Tag Archives: Steven Spielberg

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

Ok, I’ll admit I’ve always been pretty ambivalent towards the Indiana Jones trilogy. I liked Raiders well enough, but loathed Temple of Doom – it’s completely un-watchable, while Last Crusade was meh. So when they announced that they were finally going to do Indy 4 I could not have cared less. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull returns the series to it’s Raiders glory. This is the film that should have followed the Raiders, it’s pretty much a direct sequel with many nods to the first film and in the final moments brings everything full circle. When this film works, it works really well, but there’s still that strange sense of deja-vu. It feels like you are watching the original again, only 20 years later with slightly different characters and plot.  Maybe it’s because I watched Raiders the night before the screening so it was still fresh in my mind. But everything felt familiar instead of Nazi’s you had Russians, instead of Belloq we had Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett), instead of the Ark we had this goofy looking Crystal Skull which looked exactly like the head from one of the Alien films. I can see the crossover fan fiction already.  This familiarity isn’t a bad thing – especially considering how completely out of sync Temple of Doom feels like when I watch it. It put a smile on my face the first time Indy (Harrison Ford)  is re-introduced to the world in shadow with his hat and the first time you hear the classic John Williams theme again. It’s like I’m a kid again. I don’t care what anyone says John Williams is the greatest film composer of our times. You don’t have a soul if the Raiders theme doesn’t get your blood pumping. No many how many times it’s replayed it during the movie.  The opening 30 minutes of Raiders is simply, brilliant is too strong a word, exhilarating is better.  But then something happens that starts to derail things and it pains me to say it, because we love him here at EM and I’ve met him a couple of times, Shia LaBeouf  brings everything to a screeching halt.  Everything about his character is just horrible: from the stupid name – (Mutt Williams) to the greaser, bad boy attitude, to the playing with his pocket knife and his habit of combing his hair when he’s nervous.  None of it works, it just doesn’t ring true. Shia isn’t the bad boy, James Dean type. He’s the normal kid who gets into trouble because he’s a smart ass. 

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Awhile ago, when I was yelling at people that Atonement wasn’t a “complex” plot (just stupid) and that there’s no such thing as “complex” plots just poorly scripted films, I may have to eat my words. I find myself on the fence as to whether this movie is overly complex or stupid.  There’s a fine line between the two and I think David Koepp (screenplay), George Lucas (story) and Jeff Nathanson‘s script walks that fine line. This movie takes place right in the middle of the Cold War scare and in the opening there are several references to the witch hunt and how this isn’t “our America,” anymore. But then the next few scenes you have Russian agents speaking in heavy Russian accents in the middle of an Ice-Cream parlor and chasing Indy all over town. Not to mention they break into a top secret military base. The FBI would be completely incompetent if they didn’t investigate all the obvious Russian activity. The writers want to make a political statement, but this obviously isn’t the film for it. Even if it is set during that paranoid period in our history. They would have been better off just ignoring the subtext then trying to shoehorn one in. Just because you are paranoid doesn’t mean people aren’t out to get you. And politicians and government agencies are always out to capitalize on it, just look at our current situation.

All of the major action set pieces also feel like stuff that we’ve seen in the other three films only longer. There’s one chase sequence that’s fun for the first 5 minutes but 10 or 15 minutes in, I was like – I get the point, let’s move on already. This is a b to the w action film with little character development or progression. No one in this film has grown since Raiders.  Which actually is a good thing, it’s what we’re comfortable with as an audience and really, why mess with a formula that works.  But back to the plot, without giving anything away instead of chasing an ancient artifact, this time Indy gets caught up in a Russian Spy’s (Irina) quest for an object that promises untold knowledge and treasure. I won’t say more than that, but the film’s 3rd act feels like poorly constructed fan fiction. A great what if Indy discovered….It’s really nice special effects, but what happens in the end is almost exactly what happens at the end of Raiders. After the ride Steven Spielberg takes us on, I somehow expected something more, I don’t know, original. I can’t see Shia being able to carry an entire Indy film by himself, but it’s clear that’s where Spielberg and Lucas want to go.  Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull isn’t a perfect film, but it’s far more satisfying as a whole than the sum of it’s parts.

Final Grade B

EM Review by
Michelle Alexandria
Originally Posted 5.22.08

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull – Indy Can Still Take Us on a Wild Ride!

Indiana Jones is back – and it’s a Very Good Thing!

Indy has faced many obstacles in his life, but never before has he been considered a potential threat to national security! And let me tell you, it really bugs his @$$!

The problem arises because of a [former] friend who helps a covert Soviet team steal something highly magnetic from Area 51. The consequences of that incident even lead to Indy being put on “on indefinite leave of absence” from his teaching job – the timing of which is conveniently perfect for him to meet a Brando/Dean/Fonzie wannabe named Mutt Williams [Shia LeBeouf], who says his mother told him that Indy could help them. Indy is further persuaded by the KGB goons who try to grab him and Mutt [which leads to the revelation of one of the most poorly kept secrets in the history of cinema…].

It seems that an old colleague of Indy, “Ox” Oxley [John Hurt] may have found the location of the legendary lost city of gold – and the Commies want something that should also be there – something that ties in with the object they nabbed in the film’s opening. “Mother” turns out to the former Marion Ravenwood [Karen Allen] is as feisty as ever [if she could have duped her guards into a drinking contest, she might well have escaped].

Now we come to the key to the whole film – the Crystal Skull of Akator. Spalko believes it’s one of thirteen and when united with its fellows will give the Soviets the ultimate weapon. She’s sure of this, because it speaks to her. Apparently she’s a bit on psychic side…

Crystal Skulls Cast

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is the kind of adventure that many of us would kill to have, if only they didn’t happen in some wonderful parallel universe that looks like our own but has as much magic as science. There are chases [and we never even think to question how there could be two parallel roads next to each other in the Mayan jungle]; sword fights on jeep hoods [see parallel roads], and strange and wondrous artifacts, like the exquisitely beautiful, if oddly shaped crystal skull. There’s even a lost city [and a pretty cool explanation for why our modern satellites have never encountered it].

Every Indy film is very much of the time in which it takes place: Raiders and Last Crusade, set in the forties, dealt with Nazis, as well as supernatural artifacts; Temple of Doom [set in the late thirties] was a pulpy adventure that revolved around a Kali death cult. So it’s no surprise that Crystal Skull uses the trappings of the cold war as the basis for its story [and riffs on the best known film cold war allegories for its trippy conclusion].

Even when it’s dealing with exposition [as in most of the middle act], Indy 4 entertains by making the “Basil Exposition” character [John Hurt’s Oxley] interesting – and tossing in some action or surprise every time things look to be slowing too much. Many of the best allusions to the previous films happen here – watch for a great gag with a snake, in particular.

Though there are some significant CG effects used in the film, a lot of the best stunts are practical, and Ford can be seen, clearly, doing more than enough of Indy’s stunts to make us believe it’s still him when a stuntman takes over. Even little things [like the over-the-top meaty sounds of the fist fights] perfectly recapture the feel of the previous films.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is much better than I was expecting [and I was expecting a lot!]. Steven Spielberg does what he does best – marrying action and adventure to interesting characters. He keeps the film moving and provides some wonderful sights along the way.

If you want to put it in terms of the entire series, Crystal Skull fits in, quality-wise, at about the same place as Last Crusade. The two films even deal with daddy issues, so that’s a pretty natural conclusion.

Final Grade: A-

Indiana Jones Trailer Hits Friday!

indianaposter3

I haven’t done much coverage of the upcoming Indiana Jones film but here’s some interesting news, the teaser trailer debuts in theaters this weekend. Paramount Pictures and Lucasfilm Ltd. announced today that the first teaser trailer for the highly anticipated Indiana Jones adventure “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Harrison Ford in the title role, will debut in theaters across the globe on February 14, 2008.  The trailer will air exclusively on ABC’s “Good Morning America” that morning between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m.  Immediately thereafter, the footage will be available at the film’s official site IndianaJones.com, Yahoo! Movies and in motion picture theaters.

On May 22, Indiana Jones is back in a new globe-trotting adventure, "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull."  Directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Harrison Ford as Indy, "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" is a Lucasfilm Ltd. Production.  The movie features an outstanding cast, including Oscar® winner Cate Blanchett, Karen Allen, Ray Winstone, John Hurt, Oscar® winner Jim Broadbent and Shia LaBeouf.  Frank Marshall is the film’s producer.  George Lucas and Kathleen Kennedy are the executive producers. The screenplay is by David Koepp from a story by George Lucas and Jeff Nathanson.  It’s pretty interesting and ironic that Shia, David and Jeff Nathanson have all talked exclusively with Eclipse in the past and will be featured in the upcoming EM Interview book.  

Transformers: Bay-Spielberg Collaboration Yields Action Flick With Heart!

Transformers DVD EclipseMagazine.com Review

If you didn’t see Transformers in a theatre, you missed one of the biggest treats of this last summer’s crop of blockbusters. Simply put, Transformers is the best live action film to have been based on a line of toys, or an animated TV series.

Continue reading Transformers: Bay-Spielberg Collaboration Yields Action Flick With Heart!