I didn’t get a chance to see “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” in theaters this past summer, as my pregnant wife was very uncooperative and, instead, wanted to do nothing more than sit around and moan about how big her belly was, how much pain she was in, etc, etc. I mean, c’mon! This is Indiana Jones we’re talking about, here; screw your immense level of discomfort!
I chided her about this for about a week or so, but, after hearing some less than kind things about the film, my enthusiasm waned. Granted, some of what I’d heard was positive, too, but the negative stuff…oh man. Could Lucas and Spielberg have really screwed up Indy that bad?
Well, now that I’ve seen the film, I can safely say that, in my opinion, the bearded billionaires didn’t screw up at all. As a matter of fact, this film is every bit the Indiana Jones film I’ve been waiting for and then some.
Kingdom of the Crystal Skull opens in Area 51, where a kidnapped Indy (Harrison Ford) is forced to help Russian agent, Col. Dr. Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett) and his turncoat partner, Mac (Ray Winstone), locate a box containing the mummified remains of a creature recovered from an “incident” in New Mexico a decade earlier (alluding to Roswell, although it is never mentioned by name). Indy, it seems, was part of a team called in to examine the crash, but, despite his involvement in the investigation, knows next to nothing about what it was the government had found save that it possessed remarkable magnetic properties. Indy gives Spalko what she’s looking for, and then narrowly escapes both the Russians and a nuclear bomb test (a silly-yet-spectacular sequence involving a lead-lined refrigerator).
Indy returns to Area 51 to be debriefed, and is warned that he is now a person of interest to the FBI due to his “cooperation” with the Russians. In a nod to the rampant communist hysteria of McCarthyism, Indy subsequently loses his job at the university as a result of a federal investigation, and decides to move to New York. As his train is leaving the station, however, a young greaser named Mutt Williams (Shia LeBeouf) seeks out Indy’s help in finding a mutual friend – Professor Harold “Ox” Oxley (John Hurt). Mutt tells Indy that Ox had discovered a crystal skull that he planned to take to back to the legendary city of El Dorado, but had been kidnapped, along with Mutt’s mother, by the Russians. Mutt gives Indy a letter from Ox that includes an ancient map that could lead them not only to Ox and Mutt’s mom, but also to the lost city of gold! Soon, Indy and Mutt are on a plane to South America, where they embark on an adventure that is, quite literally, out of this world.
If you haven’t seen this film, stop reading now. I’m going to address some key plot points that those who have told me they hated this film have cited as their reasons for doing so.
Are you still looking? No? Good.
Okay, so let’s talk about the whole “aliens in an Indiana Jones movie” thing. I’ve heard so many people complain about how this ruined the film for them, and, I’ll admit, I was a bit skeptical about it, myself. Now, though, after seeing the film, it makes perfect sense. Indiana Jones is an archaeologist who researches ancient cultures. There are those who believe that many of these ancient cultures worshipped beings from other planets, stressing that many of these ancient cultures were quite advanced, and had achieved and constructed things that still baffle scientists today (think Easter Island and Stonehenge).
Having Indy discover that the City of Gold was the home base of a race of interdimensional beings is a bit of a stretch, yes, but is it any less likely than him discovering one of the knights of the roundtable still guarding the Holy Grail, or the Ark of the Covenant spitting out ghostly wraiths who lay waste to a group of Nazis? This is pulp-fantasy, folks. There are no rules, here, and, personally, I found the story exceptionally gratifying and interesting (then again, I was weaned TV shows like Project: Blue Book, books like “Chariots of the Gods”, and was a loyal subscriber to TRUE UFO magazine for much of my early teens). Geez Louise, you’d think that Spielberg and Lucas trotted out Jar Jar Binks and ended the film with a fucking Ewok celebration dinner the way people reacted to this.
Another major gripe folks seemed to have was with Shia LaBeouf’s Mutt Williams. Personally, I like LaBeouf, and find his comic timing impeccable. I think he made a fantastic foil for Ford’s Indy, and the revelation (albeit unsurprising) that this underachieving greaseball was the son of the world’s most renowned archeologist made for some nice witty banter and a welcome return to the series for a positively glowing Karen Allen (reprising her role as Marion). Naysayers call it stunt casting – a means for which to continue the series with LeBeouf donning the fedora and whip (even though the allusion to this at the film’s conclusion is quelled by Indy snatching the hat out of his hand before he can place it atop his head, as if to say “not yet, kid.”). I liked the character, and, if the beards opted to continue the franchise with him, I say why not? If they can churn out films this fun with LeBeouf in the lead and Ford doing the whole Sean Connery thing, I say more power to them.
I will be the first to admit that George Lucas raped my childhood with his absolute destruction of the Star Wars mythos over the past decade, but I completely disagree with anyone who says that he and Spielberg mishandled Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. This film was fun, exciting, breathtaking, and just plain awesome. As a matter of fact, as soon as I’m done writing this review, I’m going to go watch it again.
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull swings on to Blu-ray with a gorgeous 1080p MPEG 4 AVC transfer that is absolutely stunning. Colors are rich and vibrant, with detail to die for, and a near-three-dimensional quality that really stands out during the film’s most FX heavy sequences. Check out the mushroom cloud at Area 51’s test site, and just bask in the sheer awesomeness of the image. It’s at once terrifying and beautiful, with subtle swirls and swells pulsating on the screen before you as though you were standing right alongside Indy. Paramount’s been dazzling us lately with its handling of its blockbuster properties, and this film is no exception.
The Dolby True HD 5.1 soundtrack is equally superb, with a wonderfully all-encompassing sonic barrage that fills the room. Dialogue is crisp and clear, while explosions and gunfire rattle the floorboards. Discrete effects are abundant and immersive, with one scene in particular – Indy and Mutt’s late night dig in a graveyard – standing out as one of the best uses of surround sound I’ve experienced. Thunder booms and crackles through the rears and satellites and is expressed so convincingly I almost looked outside to see if it was really thundering, here. Just jaw-droppingly good stuff.
Paramount loads up Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull with two discs worth of extras!
Disc One features an Indiana Jones Timeline viewing mode, which allows viewers to highlight certain sections of the film and gather additional info in the guise of pictures and text. Rounding out the extras on Disc One are two HD featurettes - The Return of a Legend and Pre-Production –as well as HD trailers.
The bulk of the supplements reside on Disc Two, highlighted by the feature length Production Diary: Making Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (HD), which features over an hour and twenty minutes of behind-the-scenes goodies broken down into easily digested segments. The Production Diary covers nearly every aspect of the making of the film, but more than another hour’s worth of featurettes – including Adventures in Post Production, The Crystal Skulls, and The Effects of Indy – fill out an already impressive and exhausting roster of extras. Prepare to set aside a weekend to absorb it all!
I will be the first to admit that George Lucas raped my childhood with his absolute destruction of the Star Wars mythos over the past decade, but I completely disagree with anyone who says that he and Spielberg mishandled Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. This film was fun, exciting, breathtaking, and just plain awesome. As a matter of fact, as soon as I’m done writing this review, I’m going to go watch it again. The Blu-ray simply rocks, with loads of killer special features, and an audio/video presentation that’s worth trotting the globe for. Easily gets my highest recommendation!