After going missing in action for 19 years, 2008 saw Harrison Ford strap on his bullwhip once again as 80s obsessed geeks geared up for another adventure with Indiana Jones. Having been rumored as coming soon for what seemed like a decade, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is the follow up to The Last Crusade. Now clocking in at 66 years old, could the former action hero Ford re-kindle the magic of Raiders of the Lost Ark?
The action kicks off in 1957 which covers the 20 year shift in Harrison Ford’s appearance since his last outing as Indy. We arrive at Area 51 with both Indy and his partner George ‘Mac’ McHale (Ray Winstone) being held by a nasty bunch of Russians lead by Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchet). Searching for the remains of an extraterrestrial which crashed in Roswell a decade earlier, they want the location from Indy. After being double crossed by Mac, Indy escapes into a nuclear testing site only surviving by locking himself in a lead-lined fridge (only 20 minutes into the film and I’m already priming my Hulk hands to destroy my TV in anger). The narrative then introduces Indy’s son, Mutt Williams (Shia LeBeouf), brings back Marian Ravenwood and then moves the entire cast out to the jungle, apparently in search of Mulder and Scully. Yes, it seems the quest for the crystal skull has something to do with aliens. That’s right, aliens. This leads me to a simple question that I would like to put to both Mr Spielberg and Mr Lucas. Why are you trying to turn Indiana Jones into The X-Files? Didn’t you notice that enthusiasm for The X-Files expired a decade ago?
As far as re-bootings of franchises go, this is about as horrendous as it gets. I fully understand that this is essentially a film for kids and that now I’m all grown up I might not appreciate its childlike wonderment. This may indeed be true but I can still appreciate a well plotted, well scripted action adventure yarn with the best of them. And this pile of tripe simply doesn’t measure up.
The casting of Cate Blanchet would seem a strong move by the producers given her perennial Academy nominee status. Sadly she’s made to ham it up to such an extent that by the end she’d struggle to be believable in Toon Town. Then we have acting legend John Hurt, who once brought audiences to tears with his portrayal of John Merrick the Elephant Man. Sadly this acting great is made to act like a mental defective for the entire film, muttering and stumbling around for over an hour. Disastrous decisions like these totally sink the project into a mire of turgid trash that it never escapes from. The only upsides in terms of casting are the excellent LeBeouf as Mutt, who brings great energy to the role, and the return of Alllen as Marion which is long overdue.
The so-called attempts to maintain the look of the original films with the use of real stunts and locations is an utter failure. The jungle car sequence looks like something out of the horrendous Star Wars prequels. The colors and backdrops are so ridiculously fake that I sat watching the screen trying not to cry. Finally we arrive at the flying saucer sequence which is so bad it’s untrue. Given the almost criminal amount of money spent on this film such things simply should not happen. Both Spielberg and Lucas should be roundly ashamed.
The truly sad part of this fiasco is that kids flocking to see it may actually enjoy it. They should be forced to stay home and watch the entire franchise so they can fully grasp the outrageous genius of the original Raiders of the Lost Ark. By the time they arrive at this load of nonsense they’ll most probably berate their parents for making then watch it. Which is as it should be.