Saturday, June 14, 2008

Indy's back!

Okay, so I haven't ever commented here on a movie. And it's not the kind of thing I'm likely to comment on, honestly. But I saw Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls today, and it was fun. Was it the greatest movie I've ever seen? No. Was it even the best of the Indiana Jones movies? No, that honor I suspect will always reside with the first movie, the classic Raiders of the Lost Ark. But it was a good story, well told, with all the basic elements of the genre... which, at times, does make it predictable, but that is part of the fun, I think. You just know someone is going to be done in by their own avarice, and at least one of the key bad guys will be vaporized in some spectacular way at the climax. It's just the way these movies work.

So what was good, what wasn't?

First, let me warn you, if you haven't seen the movie, or read many reviews, there might be some spoilers here. So stop if that worries you. Of course, with all the pre-release info out there, most of it is probably old news.

Call me sentimental, but I thought it was great that Indy and Marion (Karen Allen reprises the role from Raiders) are reunited. I think most fans would agree with me... none of the women in the later films could hold a candle to Marion in terms of spunk, charisma, and just fitting with the Jones character. So while it might seem a bit tidy, even trite, to bring them back together in this film, it worked for me.

The various chase scenes and incredible escapes were classic Indiana Jones material. Fast, furious, and with lots of wacky circumstances and even humor. And the various fanciful locales, particularly the setting for the climax, were as usual, amazing in their inventiveness. Even devices like the gimmick of plotting out Indy's journey across the graphic of a map, interspersed with images of planes in flight, were welcome reminders not just of prior movies in the series, but of earlier adventure films from days gone by. And that's what made the original so great... it was a throwback to a simpler time and simpler heroes.

It was also fun to see, however briefly, New Haven, CT, standing in as the home of Indy's university. The chase sequence through town was a lot of fun for this Yale alum to watch... made me wish I had seen New Haven in the 40s or 50s, instead of the late 80s, when it wasn't really very charming. I spent my three years of grad school there, and it never looked as good as it does in this film.

Finally, I have to say the CG effects, while spectacular, were a little too much for me. Maybe I'm turning into an old fogey... maybe my "retrogrouch" status in bicycling carries over into the film world... but it felt like they were at times doing an effect simply because they could. And in many cases, so much was happening on screen that it all became a blur. I found myself missing the earlier films with a few carefully chosen visual "wow" moments, beautifully done. But what do I know? At 47, I'm probably not the target audience any more.

All that aside, I had a great time, and am very glad I saw it on the big screen. I can't imagine it being anywhere near as good on DVD.

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