Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Empty Skull

Last night, late, after American Idol and the delight in David Cook’s success, after the news, a friend, her kids and her kid’s friends showed up at the door and kidnapped me. The destination? The opening show, 12:01 a.m., of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Well, I wanted to to see the movie anyway, why not stay up until 3:00 a.m. on a week night? I had more than a couple reasons, but went anyway, encouraged by the positive reviews coming out of Cannes, I decided in the spirit of teenagers everywhere, what the hell?

Speaking of teenagers and Indy nerds generally, two mega theaters were not quite sold out but they were full and it was midnight. Long lines filled with grinning people congregated. I imagine that this is what it felt like to be in Portland waiting for Barack Obama. Dude, it was an experience. A young Indiana showed up with his beautiful sidekick Marion (one presumes). The crowd clapped at the opening credits. Whoops came at exciting parts. This was a crowd that would be easy to please.

And yet….my friend who is a die-hard Indiana Jones fan came out of it feeling meh. She wasn’t thrilled with the ending and didn’t see it coming. I’m no prophet, but the opening set, Area 51, gave me a clue about what to expect. Just a little one.

Before I share what bugs me about the film, let me just say that the requisite one-liners, snappy dialogue and nail-biting action sequences filled the screen. The familiar John Williams score made me feel nostalgic. And Harrison Ford is old and seems to be lost in actual irony. His age is acknowledged right off the bat and then five minute later, he’s beating men senseless half his age. He looks pretty believable doing it. Well, kinda believable.

And that brings me to what bugs me about the film. The overall tone was the problem. (Warning: Mild spoilers ahead. Do not read further if you want to flinch at every surprise.) The movie opens at Area 51, the Russian bad guys headed by wacky parapsychologist and Lenin lover Irina Spelkt (Cate Blanchett), want something and they mow down five innocent American soldiers at the entry check point to get it. The audience collectively flinched, but what I found disconcerting was the way the camera lingered and there was no outrage or sense of wrongness about this event. Those deaths don’t get avenged. It’s irritating as hell. Indy is in one of the trucks, he’s there. One pithy line of vengeance, but no. They are American soldiers. They deserve to die.

It gets worse. Indy escapes and ends up back at his college campus where McCarthyism has taken root and poor Indy is being suspected as a traitor. The emphasis throughout is not on communism’s badness but America’s ridiculousness and that takes some plot-slowing turns:

Or, rather, it isn’t; instead of plunging into the thick of things, we have to spend some time with Indy back on campus, where concerns about his patriotism see him dismissed from his position;

How dare anyone question anyone’s patriotism? A communism protest gets run over. An all-American town gets torched. A sympathetic hero gets “swift-boated”. Ten minutes in, I wanted to throw up. My friend just found it boring, which it was.

And so it went. The adventure takes Indy all over the globe again. His youthful sidekick just seemed wrongly cast. The story is choppy and there is one glaring plot hole that is still bugging the hell out of me. After you guys all see it, maybe you’ll have an answer, but I’ve wracked my brain and have come up with a big fat nothing.

I’ll be curious about how Indy fans take this movie. I give it 2.5/5 stars. Vote once you see it.

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Cross-posted at Dr. Melissa Clouthier

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