Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
Director: Steven Spielberg
Little Review Summary – Quick Blurb
Leading up to Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, the final Indy adventure, we figured we would take a look at the remaining Indiana Jones films and give our thoughts. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was, up until this weekend, the most recent and last Indiana Jones movie released as it came out in 2008. Nearly 20 years after the last Indy film we were given a sequel that moved our favourite archeologist into the 1950s. With Harrison Ford getting older, Spielberg and Lucas had to shift the series to a new time period which means new villains and a new type of artifact to find.
Both Ford and Lucas tried to convince Spielberg to make this movie as soon as The Last Crusade came out and it took them multiple scripts and different ideas before we got this movie in 2008. So how were the reactions? Did the trio recapture the magic that made the original trilogy one of the most beloved series of all time? Let’s get into it…
The first thing I want to say about this movie is that you can tell how much Harrison Ford loves this character. He is a man who shows very little emotion and generally has come across as grumpy for the past 15 years. He might be one of the most well-known actors in the world and for all the films he has done, he is most known for two roles Han Solo and Indiana Jones. Harrison seems to have no love lost for Star Wars, as ever since The Empire Strikes Back he wanted the character to die and never really wanted to come back. On the flip side, Harrison never seems to get tired of putting on the hat and the whip to play good old Dr. Jones.
Fans can argue which character and role they prefer but for Ford, it is quite evident. He never missed a step slipping back into the role of Indiana Jones as if no time has passed. His energy and enthusiasm in this role are easy to see on screen. He still moves, sounds, and reacts the way we expect Indy to do those things. I feel his excitement to play the character once again and he plays off of all the characters quite well. He reminds us who this series is about and why we have enjoyed the character for so long. This movie may have problems but he is not one.
Honestly, the first hour of this movie I quite enjoy. From Indy’s escape and fight in Area 51 to the scenes at the university and meeting Mutt and up until they get captured by the Russians I was really into the movie. I thought it felt like a classic Indy setup with the opening before the main adventure. It was nice to see him at the university and interact with another scholar. I even thought the initial meeting with Mutt and their relationship was interesting.
It was a new dynamic for Indy because he was a college-age kid who had certain similarities to our protagonist. I do think that the use of the Russians as villains was a good choice that fits with who was the United States’ biggest enemy at the time. The references and callbacks to the rest of the series were welcome and I did smile at a couple of them. Also, I have to shout out John Williams for a fantastic score that keeps us invested even when the action is lacking.
So like I said the beginning of this movie felt like Indiana Jones but yet I didn’t give this as favourable a review as I gave Raiders or as I would give the other two. So, what happened?
Aliens. This is obviously one of the big sticking points with this film in general, dying on that hill for most people. George Lucas wanted the movie to be an evolving series and while the 1930s tv series that he based Indiana Jones on were about adventures, the 1950s and its media were very alien-focused. In my opinion, Indiana Jones was more based on history. No matter how mystical, they were about earthly history and artifacts that came from human history. I just felt that this was not the direction that anyone expected from the franchise, and it caught everyone off guard.
The obvious other main complaint of this film is the reliance on CGI. The original Indiana Jones movies are praised for their practical effects and their action set pieces being well choreographed with real stunts that you feel the impact of each action. This is so beloved that there is even a stunt show at Disney World based on Indiana Jones and his adventures. This 4th film relies heavily on visual effects and some of it becomes so ridiculous that at one point Mutt is swinging from vines with monkeys which doesn’t look good in terms of visual effects and has no realism whatsoever. Very little of the action has that gritty, painful, and visceral impact that the action in the original trilogy had in spades. Even though Indy is in tons of danger none of it feels as harrowing as the scenes of the original three.
Overall, I think this film is definitely over-hated. It is not the worst film ever made and not every aspect of this film is awful. It does not ruin Indiana Jones, and I would say it even adds a couple of interesting elements to the series that I did appreciate. However, it is still my least favourite Indiana Jones film, and I was disappointed that they did not keep it consistent with the rest of the series. I am happy that this was not the final note for the franchise. Still, I feel that this can be considered part of the franchise and doesn’t need to be wiped from the face of the earth.