Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
By Matthew Huntley
May 27, 2008
Even the imagery is drab and murky. The color scheme has an orange-yellow mix that lacks depth and vitality. In Raiders, The Temple of Doom, and The Last Crusade, Spielberg filmed in grandiose wide shots with a magnificent depth of field, always picking apart the heavy browns and greens found in nature. Here, the photography looks too bright and artificial, while the CG looks meshed together and poorly rendered. Whereas the earlier pictures used practical effects, which dared us to suspend our disbeliefs, The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull submits to green screen and digital effects, which become a liability.
Speaking of a liability, there was great deal of speculation over whether Harrison Ford would be too old for the titular role. That turned out to be a valid concern since his age proves to be distracting. Early in the picture, his walk reminded me of my grandfather, which isn't a bad thing unless you're playing a hero like Indiana Jones. I know every hero grows old; but that doesn't make them fun to watch.
And that's really the bottom line with The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull: it's not fun. The actors, especially Blanchett and Winstone, do what they can, but Ford and Allen seem like they're merely collecting paychecks. Ford delivers his lines monotone and soft, infecting us with ennui instead of wonder. And LaBeouf, once again, is his usual punk self. I'm sure the 21-year-old is a nice enough guy in real life, but he has yet to prove himself as an actor. He always appears self-conscious and consistently makes his character, in any film, a tool whom you just want to smack. There comes a point where Indiana says to Mutt, "You don't have to prove to me how tough you are," a line that seems all too appropriate.
I'm aware a movie like this comes with unbelievably high expectations. It's inevitable for fans of the earlier films to compare it to the classics. Had I not grown up with Indiana Jones, The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull probably would have earned a 5 out of 10 for its ambitions, but when it sits at the end of such a distinct and venerable trilogy, it warrants a 3. That's the price of making masterpieces. When the latest movie can't deliver as well as its predecessors, it's only natural to feel betrayed.
I know I'm not the only one who feels this way. At the end of the screening, the audience only mildly applauded and you could tell it was less an applause for "a job well done" and more one for "at least they tried." Because Spielberg, Lucas and Ford have given us so much entertainment and memories with this franchise, it would be wrong not to recognize their efforts for The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, but in the end, we must accept it as a failure.