Sunday, June 15, 2008

This makes the Ark of the Covenant killing Nazis look plausible

Review: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

And boy, that sure is a mouthful. I'll return again to one of my slogans: that I'm not really a movie person, but that I might appear to be one when I go on a movie-reviewing spree. That usually happens thanks to my legitimate movie person friends at two times of the year: the end of the year pre-Oscar season, and the summer blockbuster season. (Count this as the summer blockbuster installment of 2008.) Just to prove how much of a movie person I'm not, let's talk about the Indiana Jones movies. I've only seen the first one once, about five years ago, and I don't really remember what happened in it. I've never even seen the second or third ones. If that's not shirking my duty as a cinema-obsessed American, I don't know what is.

On the bright side, I've been told that if I'm only going to have seen two of the movies, the first and fourth aren't a bad two. And if I pretended to be a little apprehensive about having missed "some critical plot detail" in the second or third ones before I saw the fourth, the Indiana Jones series proves that it's on the other end of the "serial scale" from, say, Lost. I do have at least some modicum of education on the series; enough, for instance, to understand why Dr. Jones has a picture of Sean Connery on his desk.

And if I say that I don't really remember the first movie at all, I at least remember the iconic scene, perhaps one of the defining in American moviemaking, where Indiana shoots the scimitar-wielding Arabic fellow. That, and I remember lightning shooting out from the Arc of the Covenant and killing Nazis. And I remember thinking, up until this point in the movie, it almost seemed plausible. Maybe there really is some hidden Pharaonic staff buried in a tomb that, when placed in the right part of the model of the city, lights up with the rays of the sun, etc. etc. The lightning part was a jump into the idea of "yep, you're going to have some supernatural/paranormal events in this movie." Okay, fine.

The events of the fourth movie idea put that to shame, whether for better or worse. The ending of the movie is so awash in the paranormal that you can't decide whether to be confused or entertained, or merely to start lathering on the Mystery Science Theater. I mean, aliens, all right. The Mayan ruins are actually a spaceship, whatever. But not just a normal spaceship, no, an interdimensional one, that transports matter to other versions of space by sucking them through some hole in the ceiling?

I'm obviously not expecting the most subtly worked, nuanced plot from an action movie, but there's a massive hole in the plot that opens right when Dr. Jones and friends walk into the "bunch of aliens with crystal skeletons" room. So there's this legend that whoever returns the skull to the city gets control over its powers. Cool. Here's the difficulty with that: conquistador guy takes the skull from that chamber in, what, 1500-something? If all it took for the spaceship to get booted up again was for all the parts of all the aliens to be present, shouldn't the chamber already have been sucking stuff into another dimension? And how did that legend get started anyway?

So in terms of "movie that makes you think" you're in the wrong place--unless you want to try and puzzle through that plot hole. As an Indiana Jones movie, I'm not the best person to ask about that, given my relative lack of experience with the rest of the series. But as an action movie, and as an inspiration for adventure stories, it's a lot of fun.

One thing I really don't understand (aside from the entire backstory to the film) is Shia LaBeouf. My dad had seen that this person called Shia LaBeouf was hosting Saturday Night Live, and he asked me if I had any idea who that was. This was before I'd seen the movie, of course. "Nope," I responded. "In fact, I have no idea if that's a male or female." Turns out, of course, it's the guy who plays Jones' sidekick-slash-long lost son, an actor who's shown up in a handful of earlier movies, and someone who's apparently slated to become a huge movie star this year. Good to know.

Currently listening: "Either Way", Wilco


Anonymous said...

Shia LeBouf is actually a very very good actor (some have compared him to Tom Hanks, and not just because of similarity of looks). I haven't seen Transformers or Indy yet (two of his bigger movies), but I have seen Disturbia and The Greatest Game Ever Played, and he absolutely shined in those, especially the latter. He also did very well in his much much more minor roles in Constantine and I, Robot.

Anyway, that's enough for me. I encourage you to check him out, especially in The Greatest Game Ever Played. A very worthwhile movie, even if you end up not liking Shia LeBouf.

Matt Pavlovich said...

Oh, he acted the part in Indiana Jones well enough, and I agree that he's a good actor. My issue isn't with him, or with his acting, it's with the presumption that I ought to know who this man is. And it seems like everyone else knows who he is, and I'm completely lost. I therefore suspect a conspiracy among movie producers to make me never have heard of this man.

For example, I was in France when Transformers came out--we hadn't yet discovered Luxembourg, and we all know what happened the one time I tried to watch an American movie in France. Moreover, I've never even heard of The Greatest Game Ever Played, and I think the name Disturbia sounds familiar, but I couldn't tell you a thing about it.