A review of the film Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull by Mark Harrington for KPCW radio, Park City, UT
This week’s film is Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Now, right off the bat, I have to disclose that I was not in the best of moods going to Holiday Village last night to catch the late show of the movie’s opening day. After a long work day, I had just witnessed my Boston Celtics finally break their undefeated home court playoff streak by losing to Detroit. But the Celtics weren’t the only losers last night, as the franchise success streak by the previously unbeatable team of Harrison Ford and Director Steven Spielberg was also broken. Unfortunately, the parallels between the underperforming Celtics and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull are unmistakable. At their core, both have a “big three” that are supposed to guarantee a high level of performance. The franchise player is of course Harrison Ford, back after nearly twenty years as the adventurer and professor Henry Jones. Then you have the new addition of a marquee talent in Cate Blanchet, an intense player with a diverse skill set and fundamental integrity sure to raise the bar for any team. Third, you have the career rejuvenation of the purest shooter the franchise has ever seen, vodka shooter that is, in Karen Allen. Add to that a young talent at the point who has exceeded expectations in Shia LaBeouf as the long lost son of Indy and the sheer awe of the franchise history, and failure should be impossible. Well like Celtics coach Doc Rivers, the fault lies with Director Spielberg who inexplicably fluctuates between over-coaching with CGI effects that just detract from the talent of his team, and a lack of fundamentals that were the foundation of earlier success- a willingness to make the extra pass in a script to inject humor between appropriately paced action scenes. Instead, the action shots are forced again and again. The result is both a lack of momentum in plot and individual character development that leaves even the most loyal of fans shaking their heads. Like Paul Pierce, Harrison looks older, a little slower, and a little awkward out in front forcing the dribble on the point, but he does what he needs to in order to keep his team in the game. Cate Blanchet is fierce and intense as the Russian out to be the stopper, but Spielberg’s failure to weave her consistently into the game plan leaves her as out of place as Kevin Garnett taking (and missing) a three pointer. This is the stuff that drives fans crazy. Reduced to playing a mere caricature, she should have been sexier or more villainous in her interaction with Harrison. Then there is Karen Allen, the unexpected spark to the prior success whose shots have disappeared. Sure, she forces her trademark smile like Ray Allen forcing the penetration and dunk, but both are afraid or incapable of taking the shots their team needs them to. Instead, fans are forced to endure a painful display of forced special effects as we watch Indy try and return a mysteriously powerful skull to a jungle fortress, as the Russians replace his Nazi opposition in a race to capture an illusive power behind skull. So, as the Celtics waste time on ESPN talk shows talking about winning, our Indy cast similarly wastes time at an international premiere at Cannes hoping to rest on the hype and laurels of prior success. So on my black diamond ski trail rating system, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull earns my lowest Green Trail-marker. Just showing up isn’t enough for our franchise players, and the special effects look ready made for transition to Disney World rides rather than reflect the adventure and storytelling that we fell in love with in earlier installments. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is rated PG-13 for adventure violence and scary images including excessive use of a comb.