Written by Films

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

I must admit that I had to go away and double check that title. Perhaps, in the fullness of time it’ll come as second nature, but it’s unnecessarily complicated it for you ask me.
Anyway Indy’s back, and it’s been a while. We first meet him having been kidnapped and brought to that secret warehouse we saw at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark all those years ago. Time has moved on to 1957, and the enemy now is Commie rather than Nazi. This particular gang of Soviet citizens are led by the rather wonderful Cate Blanchett playing Irina Spalko in a severe cropped haircut and carrying a sabre. Some might suggest that she has a dominatrix look about her.
Indy soon escapes, and there’s a chilling sequence in which he realises that he’s in the middle of the desert at the scene of an imminent nuclear test. Things have rather moved on from the fear of Nazis.
The reds under the bed theme is nicely played out as the FBI becomes suspicious of him, despite his impeccable record suggesting otherwise.
And so we’re led on a journey around Latin America, as the chase gets underway looking for the secret kingdom of the title. There’s a gaggle of British character actors en route including an entertaining if slightly underwritten Ray Winstone, Jim Broadbent filling in for the late Denholm Elliot (who’s character still gets a knowing nod via a university statue), and a great mad turn from John Hurt. We also get to re-meet Raiders’ Marion (Karen Allen) and are introduced to Shia LaBeouf’s Mutt, who’s obviously been lined up to continue the franchise into the 60s should Lucas and Spielberg decide to continue.
The story’s tosh of course, but then they always have been. This time, perhaps, it’s a little more tosh than usual, but you put that to one side and get on with the action.
There’s been a certain amount of criticism of this film which is as much as anything due to the high standards of those that came before it, the affection that many of us hold the originals – in particular Raiders (although I still love the opening of Temple of Doom – I suspect I’m alone in that) – and the knowledge of what we’ve seen since then.
While I don’t think that any of the films that have tried to carry the mantle of Indy have done so in the intervening years, I think that perhaps this film could have been a little rawer. There is still plentiful CGI, not that there ever wasn’t lots of special effects in Indy films. I could have perhaps done with a swifter denouement that wasn’t quite as “showy-offy”.
But I still really enjoyed the film. The pace was good at the start and the end – perhaps only slipping in the middle. The film still felt true to the spirit of the originals. The John Williams music was all present and correct, and the stunts felt pretty real, although I’d have liked to have seen less CGI employed in the clifftop chase sequence. Yet this film is so superior to many of effects-laden tentpole blockbusters that have filled the cinemas in most of the recent summers.
So in the end, is it as good as Raiders? No. Does it matter that Harrison Ford is at a pensionable age? Not really in fact, and you can completely buy his action sequences. But the film is as good as the other two in the series. It’s had love and affection placed on it. Lucas has not been allowed to sully his own previous reputation as he managed with the Star Wars prequels. It’ll be really interesting to see if anything this coming summer matches or beats it (and from the trailer, that won’t be Hancock).
Right – I’m off to rewatch Raiders on DVD…
…But before I go, I couldn’t help but notice the three minute BBC Radio 1 ad that was shown ahead of Indy. That must have been a cheap use of my licence fee! It was very good, and it was to promote the variety of music Radio 1 plays post 7pm, but I’m not sure that with audiences at a record high, the BBC needs to be spending quite so much advertising the second most popular station in the country. Perhaps Radio 3 could do with the promotion? Probably not in the most expensive cinema ad-reel of the summer though…