Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

3 minute read

Marc and I met in Berkeley on Sunday to catch a 2:15pm matinee of the new Indiana Jones movie. I entered the theatre with low expectations, fueled by the very few shreds of reviews which I had allowed to sneak into my attention. I was not disappointed in those expectations.

Spoilers Follow!

Good gravy, but who handed the reins of a movie to George Lucas again? Who, in their right mind, allowed him to subject the movie-going public to this film? Who stood by the wayside as he pillaged the illustrious series which he spent so long in building?

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want those 124 minutes of my life back. It’s not like this was AI or anything. No, it wasn’t time completely lost but it certainly wasn’t time well-spent and so I feel the need to vent a bit…

Lucas, at whose feet we can lay the story of this beast, filled what little plot there was with cinematic cliches so well worn they’ve become caricatures used as fodder for mocking in other (self-respecting) movies. Normally I would put some hope in Spielberg[1] as director but even his skill in common-denominator direction didn’t seem able to help much[2]. With talents like Cate Blanchett in his cast the dialog still fell—thud—from his actors’ mouths.

The entire movie is action-packed to a fault. I often felt like I was watching one of the recent Mummy movies (man eating ants =~ man eating beetles) but with a less cohesive plot and no self-awareness or sincerity. The special effects were magnificent, yes, but that gets pretty damn old when it’s all you’re seeing in a movie. Desensitization sets in and once it’s there it’s not easy to dislodge. Thankfully Lucas didn’t waste the effort to try; he just ignored the problem and piled on more booby traps, chase scenes and fist fights.

Why did he not give us any sort of plot skeleton on which to hang the heavy flesh of all that pointless action? How could Lucas bring back Marion, a seminal character in the series, and not develop that relationship more? Why did he cheap out and replay the whole “you are my father” card? Why in the bloody hell did he go for ALIENS, for crying out loud? Many thousands of years of dramatic and interesting human history and archaeology and George caps the Indiana Jones series with ALIENS?!? Indiana Jones deserves better. Reunited lovers, an unknown bastard, man-eating ants and aliens. Yeah, um, way live up to the legacy of the Indy name, George.

I wouldn’t be as evangelistic about my opinion had I not felt that this movie had betrayed the cultural memory and expectations of the Indiana Jones corpus. My memory and expectations of it. These movies stood for something. They were fun, fast, smart and witty. This one felt like it was trying to prove that it (Lucas) still had what it takes, that it (Lucas) could still pull in the crowds and please them all, that it (Lucas) could still make money hand over fist with any rag that it hangs out there for the public to view. It might succeed in the last one but the others…? Uh, not so much.

I’ll stop complaining now. My point has been made. I hope others who see the movie will enjoy it more than I did. And I hope that if there is another George Lucas production it won’t degrade yet another beloved story.

[1] Who is, I know, responsible for AI. We all make mistakes.
[2] Or if it did I shudder to think of what it would have been without him.

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