Movie Review: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

>After hearing all of the lackluster reactions to the movie Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, I gave into peer apathy and missed my opportunity to see the film while it was on the big screen. So great was my disinterest that when it came out on DVD back in October, I actually purchased the 2-disk deluxe edition sight-unseen, but still hadn’t watched it until tonight (January 1, 2009). Boy did I miss out! I loved this movie!

One thing that made me enjoy this movie was that it seemed like a natural progression in the storyline. In this film we see that Indiana Jones has aged along with Harrison Ford who plays him. The world is no longer in pre-World War II, but is now in the height of the Cold War and the country’s imagination has turned to science fiction and flying saucers. Actually it kind of reminds me of a very early Peanuts cartoon from the 1950s where Charlie Brown is dressed in a cowboy outfit looking depressed as he tells someone he’s a “lonesome cowboy.” When the person asks why he replies, “Because everyone else is playing spaceman!”

Just as the original Indiana Jones movies were meant to echo the classic serial dramas that Lucas grew up with, Crystal Skull was designed to emulate the science fiction B-movies that were popular in the 50s. Of course, with modern film techniques and the popularity of the franchise, this movie is nothing less than an A-list film with blockbuster writing and effects.

It has been a long time since I was as engaged by a movie as I was in this one. Yes there are the requisite, Indiana Jones gotcha moments that startled me, and there were also a couple of gross-out moments and enough creepy-crawlies to give me the willies, but it was refreshing to me that the story took a different enough turn from the mystical folklore elements of the past films to leave me guessing a bit until all the elements were tied up in the end.

I think what I enjoy about these movies is that they explore common elements of myth, legends and theology, and explore them through this beloved fictional archeologist, Indiana Jones. I actually believe that’s why Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom didn’t work as well—because it centered on mythology from a culture that we aren’t as familiar with, so it wasn’t personal to us. Crystal Skull actually draws from modern mythology direct from the mid-20th century, and so it’s easy for us to relate to what’s going on.

I honestly don’t know why people were so hard on this film. It was a great ride and my wife declared as the credits began to roll that this was the best of the series (keeping in mind that I don’t think these movies rank up there with her favorite films of all time). I don’t know if I’d go as far as to say it was the best, but for a film franchise to come back after almost 20 years and to be able to add a movie that not only looks and feels like part of the original series, but also provides a nice book end to the character’s storylines, that is a welcome addition.

[WARNING: minor spoiler. If you don’t want to read it, skip this paragraph.] There are some people who think that this might be the kicking off point of another franchise of these movies centering around the character Mutt Williams. Well, I don’t think so. At the end of the movie there is what we think is going to be the passing of the hat to Mutt, but at the last minute, Indy picks up the had and puts it on himself instead. I think that was a tease from Stephen Spielberg and George Lucas that made us think the hat would be passed, but I think the message was really that this is all going to stop with Indy.

I’d encourage anyone who enjoyed the original three to go ahead and watch this installment if you haven’t already. You won’t be disappointed.

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