Saturday, May 31, 2008

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull



If we judge based on the performances of past resurrected franchises such Rambo, Rocky, Terminator, and Die Hard, the Indiana Jones sequel would be on top. It came off in a shape fairly resembling its former self. I guess we can thank almighty Steven Spielberg for that feat. But then again, even Spielberg has his limits.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is the fourth installment in the series; the first after 19 years because The Last Crusade was in 1989).

The story takes place after the world war; a time of nuclear bomb testing, a cold war between America and the Soviet Union, and Communist Witch hunts. In the middle of all this Indy is kidnapped by Russians en route to taking over a secret army base. These Russians as it turns out were looking for the alien bodies in Roswell. Later on it turns out that aliens too are behind an ancient lost city in the jungles of South America.

In hindsight (seeing the movie whole) I would have to agree with some opinions that the alien body and the alien angle should have been kept hidden till the very end. Alien beings and ancient civilizations is a topic very familiar to me and presume so do most of the sci-fi loving public. Perhaps, it was at the point when I knew of alien angle the movie lost much of its thunder.

Action wise Harrison Ford who is already a whopping 66 years old pulled it off, well barely. I was not fully sold because I am not blissfully ignorant of his age, and sometimes it comes to point that I ask myself should an old man be still doing that. Shia LaBeouf of Transformers fame provided some great comic relief as Mutt Williams. Cate Blanchett who is always a bright spot acting wise played top villain Irina Spalko. Cate really did well on her accent.

The film is nicely paced, full of movement. It had mystery (which I unfortunately found out to quickly), it had puzzles, and it had the action the franchise was known for. How you receive it, I suppose, will depend on how much of a fan you are. Are you type who will say ‘welcome back’, or, ‘you’re just too old for this.’

And fans will surely notice the amount of CGI used in the film. For some odd reason, and I realized this only after watching a bootlegged DVD of National Treasure: Book of Secrets, the CGI doesn’t work for me. I found myself throughout the film guessing how much CGI is in a scene than being engrossed in the story, maybe even try to solve the puzzles before Indiana Jones could.

Granted that National Treasure did not call for a fantastic and outrageous environment as much as Kingdom of the Crystal Skull did, it really doesn’t feel right to go all high tech. Continuity issues come to mind at least style wise. Whatever the ancient civilization the first three Indiana Jones movies did greatly using old style film effects.

Furthermore, the change of style indirectly confirms in some ways that Indiana Jones, more to the point Harrison Ford can no longer hack it. In the right setting, the right story, the right character, CGIs can be magic; but that is not how this franchise was known for.

Indiana Jones is known for making history fun and interesting. We love Doctor Henry Jones, Jr. for his bravery, daring, but most of all his brains in uncovering a world which could just be literally beneath our feet.

And Kingdom of the Crystal Skull has been fun. But hopefully our favorite archaeologist and part time teacher will now make teaching a full time job.