Confessions of an INDIANA JONES Virgin: Allison Watches THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL for the First Time

by     Posted 1 year, 96 days ago

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Our daily series where Allison Keene watches the Indiana Jones movies for the first time. Read her intro/explanation here, and here’s her reviews of Raiders of the Lost Ark, Temple of Doom, and The Last Crusade.)

Finally, the “real” last one (maybe?): Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.  It’s a perilous thing, rebooting a franchise as an extension, not as a clean slate, two decades after its last installment.  But I may shock a few with my critique: I didn’t hate it.  Actually, I liked it better than Temple of Doom, though not like that’s saying much on my personal scale.  Still, aside from the over-reliance on CGI and some clunky, unfunny dialogue (and having the time period shoved down our throats, something the earlier films never did aside from, y’know, the fact that there were Nazis), I thought overall the story made sense within the context of the other storylines.  Yes, even “that thing.”  Hit the jump for more.

indiana-jones-and-the-kingdom-of-the-crystal-skullSo, aliens.  Here’s the thing: they set up the alien storyline from the beginning.  They traded on newer myths (Roswell, Area 51) and had a reference to the first relic (the Lost Ark, it appears, is currently in New Mexico).  The franchise went big to start with the Ark, then tried to tone it down some with the Kali business in Temple of Doom, but when that didn’t strike the right chord they panicked and went back to Biblical artifacts with the Holy Grail.  Are there any myths bigger than that?  They’ve already invoked the power of God twice, where can else can they go with it?  Aliens.  The only answer is aliens!

That’s why the alien stuff didn’t really bother me.  It didn’t come out of nowhere (they spent the whole movie obviously setting it up — I mean, we saw ET basically within the first fifteen minutes, and I do literally mean ET), and since they’ve already done the supernatural why not the inter-dimensional?  The problem is, if you want to keep going with the franchise, where do you go from there?

indiana-jones-and-the-kingdom-of-the-crystal-skull-2Some favorites from the past like Marcus Brody, Sallah and Dad Jones didn’t return, but instead we got Oxley (John Hurt, always fantastic), a brief interlude with Jim Broadbent (wasted) and Shia LeBoeuf.  I’m not a big Shia fan (although come on, Even Stevens was a decent show), but I honestly think he did fine with the material he was given.  However, that final scene was telling — put on the hat?  Er, not quite.  It’s Harrison Ford‘s franchise, and there is not yet a proper heir to the throne, even his “son.”

There was less sex in this installment (read: no sex), which was fine really because then we didn’t have to see Mutt and Indy potentially discuss both having banged the same broad.  Cate Blanshett was ok but nothing memorable as one of our newer enemies, a Russian (or in fact, Ukrainian), as Indy announced up front (“Russians!” in case there was doubt).  There were plenty of call-backs to the earlier franchise, particularly Temple of Doom, though pretty much all of the major elements (and actors) got shout-outs (even “Mutt” is surely based on Indy naming himself after a dog — not a bad tie-in).

Bottom line: For what it was, it honestly wasn’t that terrible, but I think a fifth movie with Indy being over 70 would probably be a bit much.

shia_labeouf_indiana_jones_and_the_kingdom_of_the_crystal_skull_movie_imageSo that’s all, folks! I really enjoyed the set of movies.  I think that they were successful as an action-adventure franchise, and they certainly bear the hallmarks of both Lucas and Spielberg‘s hands (particularly the first three).  The older movies don’t age badly, but I fear Crystal Skull‘s CGI will (it already has).  The franchise could be a mess here and there, but in the end the movies were always fun.  What more can you really ask for?

Crystal Skull Roundup:

Favorite Character(s): Ox, Marion

Least Favorite Character(s): Irina

The Ravenwoods: So we got a pretty plausible back story about how Indy jilted Marion, and even an Abner reference!  Gone but not forgotten, Ab.

MPAA: This PG-13 movie was probably the tamest of all of them.

WTF? Moment: Once again the super skilled native peoples who apparently spend their lives waiting in tombs until people try to raid them were basically eliminated by a gun without resistance.  It’s just unfortunate. 

harrison-ford-indiana-jones-and-the-kingdom-of-the-crystal-skullProfessor Jones: He’s baaaaack!  His students looked a lot less engaged this time, though, but I did like the joke where the student nonchalantly asked him a question after he came off of the motorcycle.

What worked best: The Temple doors (that Indy opened by touching the skull to them) were not CGI (I don’t think?) they were kind of like a Rube Goldberg.  That was cool.

PSA: Nukes are bad.  Also, be careful when you’re around corpses.  The four films have taught us that snakes, spiders, scorpions and rats like the hide in and around them.  And sometimes things lined with lead are helpful, like fridges in a nuclear attack.

Best Death:  I’m not going to go with the big one at the end (Irina’s brain melting as she burst into flames and was teleported), but instead I’m going with the giant ants.  Because dear lord that was horrific.

Best Quotes: “I like Ike.” – Indy  “So you’re like a grave robber or something?” – Mutt

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  • JK1193

    You didn’t like Blanchett’s role?! She’s the best villain of the series!!!

    • http://www.facebook.com/WPCarter Will Carter
    • Anon

      You’re joking, right?

    • Still a fan

      …Sarcasm?

    • movienut

      you have to be kidding…

      • indy42

        save for Belloq, you could have a case for saying that Spalko is a better villain than Mola Ram (who’s great… for the 10 minutes he’s in the movie) and Walter Donovan (yeah… that guy… he was… there).

      • Guy Smiley

        But she really didn’t do a lot… I remember spoilers about her supposed powers, and then seeing the movie and wondering what the hell happened to that. It’s mentioned, but not really used.

        I loves me Cate Blanchett, but she wasn’t given much to work with in Crystal Skull.

  • Nathaniel Haywood

    Fair review. I tend to blast Crystal Skull because it doesn’t compare to Raiders or Last Crusade, but I agree that it’s more enjoyable than Temple of Doom. I could do without Shia, though. I also agree that the aliens part was a natural progression. You can’t really do Nazis anymore, and there aren’t really any biblical artifacts left to go with. Aliens matches the time period well. Speaking of time period, the forced greasers moment in the beginning was pretty funny/ridiculous. Aside from some preposterous moments – like the nuke-repellent fridge and Shia swinging on vines like Tarzan – it’s not the worst thing in the world, especially since Shia’s in it. It could’ve been Transformers 2…

    • movienut

      lol, better than ToD… what?! lmfao… what!?

  • http://thenonessentials.blogspot.com/ Sean Chandler

    Reboot? It’s just a sequel.

    They made some silly mistakes with this film. CGI is out of place in the series. They look of the film doesn’t match the previous films. Swinging with the monkeys was obviously a bad idea. And they were too overt with the aliens. The power of God appears in the other films, but God doesn’t appear and shoot lasers from his eyes. The movie could never live up to the hype and expectations. But they could have tempered some of the backlash.

    Keep in mind, it doesn’t have a bad Tomato Rating. The backlash didn’t come from critics so much as when people started to reflect back on specific things which were stupid.

    I never understood why nuking the fridge got such a bad rap. In Temple of Doom, they jump out of a plane into a life raft and don’t die. Credible escapes is not actually a signature of the series.

    • Still a fan

      Nuking the Fridge is no where near as bad as “Turning the Cranes” in Amazing Spider-Man

  • Person

    I get why people don’t like this movie, but to hate it as much as some do has always perplexed me. I’m young enough that this is the only Indy movie I was able to see in theaters, and I enjoyed the hell out of it. A second viewing dampened my enjoyment a bit, but not to the point where I outright disliked it. It’s nowhere near as good as Raiders (an untouchable film as far as I’m concerned), but it’s within arm’s length of the other two sequels and doesn’t besmirch the legacy of the franchise at all. It’s a fun adventure that wraps up the series reasonably well; I pray to God we don’t get another, and especially that we don’t get one led by Shia (who was honestly fairly tolerable here but who I could never tolerate for an entire movie).

    Good review(s) overall!

    • Jim

      Last Crusade is also far superior to this dreck. Mostly for the amazing chemistry between Connery and Ford and the great ensemble.

  • lordjim

    the worst thing about this movie besides having a stupid sidekick for younger audiences and the direction (spielberg hasn´t been this lazy since jurassic park 2) were the cgi backgrounds!cgi backgrounds just don´t belong to an indiana jones movie and they look far cheaper than the old movies, this and not temple of doom is a cheap looking b-movie.it is a real pity because cate blanchett was terrific.

    • movienut

      short round ruled. shia labouf just sucks. that’s what it comes down too…. and the movie is just stupid.

    • Guy Smiley

      Agreed about how cheap the movie looked in places. Out in the jungle, with the quicksand scene and all that. It just looked like a small set on a soundstage. It reminded me of all the scenes on the Genesis planet in Star Trek III, where it was clear they had no budget and everything looked fake.

  • Wilsonvolleyball

    Personally, it wasn’t the aliens as a story element per se that bothered me but rather the way they were presented…which is at all. I would’ve preferred if they just hinted that ancient aliens are involved and keep it mystic and mysterious (like in the trilogy) by not showing them and certainly don’t let the characters know they’re actually transdimensional beings.

    i agree that aliens are a fitting progression but it didn’t work for me because they made it to much science-fiction/fantasy and less of a mystery action adventure.

    • indy42

      They did keep it mystrical/mysterious, up until the last few minutes.. And let’s face it, the series has never been subtle and mysterious about the supernatural elements in the final bits. “Raiders” had the power of God literally kill a bunch of Nazis, and Last Crusade had a thousand-year-old knight guarding the Holy Grail.

      Seeing one UFO and a single alien isn’t that out of place.

  • GrimReaper07

    My main gripes are:

    -Over reliance on bad CGI. The original trilogy had amazing practical action scenes. The ones here look kind of fake.
    -Very artificial looking lighting
    -Aliens. We’ve had supernatural things happen in this universe before, but never quite on this scale. It seemed off.
    -Characters weren’t as good as they used to be in the first and third movies (biggest offender being the walking McGuffin Oxley. LeBeouf wasn’t that bad as I had feared)
    -A couple of admittedly ridiculous moments.

    Still, the movie is often very fun and playful, even if it’s not quite as good as the first and third movies. It’s still much better than the lazy and awful Temple of Doom.

    • Guy Smiley

      Add one more (big) gripe, one that Allison didn’t mention either: MAC.

      What the hell was with that guy? He was obnoxious from the moment he’s introduced and it was obvious he couldn’t be trusted. Why Indy ever befriended that creep, and then lets him tag along later after double-crossing everyone on both sides, is unfathomable. Who thought he was a good idea?

      There really wasn’t any place in this film for Sallah to return, but his absence was even more painful to endure knowing they’d replaced him with that horse’s ass Mac.

      • GrimReaper07

        Yeah, the script is kind of messy but Spielberg’s direction is great, even if a couple of his choices (CGI) weren’t.

      • David

        I like Mac a helluva lot more than oxley. Was the complete bumbling professor stereotype and he felt out of place the whole movie. And yes I realized the skull cooked his brain. That still doesn’t make his character any good.

    • MIXTER

      Very well said! Though theres a lot in TOD to love! But I find Willie a lot more annoying that Lebouf.

      My biggest gripe with Indy-4 was the lighting/camera filtering and cgi. The look of this film was more Alien to Indy than the Alien. It looks like sky captain, all the way through.

      This is part of a long list og gripes i have, but the visual style is the worst offender for me. But it did have some good parts to it, especially the second act with Indy and Mutt exploring the temples/clues. Down hill from there for me though. Ants, aliens, monkeys, “Joooonnneeesyyyy!!!”, Speederbike style fencing, and spalko’s “beam me up scotty” death. Not quite a melting Natzi!

  • Solgazer

    I never understood the alien hatred for this film and I’m glad someone else is saying it. My thought was always how is this any more ridiculous a premise than God? I thought it was a funky idea played out as well as it could have within the Indiana Jones universe.

  • Northern Star

    I’m still not convinced they should have went back to the well (of Souls?) for a fourth time, the Indy saga closed in a fitting manner with ‘…The Last Crusade’ in 1989, but that being said, this film could have been so much better had Luca$ approved Frank Darabont’s superior ‘…City of the Gods’ script from 2003; granted it was only an early draft and still needed work to polish and perfect it, but it was SO much better both in character development and overall execution than what turned out onscreen! Both Spielberg and Harrison Ford loved Darabont’s script but Luca$ vetoed it and hired the writer behind the ‘Rush Hour’ films – which says it all for Luca$’ judgement, or lack thereof! – to revise it and basically turn it into easily the worst of the four films, tarnishing it’s legacy as a result!

    KOTCS is not a bad film in itself, but it could have been so much better so very easily, and provided Indy with a proper send-off that would have thrilled everyone and disappointed almost no-one… how ironic that Luca$ the creator of both Indiana Jones and ‘Star Wars’ is also the guy who undermined them in the end with his stubbornness and my-way-or-the-highway mentality… happy retirement George but good riddance all the same!

  • The Blue Elephant

    When I saw Shia swinging through the rain forest like Tarzan….’nuff said.

    • Guy Smiley

      And somehow managed to outpace the vehicles below him while doing that!

  • http://tarek-to-verso.over-blog.com/‎ tarek

    So you loved Crystal thing Allison?… That makes sense in a certain way. After what I read in your previous reviews.

    • Guy Smiley

      You’ll have to show point out where it said she “loved” it.

      I can’t imagine many people actually “loved” Crystal Skull.

      • http://tarek-to-verso.over-blog.com/‎ tarek

        Well she said :”I didn’t hate it. Actually, I liked it better than Temple of Doom, …”

      • David

        But does she say, oh my God! This movie was awesome!!! The best one in the series!!!? No. She just said she liked it and it was better than the mediocre temple of doom. I for one agree with her.

      • http://tarek-to-verso.over-blog.com/‎ tarek

        True, she didn’t say that, but it is six of one and half-a-dozen of the other in some way to me.

        I cannot argue with you about TOD, as it is a matter of taste. I like it, you found it horrible. Nothing could change that, no matter how long we can debate on the subject. But at least in TOD we had Indiana Jones doing well his job. He was young, funny, tearaway, and has Short Round as an acolyte, with a moving story.

        what’s about Crystal thing ? Indy is an old grumpy man using the fridge as a transportation, his acolyte is Mutt ( what a horrible name!) and he is no longer interested in finding artifacts.

        Steven and George have jumped the shark on this one.

  • Guy Smiley

    “Best Quotes: “I like Ike.” – Indy “So you’re like a grave robber or something?” – Mutt”

    The correct answer is : “Y-you’re a teacher??” “PART-TIME.”

    • GuyX

      No, he mentions grave robber. Indy responses with “I’m a tenured professor” or something along those lines

  • TrekBeatTK

    In some ways I prefer Frank Darabont’s draft “Indiana Jones and the City of the Gods” over the final version, but KOTC is not without merit. I think the biggest problem is the cinematography. Now I love Janusz Kaminsky, and I think overall he’s been very good for Speilberg (SS’s films of the ’80s that Daviau shot just look too schmaltzy to me). He was even able to elevate Lost World. But he’s just not right for Indy; it looks very different from the other three, and it’s style is part of what makes the CG look even worse. (though I’ll add, the CG looks worse to me on home video than it did on the big screen.)
    If you like the shout-outs to the other films, there’s even a nod to Young Indy in this movie. Definitely check out some of those if you like the character.

    • indy42

      That’s not entirely Kaminsky’s fault. A lot of the differences in the visuals are just that filmmaking (and film itself) has changed since the 80s.

  • http://www.facebook.com/miguel.pabello Miguel Pabello

    The first time I watched Crystal Skull it was like.. ok. After a bit, it just felt dumb compared to the first three Indy flicks. But after a while, and watching it again more than a few times again I decided to accept it for what it was and I honestly enjoyed it. Granted it’s not the best of the series, but It’s not horrible as some people say.

  • Strong Enough

    spielberg is overrated

    • Clay

      Ridiculous. To downplay Spielberg’s obvious skills as a filmmaker / storyteller and impact on popular culture is to pay a tremendous price in film circles. Opinions be damned, you’re now penniless, sir.

  • james

    People not liking Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull and the Star Wars prequels makes me like the star wars prequels and Indy 4 so much more and are my favorites. Indy 4 is the best of the Indy’s anyway, not having the religious shit involved.

    jj abrahms has ruined star trek and now star wars, if indy 5 never happens I do not care, because disney will just mess it up

  • Hop

    As much as I hate this series, thank you, Allison, for NOT hating Crystal Skull.

  • doctor_robot

    1. raiders
    2. last crusade
    3. temple of doom
    4. all of the police academy movies
    5. crystal skull

    • http://tarek-to-verso.over-blog.com/‎ tarek

      You made my day with the police academy movies ^^

  • Evan

    Ugh – terrible. Crystal Skull is an abomination. ANyone who isn’t offended by the lead fridge is already brain dead.

  • mattritchey

    This movie. Is terrible. The acting is bad, the dialogue is bad, the writing is bad and at best it seems like it’s an okay film because its a throwback style. The pacing is off, the CGI is poorly done and it wastes great actors. I didn’t care about the aliens, that’s all fine – but the skull can essentially do ANYTHING. Want it to help you read minds? Ok! Want it to open a door? Sure! Can it defend you from giant fire ants? Why not!? It just did anything the writers wanted it to! There’s a deleted scene where it makes waffles, I’m sure. Mac is a good guy but a bad guy but a good guy but not but oh right now I don’t care anymore.

    Red Letter Media hits this movie dead-on.

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