Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull - DVD Review - A Second Take - Home Theater Forum and Systems - HomeTheaterShack.com

 
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post #1 of 6 Old 11-25-08, 06:41 PM Thread Starter
Brandon Dimmel
 
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Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull - DVD Review - A Second Take


Actors: Harrison Ford, Cate Blanchett, Shia LaBeouf, Karen Allen, Ray Winstone
Directors: Steven Spielberg
Writers: George Lucas, David Koepp, Jeff Nathanson
Producers: Kathleen Kennedy, George Lucas
Format: NTSC, Widescreen
Language: English, German, Russian
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
Region: Region 1
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Number of discs: 1
Rating: PG13
Studio: Paramount Home Entertainment
DVD Release Date: October 14, 2008
Run Time: 122 minutes


Let me begin by addressing what appears to be the central debate upon which opinion of this movie pivots: aliens and Indiana Jones. Some say the idea is ludicrous; Jones is an archaeologist, a scientist, and a university professor, and the idea that little green men could somehow drop into his world is simply ludicrous. Then again, this is the same franchise that brought us a spooky ark that liquefied witnesses, Indian witchdoctors that ripped out men’s still-beating hearts, and the Holy Grail – guarded by a thousand-year-old knight. Let’s face it, the Indy franchise is about as scientific as the X-Files and Jones himself showcases a snippet of Fox Mulder’s thoughtfulness.

And yet, Indiana Jones is not a thinker. This is the crème du la crème of action franchises and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull hardly disappoints on that front. Although it’s sometimes hard to believe that Harrison Ford could pull off some of the leaps and haymakers Jones is known for, his is no Bourne Identity. The movie is so outlandish and fantastic that it takes surprisingly little effort for the viewer to move past the ludicrousness of watching a sixty-six-year-old Ford pounding a hulking six-foot-six Communist. Despite, or perhaps because of my low expectations, I’ve deemed Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull a success.

The movie begins at a desert military base. We’re told the year is 1957, and there’s no mistaking it; this flick is so slathered with fifties nostalgia that it practically oozes Twinkie cream and hair grease. Jones is taken captive by Communists under the command of the very liberated Colonel Doctor Irina Spalko, played ably by Cate Blanchett. The Commies are after a new weapon of some sort in order to wreak havoc on democracy and, as we must assume, humanity (or is it vice versa?). As expected, Jones breaks from his captives and dodging bullets and dashing across rafter planks escapes so that he may be captured another day (I’m now fairly certain that the character’s greatest power is his ability to fall captive, talk back to soldiers with guns, and survive).

As you might have guessed, the Commies are after a Crystal Skull that offers great powers. So great are these powers, in fact, that the skull is extraordinarily magnetic (interestingly enough, the opening sequence leads us to believe this, but the gimmick is completely abandoned twenty minutes into the movie). The skull falls into the hands of Spalko and the Russians, who don’t seem quite sure what they’ll do with it. For his part, Jones joins this latest crusade reluctantly, and only later finds that the fate of democracy – and an old lover – are held in the balance.

So, does it make any sense that aliens invade Indy? Actually, it does. The movie is still a tomb raider; Indy and his companions find lots of booty, dead explorers, booby traps, and at least a few angry natives with nothing better to do than lurk in millennia-old clammy labyrinths. Spielberg merely tosses in a giant crystal bowling ball to make things interesting.

The strength of this movie, as Mr. Bassett notes, is its action, including stunning visuals and thundering audio. Even standard DVD playback is remarkable as Jones moves from the American southwest to dank catacombs to lush South American jungles. Given that this movie’s action rests for about thirty seconds, the audio is also a showcase, as bullets tear through plant life, vehicles soar over waterfalls, and, as they always do, tombs crumble and disintegrate with Shakespearean satisfaction. Tell the neighbours to get ready; I haven’t heard such impressive brawls and gunfights since my last Gears of War 2 session.

The weakness is the acting. Like Mr. Bassett, I too wondered what was up with this Shia LeBeouf guy. His character, the aptly named “Mutt”, is a nasty mix of the Fonz and, um, some other jerk no one will really like. Bassett is also dead-on when it comes to the returning Karen Allen. I wince to say it, but I winced when Ford put his arm around her several times during the movie. Maybe we’re all just a little spoiled with the Halle Berrys and Kate Beckinsales tearing up the action movie screen of late, but Karen Allen is not a believable leading lady. Sorry. Bassett was again spot on by shaking his head at the use of William Hurt, who bumbles along rather annoyingly from start to finish.

As for Ford, he’s still got that Han Solo slickness that made him a star decades ago. However, he only narrowly gets away with performing all those bounding stunts at sixty-six. There were at least a few moments were I thought the man should have snapped in two.

Despite these concerns, the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is a legitimate hit. If you’ve been paying attention to my reviews here at HomeTheaterShack, you might have noticed that I tend to watch more thoughtful, indie flicks like The Wind that Shakes the Barley or Transsiberian. I usually stay away from the superhero, mindless action genre, but in this case I was pleasantly surprised by Spielberg’s latest offering. Boasting some awesome action sequences, decent acting, and second-to-none audio and video, this is one DVD or Blu-Ray action fans should not miss this holiday season.

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post #2 of 6 Old 11-25-08, 08:06 PM
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Re: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull: A Second Take

Well thought out review,...but I must still disagree. It was not the acting that was the weakness of this film, but the writing. Great actors with nothing to do or say and, well,.... you get a bumbling William Hurt, a big ? on what or who Shia LeBeouf is supposed to be, a Cate Blanchett with a terribly predictable and stereotypical role and finally Karen Allen who is a decent actress and age appropriate leading lady (really, am I the only one who is tired of seeing the 50 year old leading man and the 20 year old leading lady?) who is given absolutely nothing to work with as far as the script goes.

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post #3 of 6 Old 12-15-08, 02:34 AM
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Re: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull: A Second Take

I just finished watching this movie, and I'll put my views here.

I think Ford did a credible job as an aging Indy, but that couldn't save a movie that didn't know what it was doing or where it was going; or if it did they never told the audience.

There are many technical errors that are simply unforgivable in a film of this type. When Indy threw up a handful of gunpower because a magnetic artifact would draw the powder to it because of the metal it contained... it was the first of many 'give me a break' moments in the film that Wbassett mentioned in his review. Gunpowder contains no metal of any kind. The same goes for opening shotgun shells and having the buckshot being magnetically attracted to the artifact - lead isn't magnetic. This same gimmick was used throughout the movie with other non-magnetic materials like gold. 'Mutt' even mentions this when the skull is found, but if any explanation was ever given for it, I missed it.

When aliens entered the film around the 13 minute mark I knew we were in for a rough ride. I'm one that thinks they have no place in an Indy film - period. I tend to think of this film as Indiana Jones meets Close Encounters of the Third Kind. The two genre don't mix.

What I missed most in this film was good writing. We are never told, except in very general terms, what the goal is. In the other Indy films it was much like a treasure hunt, one clue lead to another and another and another; the audience was "in the loop" as to the current goal. That just isn't in this film. There is no explanation of where they go or why except "the skull must be returned".

I hope they do make another Indy film with Ford in the role, and bring back Allen as something more than a cardboard cut-out. LaBeouf can be left out. I would hate to see the franchise end on this note.
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post #4 of 6 Old 12-22-08, 11:15 PM
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Re: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull: A Second Take

I just watched this one tonight and I was terribly disappointed. As the movie goes on, it gets more and more unbelievable - each ridiculous action scene more impossible than the last - to the point that I would call it as silly as the Peter Jackson King Kong. Indiana Jones isn't a superhero, but if this is the only movie in the franchise you've seen, you'd be hard pressed not to think so.

The story was very ho hum too. I hate to admit this, but I came very close to falling asleep during the film. I don't like the idea that they went with aliens, buts since they did, they could have at least touched on a LOT more potential evidence that ties aliens to ancient Egyptian and Mayan culture, and perhaps thrown in more government conspiracy nuggets. They didn't really do either.

Too bad for this one, what a shame.
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post #5 of 6 Old 12-25-08, 02:59 AM
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Re: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull: A Second Take

Horrible. Simply horrible. I kept falling asleep; it had no ability to keep my interest. If anyone is expecting ANY of the well written adventure and story of the prior films, this is a warning: this movie will not be for you.

As for the mentions of 'give me a break' moments... I don't think the average 10 year old would be able to buy into the silliness of this film. I'm glad to know that all I need to survive a nuclear bomb explosion near ground zero is an old 50's era refrigerator.......

The prior films had STORY, pretty decent ones at that. Action was used as critical parts of the story. This latest installment was a mindless action movie, pure and simple. I'm still looking for the story....
.
-Chris

Last edited by WmAx; 12-25-08 at 03:05 AM.
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post #6 of 6 Old 04-13-09, 07:45 PM
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Re: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull: A Second Take

I finally saw it and thought it was 'okay'. Certainly not in the league with
the first two films from decades ago but mildly entertaining for what it is.
The visuals and plot reminded me of one of the National Treasure films.
I agree the script was weak but the film held my interest. It was nice to
see a contemporary picture that portrayed communists as villains.

My biggest disappointment was in the extensive CGE. There was a lot of
publicity surrounding the production with claims that they weren't going that
route and were going to use real stuntmen as in the eighties adventure films
but the final product shows extensive use of computer imagery. I guess even
if some of the stunts were real, they tend to have that cartoonish look when
combined with CGE backgrounds.

I did find the suppliments interesting that showed Spielberg working with a computer
technician to creat digital storyboards which I thought was a great idea. I still draw
mine by hand but I do color them in via computer.
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