Rye Silverman geeks out as his childhood hero returns to the silver screen in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
Despite my deep geek side wanting to, I resisted the temptation to go see Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull at the “12:01” screening. I decided that I had waited 19 years for a new Indy, I could wait ’til Thursday morning. So when I was talking to a friend about it at 12:15, his response was “I heard it sucks.” An odd thing to hear about a movie that had been out for about fourteen minutes and really had probably not even started yet when you consider the trailers. I pointed this fact out to him. “Oh but the reviews are bad,” he said. The reality again is that the reviews, while not stellar, have not been bad. The movie has floated between 77-80% freshness on RottenTomatoes, and that percentage has been increasing, not declining, as it opens nationwide.
But people “hear” it’ll suck. Indiana Jones 4, it seems, exists in a new era of franchise films. A post-Star Wars Prequel movie going climate. The era of negative buzz. Indy 4 is being assumed by the pre-viewing audience to be something that will suck. It’s bringing back something we loved from our childhood, and surely they can’t do anything good with that. “This movie will suck.”
But it doesn’t suck. Far from it in fact. Watching it today, and thoroughly enjoying it while I did so, I found myself wondering exactly what kind of movie people are expecting it to be. Because of course Crystal Skull is not going to be this year’s The Departed or No Country For Old Men. It’s Indiana Jones! It’s a summer blockbuster action film at its heart, and it lives up to that promise with great skill. It is in no way a black mark on the Indiana Jones series, and fans of the original trilogy should have no problems setting it on the shelf with the other three.
It isn’t a perfect movie. I think they try a little too hard to explain what has been happening in Indy’s life during the interim, wedging in exposition when unnecessary. And there are some convoluted moments, sure, probably the two biggest involve a nuclear explosion and Tarzan-like vine swinging. But all of these movies have convoluted moments, giant boulders, mine car chases, zeppelin dog-fighting. And as the secrets of the titular Skull is revealed, some might roll their eyes and think “lame.” But I ask Indy fans, is it any less a stretch of the imagination that a mystical Ark, when opened, will melt all who don’t look away? Or that a man can rip someone’s beating heart out of his chest and have it burst into flames when he falls into lava? For the water from the right cup to heal wounds while the wrong will melt a Nazi good? I say no. Indy doesn’t do “realism.”
What Indy does is fun action, with a little humor mixed in. I’d say the vast majority of the action in this movie works, with only a couple of “oh come on, really?!” moments that briefly take you out if the movie (see previous reference to Tarzan.) The crux of which is the caravan chase slash fight slash jump from vehicle to vehicle sequence that is basically the staple of the franchise, having been used in every movie save for Temple of Doom. It does not fail to entertain in this film just as it hasn’t in the previous two.
And Ford delivers. One of the biggest “it’s going to suck” complaints I have heard about the movie is that he is too old. This *might* be a valid complaint if it weren’t for the fact that Harrison Ford has been putting out action movies on a somewhat regular basis, the most recent being 2006’s Firewall. And he’s also the exact same age his Last Crusade co-star Sean Connery was when he made The Rock. There are a couple of moments in fight scenes where a shadow on Indy’s face suggests maybe Ford wasn’t doing the stunt himself, but for the most part it is clearly him, and I also welcome the occasional stuntman over the CGI mess that most action movies today feature.
The supporting case is strong, Karen Allen is a welcome return as Marion, and Shia La Beouf does not usurp the focus of the movie from it’s rightful place on Indy. I’m always happy to see John Hurt and his crazed professor is a much less malicious and intimidating character than his V For Vendetta Adam Sutler. And the Soviets do not make any less of a quality villain than those Nazis, especially with Cate Blanchett at the helm. Oh and Scrubs’ Janitor, Neil Flynn is in it!
It’s hard to really make an official judgement call on where it ranks among the Indiana Jones series, considering I have two decades of nostalgia built up from the others, but having only seen it once I would say it falls somewhere behind Raiders and Crusade, but is better than Temple of Doom. All four movies continue to keep me as a fan, and if it could be as good as this one, I would gladly go see a fifth.
(Geek’s note: There is nothing at the end of the credits, so the only reason to stay through them is to hear the “Raider’s March” blasted through cinema quality sound systems… which for me was worth it.)