Judging from the box office results, most people have probably seen Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. If not, don’t worry, I’ll try to keep this as spoiler-free as I can.
The question most people are asking themselves, their friends, their family, and their co-workers is this: Was anything wrong with Crystal Skull? The short answer is “No.” The slightly longer answer is “No…but…”
I liked it. I didn’t love it, but I enjoyed myself fully for the 2+ hours that I spent in the theater, and I found myself humming the theme song as I was walking home. Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was not a bad movie (if you enjoy silly adventure movies like The Mummy and National Treasure, which I do). But, as part of the Indiana Jones series, it was missing “something.”
What it was missing, in my opinion, was sincerity. It was no more ridiculous than any of the previous movies, it just didn’t pull it off as well. Let’s face it: Indy melting Nazis, drinking voodoo zombie blood, and hanging out with a 1000-year-old knight are all pretty ridiculous, but we bought it because everything else felt grounded in reality. The first three movies were played pretty straight, so when the weird shit started happening it meant something. Part of the problem stems from the lack of actual scenery. In the old days, when Indy went to Cairo or Venice or India, the cast and crew went to Cairo or Venice or India, or at least some place remotely similar. The majority of this movie was shot on a set in front of a green screen, so you never got that sense of realism that you did from the original movies. Most people are going to blame George Lucas. To be fair, he’s only part of the problem. Movies, in general, have become more interested in what they can do with computer effects rather than what they should do with computer effects. It’s easy to beat Lucas up about it because he just happens to own one of, if not the, largest effects companies in this or any other universe. The blame, if there is to be blame, should not rest entirely on Uncle George. He’s just trying to tell a fun story the best way he knows how.
The next head on the chopping-block is poor Shia LaBeouf. He was not bad. He was actually pretty good. It’s just easy to see him as the weak link and use him as a scapegoat for what went wrong. The same thing was done with Transformers. News flash, folks, he didn’t make these movies by himself. Which brings me to Indy, himself. In the previous films, Harrison Ford was Indiana Jones. In this one, he felt like he was playing Indiana Jones. Again, I am not laying blame at Ford’s feet. But, he clearly wasn’t feeling it. He wasn’t bad…he was just missing “something.”
As a friend of mine pointed out, what Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was really missing was the “Oh shit, it’s on” moment. Every action movie has one. If it doesn’t, then it ain’t no action movie. It’s the point in the film when the hero has been literally and figuratively tortured in body, mind, and spirit. He (or she) has been beaten down by the villain, but manages to get up, wipe the dirt and blood from him- or herself, and rain down bloody retribution upon their enemy. This movie didn’t really have that moment. It came close. There’s one scene where LaBeouf’s Mutt Williams gets this look on his face and you think, “Oh shit, it’s on”, but nothing really comes of it.
Bottom line: it was fine. It wasn’t awesome or excellent, but it was an enjoyable movie. It might lack the spectacle of the earlier movies, but it’s still a fun ride. George Lucas did not “destroy my childhood” or “ruin a beloved icon.” If I had seen this back in the day instead of Raiders of the Lost Ark, Temple of Doom, and Last Crusade, I still would have majored in archaeology. And, really, that’s probably the best compliment I could pay this movie.