May 31, 2008

300 Words About: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Though I saw it on opening night, the only thing I can add to the millions of reviews in the week since its release is: What did you expect? Maybe people felt betrayed by the trailer (which I dutifully avoided), but it seems the general consensus is that Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is an inoffensive but otherwise fluffy failure that doesn't belong in the same conversation as the original trilogy. To which I say, again, what did you expect?

Unfortunately, this is the state we're in. Right around 2000, Hollywood figured out that, along with comic book movies, all they needed to do was continue to churn out sequels upon sequels and people would show up at the theater. And they were correct, as six of last year's top ten highest-grossing films were follow-ups to earlier movies. I can't put my finger on exactly when my expectations of these sequels dropped to near zero, but it's greatly helped me get my past my disappointment when a highly anticipated installment, like this one, fails to fully recapture the magic of its predecessors. In other words, I've wised up since The Phantom Menace. It's a sad way to see a movie, but it's necessary to avoid heartbreak.

So, Crystal Skull. It wasn't great but I got what I hoped for: Harrison Ford throwing sick two-handed punches (my favorite part of every Indy movie), everybody saying silly lines, at least one booby-trapped cave expedition, and John Williams' score. Additional positives were Shia LaBeouf (4 spelling tries there) proving that he's still one my favorite young actors, and my sister excitedly watching a terrific chase scene filmed at her alma mater. The big negatives were, of course, a completely ridiculous (even eye roll-inducing) plot and a stilted performance by Cate Blanchett, who appeared to to take this Oscar-seriously. Sure, it would have been nice to have an interesting and/or believable reason for Indy to take off to Peru, but the lack of one didn't ruin it for me because there were enough familiar elements to appreciate. It wasn't as warm and cozy as home (Raiders), but it felt like hanging out at a good friend's house.


  1. "even eye roll-inducing"

    Those four words hit the nail on the head for me. Listen, I tried to temper my expectations and bring them in low. It still didn't work. I found myself eye-rolling through too much to forgive.

    The Beverly Hills Cop 4 news was baffling when I heard about it, as is the I, Robot 2 news I just read. Who the eff asked for those? Mark my words...Waterworld 2, coming to theaters in 2014.

  2. I still haven't seen it. Maybe tomorrow.

    Why does Hollywood keep making sequels? Because even misfires make a stack of cash. What happens when an original property misfires? Well, ask the Wachowskis.

    Hollywood has no courage. It's easier to churn out slop that can rely on name recognition than come up with an original idea and convince people to see it.

    And frankly, audiences are pretty lazy and they reward this behavior as your stat about last year's top grossing movies shows.

    Rebuild it and they will come.

  3. I did not feel betrayed, I felt the same way about this film as I did "Sex and the City," both seem like unnecessary additions to already great franchises or shows, you know. But I enjoyed them both, loved parts of them, liked some of them, felt bored in some, but that is how it is with every film.

    Sure, I got what I had hoped for and a little extra as well, and I had a good time, and I would go back for seconds. However, thirds, nope.

    If it truly is the end {and it better be} I would say it ended with dignity, and for that, I can sleep better at night.

  4. Was it the vine swinging, Fletch? The refrigerator cushions? The sword fight? The flying saucer? I see where you're coming from. Those Indy punches did it for me, though.

    It seems like the 80's have been the trend lately, so if I were a betting man I'd throw out predictions for a new Ghostbusters sequel, maybe another Gremlins, E.T., Karate Kid, Goonies, and - I'd believe it - installment of The Godfather. There are no rules and nothing is sacred.

    You've got it, Craig. Your "Studio Pinheads" series shows that they know exactly what they're doing. I just don't know what I'm supposed to do. Not see them? Easier for some than for others. At least it makes us appreciate those courageous ones a little more when we see them.

    Your last thoughts are very important, Nick. Indy has not been ruined for me, but I hope they don't try again with it, because George Lucas cannot be trusted, as we learned with SW Episodes 1-3.

  5. I'm with you on this, Danny. I really wanted to be tougher with my prose (not with my two star rating) but I just couldn't do it.

    Despite the many flaws and problems inherent with this film, it was fabulous to see Indy and Marion together again. Not enough to give it three stars. But I just couldn't stomp all over it. There was enough done right (ESPECIALLY the chase sequences) that I was willing to let some of it go.

    So, a middling summer entertainment that brings you back to the days when you first saw Raiders (however old you were at the time - whether it was 1981 or not) and reminds you of how it was way back when.

    Some things ARE worth waiting for...

  6. "Some things ARE worth waiting for..."

    Yes, and those who were waiting for a new classic set themselves up for disappointment. Your mention of Raiders made me realize that most kids who see Crystal Skull will probably love it - even more than the old ones. Just like with Star Wars.

  7. " .... but it felt like hanging out at a good friend's house." Indeed.
    I have an almost unshakable affection for Harrison Ford, and it was fun to hang with him as Indy again. Not every time hangin' with a friend can be the Best time ever. I thought it was a worthwhile effort overall for the few simple pleasures to be had, as you correctly tapped into with your 300 words. Which, I concur, I was only able to enjoy when my eyes weren't rolling.

    The opening night event made it work for me, but it's not one that I will sit through again if it's playing on the tube some lazy Saturday afternoon, unlike the original trilogy. Great point made about the fact that young kids will see this one, like the utterly forgettable Star Wars # 1-3 in a much different light, though, and probably make an entirely different set of positive memories from it. Maybe all children of a certain age from now on will just expect that most movies have umpteen sequels anyway, like endless chapters in a multi-media-format mass marketing series of "experiences"? Weird to think about the future that way.

    Yeah that link about the continuing sequel craze is indeed depressing; I just assumed it would run its course at some point and people would get sick of 'em en masse ... 'course I never thought TV audiences would be able to stomach "reality TV" for this long either, so ...

  8. I'm not sure it's a matter of expectations, Daniel. It is what I expected. But given the talent involved, it could have been a contender ...

  9. Good point about the TV situation with it, Josh. It probably just won't look as good on the small screen as the old ones, either.

    That IS really weird to think about re: children and sequels. The days of one-off blockbuster classics seem to be gone.

    Fair point, Rick. I applaud you for holding Spielberg & Co. to higher standards, as they should be, but I've just become too jaded to expect anything great.


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