Tuesday, May 27, 2008

REVIEW: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Year: 2008
Director: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Harrison Ford, Karen Allen, Shia LaBeouf, Cate Blanchett, Ray Winstone
Distributor: Paramount Pictures
MPAA: Rated PG-13

People have been asking director Steven Spielberg for 19 years about another Indiana Jones movie. The fans around the world were somewhat split between liking the idea of another Indy film or just letting this franchise end. I myself wasn't sure which to pick. Isn't Harrison Ford too old now to return as Indy? Will Sean Connery return as Indy's dad? All these questions kept popping up in my head. I mean I thought the ending in the Last Crusade was great and a nice way to end the series. On the other hand, I was kind of excited if we ever saw Indy return again. Well after many many scripts and many years of waiting, Indiana Jones IV is a reality. Spielberg was quoted many times saying he made this film for us. After waiting for 19 years, the film finally opened wide last Thursday and it opened big. The movie has grossed an estimated $311 million worldwide in only 5 days and shows no sign of slowing down.

Plot Outline:
It is the year 1957, Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) and his friend Mac McHale (Ray Winstone) find their situation compromised in the Roswell desert. Soviet agents, led by psychic Irana Spalko (Cate Blanchett) force them to help locate the whereabouts of a mysterious artifact. Indy manages to escape their clutches and get back to Marshall College, where he learns that he must take an indefinite leave of absence as he's now feared of being a communist sympathizer. When heading for his next destination he's greeted by a young man by the name of Mutt Williams (Shia LaBeouf), who asks Jones to help him search for Indy's old friend Harold Oxley (John Hurt), a researcher who had once found a crystal skull of unknown origin in the mountains of Peru. Mutt desperately needs Indy's help, informing him that his mother Marion (Karen Allen) has been kidnapped by those seeking the skull, in a bid to unlock its secret powers and put an end to the cold war. It is up to Indy to rescue Marion, find Oxley and stop the Russians from using the crystal skull.

If you were waiting 19 years for another Indy film and walk into this film expecting to be blown away, then your going to be disappointed. The plot is engaging, but not to the level that's going to wow you every minute. Their are some plot holes that really bug you especially if your a fan. Half way through the movie, the story seems to fall apart. Any true Indiana Jones fan will admit this. I want to state the fact that this is an Indy film. That means Indiana Jones looks for things that stay in contact with his world and his time. So the introduction of "BLEEP" (cause I don't want to spoil it for you) is plain wrong. It doesn't go well with the universe that is Indiana Jones. I cant believe this is what they decided on. I'm happy to say that this is still an entertaining movie. The characters are the same as before and Indy is still great as ever. I'm glad the writers kept the humor aspect of what made the Indy films so charming to watch. The stunts and traps are back too. We have alot of traps that Indy encounters through out the movie. Their are also alot of nice references to the past Indy films and this is just wonderful to see. I thought the ending for the movie was also pretty nice. Its not as epic or memorable as the ending in the Last Crusade, but its still pretty nice.

Harrison Ford returns one last time as Indiana Jones. For his current age, I was really surprised on how well he performed. He gives a great performance as Indy and I'm just happy to see him back. It takes alot to do the stunts that Indiana Jones does and I'm really surprised Ford did most of it. Karen Allen reprises her role as Marion Ravenwood. Now I have raved about how I enjoyed the character of Marion Ravenwood as a female role in the Indy films more than other girls in the Indy film. She just always that personality that I can always seen beside Indy. With that said, I'm very happy to see Karen Allen back once more in this film. Shia LaBeouf plays as Mutt Williams, I found his role in this film to be alittle enjoyable. His character wasn't annoying or dumb. We also have Cate Blanchett playing as Irina Spalko and here's the part where I really smiled. Blanchett gives a fantastic performance that I very much enjoyed. One look at her character and you can see her playing in an Indy film. I really really enjoyed her performance and thought it was one of the best she has given.

We all know that the Indiana films have been these low budget movies that make the special effects look decent. The past Indy films have been mostly done by hand in the visual effect department. Here, most of the effects are digital. Meaning, they can do whatever they want with it. The Indy films have always been about making things look real, not using digital tools to do that. Since the movie has come out a good 19 years after the Last Crusade, the films source is in excellent condition. I wasn't able to detect any grain even though Spielberg didn't shoot the film with HD cameras. Colors are much more vibrant this time around. Their are alot of scenes that feature some beautiful colors that pop at you. The film has many great outdoor scenes that really showcase the movies bold colors. Detail is exceptionally strong. This is the best an Indiana Jones movie has looked. The special effects look wonderful, but they also kind of ruin that Indy feel we have all come to expect. The CGI isn't used heavily like some other films today, but it still their and kind of changes that Indy experience.

The soundtrack in the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is better than the films story. John Williams who has scored the past Indiana Jones movies and other big hits like Star Wars and Superman, returns once again to score this film. Although most of the music in this film is music that we have heard before, but that's not a bad thing considering that old music sounds better than ever. That same great Indy theme we have all come to love is back and it sounds fantastic. Their are other orchestral work that goes around during the movie, but its Indy's theme that gets the most attention. For a movie like this, bass is seriously needed and I'm happy to say it delivers. I complained about the past Indy films needing remastering in their audio quality because their bass wasn't strong enough, but that's taken to a whole new level here. The bass is full of nice and loud surrounds. I swear, the theater rocked during the explosion scenes. Dialogue is also great with alot of voices sounding clear and clean.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is a good film. The story is pretty good and starts off strong, but half way through, the story starts to fall apart. Their are some scenes that I would have changed or taken out simply because they ruin the movie. The cast is great with many familiar faces returning to give great performances. The visual effects although impressive is too much digital and not enough simple things. The soundtrack is bombastic, that same Indy theme song has never sounded this good. So in the end, is Kingdom of the Crystal Skull really something we Indy fans have waited 19 years for? Simple answer is, no. It may not be as epic as Raiders or great as the Last Crusade, but I happened to enjoy this movie more than I did Temple of Doom. This is still an Indiana Jones movie and that still means your going to be entertained. I would recommend this to the people who have seen the previous Indy films, but I warn you that Its not as great as It could have been.

Grade: B-

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