Saturday, 24 May 2008

Review - Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

It seems that Steven Spielberg can’t simply crack open his Indiana Jones box set when he gets nostalgic. Maybe sitting and watching ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ isn’t good enough. Apparently when Spielberg gets nostalgic for everyone’s favourite improbable archaeologist adventurer, he decides to create a superfluous fourth film. But despite its unnecessary status, its unfortunate lack of Sean Connery, and its robbing the third film’s title of the clever double meaning, ‘Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull isn’t half bad.

The film demonstrates what Spielberg does best; corny, cliché-packed, traditional cinema fun. While it does come off as being very average, being average is what Spielberg films do best – they are the best average films there are. The story was interesting enough: it moved the trilogy (now quadrilogy, I suppose) from oblique references to the supernatural nature of God to oblique references to extraterrestrial life. It could easily have served as an allegory for the Church of Scientology if Tom Cruise had been involved. The story, while enough to keep me entertained, wasn’t that important; it was just a vehicle to drive the continual set-pieces forward. Every five minutes or so a car-chase broke out or a choreographed fight scene got underway. It did get a bit much and left me longing for a quiet character-driven moment like the one between Indy and his dad on the zeppelin in ‘Last Crusade’.

Speaking of the set-pieces, they were where the new technology available was really put to use. There were plenty of CG-moments and impossible camera angles. Some of them were interesting shots and some of them were just cinematic masturbation. The whole utilising of new computer-driven technology did seem detrimental to the quaint old, traditional-cinema style that the rest of the film did so well, although it was never as bad as George Lucas’ ‘Star Wars’ prequels where every shot was packed to the gills with green-screen and CG. The scene with Indy and the nuclear bomb in particular was a great example of a nice, quintessentially-1950s scene – implausible but fun – and then right at the end it was ruined by the needless presence of a CG gopher. They should have stuck with traditional filming where possible.

The acting was fine: no complaints but no real highpoints either. John Hurt did give a striking performance as an insane old man (a satiric glimpse into Indiana’s own future?) which made a change from his usual roles of ‘eccentric old man’ or ‘despotic old tyrant’. Some of the cameo actors seemed totally pointless though – Alan Dale (who is in absolutely everything that’s on at the moment) took the time to film a two-minute scene. It was as if his presence was only required to give me and my friends - avid ‘Lost’ fans - a quick moment of excitement. It might have been better to break out some new talent instead of having Jim Broadbent, Charles Widmore, and the Janitor from ‘Scrubs’.

As a geeky fan of Spielberg films, I confess to being very slightly disappointed. As soon as the alien plot points started to appear I hoped that this would form the basis for Spielberg’s ubër-story: a connecting web tying all his films together in a mass of sticky filmic continuity. In my vision, the skull would have turned out to be the skull of an ET and then the saucer at the end would have been the ship from ‘Close Encounters’. The presence of Nazis already links ‘Indiana Jones’ to ‘Schindler’s List’ and ‘Saving Private Ryan’, and all he’d need then is for ‘Jurassic Park 4’ to have Sam Neill and Indiana Jones travel to Isla Nublar and shoot dinosaurs... and Jaws... while playing ‘Boom Blox’.

1 comment:

Thomas Watson said...

Indiana Jones was alright, it could have used more thought in the script when they made it.