Friday, 23 May 2008

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

The Last Crusade should most definitely have been the Last Crusade!

For a die-hard Indy fan - Disappointed, would be an understatement.

Shocked and what the hell just happened?? Is a little closer to the mark.

For those of you who haven’t seen it yet, just read the non-spoiler paragraph next.

I really can’t understand the thought process of George Lucus & Steven Speilberg, how anyone could think this was a good idea is beyond me. They had 19 years to get the story right and if this was the best they could come up with, then what was the point? Topped with the fact none of the actors even try to look bothered during the whole film. It just looks like everyone is going through the motions. There are some cool bits, but not nearly enough to justify the existence of this movie.

I can’t really say anymore without spoilers, and no matter what I say you’ll probably go and see it anyway. But it’s probably best to close your eyes and pretend this never happened.


Now specifics, major spoiler filled review next so don’t read unless you want to have the “surprises” ruined.

One large problem that plagues the entire movie is how it’s filmed. Now I know it was filmed in a similar style to the old three films, using similar cinematography, etc, so as to not make a huge contrast between them. And this works fine in theory for all the practical effects of the film, but when used in combination with CGI (of which there is a lot), it makes it look ridiculous. Using old style lighting and camera work with CGI looks appalling, and every special effect has a weird overly bright blooming effect that just doesn’t fit with rest of film.

A lot of the special effects are also in areas where I can’t understand why they wouldn’t do it for real. Or if it wasn’t possible, why bother doing it at all?!

That is a general problem, and for all the talk Speilberg gave about using practical effects, that was an out-right lie. The last ten minutes is virtually all CGI and shot on green screen and looks completely out of place, Indiana Jones virtually jumps into a computer game.

There are two shots that are technically brilliant though, Indy looking at the nuke cloud and the flying saucer taking off at the end (yes you read that right), but they both look like they should be in another movie in order to appreciate them.

Well some good things - the opening action sequence in the warehouse and the motorbike chase through the campus are both cool, but again are the two sequences that don’t use CGI, and parts of the jungle car chase/ant attack are fun (minus the monkeys and the Tarzan imitation). But these two/three parts are the highlights.

(Don’t get me wrong I usually love CGI in films, but the majority of this just looks so bad it ruins the experience.)

There are bits and pieces throughout the entire film that are cool, and I thought “that’s a good idea”, like Marion slamming the breaks on causing Spalko to roll over the jeep bonnet and grab the turret gun, the ants climbing up each other, Indiana running across the wooden frames in the warehouse, blowing the poison dart back at the grave indians or climbing through the car during the motorbike chase.

But then you have Mutt swinging through a computer game jungle with monkeys, the entire end sequence filled with aliens and a teleportation device, Indy surviving a nuke by hiding in a fridge without even gaining a scratch, crotch shots from cgi plants, surviving three waterfall drops without even gasping for air and a f***ing flying saucer coming out of the ground for no reason what-so-ever!!

It’s point like that that leave you in utter disbelief and “How the heck did they think that was a good idea” or “what the hell is that doing in an Indiana Jones film?”

George Lucus if you want to make some 50’s style “Saucer Men from Mars” B-Movie create another character to do it with, don’t mess with Indy.

See the film follows the basic structure of the other Indy films, but this MacGuffin and conclusion are just awful and so not a part of the Indy world. There’s a flippin full life alien in an Indiana Jones film for Christ sake!! Indy discovering a long lost civilisation of dinosaurs would have worked ten times better than that.

The acting isn’t much better, no one seems particularly bothered about what’s happening, they see a huge flying saucer, survive falling off mile high cliffs and everyone is just like “Yeah, whatever, happens all the time. Let’s laugh about this great family day out.”

Harrison as Indy was a bit inconsistent, sometimes he was classic Indiana rolling with punches and making the right expressions, and other times he was just regular Harrison Ford which to be honest felt awkward, especially when jokes fell flat. Even when Indy finds out about Mutt being his son, he just makes jokes about it and makes stupid grins for the next half hour. Right so you’re now a cartoon version of your younger self??

The classic get up, didn’t seem to fit him either, it was like watching your granddad in a fancy dress “one-size-fits-all” Indy outfit. In the other films, they felt just like regular clothes, now it was like he was putting on his super-hero outfit.

An even bigger problem is the majority of the characters aren’t even needed, Mutt and Marion are pretty much just along for the ride, and they serve no purpose what-so-ever.

Shia Lebeouf as Mutt Williams (Indy’s son) wasn’t bad, but he wasn’t particularly amazing either and I’d have no desire to see him lead his own franchise or continuation of this one. But hey, if I got asked by George Lucus and Steven Speilberg to be in Indy 4 I’d have done it too!

The alien storyline was pretty weak but could have been passable if it wasn’t for the ridiculous out of this world (literally) ending. If they’d just kept it to alien relics, instead of actually bringing them to life, or used a earlier idea mentioned in the film of children having they’re skull elongated, then it could have worked. But as it stands you’re left with a big “What the f***?! They didn’t just do that did they?”

I’m a die-hard Indy fan and really wanted to enjoy this, but I can’t, I’ll go and see it again with much lowered expectations and see what I think of it then. But I can’t see it holding up over time against the other 3, it’s a forgettable film with a few nice touches but essentially wasn’t needed.

They should have very much left this trilogy alone. At least with Rambo and Die Hard they seemed to know what they were doing.

- Update –

Having seen it a second time this weekend, I have come to realise I was probably overly harsh in my initial opinion of it. This was due to my overly high expectations from a 19 yearlong wait, a few miss-steps in the film that drew my pessimistic focus and ruined the film for me and the fact it has the burden of having to live up to the other Indy sequels (I love TOD and LC equally but for different reasons).

I did enjoy it much more the second time, though I still absolutely hate the monkey swing sequence, it looks completely fake and out of place in the contexts of the film and the original trilogy, and the needless over-use of CGI for 3 minutes of the inner temple destruction (portal machine) and aliens at the end.

If it wasn’t for these two sections I think it would hold up a lot better and sit comfortably with the original films. Even though the nuclear test (fridge escape) and triple waterfall drop are a little too much I can kind of accept them.

I absolutely love the opening action sequence in the warehouse, the bike campus-chase, jungle jeep chase and the giant ants. I really got into these sequences the second time and found them much more impressive.

And Harrison Ford felt more like Indy for the duration this time, don’t ask me why…

So I guess I can’t really hate a 2hour ten minute film for what probably amounts to 5 minutes of problems with CGI (even though they still severely tarnish the film).

It’s an enjoyable film, not as bad as my initial “over-hyped self” thought, but still not entirely necessary and not in the same league as the first three.

Revised review score:

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