After watching Indy and co ride off into the sunset at the end of Last Crusade, one had to question Spielberg’s decision to resurrect the franchise 19 years on. ‘Kingdom of the Crystal Skull’ confirms all our fears about another Indy movie in that it is a poor reworking of the original films, veering between parody and downright silliness.
The beginning of the movie is the most tedious to watch because you cannot help judging every moment against what has gone before. At the same time you are attempting to enjoy it for what it is. But what it is, of course, is a reprisal of the classic Indy movies: therefore, comparison is inevitable, and there’s no point saying that this is a film in its own right. A number of iconic Indy images are used anew in the opening sequence, but this time around, with Ford looking his age (65 by the way) and with some terribly wooden dialogue, it all comes across as poor imitation.
The only truly new element here is, sadly, the use of CGI which has received much criticism by Indy fans. Not very much is used, but when it is used, the effects fail to impress and simply leave the viewer feeling cold. It also comes late in the film, at which stage good effects are not enough to redeem the show.
On paper, Crystal Skull could possibly read quite well. There are those who have torn it apart and uncovered countless plotholes but the combination of classic Indy moments coupled with today’s CGI stunts may have seemed like enough to distract from any loose writing. Unfortuately it just doesn’t work that way. The previous Indy movies had their share of crazy stunts and supernatural activity but the characters and the relationships between them were always ground in reality. In ‘Crystal Skull’, any reality is foregone in the rush to reach the CGI filled (anti) climax and a clichéd happy ending.
It’s especially disappointing when you realise what great actors were at the directors’ disposal here. Cate Blanchett is a talented actress but in her role as the villain, she delivers no memorable lines and, as mentioned in another review I read, comes across as rather cartoon-like with her odd outfit and regimental bob. Shia LaBoeuf was well suited to his role as Indy’s younger sidekick, but his character was also rather underdeveloped despite his being present for most of the movie: all we know about him is that he dropped out of school to fix motorbikes and that he likes to keep his hairstyle intact. This leads to the point that Kingdom of the Crystal Skull suffers from a formulaic script that was keen to tick all the boxes, often using characters to do so. Mutt’s reason for being was to serve as an aid for the older Indy in the action scenes and also to reunite Indy with Marion. Blanchett was there to play the villain because Indy (or should I say Mutt) has to fight someone. John Hurt’s character could have been memorable but he appears half way through the film with the sole purpose of leading Indy to the climax of the movie. With so many characters that we know little about, they are easily forgotton by the end of the movie.
One gets the impression that this film was a trip down nostalgia lane for Spielberg and Lucas who then decided it needed a 21st century makeover in the shape of CGI. Unfortunately, nostalgia is best left alone and that is the case here also.