The following review of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull will contain spoilers. I offer this tepid warning well aware of the facts that:
A) the film made a quadrillion at the box office, (I.e. everybody has already seen it)
B) things can only be said to spoil if they were, at some point, fresh.
Perhaps this is the biggest problem with Indy 4; nothing about the film feels fresh or new. . . well, at least not in a positive manner. At best, the movie feels like a sequel to The Mummy or National Treasure. At its worst, it is Indiana Jones fan-fiction.
This film does have the earmarks of fan-fiction. Indiana Jones has a secret son. An incongruous mythological structure is wedged into the proper mythos (read as: aliens WTF?). None of the film’s important characters are ever put into any real danger. The movie has a poor eye for details whether they be geographical (the Incas lived in Peru, not the Mayans), historical (Belize was not called Belize in the ’50s) or in terms of continuity (Wasn’t Mutt’s hand just cut open by a sword?). Finally, it all ends with Dr. Jones marrying the love interest from the first movie, having a healthy relationship with his son, and being promoted at work.
It’s almost as though the film’s central aim is to get its audience to yell “OH COME ON!” at the screen. It is truly a frustrating experience. The viewer is beaten over the head with constant and increasingly far-fetched action sequences without being afforded any reason to care about the results. If we were given any indication that Indiana Jones could be killed, there might be some drama to this thing. Instead, we are treated to a 65-year-old man who can fight through half dozen soldiers, swing on a whip like Spider-man, and crash through windshields without so much as a skinned knuckle. One of the most memorable parts of Raiders of the Lost Ark is looking over Indy’s war wounds before the big climax. In Crystal Skull none of what has happened in scenes previous seems to affect what is going on in the current scene. In wrestling terms, this film is like a bad Ring of Honor (ROH) match where both participants have been taking finishers for 10 minutes, and haven’t bothered to sell a damned thing.
As for the plot, well, I suppose something is there. The impetus for all this nonsense is the eponymous Crystal Skull. As far as I can tell, the story goes like this:
a) A bunch of pinkos steal a Crystal Skull from the Ark of the Covenant Storage Facility.
b) Indiana Jones is coerced by his son into finding a Crystal Skull by his secret son in order to save the son’s father figure/ Indy’s college roommate.
c) They find the skull and have to return it to someplace else in order to stop the commies from doing the same thing.
d) Eventually the mad power quest of the head villain leads to said villain’s demise via the same totem which they were seeking to control. (See also: Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade)
e) They all live happily ever after.
Some of what went wrong can be found in the interminable special features. There are numerous things at which to point, but the long at short of it appears to be this thing: 20 years of development. Ugh, the special features. There are hours worth of Special Features on this DVD set, but trust me it feels like days worth. Features about development, features about pre-production, an extensive Production Diary, still Galleries, trailers, and all sorts of mind-numbing gibberish. Here is my re-enactment of some of these bonus features.
A member of the crew stands amidst a dusty background holding a hat.
Random Crew Guy: Well, we wanted to find the right hat for the iconic look of this movie. I found this guy that makes hats. These hats looked good. I says to the guy, “Can you make me 20 of these hats?” He says to me, “I can try to.” We started of with 5 or six hats. Steven thought the hats were good.
Fast-forward 5 minutes. . .
We see a different member of the crew in a similar background.
Different Random Crew Guy: Well, we wanted to find the right jacket for the iconic look of this movie. I found this guy that makes jackets. These were good jackets. I says to the guy, “Can you make me 20 of these hats?” He says to me, “I can make as many jackets as you want.” We put dust and stuff on the jackets. Steven thought the jackets were good.
HOURS OF STUFF LIKE THAT!
The only part of the extras that was different were the Pre-visualization Sequences. You get three of these things, which are basically computer renderings of some of the action sequences, part storyboard part bad N64 cut scene.
The special features were so bad that I questioned why anybody would want to watch them. They were so bad that I questioned why anybody would ever want to watch any special features, ever.
Paramount Pictures presents Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Directed by Steven Spielberg. Starring Harrison Ford, Shia LeBeouf , Karen Allen, and Cate Blanchett. Running Time 122 minutes. Rated PG-13. Released on DVD: October 14, 2008. Available at Amazon.
Tags: Cate Blanchett, George Lucas, Harrison Ford, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Shia LeBeouf, Steven Spielberg