Posted by: Dr P | August 1, 2008

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

It’s been a long time since a film split public opinion as much as this one. Among my film buddies, twins Ian and Kate have decidedly opposing views, with Dowwie loving all things Indy, and Kate less enthusiastic, while Lynz hates George Lucas’ effect on this movie. But we’ll come to that later.

I was chauffeured to the flicks in Big G’s Citroen C1. When I say chauffeured, I mean I had to pedal too. What a ridiculous car. It’s actually on hire because his big people carrier thing is in the garage, and on the windscreen it says “0824”. I discovered why when we reached our first uphill stretch and it screamed from 0 to 8 mph in 24 seconds. I said that it wouldn’t be a good idea to meet an articulated lorry head on, and Gareth said that frankly it wouldn’t be a good idea to meet a pushbike head on. I liked that – not because I suddenly felt incredibly vulnerable, a bit like a diver surrounded by sharks and only protected by a cage made out of ice cream, but the use of the word “pushbike” sent me back to a bygone era, when everything was rosey, and the summers lasted for ever. Again, we’ll return to that theme later.

With it being “Orange” Wednesday and half term, the cinema was packed with screaming adolescents. And a couple of screaming thirtysomethings, when we realised we’d arrived bang on start time and the queues were enormous. Passing time in the queue, we admired the enormous posters for the new Narnia film. Regular readers will recall that I recently speculated that I recognised almost nothing in the books from the trailer, so I was highly amused to discover that one of the straplines on the banner was “Everything you know is about to change”!

Banner 2 features a rather attractive young chap lying prone and staring out of the poster. I think it’s the lad who plays Prince Caspian. He seemed to be immaculately groomed and sported lovely flowing hair. Anyway, the tagline on this one was “Hope has a new face”. This instantly prompted Gareth to say “Hope has a new face … and he’s worth it”. Naturally my competitive streak then took over and I came up with “Hope has a new face … his old one got cut off in a freak gardening accident”. Anyone who would like to enter the caption competition is invited to post their suggestion(s) at the bottom of this review!

Despite the queue, and the people in front of us ordering one of everything, we managed to slide into our seats precisely as the adverts ended and the trailers began. Perfect! I further excited Big G by informing him about the new Rob Lowe Orange advert, and we enjoyed that. “Ooooh Rob Lowe looked right at me!”

So onto the film. A slight ripple of horror ran through me the instant the “Lucasfilm” glowing thingie appeared. I blame Geoerge Lucas entirely for ruining the Star Wars legacy with the three newer films. They were absolutely ghastly. Some things are best left untouched – treasured childhood memories, wet paint, nuns, you get the idea. They brought back Star Wars – and ruined it. They brought back the Wispa – and it wasn’t the same. Now they’ve brought back Indiana Jones – can it live up to its past glories or will it be consigned to the same fate?

Just as a final aside before the actual review(!), Kate’s just MSNed me and we had the following exchange which I think I’ll share, simply because it made me crack up …
Kate: “I really don’t get the fuss over Sex and the City”
Me: “No, I’m not a big fan of the city either”.

OK, the film is very slow starter, much against the Indy tradition – there were no big balls chasing our hero at all! But when the action did pick up, it was relentless. Wihin a 10 minute period Indy had escaped from about 20 heavily armed Russians, a rocket sled fired into the desert, and a nuclear explosion. All without a scratch. Now I know heroes these days are meant to be resilient, but this is going one step too far. At least in Die Hard 4, Bruce Willis had some blood on him, in this movie, Harrison Ford doesn’t even get so much as a paper cut (George Lucas effect part 1)! Considering the enormous amount of merchandising tied to this movie (George Lucas effect part 2), you’d have thought they could have unearthed a goldmine in plaster and bandage spin-offs!

It’s nearly impossible to discuss this film without discussing the central premise. However, that would give away a massive chunk of the plot and spoil it for some people, so I’m going to use a codeword for the main theme. As it’s somewhat salty, I’ll use the word “SALINE”. Anyway the idea of SALINE is preposterous. This is Indiana Jones! Archaeologist! His previous films have seen him pursue some admittedly ludicrous concepts, albeit ones which may have some potential to be based on reality, namely the Holy Grail (almost certainly real) and the Ark (possibly less so). But SALINE is pushing it a little bit. As ever, Indy is not merely searching for a treasure in this movie, he is being pursued by some nasty baddies (Ruskies, ably led by the marvellously coiffured Cate Blanchett) and there are all manner of perils along the way (waterfalls, spear chucking Indians, killer ants, KGB agents, double crossing folks etc). However he does have able support in the form of a young man played by Shia LeBoeuf (does that mean shank of beef?), who turns up looking like James Dean, all Rebel without a clue, but handy with a flickknife and a bike.

While we’re on the subject of shanks of beef, does anyone out there think George Michael is particularly attractive? I had 2 debates the other night, one in which it was insisted that Mr Michael is indeed extremely good looking. Personally, if you’re looking for attractive gay male popstars, I’d be more in favour … no hang on. Well, I’m not a fan of stubble anyway. Or people that fall asleep on roundabouts. And did you know that of all the Village people, the only gay one was the cowboy? The other debate was about that beach volleyball scene in Top Gun. Now I’ve studied that long and hard, and I’m a bit puzzled. The guys are all heavily oiled up (calm down ladies), and no doubt more than a little sweaty from their volleyball workout (calm down ladies), and they’re all diving and rolling about in the sand (calm down Matt) … but none of them have a grain of sand stuck to them!!!!!! Go on, explain that. You only need to walk across a beach to have it stuck between your toes, and you know what it’s like when you come back off holiday and you’re still finding sand in your car footwells three weeks later. Unless of course you clean your car. Anyway …

All the classic Indiana Jones ingredients are here – tremendous music, the hat, the whip, silly stunts, great chase scenes, good vs evil in a race for treasure, the maps, conspiracy theories galore, wonderful locations, ancient monuments with trapdoors and lethal weapons, deciphering of ancient maps and languages to uncover the path to the final location, etc etc. On that score this movie gets very high marks. The effects are terrific and it’s extremely well cast.

HOWEVER!!!!! George Lucas should be taken away and never allowed to interfere in a movie again. Quite apart from the indestructible hero and the merchandising, his influences are quite clear. The central theme is classic Lucas, he gets Harrison Ford to say “I got a bad feeling about this” – it’s Indiana Jones not Han Solo!!!!!!!!! – and the native Indians guarding a grave are more like Ewoks than anything else. Oh and of course there’s *that* revelation (which you can obviously see coming a mile off). Curse you, Lucas, for taking the edge off what could have been a classic movie. It’s very, very enjoyable as it is, but it’s a bit like having a jam doughnut and discovering that not only is there very little actual filling in the middle, it’s a little bit out of date as well.

I’d rather end on a positive note, so I urge you to pay close attention because there are loads of references to the first three movies dotted around the film – one obvious one, which I really liked, was in the warehouse scene where we get a glimpse of the Ark! Brill! Kids will love this movie, acti
on movie fans will love this movie, fans of the original Indiana Jones trilogy will be split. There are moments where this is near-perfect, there are moments that made me cringe. But please go and make up your own minds, having heard what others thought I was dreading this being a bit of a turkey, but thankfully it’s not. Definitely two thumbs up … but not quite all the way up!

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