6.23.2009

REVIEW: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (Steven Spielberg, 2008)

So I just caught Pirates of the Caribbean: The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. At least it felt like that, just with a bumbling Harrison Ford in place of a wisecracking Johnny Depp. Before I get too far I should note that I am not a huge fan of Kingdom's predecessors. I don't hate them but I've never had the urge to revisit them so there may have been some classic Jones-isms that I missed out on, thereby decreasing my enjoyment of the screen candy of this recent installment.

The film can basically be summed up into these three acts: One - CGI prairie dogs watch as a painfully stilted Ford makes multiple excuses for being old, Two - Spielberg creates a CGI amusement park ride that is desperate to be worth the admission price (I hate to sound like I'm defending Pirates of the Caribbean but at least it was based on a ride) and Three - The most ridiculous CGI and the most predictable and contrived plot points battle for Razzie awards. Oh, and throughout we have Shia LaBeouf, who can't pronounce the film's title (Crystal Skoal, anyone?) so much as act (not that the piss-poor writing was helping him), pulling his best Scrappy Doo impression. Incidentally... what was the point of giving him the silly name "Mutt" if they only use it once, that being when they introduce him?

Anyway... there are a few positives. For one, the film does have a spark of adventurous spirit thanks to the fire that Ford (rarely) gets in his eyes upon making a discovery. There are also a few decent laughs (the entire quicksand sequence was actually very successfully funny) but these often don't find their footing as they are spattered haphazardly throughout action sequences that make even less sense for having included jokes.

Sure, Kingdom is not supposed to be taken completely seriously. It's a live-action comic book. There's a certain extent it reaches pretty early on, however, where gloriously killing its darlings only to bring them back unscathed not seconds later turns into a series of "you have got to be kidding me" moments. If you haven't seen the movie, all the moments you've heard made fun of are just as silly as they sound. Now, ultimately I take no issue with films whose only purpose is to captivate popcorn munchers... I just don't subscribe to them unless they have at least a little more going for them... and that's where Kingdom really fails. It teases at a very compelling story but focuses more on the flimsy Russian threat... and I use the term "threat" very loosely. The key villain isn't even developed enough to make her payoff anything more than an "oh, they did that better in the other Jones movies" moment.

So overall, it's worth the watch if you're a die-hard or if you're desperate for some of the most over-the-top action this side of Transformers, but it's got "Modern George Lucas" written all over it though honestly, I'm not sure if it had much going for it before his involvement trashed any potential. If I had to describe my feelings toward it in one sentence I would say, "What the hell did I just watch!?"

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