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Movie Review: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

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It’s been almost two whole decades since Indiana Jones has been on the big screen and the wait for fans is finally over. However, I am disheartened to inform that even though Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is very enjoyable and entertaining at times, it sadly does not feel like an Indiana Jones movie.

Famous archaeologist Dr. Indiana Jones is called back into action when he is forced to get involved with a Soviet plan to uncover the secrets behind a mysterious artifact known as the Crystal Skull.

If the main character of this particular film was called John Smith instead of Indiana Jones I might have been able to enjoy it a whole lot more. But as this is supposed to be another entry into the much loved franchise, I couldn’t help but expect a whole lot more from it. Because the other films are just that damn good, especially the first, this one inevitably doesn’t even compare. It’s not even in the same league as any of the previous three films, even Temple of Doom, and in its attempts to “throw back” or “feel” like the other movies it just comes off as a cheaper impersonation than a continuation of the series.

There was a major element which I was afraid this film was going to include and sadly it is there — and that is the amount of special effects used. In the original trilogy the special effects were kept to a bare minimum and instead they opted for more “physical scenes”. However Crystal Skull has an (over)abundance of special effects, and not just in its action sequences but in even the little details. The famous opening shot of the Paramount Logo fading into the mountain in Raiders of the Lost Ark is loosely replicated here, although instead of a mountain it’s a small dirt mound that an animal crawls out of — a CGI animal. This is an example of Spielberg and company attempting to pay homage to the other films but instead it just comes off cheap. They’ve tried too much to amp everything up to a bigger scale requiring special effects that were very distracting throughout, when they should have just gone with the technique they used in the previous three films — keep it simple and classy and not overload it with unnecessary elements.

What bothers me most about this film is that it doesn’t feel like an Indiana Jones movie. It doesn’t have that spark and flair that the other three had, even though the team behind this goes a long way to try and accommodate the tons of people out there looking for a bit of nostalgia. First and foremost, Harrison Ford is back as Indy and if nothing else, that’s a reason to see the film in and of itself. Despite its failed attempts to feel like part of the series, there was just something wonderful about seeing the archaeologist back in action along with his hat and whip. And at 66 years old, Ford isn’t it bad shape at all; he still convinced me that he is able to do what Indy does.

Any supporting characters who aren’t here (either because the actors are no longer alive or didn’t want to be in the film) are made up for; Sallah (played in Raiders and Last Crusade by John Rhys-Davies) is replaced by Ray Winstone as another sidekick, and Denholm Elliott as Marcus is replaced by Jim Broadbent. There are also some new characters: Shia LaBeouf plays Mutt (kudos to him for playing his part without becoming annoying), Cate Blanchett is the first Indy female villain Irina Spalko, and even John Hurt turns up to add to a very impressive cast. But the most exciting character is not a replacement or a completely new one but the return of one the series’ best — Karen Allen as Marion Ravenwood. Although she wasn’t as much use as she could have been, it was still great to see her back after all these years.

Every one of the Indiana Jones movies had one stand-out action sequence memorable even to this day – in Raiders it was the sequence where Indy is hijacking the vehicle which contains the Ark, in Temple of Doom it was the escape in the mine cart, and the in Last Crusade it was the tank sequence. In Crystal Skull it’s a multiple vehicle chase through the jungle involving millions of flesh-eating red ants and a waterfall. It’s in those scenes that the film really had me; they sure know how to make scenes like this really exciting. While the action sequences are not quite up to scratch compared to the previous movies – partly because I was distracted by the unnecessary special effects – they're invigorating nonetheless.

The film’s storyline is overall the weakest of the four, certainly the least interesting. They spend too much time on little details that are ultimately inconsequential in the wider scope of things and by the time we get to where the film ends up it’s a hell of a lot less interesting and intriguing than it could and should have been.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is admittedly a big disappointment, for me and I’m sure a lot of others. I hate that they’ve lost that “Indy magic” that the others have in abundance and as a result I can’t think of this in the same way I think of the others. It’s entertaining enough to spend the time and money on, and just the notion of seeing the hat, the whip, and hearing that theme song in the cinema again makes it quite watchable. But it proves that you shouldn’t touch a franchise again unless you are going to do it justice, and this sadly doesn’t.

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About Ross Miller

  • G W

    You sir, are a complete idiot. To actually notion the fact that Indy 20 years later (in real life and also in the fiction) should be what he once was, is an absolute disgrace to anyone in your community that has gotten older. I cannot wait until a child tells you are you are completely inept at your position as a writer because your left or right hand does not work so well…..That is a pity I will truly enjoy.

  • Ross Miller

    First off – did you not READ the warning above the place where you type your name when you comment? Take a look and then mull over if you should have typed what you did.

    I’m going to address your point none the less though – did you actualy READ my review? Or did you simply glance over, read a sentence out of context and then took it the wrong way? I didn’t say Indy should be the same after 20 years, I understand that times move on, stories and characters move on. But that doesn’t mean you have to make everything with special effects to be in with the crowd of blockbuster films nowadays. A continuation of a series like this needed to FEEL like the other films, like I said at the end of my review – why touch a franchise again if you’re not going to do it justice?

    I hope “G W” that in the future you think before you comment and don’t insult the writer of the particular article.