Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Indiana Jones

A couple of weeks ago, I had the chance to see Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. I was not only surprised by the price of admission for a matinee, but I was also taken aback at the quality difference between this latest sequel and others in the series. For those who have yet to see this film, beware of spoilers that lie below.

I think my main dislike of this film is how it mixed genres. Science-fiction does not belong in the Indiana Jones universe. Each of its predecessors had an element of the supernatural, but I can more readily accept God (in the general sense, not necessarily God Himself) as the supernatural force than extra-terrestrial beings. As soon as I realized this latest caper was tied to the Roswell incident (though I’m not sure they used that phrase exactly), I inwardly groaned. Why did we have to go there with this? Couldn’t the crystal skull unlock some other mystery, like the lost city of Atlantis?

Aside from the genre-conflicting plot, I agree with one reviewer who said this movie just felt tired. The dialogue revealed everything all the time, leaving little to the imagination, and some of the action sequences seemed like they reruns from the previous trilogy. One example of the slowness is when they go over three waterfalls. It just seemed to go on forever, and I thought, “Didn’t this already happen in Temple of Doom?”

Then there’s the hokey factor. When Indiana goes into an atomic bomb test site, my hokey-sense started tingling. Sure enough, Dr. Jones is there as the bomb is about to go off, and he survives by climbing into a refrigerator lined with lead. I can’t even begin to express how ridiculous this entire concept was. Again, why did the film go there? I could accept Indiana’s unexpected confrontation with Hitler in The Last Crusade as an interesting scene, but this was way over the top. The rest of the movie going in hokey directions, to the point that I just threw my hands up towards the end and though, “Why not?”

Now, the film wasn’t horrific the whole way through. I liked the concept of an aged Dr. Jones who doesn’t get around quite as well as he used to, and I even liked the character of Mutt Williams as a decent sidekick (though he often proved to be a device for explaining too much of the plot). There were also some cute throw-back moments, like when the Ark of the Covenant is revealed near the opening of the movie. Some of the action sequences also worked well, or seemed to at least fall in line with the same level of expectation as previous Indiana Jones movies. Of course, that may have been because they were part of the original movies.

I think there’s a level of accountability that’s missing from George Lucas’s life right now. Maybe that’s what’s keeping him from coming up with more good movies like Raiders of the Lost Ark. Instead, we’re left with movies like the Star Wars prequels and this latest Indiana Jones disappointment. Somewhere between Raiders and now, Lucas realized who he is, and that pride is getting in the way of better stories.

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