Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
A legacy is a hard thing to maintain, especially one as revered as Indiana Jones. The original trilogy is one of the least criticised of recent cinematic history. Breathe a sigh of relief though, for Crystal Skull manages to keep this legacy intact, but it is sometimes deplorably silly and the plot descends into an odd mess by the end. Serious spoilers abound within.
Firstly, the negatives. Any Indy film stands or falls on its central premise, the MacGuffin. Ark of the Covenant: Good. Shankara Stones: Meh. Holy Grail: Good enough. This time around it's mysterious skulls and Eldorado. And aliens. It all starts off very well, with preserved fifteenth century corpses and men with skull masks, but by the end you don't have much clue as to the point of it all. If all thirteen aliens were there for several thousand years, why does it matter that the skull that went missing a mere few hundred years ago comes back? Why do they want to leave now? Why did Ray Winstone die? Did Ray Winstone die? The story was the concept of that perennial nostalgia destroyer, George Lucas. The man should clearly give it up, as the pretty decent script proves it's probably not the writer's fault. In other areas the film falls into complete craziness in search of bigger and better versions of the 80's set pieces.
The otherwise excellent Shia LaBeouf gets a Tarzan moment, and Indy is caught in an atomic blast, which taints the preceeding - and following - well structured scenes. The film works best when it revels in 80's nostalgia, not 21st Century filmic bragging rights. Positively though, this is definitely an Indy film. Spielberg keeps the action and set pieces coming thick and fast, as is the tradition with such things. Sure the first two thirds work much better, but it's great fun all the way through. Parts of it, see above, verge on the edge of ludicrousness but Indy always did. Spielberg even creeps in some political commentary. It's belting entertainment if you let it wash over you, and much of the disappointment comes from a nice rose tinted view of your childhood. Also positive is perhaps the best cast of any Indy film.
Denholm Elliot, John Rhys-Davies and Sean Connery are dead, missing and missing respectively but Spielberg and Lucas have assembled a cast of the most dependable and downright quality actors around. Ford seems like he's desperately been waiting to get back into the role and Shia LaBeouf is the best comedian of his generation. Winstone, Hurt and Blanchett (accent problems notwithstanding) all turn in quality in every scene. The only bum note is perhaps Karen Allen, a mild disapointment reprising her old role. If you want to bask in nostalgia and relive the good old days before CG, go and watch Indy 4. It's awesome fun, and many of the references and in jokes will set you giggling in the aisles. Be prepared for a glimpse of the Ark and for Spielberg nipping talk of a LaBeouf based sequel neatly in the bud, but not for anything particularly new or cataclysmic. Perhaps my view is tainted by horrific nostalgia of my childhood, but there was a distinct sour note.