Saturday, May 24, 2008

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull Review

So I saw the new Indiana Jones movie tonight. I'm having a hard time deciding how I feel about it. On the one hand, it is really nice to see Harrison Ford looking like he actually cares about being in a movie again. He was such a massive movie star at one point that watching him waste away the last decade of his career, phoning in performance after performance, was just kind of upsetting. Firewall? Hollywood Homicide? This guy was motherfucking Han Solo. So it definitely feels good to see him as Indiana again, whipping commies, cracking one-liners and getting in crazy adventures. The rest of the cast is pretty good too, Ray Winstone, Kate Blanchett, Karen Allen, John Hurt, Jim Broadbent, they are all great actors and they do a good job of bringing all the secondary characters to life. Even Shia LaBeouf, who is kind of getting really overexposed and is starting to suffer a huge geek backlash because of it, does a good job. The chemistry between him and Ford and Karen Allen works really well, but I think George Lucas is smoking crack if he thinks he can continue on the franchise with LaBeouf as the star. Actually come to think of it, maybe George Lucas is secretly smoking crack. It would actually explain a lot of things. Like this, for instance:

Incidentally, Shia is also apparently up for the roll of Yorick in the film adaptation of Y: the Last Man, and while I think this would actually be pretty good casting, I still hope they hire someone else as LaBeouf is just in everything right now and it's kind of annoying.

But I digress. I was saying that there are definitely some great aspects to Crystal Skull. The central premise of the movie is probably going to piss off a lot of fanboys, but it worked just fine for me. I rewatched all three Indiana Jones movies recently and the things Indiana is questing after in those are no more ridiculous than anything in this movie. I mean come on, Raiders of the Lost Ark is probably the best action-adventure movie ever made, and it features a box full of God sand that melts off a bunch of Nazi's faces. In The Last Crusade, he meets a fucking 700 year-old knight and uses the Holy Grail to cure his father's fatal bullet wound. My point is that the plot, while different from the other movies, still feels like an Indiana Jones story, and is updated to the 50's in a pretty cool way.

I guess my main problem with the movie is that since its been almost 20 years since the last film in the franchise, Spielberg has all the tools of modern filmmaking technology at his disposal and this ends up working against the movie in a pretty serious way. I love the practical 80's effects of the first three movies, like the mine cart chase in Temple of Doom, or the aforementioned Nazi face-melting scene:

In Crystal Skull, there is tons of CGI and although the effects aren't bad by any standards, it still really bothered me at some points seeing all these modern effects in an Indiana Jones film, and made it feel less like the other films in the franchise, and more like National Treasure or Tomb Raider or something equally terrible. (NEXT DAY UPDATE: there is a couple of green screen / CGI effects sequences that bugged me throughout the movie, but the absolute worst one, involving Shia LaBeouf, a gaggle of monkeys, and a bunch of vines was so terrible that I think I blocked it from my mind last night. That was awful, and probably my least favourite part of the entire movie.)

In any case, if you consider yourself a fan of the previous movies you should really check it out, Harrison Ford is finally cool again, and kicks Ruskie ass with the same intensity that he unleashed on the Nazis and that messed up Thugee Cult that forced him to drink blood out of a human head. The rest of the cast is great, the story is cool, there are a bunch of really crazy action set pieces, the John Williams score is back, as is that sweet sound effect of Indy punching dudes in the face. Even the Wilhelm Scream makes an appearance, which brought a smile to my face (for those that are unfamiliar with the Wilhelm Scream, it is a famous movie sound effect that is in every other Indiana Jones movie along with pretty much every other movie ever made.)

I guess the only thing that really bothered me was the extensive use of CGI, but that is a subjective thing, CGI just kind of pisses me off in general and it bugged me seeing it in an Indiana Jones movie, but that doesn't mean that you are going to feel that way. So go see Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, its not perfect but it is definitely a new Indiana Jones movie, which is a great thing, and the good aspects of it, for me, totally outweighed the bad. Oh yeah, and Kate Blanchett plays a hot, Communist, dominatrix-looking, sword-wielding ice queen, and I was pretty into that as well.

FINAL RATING: 7.5 / 10

UPDATE: I just thought I would update this post as my opinion on the movie has kind of soured in the two months or so since it came out. I still definitely enjoyed it, and wasn't at all turned off by the sci-fi elements it added to the Indiana Jones mythology, but the bad green screen work and pointless cgi was really hard for me to get past. For instance, I only remembered weeks later that the first shot of the entire movie is a cute cgi gopher. That alone knocks my end of the summer score down to a 6.5.

I still liked it though.

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