- 26 May 2008
- By John Howell
I've just watched Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and quite frankly I'm amazed. Firstly I'm amazed that Steven Spielberg and George Lucas could expect anyone to suspend their disbelief at such a level for so long and not either laugh out loud or scream internally. Secondly I'm amazed that a movie with so many plot holes, messy scripting and impossible action sequences is still enjoyable.
Only keep reading if you don't mind spoilers.
Here are a few things Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull has taught me: if you happen to stumble onto a nuclear test site, all you have to do to survive is find a fridge, preferably a fridge with the words "Lead lined" written on the outside, pull out a few shelves, jump inside and shut the door. While the following nuclear blast will obliterate the house the fridge is in, and everything around it for miles, you'll be okay because the fridge will launch itself into the sky and rocket itself outside the danger zone entirely. The fridge will land with a titanic thud, but you'll still be able to open the door and walk away with just a few scratches. You'll even have time to watch the mushroom cloud. It's that easy. Forget fall out shelters, people should have been constructing fridges. You'll have to have a long shower afterwards though to wash away the radiation.
Equally, if you're in the jungles of Peru, dangling from a vine, it's quite easy to turn yourself into Tarzan and swing from vine to vine faster than a speeding jeep. You can even overtake a jeep and jump on board. While you're swinging you can simultaneously indoctrinate a group of monkeys to your cause and unleash them on unsuspecting cold war communists (the bad guys in this movie). It's also incredibly easy for two people to stand on two separate jeeps racing through the jungle and conduct a fencing match without falling off or missing a stroke.
Surviving waterfalls is a piece of cake too. If you're in a boat with four others and come across a huge waterfall, don't despair: you can drop off the edge and no one will get hurt, no matter how many rocks there are at the bottom, even if you do this three times in a row and the last drop is bigger than Niagara Falls.
Before we go any further, I do know it's an action film, I know we have to have some suspension of disbelief, but a lot of these scenes are so gigantically silly and outrageously improbable you'd have to suspend everything to stay with the movie's narrative. At least in the last three Star Wars movies Lucas could use "the force" to explain away the improbable bits.
A combination of Lucas' cartoon story telling and Spielberg's desire to always end everything happily no matter the cost to the story makes this a brainless movie viewing experience. Right from the start you know damn well that no "bad character" will survive and no "good character" fail. Even minor good characters are untouchable. As one early review pointed out there is no tension. If a good character in the movie gets fired upon by a truck full of sub machine gun wielding communists they won't get hit, even at point blank range. If they fall off waterfalls they won't die. If they are attacked by Amazonian ants as big as beetles they'll miraculously survive while the bad characters are dragged into giant ant hills screaming (yes, this really is a scene from the movie).
There are aliens though, as the first trailer suggested, crystal skeleton aliens and a massive glowing alien skull. A flying saucer even makes an appearance in the movie's climax. I quite liked the alien bits, especially the dramatic alien infested finale, but I'm a sucker for anything with aliens in it, especially the huge special effect set pieces they usually come with. These are intra-dimensional aliens too. I love those ones.
Indiana explains the aliens in one of the many clunky bits of dialogue that litter the movie. The aliens exist in "the space between spaces" and "their treasure was knowledge," he declares.
A friend of mine pointed out that the aliens in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull look exactly like the ones that appeared in Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Perhaps he had a few alien models gathering dust and thought they should be put to good use?
What really annoyed me though is that I still enjoyed the movie even though a lot of it was silly, nostalgic and massively ridiculous. It was great seeing Indiana Jones back for one final final time (Indiana Jones and the Last Last Crusade?). Although a recent article in The Age newspaper suggests a fifth movie may be on the cards.
Previous Indiana Jones movies were referenced constantly. There were pictures of Sean Connery (Indiana Jones' father in the last movie) and Denholm Elliott (Indianas' pal Marcus Brody in the three previous movies) on his desk. "The Ark of the Covenant" from Raiders of the Lost Ark appeared briefly when a crate was smashed in a warehouse. Best of all, Karen Allen reprises her role from Raiders of the Lost Ark as Marion Ravenwood. Her banter with Indiana Jones about their past relationship and being jilted at the altar was one of the movie's highlights.
Cate Blanchett has a fake black wig and a changeable accent. John Hurt gets only two or three decent lines. Mutt Williams (Shia LaBeouf) Indiana's young side kick is passable. While Ray Winstone as Mac, a questionable friend from the past, is given very little to work with.
If you had removed the nostalgia value, the special effects and the star power of Harrison Ford, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull would have been an improbable, unwatchable mess.
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