Movie Review 2008 #60: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

So after my trip to Minnehaha Park, I went to see the new Indiana Jones movie…

After Indy has impressed Mutt with his physical skills and abilities
Mutt: “You’re a teacher?”
Indy: “Part Time”
Even the Original Trilogy of the Indiana Jones movies had problems (Temple of Doom, anyone?) but I am not sure why Spielberg decided to do this one, twenty five years after the fact, save for the word that is the answer to 99 out of 100 questions. “Money”.
The year is 1957. The Red Scare grips America (I thought I was watching Good Night and Good Luck early on. The KGB has infiltrated Nevada to try and get something out of a mysterious warehouse. Their unwilling accomplices are two kidnapped men–Dr. Jones and his friend Mac (Ray Winstone, showing he acts better than when not covered in CGI like in Beowulf). The Russians are not taking Indy to find the Ark of the Covenant (although it gets a cameo shot). Instead, these Russians (led by the mysterious Irina (Blanchett) are after something in a magnetic coffin. And so the movie is off and running…
The structure of the movie is the old formula. Opening action sequence, followed by time at the college, long trip to the final destination with a stop or two along the way, and then the final locale and action sequences. Along the way we meet Mutt (Shia Lebouf), Professor Oxley, the only man to have been to the mysterious city tied in with the titular skull, and back from Raiders, Marian (Karen Allen).
Lots of references and homages to the three films, and even a reference to the Young Indiana Jones series. The movie gets far on nostalgia. This is good because overall, the movie lacks a bit of punch after all this time. Don’t get me wrong. It’s a perfectly entertaining summer blockbuster, with good special effects, exotic locales, and action adventure goodness. It’s just not up to the standard of Raiders or Last Crusade. (It’s definitely better than Temple of Doom though).
I think the movie could have used a rewrite to get some more juice in, remove some of the more annoying things, and clear up some lacunae. Indy only uses his bullwhip in the beginning, for instance, and after making a big deal of taking a motorcycle all the way to Peru, Mutt never uses the thing once they get there. Indy is way too capable, physically, for his age or even a reasonable pulp movie. (Surviving a nuclear blast and the refrigerator he is in shot hundreds of feet through the air. Um, no.) Plus, Irina’s supposed psychic powers are underplayed and not utilized. Lastly, the finale lacked emotional heft.
More Marian and (especially) Irina, and less Mutt would have been good. I think Irina would make a wonderful casting call for a Faiellan in an Amber game, especially since she has a fetish for wearing and using a sword.
I was entertained. Not as bad as it could have been–but its not the first or third movie. Live with that, and go see it. You know you want to.