It wasn’t long ago when George Lucas finished his controversial “Star Wars” prequels. And once those were complete, the unimaginative billionaire decided that, instead of working on something new, he would resurrect his only other franchise to milk it for more money. After nearly a decade of convincing, Lucas was able to get both director Steven Spielberg and star Harrison Ford to come back and make “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.” But for those who were fans of this beloved franchise, “Crystal Skull” is not the same old Indy you once knew.
After a run-in with some communists and a mummified corpse in a U.S. Government warehouse, an old Indiana Jones (Ford) has decided that it’s time to retire the whip and get back to teaching, but his life doesn’t stay long for normal. Mutt (Shia LaBeouf), a kid with a short fuse, tracks him down and gives him a letter from a fellow professor and old friend, Oxley (John Hurt). Oxley claims to have found a legendary crystal skull which, when returned to the fabled city Akator, will grant its full power to whomever has returned it. Mutt says the people who sent him this letter are holding Oxley and his mom prisoner, and they demanded Jones translate the letter so they can find the crystal skull. Jones and Mutt embark on a journey to South America in hopes of rescuing their friends and finding the crystal skull.
There’s not much that’s good about “Skull,” but those few elements which stand out are fantastic. The action is some of the best you’ll ever see in any summer blockbuster. Yes it’s over the top, but it’s great. There’s no doubt Spielberg is a genius when he’s behind the camera filming insane car chases through the jungle.
Despite its two hour runtime, “Skull” is paced rather well. The second act does drag a little, but never enough to make you question why the film is two hours long.
It’s the story where things take a turn for the worse. It saddens me that Lucas can spit out crap like this and make millions from it. In terms of action-adventure films, this is by far the weakest story I’ve ever seen, “The Scorpion King” included. It’s not that the story wasn’t believable, which it isn’t. Or that it’s boring, cliché and contrived, which it is. Rather, the story seems like something that was whipped up the day prior to shooting and was used merely as a transition from one action scene to the next. There are many action films that suffer from this, but this isn’t just an action film, it’s an action-adventure film, and adventure implies that Indy is going on some grand journey, which implies at least a competent story. And a competent story is the last thing you’ll find here.
If the mind-boggling story wasn’t enough to ruin the film, the dumb-downed characters do more than enough to tarnish “Skull.” The problem with many franchises is that, since there are previous films, character development decreases with each new film, even if new characters are introduced in later installments. Unfortunately, “Skull” falls into the same trap. Sure, Jones is still the same no-nonsense hero he always was, but the cast around him completely lacks depth. It was more than just Jones which drove the previous Indy films, but sadly Lucas and Spielberg have seemed to forget this, giving us a bland villain like Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett) and a lame sidekick like Mutt, who is just one step above Jar-Jar Binks. What makes this worse is the fact that Spalko and Mutt were created by the same people who gave us some of the most memorable characters ever, further proving that they’ve lost their touch.
There are few things as sad in the film world as seeing the downtrodden looks on people’s faces as they leave the theater, depressed after seeing a beloved piece of their childhood brought back to life, only to arrive a mangled, unrecognizable mess. Those looks of sadness spoke volumes about the sheer stupidity of “Skull.” If you really need to see good action-adventure films, just watch the original trilogy on DVD.