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

by Nate Taylor

These first two paragraphs will be devoid of spoilers for those who haven't found the sum of 2 and 2 from the previews alone. I'll admit that the media hype engine (combined with my own 19 years of festering expectations) made it downright impossible to watch this movie without an internal monologue. In fact, when I left the cinema, I was filled with a tremendous feeling like an uncomfortable breeze on all my body hair which just wouldn't go away. All throught the following appetizers and drinks at Purple, I couldn't shake the possibility that I was actually disappointed in the the Indy adventure I'd just seen.

It wasn't until I returned home and sat forlorn before my computer, idly browsing the Indiana Jones corner of the internet that I realized I wasn't disappointed at all. What I really wanted was more; more Indy, more car chases, more stunts and creepy crawlies and rising musical crescendoes! I wanted to go back and watch it again! Yes, I'm older and more mature, and my theatrical tastes have changed from when I was a kid and all a movie needed was booby traps and gun fights, but I whole-heartedly loved "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull."

That said, it's time for some picking and spoiler action. Read on if ye dare. The first act of the movie was weak. At the very beginning, you're tossed a mix of bad exposition, extreme line delivery, and character surplus. The writer tries to tell you everything you need to know for the next two hours in the first five minutes, and he does so with all the style and finesse of a mob beating.

After the introduction, things really start to even out and pick up with an enjoyable tempo. The motorcycle chase ending in the school library will remain one of my favorites in the series. The character of Mutt and his dialogue with Indy was the best of the entire film, and I could have spent two whole hours just watching them. But no, we had to bring in the never-before-seen yet long-time partner with flip-flopping loyalties (Mac), and the long-lost love of our favorite globe-trotting archaeologist (Marion). Mac was what I like to call a non-character. The movie could have progressed along the exact same route without him in it at all. Marion was only slightly better because she was my favorite Indy girl and I have some bias in her regard. However, her role was weak. She seemed to be there simply to provide continuity between the films and to expose that Mutt is Indy's son. She didn't get to kick any butt, and she was held at gunpoint a grand total of once, so she was neither a strong female or a damsel in distress. In my opinion, if you're not a stand-out character in a movie like Indiana Jones, then you might as well be one of the disposable enemy soldiers.

I found some of the tropes a little hard to swallow this time around; for example, the nimble skull-faced guardians of the conquistador's grave. Did they live there, or was it a vigil maintained by some local village of wild capoeira masters? Second, the indigenous people who guarded El Dorado seemed to actually live in the walls, breaking out of ornate clay carvings to ambush treasure hunters. Do they just sit behind those facades all day waiting, with supporters bringing them food, news, and exercise equipment to maintain their chiseled physiques? Hey, I appreciate the terrific visual of guardians popping out of the walls as much as the next guy who saw "Aliens," but my brain runs on logic as well as awesomeness. Sometimes an explanation is nice.

Despite all of the previous nit-picking, this was still a great movie and a wonderful adventure that I would gladly see again in the theater and buy when it comes out on DVD in the special edition 5-disc set in a box shaped like the Ark of the Covenant.