Friday, January 8, 2010

Review: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)

Director: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Harrison Ford, Shia LaBeouf, Karen Allen, Cate Blanchett

The last Indiana Jones movie, if I recall, was made in 1989 and left no indication that there was to be a sequel. But apparently George Lucas needed money, imagine that, so he vomited out this new sequel 20 years later, guilt-tripping good actors like Harrison Ford and ones of questionable taste like Shia LaBeouf to whore themselves out for one more ride on the fuck-train that amounts to about two hours of wasted time. This is Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Meth. I mean, Crystal Skull. But what I said first would have made more sense.

Honestly, this is just pointless. Pointless and extremely boring at that. Harrison Ford doesn't even really need to act here - he puts on a scowl for the camera, ruffles up his now-gray hair and growls like he's got a bug stuck in his throat. I think he knew this movie was a stinker; you can just see it in every line he delivers. Despite that, he's still a lot of fun to watch, and is probably the movie's most redeeming factor. Cate Blanchett also phones in her performance as the female Russian colonel, and is never in any way captivating or interesting to watch. Shia LaBeouf does an alright job for what he's given to work with, which is painfully little, as the script is piss poor. I mean, they gave him the name "Mutt" - that sounds like something you'd hear in a parody of the 50s, not the actual 50s. It's like something out of Grease. Ray Winstone plays a pointlessly double-crossing something-or-other who will leave absolutely no impression on the viewer, as I also get the impression that he was not really trying.

The story is kind of like the old Indiana Jones movies, centering around a quest to find the lost City of Gold, except it's incredibly boring. In the beginning of the film we get Indy talking about adventures he's had in the past, and I kept thinking that any of these would be so much cooler than what I was watching here. Kidnapped by Pancho Villa as a teenager? I'd sign up to watch that in a heartbeat! Anything would be better than this movie though.

It isn't even like there's anything that wrong with the whole concept behind this; it's just that the idea of even making it at all is pointless. This is a cinematic dead end. The Indy franchise was dead for close to two decades before this was pushed out. Nothing the film does really leaves any impact on me. So the babe from the first Indiana Jones movie is Shia LaBeouf's mom, and Indy is the dad. Yawn. So some of the soldiers are eaten by giant ants. So the gang all go careening down about three waterfalls in a row while sitting upright in a jeep, Hollywood for dummies, all of it. By the time the aliens show up, you just don't care anymore. The fact that there are aliens in an Indiana Jones movie does not register as more than a silly curiosity rather than the catastrophe I am sure Spielberg intended, although I must note here the incredibly drug-addled way the whole thing plays out, lending credence to the "Kingdom of Crystal Meth" argument. The movie glosses over most of the important plot points like that, without any kind of urgency. Nothing leaves any impact. The characters sit there at the end and smile like they're in a Hallmark commercial, but really they're just smiling because their paychecks are just that much closer.

What ever happened to the days when these movies were blood-pumping, heart-in-your-mouth, non-stop action thrillers? Nothing about this works. It's all pieced together with a sort of self-conscious, ironic gloss that robs it of any real tension, any drive to move forward and excite the viewer. Like that stupid scene at the beginning where he jumps into a refrigerator to escape a nuclear bomb blast. It's so ridiculous that it is literally insulting to the viewer's intelligence; not like the cheesy moments in the old ones where it was fun. Here it's just stupid.

The older Indiana Jones movies were great because they stopped at nothing to take the viewer into the heart of the action. They felt genuine and real, even in their obvious over-the-top styling, whereas this one just sort of directs you to the Gift Shop to deposit your money for further exploitations, feeling more like a tourist attraction than an actual adventure movie. Fuck that.