It is very difficult to a review a film which is the latest of a series of films that have meant so much to me as a young man. The character of Indiana Jones was born out of Spielberg’s and Lucas’s desire to do an American James Bond (read the autobiogs, they will tell you all) and cinematically the films have always been grand, using the best old fashioned stunt work, humour, and lets face it the best punch-up sound effects ever heard. We first saw Indiana Jones in the film Raiders of the lost Arc, the first sequel (not realised by many) is set before the first film and called Indiana Jones and The temple of Doom, and the last in the series (or so we thought) was Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, set a few years after the original. The new film is set a long way in front in the mid 1950’s, in the heat of communist paranoia.
Indiana is now older and wiser although still be treated badly by all who meat him, cinematically the character appears to be in his mid-fifties and in great shape. His father has passed, his older comrades have passed, and the government think he’s a spy, after being coerced into helping the Russians find a mythical object. The adventure begins proper in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, when the Shia Lebeouf‘s character Mutt turns up, and reveals that Indy’s old friend has gone missing whilst trying to find the legendary Crystal Skulls that have permeated the worlds history……
Really if I am going to be honest it doesn’t matter that the plot is exactly the same (give or take) than any of the other films that preceded it. The fun in these films is very much the journey not the ultimate goal of the destination. So we have to ask ourselves is the script rewarding and the important action perfectly formed.
The film is full of references to three originals as well as the spin off TV series that was produced by Lucas. The original played homage to the Saturday morning cinema of the 30’s and 40’s and the new film does the same with the 50’s source material, taking into play (all be it briefly) the threat and effects of Nuclear attack as well as the paranoia which permeated American culture in the 1950’s. The man from mars paranoia is worked into the plot and the style of the times is exemplified in the character of Mutt. So the script is all knowing but at times appears too clever and referential for its own good. (although the scene with the snake is possibly a classic)
The action is very well designed and I expect it is hard to come up with something original. Spielberg cleverly masks Fords age in the majority of the punch ups (although the fight with the Russian in a pile of ants is excellent) with cutaways to show the falling soldier rather than the reason for his fall. the problem I have is the hype where we were told the majority of special effects were going to be created the old fashioned way. This just isn’t true the CGI permeates the film throughout, and on three occasions it detracts from the excellent fight choreography because the background is so…….Xbox 360. Grumbles aside I am only saying this I believe because the first three films seemed so original and having watched them recently before going to the cinema to see this, it becomes clear that even though its been twenty years since the originals they still hold their hands high! This film therefore has a lot to live up to.
The acting is very interesting, Ford is excellent because he plays it very easily, never one for subtly this character requires nothing more and his presence is of course the reason the originals stand the test of time. Karen Allen is still lovely with age and plays her part to perfection, and Shia Lebeouf is a welcome edition to the franchise, capturing misspent youth so well, because I guess in real life he is having a misspent youth right about now. Cate Blanchett his cool, obviously enjoying her turn as a Russian baddy. Both Ray Winstone and John hurt are underused I'm afraid.
The film is not groundbreaking, and it should have been more exciting, but that’s because of expectation not reality. Note that it is still miles better than the mummy films or the action films of recent history and if you can ignore the moans about the ending (it is thankfully as equally preposterous as the first three films!) then the film is well worth a look, to see Harrison playing an iconic figure like no other.
Have a watch of the trailer!