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Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008 – PG-13)

May 26, 2008

Long live Indiana Jones!

CAST

Obviously, the focal point of the Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull cast is the legendary Harrison Ford who is once again joined by Karen Allen. This installment also brings the likes of Shia LaBeouf, Cate Blanchett, John Hurt, Jim Broadbent, Ray Winstone, and Igor Jijikine into the fold.

LaBeouf is one of my favorites, and has been for some time. It’s nice to see him getting more and more roles in movies that do well at the box office. Having bankability to go along with his substantial acting talents means we should be seeing a great deal of him in the years to come, and I wouldn’t mind it a bit if Lucas follows through on his idea of having a fifth movie focus on LaBeouf’s character, Mutt.

I thought Blanchett looked great, and her exaggerated Russian accent really helped add to the over-the-top 50s serial feel. At least, I hope it was intentionally exaggerated. I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt as she has shown time and again that she is quite adept at her craft.

Hurt is a strong addition to any cast, and Jijikine has a memorable performance. Meanwhile, Ford looked mighty impressive given his advancing age, and put in a physical effort to match his charisma and Indiana Jones persona.

In short, I can think of no weak links here.

Cast = 20

Soundtrack/Score

Do I even have to explain a perfect score in this category? John Wililams appropriately utilizes existing themes from the Indiana Jones collection, and filled it out with more Williams goodness. The guy is THE best.

Soundtrack/Score = 20

Quote/Catch Phrase

Given the existing cheekiness that Spielberg and Lucas have developed with the prior Indiana Jones films, it should come as no surprise that several lines of dialog sound familiar. Whether it’s to tell someone not to touch anything, or simply to say, “I’ve got a bad feeling about this.”

However, there is one new exchange in particular that I was fond of, and that was Mutt telling Indiana that he fights pretty well for an 80 year old. That’s not exactly how the exchange went, but as I don’t have a copy of the film to peruse right now, that’s what you’re going to get for now. At any rate, there were no, “You call him Dr. Jones, doll,” but there’s still potential.

Quote/Catch Phrase = 16

STORY

This is where many people will have trouble with the film. Admittedly, not a great subject to have issue with in terms of good films, but I think most of the criticism is somewhat unfounded.

First, we have the issue of nostalgia. No matter what some people just won’t like this film, because it could never match up with the first three in their minds whether they are willing to admit it or not.

Secondly, you have to remember that Indiana Jones is an homage to serial films from back in the day. Lucas and Spielberg make a clear distinction about the difference in style of the first three and the newest release. The first three movies were set in the 30s, and therefore mirrored the serials of the 30s by utilizing Nazis, etc. Skulls is set in the 50s, and therefore mirrors the B movies of the 50s, i.e, Commies/Red Scare and science fiction.

Given the nature of the existing films, this story isn’t all that surprising. Indiana Jones finds out someone close to him is in trouble (an old friend/peer archaeologist played by Hurt), goes to pick up the trail, runs into people who try to stop him, ends up being double-crossed along the way, disregards any claims of mysticism or supernatural legends as mere bedtime stories, however the legends turn out to be true, he and his friends live happily ever after, and fade to credits with some awesome orchestration from John Williams.

I don’t want to say any more than that, because the journey is the fun. Needless to say there are several “yeah, right” moments, and a few scenes that will make you squirm both from creepy crawlies and a couple of shots that looked disturbingly like an Oedipus Complex in action. In other words, it’s a perfect continuation of the first three films. Don’t let anyone tell you differently.

There is one caveat, and it is important. As was stated in that interview linked to a few paragraphs up, Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Last Crusade utilized objects of supernatural legend that were extremely well known to American audiences: the Ark of the Covenant and The Holy Grail respectively. Where The Temple of Doom struggled, was the use of legendary stones that as a nation we knew or cared nothing about. Unfortunately, Kingdom of the Crystal Skull runs that risk too.

I had never heard of the crystal skulls until the movie title was released, and started to see documentaries and essays on the skulls and the legends, conspiracy, and questions that surround them. However, it can be said the skulls are only part of the supernatural iconography of the film. Aliens and Area 51 are quite well known to American audiences, and along with the skulls make for a more digestible quest than Doom offered. Either way, it fits with the existing template of the Indy films.

Story = 16

Rewatchability

This is almost as given as the score. IT’S INDIANA JONES! Of course it’s rewatchable. I’m not sure where I rank it in terms of the other films. I think I really need to see it about a half-dozen times before I start to do that.

Rewatchability = 18

Total Score = 90

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