Ken's Review: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull - A Welcome Addition to the Indiana Jones Saga
by Ken Evans
May 24, 2008
I can't believe it's here! After months of anticipation, news, trailers, pictures and an Indiana Jones marathon, Kingdom of the Crystal Skull has finally arrived! So much of the success of this film rides on how well it compares to and compliments the previous Indy movies. Is Harrison Ford able to resurrect Indiana and play him again after all these years? Does it have an awesome opening, amazing chase scenes, fantastic tomb raiding, and fight sequences that only Indiana Jones can provide? Well, I have all the answers because I have seen it, and I'm happy to report that while perhaps it wasn't as perfect as I had hoped, it still delivers and doesn't bring any shame to the Indiana Jones universe.
It is now 1957, 20 years after the last time we saw Indiana. America is at the height of the Cold War and Indy seems to be caught in yet another hunt to find some ancient artifact that contains mystical powers. After a run-in with Soviet agent Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett), Indy returns home and realizes that he doesn't have much going for him. Feeling depressed and lonely, he runs into Mutt Williams (Shia LaBeouf) who explains that his mentor, Professor Oxley (John Hurt), has been kidnapped while looking for the Crystal Skull of Akator. Knowing Oxley personally and having an interest in finding the skull himself, he sets off to help Mutt, not realizing that Spalko and the Soviets are after the skull as well.
As in all of the films, Indiana grows and changes as time passes. Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is no different. Harrison Ford plays Indy exactly how he would be after 20 years has passed. He is older, slower, and has lost some of his adventurous spirit. That isn't changing Indy, but instead is showing the reality of his character. Thankfully, even in his old age, Indiana still has quick comebacks, knows how to use his whip, and can still throw a punch. This new adventure seems to put a bit of spring back into his step. Even though you can tell he knows he is too old for the action, he does what he has to do for country, friends, and family.
Shia LaBeouf does a nice job and shows that he has some range in his acting. As much as I liked him in Transformers and Disturbia, I found his constant talking to be a bit annoying. He seems a lot more controlled in this and has found the maturity level I wanted to see. Cate Blanchett was solid as always, although she didn't have any one scene that was spectacular like I was hoping for. It was great to see Karen Allen reprising the role of Marion Ravenwood from Raider of the Lost Ark, too. Obviously she was the one female character every Indiana Jones fan wanted to see return.
Like I said above, the success of this film rests on how it compares to the previous films. So what about the opening? All of the other films had fantastic opening sequences that set the tone for the rest of the movie. My favorite was in Raiders of the Lost Ark, but following close behind were the other two. In Crystal Skull, I really enjoyed the opening and thought it fell in line with how the previous ones were done. There's five minutes before we ever see Indy, then he is finally revealed and we, the audience, realize that quite a bit has already happened leading up to the situation Indiana is in now. Some of the main characters are introduced and as always there is plenty of action. This opening is great up until the nuclear explosion, which was ridiculous. However, I understand their point of showing Indiana in the midst of a different part of history, times have changed from what we are used to seeing him in. All in all it was a nice opening, not as good as Raider of the Lost Ark, but a welcome addition to the others.
No Indiana Jones film would be complete without some amazing chase scenes. Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is no different. I wasn't a big fan of the first chase in the town where Indy lives, mostly because it didn't focus on Indy as much as it introduced Mutt and the fact that he rides a motorcycle, which really has no relevance anywhere else in the film. However, as disappointing as that scene was, they made up for it with the jungle chase later in the movie. I absolutely loved it! It reminded me of the mine cart chase in Temple of Doom and the chase from Raiders of the Lost Ark combined. The camera work was top notch and it really just blew me away.
I was disappointed by the lack of puzzles or tomb raiding booby traps. To be honest, there really weren't any. Sure there is the part near the end where they are trying to find the entrance to the temple. Well, if that was a puzzle it was a lame one - no spiked ceilings, no darts coming out of the walls, and no tests of faith for Indiana to pass. This was pretty much just a race to get to the treasure before the Soviets could. Too bad, I always loved the puzzles from the others.
Overall, I really enjoyed this new chapter in the Indiana Jones saga. I really only had three complaints. The first problem I had was the introduction of Shia LaBeouf's character. LaBeouf did a fine job, but just the fact that his character was there detracted from the focus and attention given to Indy. A sidekick is the last thing Indiana Jones needs. My second problem was the alien based story. Sorry if that spoils anyone's idea of what they thought the movie was going to be about, but if you saw a poster I'm sure you saw the alien shaped skull. It was too much like X-Files meets Indiana Jones, not to mention the confusing ending which reminded me too much of the ending for Close Encounters of the Third Kind and The Abyss. The last complaint is in regards to a specific scene containing LaBeouf in the trees with some monkeys. I don't have much to say about that scene other than it was laughably horrid. I wonder if that scene was another one of Lucas' great ideas?
I enjoyed the crap out of this movie! Sure there were some things I would have changed or left out, but I am going to see it again, and I have no problem adding this to the trilogy that we all hold so dear. To me this is like Alien 3 or The Godfather 3, both good films but not quite as good as the first few. Die hard fans of Indiana Jones should focus on what it did right and enjoy it because they get to see Indy again. At the very least this might be the weakest Indy film, but is still a million times better then any other treasure hunting adventurer film out there.
Reader Feedback - 25 Comments
"You know how people say: You're okey in my book! Or - in my book that's no good! Well I actually have a book. And every movie I've ever watch goes in this book, and now I watched this one, so it's going in the book! But I'm afraid that I'll have to file it… under 'Crappy ones' " Pity…
KaZet on May 24, 2008
I love the "Indiana Jones" movies, "Raiders" being my all time favorite. "Crystal Skull" was good, except my expectations were much higher for this flick. That's what most of us had to contend with. If we compare "Crystal Skull" with the previous three "Indy" flicks then "Crystal Skull" falls short all around and is easily the weakest of the series. But as a stand alone, it's a pretty enjoyable flick.
Spider on May 24, 2008
I saw it last night, definitely not bad! I still think Temple of Doom brings up the rear of the franchise, but was certainly not up to par with The Last Crusade. Yes, that scene with Shia swinging with the monkeys had way to much cute Jar-Jar stink on it aside from being utterly ridiculous anyway. That one scene aside he did a good job and was not the chatty cathy he was in Transformers and did show some range, hopefully he willl have more opportunities in the future to show his real skills. And what was up with those damned gopher/prairie dogs in the beginning? Wasn't too sure about the alien story either, while Indy was always mildly sci-fi it felt over the top, though when you think about how weird the others are it fits right in mostly. I mean if you consider say, Raiders of the Lost Ark, ancient artifact with unlimited mysterious energy, that melts Nazi faces? Suddenly alien skulls with crazy powers doesn't sound that bad. In the end if you dont analyze it too much, a very enjoyable film, I really liked some of the throwbacks from previous films like the Ark being at Area 51, and mention of Marcus and his father. Certainly met my expectations for the first Indy in 20 years. I can only hope George Lucas doesn't release a "Special Edition" that adds that Death Star ring to every explosion and scenes where Indy didn't shoot first...
Breach on May 24, 2008
@Breach "scenes where Indy didn't shoot first..." HAHAHAHAHAHA
Andrew on May 24, 2008
Well, I actually agree with everything this reviewer sais, allthough I think the alien story made it its own movie. The story wouldn't have worked if the alien Idea wasn't so emersed in. He's also right about the explosion scene, it was only for laughs and it didn't advance the story. The monkey scene would have worked better if there was only one or no monkeys. Also I noticed people were saying that the caracters didn't advance through the story and the caracters weren't develop anough. Well I could see Shias character change, but at the start his character seemed weird. Though we did know almost every other character so you can oviosly run with them. I do want to see this movie again, both because its enjoyable and because you never get the whole story the first time.
Nic on May 24, 2008
mmmmm... I wonder what Alex would say in his review if you gave it an 8... 🙂 I, personally, liked it very much, even the alien story, that last scene (incredulous as it was) was masterfully well done. I could certainly see the Spielberg glow in almost all the film and the goofiness of Lucas all around too. Yeah, it is probably the weakest link of the 4 films, but c'mon, it is still cool to watch and it delivers in the entertainment department, I don't understand those who hate it so much, I wish that everybody could just see things like they really are, it is just a movie after all.
Roderick on May 24, 2008
oh, I just found out Alex review, how could I missed that? 🙂
Roderick on May 24, 2008
Please for the love of god! STOP GEORGE LUCAS FROM DOING ANYTHING! Him and his special effects crew are ruining films. They created a HUGE disconnect in Crystal Skull. The horrible effects just shattered that fourth wall. Is there a petition to get him to quit? I'll sign. They a made for Sci-Fi channel quality at best. The story was great, if it was made without lucas it would have been a great movie, instead it was mediocre at best. Another black eye for the lucas camp.
angryKid on May 24, 2008
I think the film's big flaw is Ford's age and the screenwriters/producer/director's insistence to overcook that fact. The film starts with a more world-weary, clumsy Jones and it sort of works - you'd expect Jones to be less sharp. Watch Jones falling about when he's in the small town about to be nuked. Amusing and affectionate. The film acknowledges Ford's age and an older Indiana Jones but this works to the film's detriment when Mutt Williams is introduced. Notice how Mutt leads the action, not Indiana. Indiana is the back seat passenger on the bike, Mutt does most of the action in the jungle chase. Where was Indiana's heroism? I can't recall one heroic action. Where was the character's inventiveness, his ability to think on his feet, his courage? I didn't see any. Mutt was the inventive one, he was the one using the sword. Jones played second fiddle to Mutt and that was a great shame. Some of the CGI animals moments were silly - such as the opening shot of the film. I'm not sure what Mr Lucas was thinking when he thought that shot was appropriate! Another problem is the ensemble nature of the story. Did the film need Mac and Professor Oxley to follow Indy, Marion and Mutt to the city? The film should have made Jones the main attraction but it became more like Indiana Jones and his extended family. The additional cast seemed unnecessary and John Hurt's character wasn't needed. I'd rather he were killed off prior to the jungle chase. All he did was look deranged. The end scenes, whilst visually impressive, lacked an exciting action set piece. This was no opening of the ark, no rollercoaster type Temple of Doom chase scene, just a homage to Close Encounters - aliens appear and then leave. Jones didn't do anything in the end scenes - he was a bystander. A more inventive screenplay could have had Marion trapped inside the structure and Jones trying to rescue her before the alien ship took off but, sadly, we got no invention. The film is enjoyable but the 19 year absence does show. Ford's age inhibits his performance, he's not given enough to do and what he does do lacks the invention we've come to expect from an Indiana Jones movie. At times he's almost a supporting character when he should be leading the narrative. Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull delivers exactly what you expect - a film made by three men in their 60s and it shows. It's an old-fashioned film, a safe, one note film and yet trying to appeal to the 21st century 'internet Ipod' generation. It's the motion picture equivalent of a 'Beatles reunion' Indiana Jones film. The talent is all there but time has passed and the magic has gone. 6 out of 10
Trent on May 24, 2008
Crystal Skull missed the mark. One of the major shticks of the first three movies is Indy vs. insurmountable odds. Indy vs an encampment of Nazis, Indy vs a temple of Thugees, Indy on horseback fighting a tank. Indy is the driving force who overcomes these incredible odds through skill, cleverness, brute force and sheer willpower. In Crystal Skull, however, it feels like he's just along for the ride and one of a hapless crew following a map and who all collectively get lucky along the way. At no point did you see Indy really get beaten down and on the edge of failure and then magically - in true Indy style - pull a win out from his bag of tricks. Also in the previous three movies, comic relief was interspersed briefly throughout the movie but always secondary to the story. In Crystal Skull, it definitely took center stage. Scenes repeatedly seemed focus on silly dialogue between the characters that never furthered the story. Lucas stated that Crystal Skull (and the Indy series) is a B-movie with A-movie treatment. They take things seriously, he said. While I agree this was mostly true for the first three movies (starting to fail with Last Crusade), the fourth was nothing more than a B-movie with an A-movie budget. The scene with the quicksand is case and point. Indy breaks into a science-class lesson while he and Marion are sinking into the sand. Sheesh! Lost was the opportunity to show a real struggle and being in a serious jam and then working their way out of it. They might as well have been sitting around a coffee table talking than in the middle of the jungle. Another hugely sore point is no character development. Although Indy needed no introduction, Mac, Irina Spalko and Oxley, plus the guy who took Marcus' place (I didn't catch his name) all had no build up and left a huge gap in understanding their relationship to Indy and to the movie on the whole. The only saving graces in Crystal Skull were Harrison Ford and Shia LaBeouf. Despite his age, Ford continues to shine in the role. Not for a second did he leave any doubt that he was capable of the feats he performed. If anything, he was refreshingly vibrant and strong. Shia came through, also, as a strong actor - due in part, perhaps, to having about the only real interaction with Indy. But still, Shia stood his ground with a screen presence that was not overcast by the power of the Indy icon. Combine all the failures of this movie with unforgivable CGI throw-ins like jungle monkeys helping fight the Russians and pointless groundhog cutaways that showed the animals "watching" the action and you get, from this lifetime Indy fan a big "thumbs down". I was thoroughly disappointed and hope Spielberg and Lucas get this note and start IMMEDIATELY making a new one to make up for this one. One that is true to the Indy spirit!
Frank Stovicek on May 24, 2008
So dumb. And I'm not even blaming the premise. Or Shia LaBouef. When the LAST CRUSADE repeated some RAIDERS schemes (like the armoured convoy chase) at least it seemed like homage and was still fun. Lucas can truly not tell the difference between resonance and repitition. This LUCITE SKULL was nothing but a saturday morning cartoon. A big repetitive cartoon. They could have just cut out the "Refrigerator" scene and used that time for a few lines of truly meaningful dialogue, and the movie could only have been better. Sure, wanting to film a story that will thrill a new generation of ten year olds is a noble goal- TO A POINT. But somebody needs to tell Lucas that it's possible to write a script that appeals to both kids AND adults (even smart ones.) Christ, hasn't he seen TOY STORY or the INCREDIBLES yet? I don't think writers make a shitload of money. For a few measley million Lucas could probably hire the Pixar writers AND Tom Stoppard AND a couple of fiction-Pulitzer winners to boot. Some comment I read in a STAR WARS thread put it best: Leia: "I love you..." Han: "I know." There is one short scene with FIVE WORDS of dialogue that is better wriiten than almost the entirety of Episodes 1-3. I couldn't agree more! All you need is the humility to add a few short lines of adult dialogue into your cartoon, and Presto! you've got a movie everyone can enjoy. And even middle-agers like me will be smiling. I guess you can't fit it all into one movie, though. And when the choice is between mature dialogue or CG groundhogs, well, I guess George Lucas knows what the people want to see. He is a billionaire after all.
M. on May 25, 2008
Saw the film last night and found it flawed but entertaining. The best aspect of it documents the influence of my favorite TV show of all time - the X-Files.
JOE on May 25, 2008
In terms of the series I'd say it ranks just below NATIONAL TREASURE.
M. on May 25, 2008
Indiana Jones is the best Movies series ever created. This was a great movie, not as good as the originals but its like this movie was gold, and the first three were diamonds.
kyle on May 26, 2008
I can't believe anybody praised or even thought this movie was remotely good. 8 out of 10 stars? You critics must be afraid of offending Spielberg and Lucas worrying that you'll never get that exclusive. This was the worst movie I've scene in years. I want my 10 bucks back.
randy on May 26, 2008
The opening "Paramount logo" of this movie tells you exactly what to expect. In the frist 3 films it's a mountain and in this one its a mole-hill. From a mountain to a mole-hill, enough said. Somebody should punch "Shpielberg", fr this offensive dreck. And then cut off Lucas's fingers, and sew his mouth shut.
Scorpio on May 27, 2008
Lol Scorpio nice one. Anyway I liked it as a whole, I liked it up until about where they go looking for Ox, I liked the Area 51 opening, the bomb, the secret agent aspect, the meeting of Mutt w/ the fight in the bar and motorcycle race thru the campus, but after that it kinda went downhill a bit. What I hated: the monkey scene and the groundhogs, why put in cgi animals looking surprised, where does that say "Indiana" anywhere. I kinda liked the ants, and the alien story, and I know in Indy movies nothing is never explained and its all supernatural/religious but they should have done something less dramatic, why did the alien skulls have power, why didn't that Russian lady use her psych power on indy or at all even, that would have made a good scene / ala Temple of Doom. Why did the skeletons turn into a real alien? Why did it melt faces? Why couldnt it just have sent itself home or something, and get the bad guys trapped while trying to escape and make Indy have to like think quick to get out with himself and his friends or something? I don't know I liked it but I thought it could have been much, much better, they should screen to hard core Indy fans so they can get a better idea of what people expect adn wanna see from Indy. Even scriptwise.
Richard on May 27, 2008
I guess we all have our own tastes. I agree with most of your review with two exceptions. I liked the nuclear explosion scene, and I really liked Shia's monkey scene. I thought they both injected massive doses of humor into solid action sequences. "A sidekick is the last thing Indiana Jones needs." I don't getr that statement at all. Indy's always had sidekicks, whether it was Sallah, Short Round, or Henry Jones, Sr.
kevjohn on May 27, 2008
I don't no why so many people are bashing this movie of course it wont be as good as the first one or any of the others, take it for what it is. I can understand why so many people didn't like the story though it was a little out there for a Indy flick but i enjoyed it, it was more like the 2nd one in my opinion though i would say it is the weakest of all the films i still enjoyed it. Like many people above said there were a couple ridiculous scenes like one being Shia and the monkey (terrible) though there was more than enough phenomenal scenes and cinematography to rise about those bad scenes. For Shia's character i thought he was a great addition to the Indy films, he breathed some new life into them, not that it needed any but what ever. All around great movie best action/adventure movie of the summer and looking forward to seeing it again..
Curtis on May 27, 2008
Up until the jungle scenes i was absolutely loving the movie. When Mutt began swinging in the trees(so lame) the whole thing started to go down hill. The sword fighting sequence lasted way to long and was so fake looking, going over one waterfall would have been good enough but three, cmon! I enjoyed all the charactors except for Ox, his constant babbling became very annoying. However I loved the back and forth dialogue between Indy and Marion and Mutt was a good addition in my opinion. I loved the basic premise but felt the ending was way over the top. Seeing the alien made me think of the X-Files and could somebody tell me why the ship left then and not before the conquistadors stole the skull. Also nobody is really talking about how after 19 years Spielberg and Pucas couldn't develop a better script. This franchise means alot to many people and the die hard fans deserved a more complete movie. I was, getting ready to rank this slightly behind Last crusade but the final 1/4 of the movie made me rank it a distant third. Maybe if I see it again I will enjoy it more but I'm not holding my breath.
JD on May 27, 2008
Umm... The writer of this article is completely right when we says that it is missing traps that Indiana has to get past. That was one of the most exciting parts of the first movies. It also made it different. I did not like the whole alien thing just plain stupid and there was no piont to the aliens either. Why did they have to bring the skull back to the aliens thy didn't learn anything or figure out anything. The aliens just left, horribly movie making on that part. I think a better story and more interesting one would have been something with the Mayas and how they thought the world is going to end in 2012. It would scare the hell out of alot of people which is good movie making and catch attention. Indiana could have foudn a way to save the world from ceasing to exist or something. IDK.... I just think the alien thing was retarted.
Joe on May 28, 2008
Some of the most articulate and intelligent posting I've read on Firstshowing. The knives should rightfully be out for this lacklustre, child-friendly, CG-heavy, mismanaged fourth installement, and yet everyone here presented considered and mature responses. The Crystal Skull derails itself from the off-set and struggles for two hours to stop from sinking. The one success was, in my humble opinion, the script. I felt the characterisation at the core (and I'm only really referring to Marion, Indy and Mutt) was solid throughout with some standout scenes. Everything else was off-kilter. I don't even want to think about the moles or the monkeys. There were so many jump the shark moments (the fridge, the waterfalls, the swordfight), so many wasted/useless characters (Ray Winston/Cate Blanchett/John Hurt) so many sets that looked like sets, such an abundance of special effects when both Speilberg and Lucas had promised a return to a raditional approach, and a fundamentally bungled MacGuffin (did we HAVE to see the Alien??? Did we have to see the SAUCER???) that the flow and suspension of disbelief was irreparably damaged. I love Indy and Ford pulled out an admirable turn but ultimately this half the film it could have been. I am sad.
Mrbobbyboy on May 29, 2008
Since I was a kid I've wathced the Indiana Jones movies. This latest one really was depressing. I thought after such a long time of waiting the production team would have found the perfect script. Aliens and ufo's are not classic Indy storylines. What happened? This movie was just a sell out to make money. Instead of delving into historic archeoligcal relics they chose a mythic/undocumented fable which has no bearing in our world. Instead of opening our minds to history, like they usually do the production team became followers of movies like National Treasure/X Files/Close Encounters/Predator v. Aliens. Lastly, the notion of wisdom being the ultimate treasure, in the end what weisdom was relayed. I have no clue. In conclusion I will use the metaphor of the alien blowing up Kates head. George Lucas and Steven Speilberg blew up my heart. I will only consider the first three indy movies as original and classic, the last one is like a bad garage band cover tune interpretation of the original masterpiece.
Indiana Jones has left the building... on May 31, 2008
I dont want to harp on about how disapointing this film was as most of the negatives have been covered by all of the above comments. What i will say is...for fucksake George Lucas you need to retire because you have ruined two of the greatest franchises in movie history with your crap ideas (Indiana jones vs Aliens???????) and what the hell were you thinking with those cartoon Meercats?...not once but three times you tried to pull that gimmick and im sure they would have looked more realistic if you made them out of playdough! Total and utter bullshit from start to finish which is such a shame because Harrison Ford looked more than ready to make a great movie....the old guys behind the camera just couldnt keep up with him! Someone before me has said that the one success was the script...well im telling you now that the script was as sharp as a fucking spoon and to be honest at certain points you'd have thought you were watching The Mummy Returns (which it pains me to say it...but i enjoyed a tad more than this awful mess!). For me the Indiana Jones adventure begins with 'Raiders' and ends with 'Crusade' and im happy to forget that the last installment ever happened..... Ps. as for Speilberg? well since i remember him saying that this film would have very little CGI and that 'Indy' will go back to basics....we now know that he meant it will have more effects shots than Iron Man and The Hulk put together and will be slightly less believable than both those movies!
VegasDanny on Jul 16, 2008
Me - I loved it and became a kid again. Saw it for the 2nd time this morning. Sure, a certain monkey scene and a car entering water scene were WAY over the top and what's with the gophers BUT this is the parts I laughed at the hardest.
?????? ?????? on Sep 29, 2009
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