Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008) Director: Steven Spielberg
After a long hiatus, it was a sad experience to sit down and watch as the gritty, hard-edged but heroic Indiana Jones was degraded into this cartoonish CGI-infused movie which brought Spielberg and Lucas together, sadly with apparently little regard for plot development or classic cinema allusions which had once so brilliantly characterized the original movie. Like many other once-successful franchises, Indiana Jones was sacrificed in order to bilk a lot of people out money. When you watch the movie it looks like many scenes feature real actors standing in front of green screens, but most of the rest was left to the special effects crew to fill in the gaps. As quickly as the opening scene in the film it becomes patently apparent that Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is little more than a pocket-liner for a group of already obscenely wealthy aging Hollywood legends. On top of that, this film will probably please acolytes of the odd New Age ancient alien theories, but otherwise I think the crossover of Indiana Jones into conspiracy-laden science-fiction land is a complete failure.
Surprisingly, Harrison Ford is one of the best parts of the film –he was in remarkable shape despite pushing sixty at the time (which is not to say he was old, but it would have no doubt been a challenge to swing and flip all over the screen like a young Douglas Fairbanks). At any rate, the film takes place during the Cold War (this time the Russians are the enemies). It opens with a ridiculous scene of Indiana Jones bombastically entering Area 51 in Roswell (which is apparently the location of the big warehouse at the end of Raiders in an unfortunate and yawning twist). At one point a box spills revealing a part of the Ark of the Covenant –a little wink at the audience I guess. Indy is then captured and placed in the middle of a faux neighborhood right before a nuclear bomb is detonated, but he locks himself in a fridge which flies high into the air crashing hundreds of feet away –somehow he survives (this might be the worst scene in the whole film, but not without competition).
Anyway, Cate Blanchett plays the Russian nemesis of Indy in this film as she seeks to acquire an alien crystal skull and return it to a Mayan temple in order to harness its secret powers. We also meet Indy’s greaser son named “Mutt” (played by Shia LaBeouf) but together their dynamic is not particularly interesting. Along the way there is a mind-numbingly campy jungle scene in which the group is chased by rapid CGI monkeys, also Indy continues along on his adventures with an openly traitorous man for some reason, somehow Kingdom of the Crystal Skull ends with aliens flying away in a saucer, and Indy marries his love from the first film, Marion (reprised by Karen Allen). There really is an avalanche of faults upon which to criticize this film, but honestly it’s simply not worth it. The writer and director clearly don’t care much about the movie, so why should we? Sadly, as I write this, corporate greed is once again intent upon squeezing the last gasp out of this franchise. Yet another Indiana Jones film is in the works amidst hoards of yawning audiences. It’s possible the film could surprise us all, but since the release date has been delayed at least four times, Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm’s intellectual property promises to pump out new shows and merchandise, and Kathleen Kennedy has replaced George Lucas on the project (just recall how the new Star Wars trilogy turned out) it seems we’re only just getting started with watching the Indiana Jones franchise being beaten into the ground.