Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull; Fantasy adventure, USA, 2008; D: Steven Spielberg, S: Harrison Ford, Shia LaBeouf, Cate Blanchett, Karen Allen, Ray Winstone, Jim Broadbent, John Hurt, Igor Jijikine

Nevada, '57. Indiana Jones and his friend Mac get forcefully dragged out of the trunk of a car. They were kidnapped by Soviet KGB soldiers, led by Irina Spalko, who order Jones to help them find a crate in a military base, containing remains of an alien creature. Jones helps them but manages to escape, discovering Mac betrayed him. He then meets a young lad, Mutt, who needs his help since his old friend Oxley disappeared after discovering a crystal skull in Peru. They find the skull, but the KGB finds them. Their plan is to find the ancient city Akator and discover the psychic secrets of the aliens, in order to rule the world. Jones meets with Marion, who explains him that Mutt is his son. With Oxley's help, they find the temple hidden behind an Amazon waterfall. Once the crystal skull is reassembled into the statue, the aliens show up and open a portal to another dimension, causing Irina to 'burn out' from too much knowledge. The temple is destroyed and a UFO disappears from it. Jones and Marion get married.

19 years after the last sequel, the original crew led by Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and Harrison Ford finally approved a screenplay, announced and shot the 4th "Indiana Jones" film, "The Kingdom of Crystal Skull". Judging by the long wait and the unanimous approval for the script, the expectations were high, but the final result and Spielberg's unnecessary mystification in which he even didn't want to announce the title of the film until the end, just crashed the illusions of the fans even more and made the film seem even more worn out and ordinary that it is. The 4th part is better than part 2, but lapses heavily behind part 1 and 3: It's not that Harrison Ford is in weak shape - but the authors are. The whole film is somehow strangely mild, never able to really ignite, and even it's best moments cause only a slight punchline in the viewers minds. Sadly, the action is really poorly choreographed - the only great action scene that grasps for everything it wants, is the one where the now older Indiana Jones swings on his whip in the military warehouse in order to catapult himself to a driving KGB truck, but misses just barely and swings back, falling in a clumsy way through the windshield of a truck behind him, obviously adding a small dose of irony to his superhero image.

Sadly, most of the action sequence are simply not the top notch standard one expects from an "Indiana Jones" film - they are unexciting and way too cartoonish: the infamous ant army and Mutt and his army of monkeys were all handed all right, but are still bad ideas non the less. True, even the "Last Crusade" has over-the-top action sequences, but they were all so meticulously crafted, so stylish and well choreographed they all seem like poetry, while here they just seem like the authors had a good idea, but stopped half way through of developing it until the end. For instance, in one scene towards the beginning, the hero Indiana Jones escapes from the bad guys and hides in a small town in Nevada, but discovers all the houses are equipped with puppets. He then finds out he is in a testing area for a nuclear bomb that will detonate in 10 seconds. Immediately, the viewer thinks: "What is he going to do? Oh, it will probably be some genius idea to get himself out of this mess!" But instead of a genius idea, Jones just hides in a refrigerator, which is rather poor solution to the situation. Shia Labeouf is pretty solid in the unthankful role of a comic sidekick, Cate Blanchett is wonderful as the evil leader of Communist KGB agents (though some Communist representatives were angry to have their party have the 'privilege' of inheriting the role of the bad guys from the Nazis), but Karen Allen is completely wasted in her returning role to the series which is just a throw away role where she mostly just accompanies the hero and acts like an useless extra. The concept of the story that mixes the ideas of Erich von Däniken is daring, yet sadly incoherent, uneven and almost trashy towards the end where the aliens show up, poorly stealing from Spielberg's "Close Encounters" and the open endings of the previous "Jones" films. It's a professionally made, proper sequel, but sadly, it seems more like some group of plagiarist authors stole the Indiana Jones from the original crew and made a very good rip off - except that it was made by that same original crew.


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