The Long-Awaited Indiana Jones Movie

I just got back from a midnight showing of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Overall, I liked it. It is primarily action-oriented and Shia LeBoeuf wasn’t nearly as bad as I feared. By the time the credits started rolling, I was decidedly ambivalent.

I get that Indiana Jones is larger-than-life, that he’s a swashbuckling professor/explorer. I think the first three movies did a great job of situating him squarely within our reality—though it varied slightly from movie to movie. This latest version borders on the preposterous a few too many times: Dr. Jones isn’t a superhero and the Amazon isn’t a fantasy land. Now I know that this isn’t supposed to be accurate or even possible, but previous installments were realistic except for (maybe even in spite of) their fantastic central premises: the Ark of the Covenant, an underground cult, and the Holy Grail.

And it didn’t have to be this way. Amazonian ants that carry people away? Come on. KGB agents seemingly swarming throughout America at will? Give me a break. Indiana surviving a nuclear bomb test by hiding in a refrigerator? Nuts. An ancient temple that reconfigures itself as if the monumental blocks were Legos? Puh-leez. Shia LeBouef swinging through vast swathes of jungle on vines? No way. But in each of those situations, Spielberg (or the writer) could have opted for a more realistic resolution. That he didn’t is perhaps a Spielberg touch.

The ending, which I will not detail here, was very rushed and very unsatisfying. I don’t know why they chose to do it that way. They were obviously shooting for spectacular, but fell short and ended up at puzzling. This issue doesn’t detract too much, however. I would recommend seeing it as it does follow in the tradition of the heretofore trilogy.

[UPDATE (6/18/2008): Matthew Baldwin just saw it and basically agrees, though he was much more amusing.]

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