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Sunday, 31 May 2009

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

And the award for most long winded title goes too... See. I can't even be bothered to type the title again. From now on, I will refer to this film as Crystal Skull, seeing as how there are quite a few Indiana Jones and the (fill in blanks) films. Now, personally, every time I go to see one of these ridiculous franchise sequels, be it Die Hard 4.0, or Rocky Balboa, the film that started this trend of older characters being brought back to screen prominence. In fact actually it was Batman Begins that in a way started this trend of rejuvenating franchises, except like the above films and this one, it was not about "one last sequel" set years after the last. For example, it was seven years between Batman and Robin and Batman Begins. There were thirteen years, sixteen years and nineteen years between the three sequels in question. However, this is not a debate about the rejuvenation of franchises, this is a review of Crystal Skull. Now, the film goes in continuity with the rest of the series, set nineteen years after The Last Crusade, Indy, now in his 60's, goes on one last adventure, chasing against evil Russians, seeing as how they were to the 1950's to what the Nazis were as villains in the 1930's and early 1940's. Along the way, he meets up with old flame Marion Ravenwood and their son Henry "Mutt" Williams. Now, I must say, that as a sequel to a franchise that I thoroughly enjoyed as a child, it was a great pleasure to see the Indy of old. Harrison Ford plays Indiana Jones with the same duality and familiarity that we all know and love. It is a testament to Ford that after such a long break from the franchise that he is able to don the fedora and bullwhip with such ease. This makes it clear that he himself loves the role of Indiana Jones, and his love for this cherished character clearly shines through in the finished product. Also, Cate Blanchett as Irina Spalko, the Russian villain, makes the role of a two-dimensional stock character completely her own. With a sneering Russian accent and Louise Brooks bob, her character is reminiscent of the dastardly Nazis of old. The fact that I keep referring to nostalgia does not mean that the movie cannot stand on it's own two feet. Far from it, indeed the movie has many more merits to it's credit. Spielberg, Lucas and Koepp (though Frank Darabont should be given credit where it's due) clearly recognise that while they must remember their characters, that Hollywood has changed alot since Indy rode off into the sun with his father near two decades ago. Like Die Hard 4.0, the film-makers update the old franchise to the standards expected from modern blockbusters, and damn well make a better job of these blockbusters than the innovator of the modern blockbuster Michael Bay ever did. I still believe The Rock, ironically with Sean Connery who played Indy's father Henry, is his best film, before he went crazy with battling robots. Even the parts were people usually turn off and nod off (the action scenes) were very entertaining, all aside the part in which Mutt, played by Shia LaBeouf, swings across the vines in the jungle. Now, as much as it saddens me to do so when a movie is so entertaining, it is time to bog down into the criticisms of the movie. For starters, the supporting cast is at times poor in their roles. For example, while I enjoyed the fact that Karen Allen returned as Marion, this was one of those occasions where you realised that was merely a pop at nostalgia. It is an attempt to disguise this role, which very underdeveloped. Also, why is Ray Winstone in this movie? Remember Benny in the Brendan Fraser Mummy film (original keep in mind). It is this exact same character, backstabber, opportunist, royal pain in the ass, except he now has a cockney geezer accent and is about a hundred pounds heavier. Also, the plot of the film, the macguffin of every Indy movie, this time revolves around aliens. Personally, unlike many others who criticised this move, I found this a welcome change to expand Indy storywise into the 21st Century, in the way Die Hard 4.0 expanded into cyber-terrorists, as opposed to McClane facing bad men with machine guns. However, with an expansion and such a huge macguffin, I feel that it is rather unfortunate that the film ends in the way it does: The alien story I do not believe is wrapped up well, and the other part of the ending is so schmaltzy and corny that it cannot help being criticised, despite how it warmed my heart. Also, it is clear that they intend to do sequels, what with Shia LaBeouf now being Spielberg lucky charm. After seeing LaBeouf in his performance in this movie, personally I would rather see Harrison Ford return as Indy in his seventies. His character is merely a caricature of the 1950's biker movement, and is under-developed and poorly written, with which LaBeouf dearly struggles with. This is something I believe to be pretty poor, considering what seems to be the film-makers future aspirations with the franchise. Also, like I said, it is an update to the standards of modern blockbusters, and personally, sometimes you feel that some of the extended and implausible action scenes could be used to develop those characters neglected in the finished script. Now, despite my obvious criticisms of the film, I am not ill at ease with it. I believe that it is a genuinely entertaining modern updating of an old franchise, with some good old and new, and that while at times it may well get ridiculous, it is certainly worth watching. To compare it to another summer blockbuster, Hancock, this has all the action scenes of that film done better and indeed a genuinely more entertaining plot and lead character. I truly believe that this film is an admirable film, a film which certainly surprised this critic, considering my hatred for the modern blockbuster and extensive groanings from fellow fans of the franchise. It has certainly impressed this man, and it is no doubt in the running for my Most Suprisingly Good Film Of The Year award. Oh, and one more thing. I'm sure we'd all agree that at least Shia LaBeouf had at least one good film this year, even if he wasn't good in either of them. Hear hear.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 7.1/10

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