Spoiler-free Review: Indiana Jones (updated)

May 22, 2008 at 2:32 pm Leave a comment

Pay no attention to the overly harsh reviews that this movie has been receiving. This is old-fashioned Indy that just happened to be made during the age of CG and 2-second cuts. All the adventure, humor, and charm of the previous 3 Jones movies is present here. And the film moves along at a brisk pace so that you’re never really bored.

What many people have been complaining about is that this movie lacks the ‘charm’ of the originals. While I will admit that there’s something missing in this one that was present in Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Last Crusade, it’s probably because we’re going in with certain expectations that a movie can’t possibly live up to. Much like watching a movie adaptation of a book after you’ve read the book, what you see on the screen can’t live up to what your imagination has already created.

The movie starts in 1957, and Cold War paranoia has already set in around the country. Indiana and his friend Mac (Ray Winstone) have just been kidnapped by Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett), a Soviet officer assigned to find supernatural artifacts that may give an edge to the Soviets over the United States. I’d try and explain what happens next, but really, it doesn’t matter. It’s Indiana Jones and all you need to know is Indy cracks his whip, leaps from moving cars, and runs from angry Soviets.

What I admire about this movie is that it really is old-school filmmaking. Spielberg, Lucas, and Co. continued the tradition of updating old 1930’s serials and produced a fun, action-filled movie that should appeal to movie goers of all ages. Fans of the original trilogy will love the nods to the old films, much like the warehouse chase in the beginning (look for a certain crate to partially break open, revealing something from the first film) and how they decided to use the old 1970’s Paramount logo versus the new one with the flying CG stars.

While the story has a bit of an unusual sci-fi twist (looks like someone let George Lucas into the writing room), it works for the most part. Again, the story doesn’t matter since it’s the action and the thrills that drive this series. You’ll find plenty of action here, with a fun motorcycle chase ending in the school library (and a cameo by Chet Hanks, son of Tom Hanks), a very innovative jungle chase that includes swinging from tree branches and a sword fight while standing between two moving vehicles (slightly reminiscent of the brawl on the tank in The Last Crusade). The humor is also amped up a bit, especially between Jones and Marion Ravenwood.

Marion Ravenwood also makes a great return as mother to Shia LeBeouf’s Mutt. It’s nice to see the series come (somewhat) full-circle with the return of Karen Allen. LeBeouf also does a great job as Indy’s new sidekick. While I think I like him more in Michael Bay’s Transformers (I thought the character was a little more ‘believable’), he’s still fun to watch especially when he puts on this fake macho facade. I don’t buy him for a second as a tough guy 1950’s greaser, but as a sidekick, he’s fine.

What didn’t work so well for me was Ray Winstone’s Mac. His character really wasn’t needed and he felt like more of a replacement for John Rhys-Davies’ Sallah from the first and third films. Also, what’s up with Jim Broadbent? Again, another replacement character (Broadbent’s Stanforth replacing the late Denholm Elliot’s Marcus Brody) that isn’t important to the story, or the background information, primarily because we don’t see how Stanforth or Mac know Indy. I also have a bit of an issue with Blanchett’s character. She has this psychic ability that isn’t used…OK, maybe once, but her powers don’t work, so why bother giving her a power then?

These are minor squabbles, however, as the entire movie is really more designed to wash over you and let you just take in the adventure rather than focus on the small details. Kingdom of the Crystal Skull fits nicely into the series and I’d say is just as good as The Last Crusade, a childhood favorite of mine. While there aren’t any sequences as memorable as the boulder scene from the first or moments like the ‘leap of faith’ scene in the third, this fourth one, as a whole, is just plain fun.

Hopefully moviegoers will have a chance to see this in a packed theatre with an excited audience, since the Indiana Jones movies deserve to be seen that way. I saw it at a midnight showing with a crowd that included the young and the old, the casual fan and the hardcore (complete with costume). When the lights dimmed, there was applause. When the Paramount logo appeared, there was louder applause, and when you see Indiana for the first time, the crowd went absolutely nuts. I haven’t felt electricity run through a room like that since Revenge of the Sith.

I hope Ford, Spielberg, and Lucas will return to make one final installment, since I absolutely loved that ‘riding into the sunset’ shot in The Last Crusade and I feel that Indy deserves one more great send-off before being retired into the annals of film history. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull , however, marks the triumphant return of good old-fashioned adventure, devoid of any seriousness, but filled to the brim with pure fun.

8.5/10

(images from Yahoo!)

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