Right up front, I don’t mean for this to be a negative review, in that I’m not trying to scare you away from Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. In fact, I think everyone should see it, because I’ve heard lots and lots of people tell me how great it is. My problem is that I’m blinded by my own passion for Raiders of the Lost Ark. It was (and still is) one of my favorite movies of all time. So, if you haven’t seen Crystal Skull, yet, stop reading right now, because the rest of this is whiny and full of spoilers.
I really wanted to love this movie. I wanted to see Harrison Ford as a crusty, old Indy, still falling into traps but making a narrow, whip-cracking escape at the last minute, then going after the bad guys, because they stole some artifact that would doom the world in the wrong hands.
And this movie sooooo could have been that. That’s the most frustrating thing.
If you’ve seen it, then you can imagine how little the plot needed to be tweaked to get what we wished for! Suppose that right up front Indy was told that it was Marion who was kidnapped. We already know it’s Marion, so having Indy just go off with some kid on a quest for some dumb skull that he doesn’t even believe has powers doesn’t have any dramatic “oomph”. Whether you know that Mutt is his son or not, if Indy knows he’s got to save Marion, right there you’ve got him with a real mission–to rescue his old love from the bad guys. Now we’re off, and we’re with him instead of miles ahead of him.
Speaking of bad guys, I don’t have a problem with updating it to the “Red Menace,” but man what a botch job on that front. In the first place, Commies just aren’t as scary as Nazis. (Sorry, Commies.) They can be, but you have to work harder at it. You can’t just throw a Prince Valiant wig on Cate Blanchett and tell her to talk like Natasha Fatale (ya gotta at least have Boris Badenov show up!). A real, crusty character actor with some menace would have been better.
Also, they started off with a McCarthy scare, but it went nowhere. Instead of showing how the war hero Indy, who was as anti-Communist as they come, gets pushed around by these young bullies–giving him an excuse to fight back and yet another mission for us to care about–it fizzles into thin air. By the end, everyone’s back in place and all is happy, but he never had to struggle with anyone to get there! Where’s the comeuppance for the smug, young FBI agents who dared to question our hero?
Indy fired. “Marcus lite” fired. Marcus dead. Dad dead. A kid shows up and says he’s Indy’s son and that his mother, Marion, is being held hostage in the jungles of Peru by Soviet agents looking for a powerful, crystal skull. Meanwhile, American agents keeping tabs on Indy decide they want the thing, too. And, for good measure, they could have just as easily moved the whole thing to Argentina and had ex-Nazis looking for the skull to bring them back into power! Now that’s a plot for you!
I didn’t mind the alien angle at all. It was a little overdone at the end. I would rather have seen a bit more mystery, but aliens aren’t any less believable than the other powerful artifacts he’s come across.
I guess my bottom line is that there really wasn’t any feeling of danger or urgency or mystery about the thing. There wasn’t a roller coaster ride feel. Sure, there were some cool stunt scenes. I liked the motorcycle chase a lot, and Ford and Shia LaBouf really made a good team. (In fact, I liked it best when it was just the two of them.) But most of the rest of the film either had them doing things that were so ridiculously impossible that it ruined believability, or it wasn’t Indy doing them. Shia’s cool and all, but I want to see Indy sword fighting between moving cars in a jungle chase even though he doesn’t know how to handle a sword.
One of the best scenes in the movie was when a Soviet bad guy and the turncoat Mac (another character that could have been so much more developed) are speeding straight at Indy in a game of chicken. As they’re hurtling toward each other, Mac is freaking out, screaming “You don’t know him! You don’t know him!”
Well, I do. I just wish George Lucas did.