Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

In a word: lame.

I wouldn’t say the fears of the fanboys that this Indy would soil the series are fully realized, but I’d say the series is badly wounded by this turgid, lifeless misfire.

Let’s start with the number one culprit: Harrison Ford 95% phones in his performance here. Get that man a Red Bull. I’ve seen higher energy from narcoleptics.

Not that he or anyone is supported by the wit-less, scatter-plotted script by David Koepp (story by George Lucas and Jeff Nathanson). The one-liners and comebacks that are an Indy trademark aren’t here. Could Spielberg and Lucas not afford to have a punch-up guy do a punch-up pass? You know, so the movie could be funny.

And as far as the action goes, I’m not letting Spielberg off the hook. There are no less than three car chases in the film. I lost count of the number of times Indy punches out the driver of a car and takes over the wheel. Does he have no other moves? I may have a faulty memory, but I believe Indy’s trademark is a whip.

Continue reading about Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (major spoilers)…As far as the Indiana Jones mythology, I am extremely confused. Old characters like Marion Ravenwood return, but they get less attention than the countless new characters who have apparently had long relationships with Indy, but who we’ve never seen or heard about in other films. Ray Winstone’s character is perhaps the greatest misfire. Is he a double-agent, a greedy guy, or just a convenient plot device.

The alien plot was an odd choice and not exactly a bold one from the alien-obsessed Spielberg and Lucas. When I first heard about it, I thought okay, what they may be doing is tying the Indiana Jones series into the Star Wars series. That would be incredible and appropriate. If Indiana Jones was able to use his archaeological skills to determine what happened a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away… At worst they could’ve thrown in the three-note signature from Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

Instead, we’re treated to the old saw about pyramids in Egypt and Mesoamerica being built with alien technology. What did the aliens want with humanity and how did they manage to imbue their skeletons with magical powers? And why is there a collection of ancient artifacts that Indiana Jones, a man who risks his life to put such things in museums, doesn’t even seem to care is obliterated?

The story goes off the rails when Indy nonchalantly survives a nuclear blast, never satisfactorily builds a relationship between Marion, Indy and Mutt (Shia LeBouf, getting passed one very damaged mantle) and has a conclusion that fails to see the heroes confront the villain, Cate Blanchette’s Irina Spalco, the one semi-interesting character in the whole movie. It’s sad that it took so many years and scripts to arrive at this dull result.

MORE:
Legends of real crystal skulls
10 Things to Know about the New Indiana Jones
Indy 4 over-intellectualized to the point of absurdity
Trying to make the CGI effects invisible (they weren’t, by the way)
Was Indy a Pinko?
Frank Darabont’s version of the script is on the torrents

Son of Rambow

I actually saw this movie a few weekends ago and have had trouble figuring out what to write about it. On one hand, it’s a cute, imaginative little movie. On the other hand, it just didn’t rock my world the way I wanted it to.

Son of Rambow tells the story of two British schoolboys in the 80’s who, inspired by the Rambo movie First Blood, camcord their own action movie and learn some life lessons in the process. The actual filmmaking part of the movie was much less than I expected. Really, it’s a paean to creativity over-coming a stifling conservative religious sensibility, which I think is more interesting and unusual.

Will Proudfoot (Bill Milner), a shy, fatherless artist-type boy is conned by school troublemaker Lee Carter (Will Poulter) into being a stuntman in a movie he is shooting to enter in a BBC contest. Carter, a latchkey kid who is raised by his older brother, allows Will’s imagination to inform the story they are shooting, which becomes about the Son of ‘Rambow’ trying to rescue his father from a scarecrow. Will’s religious community, which forbids the watching of television, much less bootlegged copies of violent action movies, is not happy that he is spending time with ‘bad seed’ Lee Carter. This conflict comes to a head when Will’s mother (Jessica Stevenson) must decide whether to support her son or listen to a religious leader of their church who has taken an interest in her.

I almost feel the movie would’ve been more endearing if it had been shot for less money and looked less polished. The camera work is stunning and the special effects, including one amazing sequence where Will’s notebook doodles come to life, are inspired. The kid actors are great and yet…

I was unmoved by what were clearly meant to be some touching scenes at the end. I can’t put my finger on what is off about this film and maybe that’s why I’ve been so reluctant to write about it. I did quite enjoy the bulk of it, and it’s certainly an antidote to multiplex turds like Indiana Jones 4. But I can’t fully recommend a movie that seems to be neither fish nor fowl — neither quirky indie nor by-the-book coming-of-age tale.