SMART AS A WHIP
I have been deliberately waiting until today to post this review of Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of The Crystal Skull. I went to see it at a press screening at Odeon West End on Tuesday night but didn’t want to put a review up in case I put some spoilers in. So since it opens everywhere (including Venus and Mars:) I thought it would be safe to do this now. Apologies if this review isn’t as succinct and to the point as other film reviews I have put up but this film has a lot more resonance than anything I’ve seen in the last few years. I loved Indiana Jones as a kid: I remember being 8 years old and going to see Raiders of The Lost Ark at the cinema. Temple of Doom was a little disappointing but The Last Crusade was a fantastic romp and Connery had great chemistry with Ford. So the character was left with only the Young Indiana Jones TV series (which was also a lot of fun) and the occasional rather dull comic series. Spielberg, Lucas and Ford had discussed returning to the character for years and they brought in screenwriters like Frank Darabont and M. Night Shymalan but they just couldn’t agree. In the meantime, Lucas brought out his rather misconceived Star Wars prequels and Spielberg went in a different direction, proving he could tackle serious filmmaking with projects like Munich and Schindler’s List. But about two years ago, the trio announced that it was definitely on. So I watched and waited, trying not to get my hopes up too much because 19 years is a hell of a long time between films and there’s no guarantee that the chemistry/ synchronicity would still be there. Just look at Godfather Part III if you don’t believe me. Anyway, I read some of the features about the film that have run in the last year but they didn’t reveal a great deal about it. Then last week I got wind of a press screening happening on Tuesday so I asked and was lucky enough to get tickets.
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is set in 1957, 19 years after The Last Crusade. I admit that, even at the opening credits, I did feel a slight tinge of excitement. The film opens with a great set piece: a group of 1950s teenagers race a US army vehicle on its way to a secure government facility out in the desert but all is not what it seems. Crystal Skull is set 19 years after The Last Crusade and a lot has changed in that time: Jones is still teaching archeology but he has lost his friend Marcus Brody and father Henry Jones (Sean Connery) and he now lives in a world very different to the one we have seen before. Jones is now a more world-weary older man and we discover that he has been in the US forces, has a partner in his endeavours, Mac, a Brit played by Ray Winstone, and his main adversaries here are not the Nazis but the Russians, headed up by a sinister Cate Blanchett. So Jones gets embroiled in a quest to find a lost city in Peru and return the Crystal Skull of the title to its rightful home, accompanied by his former squeeze, Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen from Raiders of The Lost Ark), a boy, Mutt Williams, who may or may not be his son, Winstone and John Hurt as barmy academic Professor Oxley. There was a lot of speculation before this came out that Ford was too old and that cinema has changed so much that there’s no room for films like Indiana Jones these days. I can say that, although Ford is obviously considerably older, he still has that likeable, honest charm that made the other three films such a joy to watch and there is real chemistry between him and Shia LaBoeuf, who plays young kid Mutt. This nuclear family with a twist works well on screen. Blanchett chews the scenery with style and Spielberg has remained true to his word, giving the film that pre-digital feel on screen and visually it is incredible. There are also enough moments that make you smile in the Crystal Skull like Indy hiding it in a fridge to save himself from a mushroom cloud or a sword fight across two speeding vehicles. Spielberg uses Ford’s age to good effect, with a number of good one-liners, and he has shifted the mood from 1930s movie serial to paranoid 1950s sci-fi with consummate ease. John Williams’ music sounds as classic and timeless as it did the first time you heard it and the sound here is exceptional. The mcguffin, that aliens landed in South America and when the Crystal Skull of the title is returned, the aliens will leave Earth, is a little thin but let’s be honest: the fun of the other movies was the journey rather than the arrival and this one is no different. Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of The Crystal Skull is a great deal of fun, holds your attention from start to finish and deserves to be the huge summer hit it probably is by the time you read this. Indiana Jones is back and I for one am glad that we got one more chance to see him on screen in a new adventure. Spielberg, Lucas and Ford should be very proud as this film sits well with the other three movies…