"In cooking, as in all the arts, simplicity is a sign of perfection." - Curnonsky

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Movie Review: Indiana Jones & the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

There's a lot to enjoy about this fourth installment of Indiana Jones. It's fun, silly, adventure-filled and completely entertaining in ways I don't always get from movies these days, with the greatest parts coming straight from the marvelous imagination of Steven Spielberg. Plus, it's a summertime blockbuster that doesn't totally rely on CGI which feels practically old-fashioned — and I mean that in the best way possible. The performances are strong and overall it's a sequel that doesn't embarrass itself or the whole franchise. It's refreshing and, honestly, it's a relief.

Sure, there are aspects I didn't like about it, but the experience of seeing this movie with a theater full of fans and happy moviegoers pretty much trumps any quibbles I have. The story finds my beloved Indy caught up with a group of Soviets (led by one fierce Irina Spalko, played by Cate Blanchett) trying to find the secrets behind ancient crystal skulls which are said to have been shaped by some kind of higher power (or other-worldly power). They need Indy's mad archaeologist skills (and wide base of experience) to do this and one way of luring him in is via Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen), who they've taken captive. Marion gets in touch with Indy through her son Mutt (Shia LaBeouf). That's the basic gist of things.

As with last summer's Simpsons Movie, Indiana Jones is not just a highly anticipated movie, it's a highly anticipated movie event. There are plenty of people who will see it no matter what anyone says, and there are plenty of people, too, who are determined to like the movie no matter what. I understand this fanaticism, and though I don't personally feel it about this Indiana Jones movie, I had a great time watching it. At the same time, there are things I disliked, too. Most of all, there is some bizarre, random supernatural stuff at the end that struck me as out of place and totally hokey (and not in the fun way, in the annoying way).

But you know what? It's still a lot of fun. There is much pure, innocent joy to be found sitting in a packed theater, clapping and whistling at the first glimpses of Indy's shadow and Marion Ravenwood's bright smile. There's a goofy pride that comes from laughing along with everyone else at the film's nods to previous films. It is an event, and in some ways it's the quintessential summertime movie event: a fantastically fun time for kids, and a sweetly nostalgic trip for adults.

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