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"Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull"

Directed by Steven Spielberg.
Written by David Koepp.
Starring Harrison Ford, Karen Allen, Shia LeBeouf and Cate Blanchett.
Release Year:  2008
Review Date:  5/25/08


I was really, really nervous, for the new Indy film, given how much I loved "Raiders of the Lost Ark" and how much I was bracing myself for an action film led by a 65-year-old icon, a 64-year-old producer and a 61-year-old director.

Thankfully, "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" is happily average.  In re-watching the original trilogy--which strangely is "Temple of Doom", "Raiders" and then "Last Crusade" in the in-movie chronological order, which I didn't even realize until I saw them all together--it's easy to rank them:

  1. "Raiders of the Lost Ark."  Perfect movie, action is great, stunts are great, Harrison Ford as Indy and Karen Allen as Marion are great, Sallah is great, and even the Belloq guy is great...if you own the recent (like 2003 or 2004) release of the trilogy with the extras DVD, watch the making-of for "Raiders."  It will remind you why Tom Selleck might end up being the dumbest guy in movie history, a guy that turned down lead roles in this film, "Rambo: First Blood Part II" and "Die Hard."

  2. "Temple of Doom."  Agreed--Kate Capshaw is dogshit and the romantic angle nearly destroys the film.  But, sorry, I have a soft spot for Short Round, the ripping-the-heart-out scene is still classic, the suspension bridge action scene (yes, the bridge was real) was great, and the opening sequence still works for me.

  3. "Last Crusade."  The opening 15 minutes of this movie is completely and totally atrocious--trust me, watch it again.  The lead actress here, a woman who is actually named Alison Doody, is awful (you're right--she went on to star in..."Major League 2"); the action scenes here are blah (laugh along with me as Indy and the Doody girl outrun...crazed Temple Guardians who attempt to chase down tomb intruders with Sten machine guns), and Sean Connery essentially saves this movie from total oblivion all by himself.  At times, "Last Crusade" feels like it is actually ripping off the other Indy movies, even though it's just the third film of the trilogy.  Expanding the Denholm Elliott part (he played Indy's professor buddy Marcus Brody) was another in a long line of bad ideas, starting with a scene where young Indy (River Phoenix) actually likes snakes (uhh, what?) to ending with Indy riding off into the sunset (a good idea, except he rides off with three other people, instead of just alone).

The new "Indy" film sits below "Temple of Doom" to me, but it was better than "Last Crusade."  That's because it's great to see Indy, he's still in halfway decent shape, the backstory for Indy's years away from the screen is well-explained, and Shia LaBeouf adds that little extra somethin' as Indy's newest sidekick.

Meg and I both agree that the new film's biggest problem is its script, most notably its ending...I rarely like to discuss a film's ending, but let's be honest--you've got access to the Inter-Web, so you already know it has something to do with aliens, and this is a bad idea.  Meg said it best--Indy works best against higher powers, not high-in-the-sky powers.  Area 51, New Mexico, alien tombs and UFOs are not Indy territory, plain and simple.

Neither are Russians for that matter, so when Indy drops a line, "Russians...I hate those guys", you can't help but wish somebody unearthed a plot for Indy to take down rogue Nazi factions in 1950s Europe instead of power-hungry Russians bent on understanding alien skull technology.  But, I digress.  It's great to see Indy, 20 years older but still just as wily.  Ford's speech is a bit off/slower (some of that stems from my recent DVD viewings of the old films), but he just feels right for some reason, the whole old-pair-of-shoes imagery.  I liked that he did some--but clearly, not all--of his running and stuntwork in this new film, showing us a man who has stayed in good shape over the years.

Briefly, we must discuss The Ford Run, which lays out like this:

  • 1977: "Star Wars"

  • 1979: "Apocalypse Now" (a small part, but still)

  • 1980: "The Empire Strikes Back"

  • 1981: "Raiders"

  • 1982: "Blade Runner"

  • 1983: "Return of the Jedi"

  • 1984: "Temple of Doom"

  • 1985: "Witness"

Back to the movie...what isn't so good--some of the action scenes are a bit on the stupidly-ridiculous side, instead of just plain fun (Shia swinging with the monkeys?  A swordfight between two moving jeeps in the jungle?).  Karen Allen, bless her heart, looks worse for the wear, and I am sure that the majority of this is that we haven't seen Allen onscreen for nearly 30 years!!  I didn't love the Marion/Indy bickering mid-film once we get to see her again, either.  And, Ray Winstone, a gifted actor who has been nothing short of brilliant in movies like "Sexy Beast" and "The Proposition", is completely wasted here in a part that is written poorly and performed similarly.

But then again, there's that incredible score.  And, there's the famous punch sound effect.  And, there's the Indy hat.  And, there are some decent special effects.  You even get the comical random Indy knowledge, complete with Indy whipping out his handy Mayan phrasebook.  There's enough Indy stuff in here to make the movie passable; you know, there's enough here to make you think (but probably wish against) the possibility of another Indy flick is there.

Hey, the big thing with the newest Indy flick--it definitely doesn't suck.  And that was enough to make me happy.

Rating:  Matinee


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09