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.
So, 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?
Some 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.
So 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.
Professor 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