Raiders of a Lost Art — Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and Raiders of the Lost Ark Reviewed


Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
( 2008 )
The fourth Indiana Jones movie in nearly 20 years is not without its flaws (Digitally-rendered prarie dogs, I’m lookin’ at you!) but there’s no denying the big stupid smile that was hanging off my mug for a little over two hours. The Nazi-face-melting “power of God” makes for a quaint and subtle finale when compared to Skull’s Made-for-the-Sci-Fi-channel revelation but I’ll take the X-Files over Temple of Doom‘s rocks…that glowed…and only burn bad-guy hands. An appropriately rickety Indy has developed a decorated military history, a slightly crankier disposition and a leathery face since the events of Last Crusade. After a blast of an opening action sequence Skull manages to keep things moving briskly. Shia LaBeouf is this Indy’s sidekick, a cycle-riding greaser called Mutt, who has convinced the academic adventurer to help him recover his surrogate stepdad (John Hurt, criminally underused) and Mom — and if a little history-trampling grave digging occurs along the way, so much the better. The “crystal skull” of the title is this adventure’s iconic Macguffin and ties into the familial quest in ways too complicated to get into now. There are Mayan tribes, killer ants, scorpions, temple booby-traps and -yes- a single snake to create opportunity for the favorite Indy-series running gag. Arguably, the best move the movie makes is bringing back Karen Allen’s spunky Marion Ravenwood (I was disappointed that there was nary a whiskey shot to be had.), providing the rare age-appropriate love interest for Harrison Ford. Kate Blanchett is cool (and hawt!) as a Soviet science officer, in sexy blunt black bangs, who’s after the titular artifact so the ruskies can use it as a weapon…or something. She’s a solid foil and probably my favorite villain of the entire series. Add sword fights, frequent laughs, Star Wars shout outs, fun references to previous adventures and a surprisingly sentimental wrap-up that ties the series up nicely and you’ve got what’s arguably the second-best entry and the most similar in spirit to Raiders. If they were gonna do it, I’m glad they did it like this. ***

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
Frankly, I’m not a fan. There. I said it. After a fun, if annoyingly cheeky, opening that gives us insight into Indy’s past via River Phoenix’s flashback portrayal of a young Dr. Jones, things get a little boring. There have been tons of movies, books and Monty Python gags about the Holy Grail already, and LC has nothing interesting to add to the myth. Again, Indy races Nazis to the finish line and the titular prize. Sean Connery gives an over-appreciated performance as the elder Jones — it’s what most people considered the primary joy of this third series entry, but it honestly annoyed the hell out of me. A great tank scene and a motorcycle chase don’t quite make up for some very hokey comedy (which turns the previously respectable collegue, Marcus Brody, into a buffoon) and a painfully silly finale that seems implausable even by series standards and makes Temple of Doom’s rope-bridge wrap up a comparitively solid resolution. Allsion Doody’s love interest character is both bland and…well, kind of a Nazi. It disappointed a young Gill Man in 1989 and it hasn’t gained any favor over time. **

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)
Like the big-budget exploitation B movie it is, Temple of Doom has lots to like. The least cerebral of the series, this prequel (yes, prequel!) offers lots to love. The Shanghai opening sequence sets the over-the-top tone, but Kate Capshaw’s Mandarin take on Cole Porter’s “Anything Goes” was ill-advised. Indy, his youth-in-Asia sidekick, Short Round and Capshaw’s disturbingly shrill “famous American night club singer,” Willie Scott, get rerouted on the way to Delhi when a childless Indian village convince the trio to recover the magic rocks that will save said village and bring the children home. They end up in the titular temple where flaming human hearts, voodoo dolls and some serious child wellfare violations are a normal part of life. There are a ton of deliberate gross-outs gags — from eyeball soup to ritualistic heart extraction, that really up the grodie quoitent to the delight of 11 year-old boys everywhere. The mine car chase scene effects haven’t aged well, but some rad fist fights and a bug-infested booby-trapped secret passage more than make up for it. We can get past the worst dialogue in series history (from the writer’s that penned everyone’s favorite anti-classic, Howard the Duck) but we CAN’T get past Capshaw, whose campily atrocious performance damn near ruins everything. Overall though, the most maligned entry in the old Indiana Jones chronicles benefits from it’s incidental tone and dopey non-stop action, making it simultaneously the weirdest and most most daring Indiana Jones of all. ***

Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
It’s a perfect movie — no getting around it and I honestly can’t think of a movie that can touch it. If you’ve found this site, you’ve seen this movie. Probably a thousand times. (Even more if you’re in your mid-30s like the Gill Man). If you haven’t seen it? What the hell is wrong with you? Concieved as a throwback to the cliffhanger serials of the 30s and 40s, Raiders became so much more. Raiders, how do I thee? Let me count the ways: I love you for “Stay out of the light.” I love you for the last-minute bullwhip grab seconds before the stone wall comes down. I love you for Marion’s whiskey-shot challenge. I love you for “I’m your goddamn partner!” I love you for Toht, the sinister Nazi interrogator (he of melting face). I love you for “Too bad the Hovitos don’t know you the way I do, Belloq.” I love you for “C’mon! Show a little backbone, will ya?” I love you for the fight scene in the truck and the bending hood ornament. I love you for “the map room” and “the Well of Souls.” I love you for the reflection in the glass between the cobra and Harrison Ford. I love you for the hilarious one-shot swordsman kill in the market place. I love you for “bad dates.” I love you for Indy’s salute gesture when he surfaces atop the Nazi submarine. I love you for “Snakes. Why did it have to be…snakes?” I love you for the fight in the burning Ravenwood saloon. I love you for Karen Allen. I love you for Sallah. I love you for Marcus Brody. I love you for “Love. You.” on the crushed-out student’s eyelids. I love you for the Ark’s sinister otherworldly hum. I love you for Marion’s “What did you say?” after cracking Indy across the jaw with the mirror. I love you for “I dunno, I’m making this up I go.” I love you for the blood-spattered fighter plane propellar mishap. I love you for Marion not dying in the exploding truck. I love you for “Top. Men.” I love you for one of the best closing shots in movie history. I love you for being the most memorable father/son-bonding afternoon of the young Gill Man’s life. I love you, Raiders of the Lost Ark, for stoking my passion for genre flicks at an early age. ****

~ by Number5ive on May 28, 2008.

2 Responses to “Raiders of a Lost Art — Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and Raiders of the Lost Ark Reviewed”

  1. I hated Temple of Doom, mainly because of Kate Capshaw. I only like it because of Indy. The first one was definitely the best, I loved Last Crusade even though yes, it was hokey. But I enjoyed the interaction between Harrison and Sean.

    Can’t wait to see the new one.

  2. I’d have to agree with a lot of what you said about a lot of the movies except the last crusade. Quite frankly it was the BEST of the three originals by far. With raiders coming in second and doom a far way behind shitty dead last. Who cares if the holy grail line has already been done? The fact is no action film I’ve ever seen other than the Last Crusade even talks about the grail. You’re comment “There have been tons of movies, books and Monty Python gags about the Holy Grail already, and LC has nothing interesting to add to the myth” is like saying that Mel Broks ten commandments and other movies make raiders of the lost ark a shitty film. As far as Connery goes… you either love him.. or you don’t. No argument there. As for the ending was it the fact that the temple was destroyed or the riding off into the sunset? Either way the temple being destroyed was no less awesome than all the nazi’s being killed when the ark was opened. And nothing is more pleasing than watching a hero/heroine ride off into the sunset. So, quite frankly what isn’t there to like about the last crusade? I mean… have your own opinion of it but… well I don’t know what to say… I just find it unfathomable that someone wouldn’t like the last crusade. I mean… hate doom all you want… it sucked… but the last crusade? You’ve got to be kidding me.

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