Monday, May 26, 2008

Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Yes, of course, I saw Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull when it opened on Friday. Why bother asking? You know my taste in movies by now!

Did I enjoy it? I repeat: "Why bother asking? etc."

Of course, Indy has slowed down a bit. George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, and co. have made no attempt to conceal the aging of their character, or that of the actor who plays him: sixty-something Harrison Ford. Ford is still in pretty good shape, though. He can still turn on the charm, and he can still kick bad-guy butt. And with the setting moving on from World War II to the Cold War, there is still plenty of bad-guy butt needing to be kicked.

Chiefly, said butt belongs to a creepy commie named Irina Spalko, played by Cate Blanchett with short dark hair, round sunglasses, and a fake Ukrainian accent that doesn't quite cover her British O's. Spalko, once considered "Stalin's fair-haired girl" (ha, ha), has Indy by the gonads from Scene 1 and oh, what doesn't she drag him through! On the trail of psychic weapons that the USSR could use against the USA, Spalko exposes Indy to betrayal by an old friend, a ten-second countdown to take shelter from a nuclear blast, a ride on a rocket-propelled rail car, losing his job, and a wild chase scene through an Ivy League campus on the back of a motorcycle driven by a Fonz wannabe played by up-and-comer Shia LeBoeuf. And that's just to get things going.

LeBoeuf plays a pugnacious drop-out named Mutt who wants Indy to help him rescue his mother and the father-figure in his life from Spalko. They have been kidnapped because said father-figure seems to have found the lost city of gold, El Dorado or what have you. Of course the commies are interested in much more than gold - say, some kind of paranormal power-source that could result in some serious, worldwide butt-kicking, and not the fun kind where the bad guys are the ones whose butts get kicked.

I've said at least enough about what happens in the movie. Be assured that it involves love rekindled, some wacky chase and battle scenes, thrilling encounters with wildlife, natives, and forces of nature, a good deal of spooky tomb-raider stuff, and of course, the quasi-mystical mumbo-jumbo that adds a goosebumpy edge to the proceedings, and guarantees a spectacular climax. Ford is joined by a cast of great sci-fi/fantasy significance, including John Hurt (who once had an alien pop out of his chest), Ray Winstone (late voice of Beowulf), Jim Broadbent (who has a stake in Narnia, Harry Potter, and Inkheart), and Karen Allen (who starred in Starman). You may enjoy some at times clever reminders of the previous three Indiana Jones adventures (especially if I don't spoil them for you); and the final scene leaves the door open for a fifth installment - hat, whip, themesong and all.

UPDATE: And can you believe the protest the Russian Communist Party has leveled against this movie? "Distortion of history"?! Now who, I ask you, is having trouble separating fantasy from reality!

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