Tuesday 27 May 2008

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Year: 2008
Director: Steven Spielberg
Screenplay: David Koepp
Starring: Harrison Ford, Cate Blanchett, Karen Allen, Shia LaBeouf, Ray Winstone, John Hurt, Jim Broadbent


George Lucas made what could be considered a very strange comment about the forth installment of his other extremely popular franchise.

Claiming that one of the biggest releases of the year is "just a movie" is a bit out of sorts coming from the man who help create the event movie. However I feel this was said due to the issues which came about involving the Phantom Menace. The "first" star wars movie is one that Lucas has not apologised for, despite displeasing a lot of fans. While I found the movie to be pretty bad, it's true he doesn't have to say sorry for his decision.

While this doesn't explain his more recent comment the man has only got himself to blame. This movie has spent years in development hell with Lucas and Spielberg rejecting scripts and picking other projects over it. Waiting for the moment that the films script will be "just right". Once the ball finally got rolling, everything was kept secret merely adding to the mystery and anticipation.

I think Lucas was just trying to give a little perspective to the situation. If people didn't expect so much from these two film makers then they would probably enjoy certain movies more. But unfortunately when you set the bar for family entertainment as high as this guys have it's tough to downplay expectations. I mean don't know anyone who truly dislikes Indiana Jones apart from Ray Carney and Jean-Luc Godard.

With all that said the comments which bothered me are the one made by one Micheal Bay.

While the comments on the video come across as a light hearted joke. After watching the movie I was quite surprised that the maker of "that toy movie" almost hit the nail on the head. The Crystal Skull isn't that great of a movie. Maybe I did expect too much. I mean what was I really expecting? just a pleasant feel good film or the second coming of great mainstream family cinema? The answer maybe a little bit of both. The expectations were always going to be no matter what and I don't feel the film stood up to them. My reasons my not be the most well explained out there but I'm sure a few people might share aspects of them.

Once the nostalgia leaves you, Indy 4 is only a cut above Sahara and National Treasure. For all the talk about stunts being done by real people etc, there's a lot of CGI that snuck it's way into the film. To be fair CGI is now so common place I expected quite a bit...I just didn't know it was going to be so dodgy. That's the only way I could describe some of the action sequences that lie in the movie. One scene follows a character swinging on jungle vines (a bad moment itself due to the character) but the cgi reminded me of Pitfall on the snes (another Nintendo reference?). That's a bit harsh, with this said however, in comparison to Bay's Fanboy Fest The Crystal Skull pales in comparison. Spielberg's work in Jurassic Park still looks and (more importantly) feels better. In many other films CGI can bring you into the film, here it distracts. It feels out of sorts with the other stunts on display. The beginning has a great chase scene which not only looks good but reminded me of when I first watched Indy. When the film keeps it simple and keeps it real the fun factor stays high.

It's the same with the storyline. Before certain revelations the film is engaging, amusing and fun. However the film gets bogged down with a series of extremely predictable plot points and twists (both with story and characters) that did nothing but frustrate and bore me. I knew what was going to happen in the story by act two and I don't find that to be a good thing. To make things worse Spielberg underplays ALL the revelations of the film. Films can be predictable and cliche but they can still DO something with them. Most of the story moments were met with a sigh as I waiting for the lazy half baked ending to come about. It was truly a shame. I'm sure a lot of people will disagree but they should think of another film they wanted to watch so much only to be disappointed by it's lacking. I find Spielberg to be a master craftsman, hell I even liked A.I. (until the last 20 minutes) for fuck sake. The whole adventure aspect of the film felt very lackluster.

To add to this the screenplay had added a bizarre new mythology that goes against what we saw in the first films. The stories plot really sits awkwardly with the religious aspects of the original trilogy. (star wars fans may be getting deja vu). This will have alot to do with how I think about the world but The crystal skull doesn't sit will with the ark of the covenant or the holy grail. Fuck even the temple of doom is about gods!

It's not all bad. The film is very funny when it wants to be. The dialogue crackles between the characters but this also stems from how good the performances are. Despite the weakness of story and action the acting is top notch. LaBouf has great screen presence. Allen is still spunky (and an attractive older woman may I add) and you don't see people like Jim Broadbent and Ray Winstone putting a foot wrong. Blancett works well as a villain and is very commanding when on the screen. As for Ford....well it's like riding a bike isn't it. Ford is Indy, that will never change. after a few odd moments at the beginning I completely forgot how old Ford is in the film. It's a great performance and I really enjoyed him in it.

People love the film because it's Indiana Jones, others will believe that the Spielberg, Lucas and Koepp have placed another stunning addition to the trilogy and enjoy the updates. I unfortunately will remain indifferent. Much like when I saw the Phantom Menace or Attack of the clones. The often cracking dialogue, fun characters and great acting are almost overshadowed by an unsurprising story (with a shite third act btw), average set pieces and little thrill.
But it's ok...because George Lucas' plagiarising of movie taglines states...it's only a movie.

P.S. John Hurt despite becoming a little bit of a rent a loony wasn't too bad either.

P.P.S. Lucas didn't steal a movie tagline..he's more into nabbing a little of their storyline