Massawyrm And The Review Of THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL!!
Published at: May 20, 2008, 3:34 p.m. CST by quint
Hola all. Massawyrm here.
28 years ago, two guys named George and Steve got together, giggled like schoolboys, and made a film that took them back to a time when they were kids. A time when strong-jawed heroes with plucky female sidekicks unearthed the secrets of the world through violent, thrilling adventures every Saturday at the local one screen theater matinee. Whether they be the secrets of the ancients or of science or of other worlds, those adventures would come week after week with a brand new fantastical explanation of just how that strong jawed hero managed to not get himself killed this time around.
And 28 years ago they put that film in theatres and showed it to a bunch of kids. Kids like me. And Harry. And Quint. And Mori. And most likely, you. Now, these two dorks of old stand before us dorks of new and have built themselves a time machine, one that will not only take them back to their childhood, but also take us back to our own. And god damnit if the damned thing don’t work. Indiana Jones is back, hat in hand, ready to ride headlong into another crazy assed adventure of near miss escapes, bizarre archeology and punching dudes square in the face. And yes, it is fucking awesome.
And while it certainly takes me back to my childhood, it is also a film intent on reminding me just how badly I don’t want to grow up – how much I enjoy living here in the Never Never Land of AICN’s shores. It is a movie for those who remember, not one for those that don’t. Lucas and Spielberg didn’t set out to update Indy. At all. This isn’t a new, more mature series. There isn’t some transcendent moment in which the movie becomes something greater than the others ever were. This is the same old series, hell bent on telling the same kind of story in the same way as before. In fact, it adheres readily to the tropes of the previous films.
Now I’m not going to list out my feelings and sub-review each and every Indy film, but I will say I’ve grown a little weary of the phrase “Well, it’s no Raiders of the Lost Ark.” Well of course it isn’t. Raiders was lightning in a bottle – one of the greatest mainstream blockbuster movies ever made. More importantly, when Steve and George set out to make it they never said “Look, we need to make a movie around Harrison. And we need to include scenes where he uses his whip, always manages to keep his hat no matter the conditions…and can we work a fear of snakes in there somewhere? That would be swell.” No. They got ubergenius Lawrence Kasdan to write an incredible story based upon their love of classic cliffhanger movies that also just happened to create one of the singularly most awesome action heroes of our day. If there’s anything George and Steve have done in recent years to piss me off it was when they renamed Raiders of the Lost Ark the entirely unnecessary Indiana Jones and Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Because Raiders is its own thing. Everything that followed was just an Indiana Jones movie. That’s not to say they were in any way bad or mediocre movies, but every time they sat down to make one of those they followed religiously the rules they set in the first film. To be honest, they had to, because we most likely wouldn’t have accepted it otherwise. But much like the vast majority of sequels ever made, that sad fact is what separates what follows a great film from the original great film itself. No one sat down and said “I’ve got this great story! If only I could think of a killer character to put in it. Wait! This would make a great Indiana Jones movie!” No. They said “Let’s make another Indiana Jones movie. Now, someone think of a story.”
So no. It isn’t Raiders of the Lost Ark. But it is on par and just as good as any of the other sequels. So yeah, I dig the ever-loving shit out of it. Once again it feels more Spielberg than Lucas – that is to say there isn’t a single moment of the film that feels it needs to somehow explain the mythology we were just fine accepting as legend – Lucas’s real sin in the Star Wars prequels. But it does have that old Lucas magic. It’s cartoony in all the right ways and reeks of the classic Saturday morning serials they were based upon. It is giddy popcorn chomping fun with all the classic bits you can’t wait to see again.
But it isn’t transcendent. There’s no new ground being broken here. It won’t take a break mid movie to step in the back and make you a kick ass grilled cheese sandwich. It won’t blow you right there in the theatre. And it sure as fuck won’t give you a ride home afterward – it’s got another show once the attendants finish sweeping. I have no illusions that despite most likely being the most successful film of the summer that it will also be the best. It’s just a damned good film and another great – if possibly final – adventure of the greatest archeologist to ever don a hat.
As many have already said, Ford actually feels like he gives a shit again and turns in a great performance as the tired, old Archeologist turned war hero turned tenured professor always ready for another jaunt. Everyone else pulls their weight and does a great job despite their character’s general lack of depth. If there’s anyone here who has a thankless job, it is Shia who – coupled with Lucas’s “Oh I haven’t told Steve or Harrison yet but I might as well tell the press” bullshit – is having a ton of weight dumped on his shoulders. He’s fucking great in this, and much like many of his other projects proves once again to be one of the very best things about it. But he’s no Indiana Jones. That’s not his destiny. He’s an incredibly talented kid who is just one of us. And when I say one of us, I don’t mean one of the AICN crew. I mean one of US. You and me. Dork. Geek. Filmlover. Just another kid looking for a time machine.
And when you’re a 21-year-old kid asked by George Lucas and Steven fucking Spielberg to be in an Indiana Jones movie – you fucking do it. And when they say “Here kid, hold his hat for a second and look longingly off camera as if to intimate a possible sequel” – you fucking do it. But, man. Is he ever going to get eviscerated for fucking doing it. He’s got a hell of a lot of talent, and while I feel that Spielberg’s Brando gag in the movie is a little much, he’s going to do just fine. So, please, take it easy on him this week and remember how solid he is here before roasting him over the open flames of talkback.
The real problem here, and what is causing a massive delineation in the fanbase, is the material this story is drawing from. It, well, it steps a little outside the box. And while it’s not like they’re just making shit up willy nilly – there are hundreds of books on the very topics that Crystal Skull addresses – it gets into a different type of religion. And all of my buddies that had issues all said the same thing. But come on ‘wyrm, _____s?. Yeah, sure. Why not? Like a big golden box from God that melts peoples faces off is any more plausible? But that’s different. I like my Indiana Jones to be about RELIGIOUS artifacts.
That right there is pretty much the argument you’re going to be having all summer – whether on one side or the other. Me? I’m on the golden box is just as plausible side of the street. I loved this thing. It was a great fun ride that made me feel like a kid again. I smiled, I laughed and the hairs on the back of my neck stood on end every time Williams struck a perfect nostalgic music cue at just the right moment. If you’re hoping that this will redefine the series or return to the brashly original magic of Raiders you’re gonna end up a tad disappointed. But if your looking to have fun, to see Indy crack that whip, put on that hat and show an irrational fear of snakes – by God’s ivory whiskers you’re gonna have a hell of a time. I sure did. And I no doubt will again a couple more times this summer. It’s a great Indiana Jones movie, a time machine to take you back to a time when you first watched and waited and held your breath for another Indiana Jones movie.
It’s time to stop holding your breath. It’s here.
Until next time friends, smoke ‘em if ya got ‘em.