opening, however it does feel a little too neat and quite a big set-up for more.
Yes I was disappointed, it didn't really match the original Indiana Jones films, however within those one hundred and twenty two minutes there are probably about sixty to seventy minutes of Indy doing his thing, and doing it well.
My criticisms wouldn't be with Indy or Ford, but with the odd feeling story which doesn't seem to fit with his character, the over the top CGI sequences, and the treatment of the other characters in the film, or rather mistreatment.
It isn't as awful as some people have said, but then neither is it as good as others are claiming. Action/adventure it is, but it falls short of the original Indiana Jones.