Sunday, May 25, 2008

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull Review

We all knew this was coming. And we were all thrilled, yet horrified that the fourth film would suck. Really, it isn't so much that the fourth one was destined to fail; it's just that it had so much to live up to. So now, twenty years later, I can safely say that Indy 4 is not a miserable failure, but it will never receive the acclaim of the original trilogy.

I try not to spoil anything in my reviews, and sadly, I can't really say much about the plot at all in this case without giving anything away. I'll just repeat what you probably know already. In the Indy canon, Kingdom takes place roughly twenty years after the events of Last Crusade (go figure). So there are no more Nazis. The key villains happen to be Russians, and Indy is in his sixties. Aliens have some sort of involvement in the plot, although not like E.T.

Kingdom seems to poke fun at itself in some instances, which I think is a bit necessary given this twenty year gap between films. Like the original trilogy, this one is a bit ridiculous, and it's not afraid to admit it. And of course, it delves into the supernatural, which is nothing new to the franchise, but this one is by far the most off the wall. Even so, it still keeps an archaeological air about it and stays within the style of classic Indiana Jones.

The problem is that it's all a bit much. For one, Indiana Jones has always had a knack for solving riddles, but this time, he's the riddle master. Not to mention he now understands a handful of dead languages and interprets symbols in a matter of moments. That's all well and good, but in the original trilogy, such things became part of the story and just made it all the more intriguing. Who could forget the riddles in Last Crusade? This time, they are just a means of quickly moving the plot along. No sooner is a riddle revealed than it is solved: 'So that means we need to go here.' As far as the supernatural elements go, it doesn't all fit into place as well as it used to. In a story centered around the lost ark, the ark turned out to have a supernatural power that became significant to the story. Now, in a story centered around a crystal skull, aliens fit in there somewhere. Yeah.

But I've been comparing too much. On its own, this movie isn't so bad. One thing I love about it is that even now in a completely different film culture, it still manages to maintain the feeling of an Indiana Jones movie, for the most part. The only trouble there comes from the fact that it also tries to be a modern summer blockbuster. Some stuff was put in to appeal to a modern crowd, and although a lot of it is fun and funny, it does sometimes take away from the classic Indy flair. In the middle, particularly, I must have said "Oh, come on" a good five or ten times. On that note, Shia LaBeouf has no place in this movie. Sure, his character matters, but it's obvious that he was only put in to try to round up the younger viewers. I would probably respect this film more without him. More than anything, he's just a distraction, not only from Indiana Jones's character, but also from his style since LaBeouf's character is a modern contrast to Indy's classic form, and the two don't really mesh well.

The only other thing I really have an issue with is the ending. It's not a bad ending by any means, but a lot happens at once, and none of it really makes any sense. Granted, the trilogy rarely explained much either, but this time it just seems like too much and too random.

The action scenes are very entertaining for the most part. Like I said already, they maintain the classic Indy style, and it's a lot of fun. Sometimes, though, ridiculous things will happen, and eyes will roll.

Fans of the series, do yourself a favor and allow yourself to enjoy this movie. It's tempting to get wrapped up in all the things that are wrong with it, all the inconsistencies, and all the things the original trilogy did better. No one ever thought this movie could measure up to the original trilogy's legacy after all this time, and of course it doesn't, but I argue that it was impossible for it to do that, no matter what the makers had done with it. Taken for what it is, this is a fun adventure flick that's very well-made. I'm sure it will be underrated for years to come, but I think it was a worthwhile effort.

Caius's Rating: 3 stars

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