RvReprieve: Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull

We like nothing better here at RvR than a new series. And we also like giving unfairly derided movies a second chance. All we want you to do is tell us whether or not they deserve it or not. To kick off our new Reprieve feature Ross McG is going to plead the case for one of the most hated blockbusters in recent memory. Does Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull merit a fairer crap of Indy’s whip?

There are few films more divisive than the fourth instalment in the Indiana Jones series. Divisive in that its audience was split into those who outright hated it and those who had gauged their own eyes out long before the end. But you know what? However appropriate many of you may think its acronym is, I believe KOCS is quite a fun film.

First things first. Is it as good as Raiders Of The Lost Ark? No. But is The Godfather as good as Raiders Of The Lost Ark? There are those who keep referring to the Indiana Jones series as ‘a trilogy’, conveniently wiping the last film from their memory. That is their right. But I think it does exactly what it’s supposed to. And I write as someone who once hated it too.

The problem is one of expectation. Everyone who loves movies loves Indy movies and I was as eager to be reacquainted with Henry Jones Jr as the rest of the world. And so, when the film turned out to be a bit of a mess, I was a bit gutted. But films don’t suddenly die after you’ve watched them once on the big screen (as we all know, there is one exception to this – it was directed by Tim Burton and had the words ‘planet’ and ‘apes’ in its title). So despite thinking it was a pile of piss first time round, whenever I slide KOCS (ahem) into my DVD player now I always enjoy myself (ahem again).

The first half hour is as solid as any recent blockbuster. The Paramount logo turning into a small hill is subversive and funny. Indy’s shadowy intro is perfect. Harrison Ford slips back into the role like a pensioner who’s excitedly found his old football jersey hidden away in the attic. The nuclear test town segment is chilling and thrilling at the same time. The diner scene between Ford and Shia LaBoeuf is playful and light. The ensuing motorbike sequence is great fun.

'So, Dr Jones... do you already work around the clock?'

Unfortunately, the film cannot keep this pace up. So once Indy goes to South America thinks do go a little awry. Too many characters are thrown into the mix on a jungle set that isn’t as convincing as a Lego one I built in my bedroom 20 years ago.

It would be remiss of me to ask for a RvReprieve for Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull without mentioning what gets movie fans so riled up. Firstly, Shia LaBeouf. People really hate this guy, huh? Personally, I don’t think he’s ever matched his early work in Even Stevens. Here he’s lumped with a pretty lame character and he makes a decent fist of it. It’s not his fault Steven Spielberg and George Lucas stuck him in with some CGI monkeys. Ah, the monkeys. I could defend them but it would be a waste of web ink. You think they’re shit. And I think they’re shit. Agreed. But I’m not going to let a little crap CGI spoil my overall enjoyment of a movie. If that were the case, I would have enjoyed exactly one film in history. And yes, The Bridges Of Madison County is pretty frickin’ sweet.

And now we come… to the dreaded fridge-nuking scene. Not since Fonzy took his water-skis out of the shed has a cultural moment sparked such ire. Well, I think it’s a brilliant moment. Stupid, funny and original all at the same time. Three minutes beforehand we see the remains of an extra-terrestrial, so don’t get all uppity when Indy climbs into a fridge to survive a nuclear blast.

Look, Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull isn’t a great film. It isn’t nearly as good as any of its Indy predecessors. But a lot of it is great fun. Even if you hate it, you can’t accuse it of sagging or being needlessly bloated. It rattles along at a cracking pace from set-piece (some good) to set-piece (some not-so-good). And for that reason, I think it’s worthy of a reprieve. But it doesn’t matter a damn what I think – what do you think?


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22 Responses to “RvReprieve: Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull”

  1. I kinda liked this film until they hit the jungle then the reliance on poor-grade CGI (especially those Ants) killed off any of the adventure. And the ending… for me it totally killed any hope of me ever watching it again. That movie-going experience was akin to being abused as a child… YOU WILL NEVER FORGET IT.

    Definitely not worth a Reprieve guys!

  2. nothatwasacompliment Says:

    some of the cgi stuff was bad (yes, the monkeys), but my biggest issue was the characters. they were either bland, way over the top, or just all wrong. i had high hopes for karen allen being back as marion, but she was just wasted in my opinion, and written totally wrong.

    did it have some entertaining scenes? sure. have i ever gone back and watched it again? nope, and i have no immediate plans to.

  3. F**k this movie. Worst of ’08 by a long shot. Aliens? Shia Lebouf? Awful.

  4. I actually didn’t mind this one…

    I liked the opening and the fridge because they set the tone of the new era perfectly but what I didn’t like were the aliens. I had a discussion with a friend about this in which he argued that whilst the previous films centred around the mythology of the previous age (The Grail and so on) KOCS focussed on the new 50’s mythology of UFO’s / Aztecs. Personally I think the UFO focus is more 70’s mythology that was retrospectively tacked on to the 50’s (Area 51 and all that bull) therefore the film didn’t feel a part of the era in which it was based… which is a shame because the nuclear age with all it’s nazi scientists and cold war witch hunts could have made fun something more sinister fitting the new post-WWII mood.


  5. mcarteratthemovies Says:

    Gotta side with Aiden R. on this one, and I’ll refer you to the “South Park” episode where Harrison Ford got raped repeatedly — by George Lucas, by Spielberg, and by various other people involved with the movie.

    Cate Blanchett is too good an actress to deserve a caricature-ish part like this. She looked (and sounded) like a bad Natasha-from-“Rocky and Bullwinkle” impersonator!

    And my final word: Aliens have NO PLACE in an Indiana Jones movie. They just don’t.

  6. Haven’t seen it yet even though I’ve had it for quite some time. I’m planning a Indiana Jones marathon this weekend. All four in a row!

  7. I actually liked it. It was a great throwback but also true to what made the original three so great. I had issues with some of the CGI, and a few character moments were a bit dry, but overall it was a fun movie, and while it didn’t touch Temple Of Doom or Raiders for me, I liked it more than The Last Crusade.

  8. No it does not. It’s not even worthy of an explanation why.

  9. Uh…I have no opinion either way. It didn’t suck as hard as people say, but it’s still very influenced by Jar Jar Binks, y’know?

  10. Only one question: Why the hell were their aliens??

  11. I imagine if it were a standalone film and not attached to the Indy franchise, it would have amounted to an enjoyable if forgettable kids adventure film. But with great franchises comes great responsibility. It brought the overall average Indy score WAY down.
    That scene in the diner as kinda funny though

  12. …at least it’s not Temple of Doom – now that is a terrible film

  13. WTF Tyson… If TEMPLE OF DOOM stinks, it’s cuz it’s the shit!
    Actually, KOTC (makes me think of KFC) was much better after a second viewing but still isn’t that good. The ending jarred me the most… I can get past the fridge and the Shia swinging on vines stuff… I mean, I bought that Mola Ram could chant a beating heart out of a body and that the ark could melt faces. Ultimately, it is very much in the vein of Doom but isn’t a great film to bring us after 20 years of anxious anticipation. Worst of the series but not as bad as everyone says… I say a reluctant reprieve… just do another one to make up for it before Ford needs a walker… too late!

  14. Darren Says:

    I got what it was trying to do, with the moving from hokey thirties occultism to hokey fifties sci-fi – but the simply fact is that Indy isn’t the guy to do it. He’s an archeology professor, not a scientist or inventor or conventional fifties style hero. It’s like if they made a slasher horror movie starring the Tellytubbies, it just doesn’t fit.

    That and the writing and Shia La-bloody-Boeuf. The writing was just terrible.

    I do like the idea for your series, though.

  15. To use a line from A League of Their Own, “I have seen enough to know I have seen too much”. Morbid curiosity aside, I will never see this movie again, and to me this movie can’t be unseen.

    This movie tried so damn hard to sell the image that everyone really wanted to make this. In part it worked but overall this movie was just too little too late as far successfully continuing the series.

    Why wait so long for a follow up to Grail? I could not get past the fact that this film felt so very unnecessary and as you mentioned, (among a myriad of other weak elements) some sets just didn’t work and did not convey the scale other Indy films are known for.

    Also, scenes that probably looked good on paper just played out being stooopid and made for the enjoyment of children than true fans of the series.
    Above all, the plot being about aliens just makes my physically ill. Really? The world’s most famous “ARCHAEOLOGIST” in a movie about “ALIENS”? Why not do the movie again with a guy from NASA called The Arrival:P

    Even John Williams’ score felt phoned in as he tried to tug at our nostalgic heartstrings instead creating an inspiring piece to compliment the movie. Sorry Rosses, this doesn’t deserve a reprieve.

  16. To be honest, I felt it wasn’t THAT bad. My opinion on Indy 4 was that many people’s expectations were really high (rightfully so) and when the bar is that high it’s only going to lead to disappointment. With the film based in the 1950’s, i felt it really captured the “feel” of the decade with aliens (space race) and the cold war.

  17. I’ve never understood why people complain about the aliens. Are aliens really that much more far-fetched than Jesus, the cosmic Jewish zombie and the magic Ark of the Covenant which will melt your face?

  18. I think it’s just because the aliens (sorry, extra-dimensional beings) don’t fit properly with Indy. It’d be like watching a sequel to Independence Day which is about Bill Pullman tackling the budget deficit. I’m sure there’s a good movie there, but it just doesn’t fit properly.

  19. I heard someone say in their review (paraphrasing here) that, “had this not been an ‘Indy’ film and been called The Adventures of John Stronchest (or something serial sounding) it might have been a lot of fun and not been so heavily critiqued. But the fact that this is an Indy film means there’s a quality level to be attained and that they simply did not reach it.”

    I may one day give it a go but like my 110% negative comment above, that day will be a very long way off:)

  20. You’re right about the opening…I like the Paramount logo cut and the whole opening sequence with those mock-up American Dream estates. But then the film goes down hill.

    Shia LaBeouf is a major distraction for me – totally unrequired – he’s a massive star in his own right and takes something away from Ford. Ford consequently ‘phones in’ Indy – he’s not the same character we all know and love – he’s lost the exuberance for the role.

    The other thing that I hate about the film is that it was made for a single purpose – to cash-in on the character. It feels like it was cobbled together to amuse Spielberg and Lucas, who knew that whatever they stuck on-screen they’d make money off it because of the brand. A prime example of this is the reintroduction of Marion’s character. I think that’s my biggest problem with the film. One that I will never be able to overcome.

    The other major issues is the special-effects. Look at Temple of Doom’s monkey heads and real-life creepy crawlies and compare them to the killer ants of Skull. Skull just becomes a silly parody of itself that looks mass produced and has no soul.

    Awful film.

  21. […] 18 05 2010 This factoid inspired by Ross v Ross’ post (and new series) “RvReprieve.”  The writers consider granting unfairly trashed movies a second chance.  They started […]

  22. […] been over all this before. Get your KOCS off, get your KOCS off, […]

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