Monday, February 24, 2014

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Ah, another review of a film everyone's seen already.

Unsurprisingly, I didn't think it was that good. There were some good sections. Spielberg knows how to direct a good action scene, and the film looks great, and, fairly rarely in action films these days, you can actually see what's going on in most action scenes. Each action scene tells a simple story which makes them, for the most part, more engaging. I also think Karen Allen gives a fairly charismatic performance as Marion, even if she doesn't have a great deal to work with

I don't actually think having aliens wrecked the film in any way, although they could have been introduced as a final act twist, rather than have the corpse in the opener which made Indy's denials seem a little weak. Instead my problems with the film were its plotting and writing in general. Indiana Jones has often been a little cartoonish, but never  has it been more so in Indy surviving a nuclear blast by climbing into a fridge. Having heard comments on this from film watchers, I had assumed this came near the end, but its actually just thrown in as a gag at the end of the opening action sequence. Its not that its thoroughly implausible, its that its filmed in such a way that makes it even more implausible! The fridge flies past a car which is destroyed by the blast, while the fridge is fine. Why is this fridge the only one to survive the explosion? Why... Oh never mind.

Perhaps it shouldn't have surprised me when later in the film our hero and company survive not one, but three plunges off a cliff into water, the first by bouncing down a bendy tree (!), the latter just by being invincible. Note that shortly after doing this, the Russians following them somehow teleport to catch up with them, like AI in cheating racing games. Harrison Ford has always managed to sell a sense of physical peril, as he gets battered and bruised but survives by the skin of his teeth. Here it never seemed particularly difficult, despite two decades having gone by.

I think the worst sin this films commits is a lack of sense of peril. Its not only that Indy is now apparently an immortal, its that the central quest doesn't really seem worrying. The Russian agent played by Cate Blanchett, in a fairly low charisma performance, asserts that the aliens will give them super psychic powers, but theres really no evidence that this is actually the case, so no surprise that she ends up getting blasted by laser eyes instead. While Indiana Jones has a bit of a tradition of doing this, at least in the other films the protagonist believed that something was at stake. Here the quest just seemed to be happening for the sake of it.

When I watch something like this, or the Star Wars prequels, I'm struck by their unecessary nature. The creative forces behind them didn't need to make these films, but they decided to bring them back.. for this?

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