Of course, warning; I don’t intend to put spoilers in here, but I can’t promise you that I’ll catch everything. And I feel like it’s better to watch and develop an opinion, then discuss. But I won’t stop you if you haven’t seen it.
So last night, I went with several of my dormmates to the midnight premiere of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. I was glad to be in a large, comfortable movie seat after riding with 5 people in the back of a sedan, and very much ready to watch for being very tired.
The premise of the movie is that Indiana Jones, almost 20 years after the events of the last movie, is caught in another hunt for archaeological treasures with mythical powers. This time, however, he has Mutt Williams (Shia LaBeouf) to back him up against not the Nazis, but the Russians.
I enjoyed the movie immensely. As a single movie, it was an incomplete cinematic experience, but I really enjoyed it. I’ve wavered a lot on what I need to enjoy a movie, and I think I’ve managed to appreciate the pure joy of an adventure, regardless of whether the plot makes me think or not, whether I really have to soak up the movie after watching it. As for this movie, it got a solid smile.
For the complete cinematic experience aspect, it didn’t get at overarching themes that make me re-evaluate life, and I wasn’t impressed by revolutionary effects. Instead, the movie continued on the same outlandish action as the previous movies. The difference, however, seemed to me the same as that between Pirates of the Caribbean 1 and 2: the latter just got a lot more ridiculous. The original trilogy was never serious, yet the action had a body of realism that highlighted the exaggeration. As a parody of action sequences, they really embodied all aspects of the movie and could make the audience respond. I felt like this movie missed that in several important scenes. When I should’ve been sucked into the action then teased out of it, I instead watched as Shia LaBeouf found inspiration from monkeys to rejoin the fight. But I can appreciate the ridiculousness; it’s the inspiration for a lot of what I do.
Looking at the whole movie, the plot also seemed lacking. George Lucas claimed that the reason why this movie was in development hell was the inability to find a good macguffin (the plot device that drives a story). The crystal skull begins as an interesting driving force, but the flow of the plot seems to happen too quickly. Like the others, the movie follows Jones as he makes subsequent archaeological discoveries on his adventure. While the audience isn’t necessarily supposed to be a backseat detective or look back to make sense of the events, they are expected to follow and engage with his discoveries. Unfortunately, it feels like the movie ultimately ends up with a conclusion far removed from the more grounded beginning of the movie, if only because momentum required that the tempo remain high in the movie.
The acting was a mixed bag, with Harrison Ford doing a convincing job of the current state of Indiana Jones and Karen Allen doing another great performance of Marion Ravenwood. Cate Blanchett’s Russian accent comes and goes, but I was never as convinced of her character’s drive as I should have been.
The effects were a good mix for setting. Spielberg used both old-fashioned tumbling and advanced CGI to create an epic, yet grounded, sense of scale. And John Williams did a great job building the music into the story and setting, far beyond just the catchy (but good) theme that people remember.
It happens to be in an interesting situation with audiences. For those who haven’t seen the previous movies, it might seem a little disappointing because they might not appreciate the style of it, while those who have might be disappointed because it doesn’t match the craft of the originals. But overall, I recommend it, even if it isn’t everything it could’ve been. Just because it’s still enough.