Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

20 06 2008

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.




4 responses

21 06 2008

Thank you for this review, B0bby, you touched on some things I hadn’t thought of. I too enjoyed this film, and I’ll confess (don’t tell!) that I saw the first “National Treasure” film before seeing any IJ films, so I compared it to that, rather than the other way ’round as most do. It had many similar elements, including some mysticism, which I enjoy, but I do agree that “Skull” asks a lot of us in the areas you mention. I appreciate you mentioning the stunning visuals. I do notice the sets and cinematography, but I tend to forget to mention them. You remind me I liked the first part of the film best—I found myself saying “not again” a few times toward the end; however the VERY end was a nice surprise, I didn’t expect it. Glad you liked it, and I value your appraisal.

21 06 2008

Glad you liked the review. I haven’t seen National Treasure, but from what I’ve heard of it, I would not be surprised if it was influenced by the Indiana Jones series.

I think I liked the first part of the film best, too. I’m glad you enjoyed it too. Thanks for commenting. 🙂

22 06 2008

i like national treasure! i also like indie too. haven’t watched the latest, but i think i’ll wait until i’ve watched the second and third indie movies… i always like to do things in order, heh.

ah, so that’s what the media studies bit is about! somewhat like literature class, except that it’s about media stuff, huh? 🙂

22 06 2008

I’ll have to go back and watch the earlier films at some point. I agree though: it would have made a lot more sense to watch them in order.

Media studies covers a wide range of different topics, but the film and genre bits are a lot like literature class, yes. But with media. 🙂

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