Monday, 3 November 2008

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Lowdown: Indy’s back.
For a while there it seemed as if I’m the only person on earth who is yet to watch Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skill (aka Indy 4). Friends have been urging me to put my babysitter less baby in a straight jacket and head to the nearest cinema so I watch this rollercoaster of a film as soon as humanly possible, yet I still held on and life seemed to continue its normal flow. That is, until the DVD was released, when I’ve made my way to the video rental store straight after coming back from work on Friday afternoon. What can I say?
I’ll tell you what I can say. I’m saying that I should have probably rented The Counterfeiters instead, as Indy 4 sucked big time. Even the music, which I recently noted for its brilliance after watching Temple of Doom, sounds like everything else.
There is not much to say about the plot of Indy 4, if one can actually scrap through the layers of scenes piled up on top of one another to detect the shredded remains of a plot. Harrison Ford has aged significantly since the previous Indy and so Indy has aged with him, and Indy 4 is now set in the fifties and the baddies are Communists instead of Nazis. Remarkably, these new baddies are very similar to the old ones in their quest for world domination through the acquisition of ancient artifacts that just happen to cross the path of one Indiana Jones, too. This time around the quest focuses around an alien crystal skull, and yes – the Indy series has stepped up (?) a notch, upgrading (?) to alien themes instead of its regular dealings with the occult.
As I have already mentioned, Indy 4 feels like a collection of disjointed action scenes. Plot progression isn’t really on the agenda; things progress the way they do not because they make sense but because it enables Spielberg and Lucas to introduce us to the next action scene while keeping the slightly less than two hour long roller coaster running at full steam. It is as if they felt adding some sense into the film would encumber its pace, so they let the plot progress through the introduction of a John Hurt lunatic character that mumbles mumbo jumbo at the right time to tell our heroes what they should do next. However, the problem is that the action scenes, while spectacular, are far from captivating: there is no sense of genuine thrill in them and you’re never really worried for Mr Jones. Whereas in Raiders of the Lost Ark you really felt the pain Indy went through in order to take over the truck driving the Ark, in Indy 4 you see Indy spotting a convoy a few light years away and you just know that in a couple of minutes he would be in charge of it all. Another notable mention goes to the overabundance of digital effects that are just too digital to pass incognito.
Character development is the next victim on Indy 4’s altar. Simply put, there’s none; and while you can get away with it in the case of the lead Indiana Jones character whom everybody knows, you can’t do the same with the newly introduced characters. Shia LaBeouf, an actor about which I don’t know what the fuss is all about, is introduced is Indy’s long lost son; what can I say other than Short Round beating the crap out of him in the role of the loyal and entertaining sidekick?
By far the worst victim of Indy 4 is Cate Blanchett. I can see why she’s in the film in the first place: Spielberg has this habit of bringing the best he could put his hands on for his films, and with his clout Spielberg can definitely put his hands on the best. Blanchett, on her side, is probably anxious to establish herself in more mainstream material, hence the two shaking hands. Alas, Blanchett’s character in Indy 4 is so undeveloped and so meaningless – she comes down to pretty much a pretty girl with an accent and a sword – that I think the world should press charges against Speilberg for so ambivalently putting Blanchett’s incredible acting talents to waste.
Almost worst scene: A baddies vs. goodies car chase through a jungle, featuring LaBeouf in a sword duel with Blanchett while dangling in between two cars. The scene is very similar to the mineshaft car chase from Temple of Doom, yet it demonstrates how Temple of Doom has got it so right and where Indy 4 has gone wrong. The Indy 4 version simply doesn’t work: the digital effects are way too obvious and the entire premises are just a cheap excuse to have an action scene that just has to look over the top of everything else done before. Well, it does; but it’s over the top. And I won’t even mention the bit where LaBeouf is hanging off jungle trees, Tarzan style.
Very worst scene: The wedding.
Overall: I thought the third Indiana Jones put its predecessors to shame but that turned out to be nothing compared to the fourth. Indy 4 is a bad film with nothing standing for it other than its brand name. 2.5 out of 5 stars.


adela said...

I think it was not that bad; it is true that it was not half as good as the previous episodes, but i feel that even if the beginning was boring, it got a little better toward the end.

Moshe Reuveni said...

I didn't think it was that bad either, it's just that this is a film that should not have been made in the first place. It's an average or less than average film supplementing a couple of incredible films and taking their heritage down.
As for the film improving as it went along: Excitement wise it did, but the end is just silly and makes no sense at all. For example, if we ignore the alien reincarnation scene being a poor replica of the ark's opening from Raiders, how come someone was able to remove on of the crystal skulls in the first place?
Then again, that fridge wasn’t making sense either. It had to be a very well padded fridge. It’s silly, and Indy never had to rely on padding that didn’t exist before episode 4.