Yesterday, I went to see Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
This is the fourth movie in the main Indiana Jones series, but, believe it or not, this was the first Indiana Jones movie that I have watched, which means I’ve got no nostalgia to cloud my judgement, but it also means I don’t really have anything to compare it to.
So what did I make of it? Well, long story short, I liked it very much. It’s fun, it’s exciting, and at times it’s also quite intelligent.
The story takes place in the 1950s, about 20 years after the original trilogy. It opens with a scene in which Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford), a prisoner of some Russians led by the sinister Irena Spalko (Cate Blanchett), is taken into a secret government warehouse to retrieve a large and mysterious magnetic box. A dramatic fight ensues. Featuring fast moving vehicles, lots of running around on rafters, and a rocket sled, this opening sequence pretty much sets the tone of the movie – fast, exciting and extremely action packed.
The main plot of the movie revolves around Harold Oxley (John Hurt), a former colleague of Jones, who vanished in South America after discovering a crystal skull. So Indy makes his way down to Peru, accompanied by Mutt Williams (Shia LaBeouf), a young and oft-overconfident individual who serves as the perfect foil to the older, more experienced Indy. There are some twists and revelations in store, both in terms of the crystal skulls and in terms of the characters themselves.
The movie is visually absolutely spectacular, and the script is very enjoyable too. I was pleased to note that the writers have indeed done their research: for example, when Indy mentions skull binding, a real practice among certain Native American peoples. The soundtrack is of course excellent; I’ve always been a fan of anything by John Williams, and this is no exception. At times, the action does perhaps stretch credibility a little too much (fridge. Waterfalls. Vine swinging…), and somehow I found the ending a little unsatisfactory, although maybe it would appeal more to someone who’s seen the original trilogy.
And now, for old times’ sake, the media studies genre bit. This movie has all the defining characteristics of an action adventure movie, including fight scenes, chase scenes, fast pans and frequent use of CGI. However, it also borrows characteristics from other genres, most obviously fantasy and science fiction. The mise en scène varies from scene to scene; much of it is very firmly rooted in the 1950s, but there are some more exotic settings such as the Amazon Rainforest and, naturally, ruined temple complexes. The set design, incidentally, is very impressive, with a lot of attention paid to detail.
I definitely enjoyed this movie, and would certainly recommend it to anyone who doesn’t mind having to suspend disbelief a little.