Ben Nadel
On User Experience (UX) Design, JavaScript, ColdFusion, Node.js, Life, and Love.
I am the chief technical officer at InVision App, Inc - a prototyping and collaboration platform for designers, built by designers. I also rock out in JavaScript and ColdFusion 24x7.
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Ben Nadel at CFUNITED 2008 (Washington, D.C.) with:

Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull Starring Harrison Ford

Posted by Ben Nadel
Tags: Movies

Really? Really? This is the question that I kept asking myself throughout The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull - the fourth movie of the Indiana Jones series. Before I went into this movie, I was definitely not expecting much; the first three movies, I thought, were fantastic. And, with the last one coming out nearly 20 years ago, I just had a huge amount of doubt that this one, with an almost 70 year old Harrison Ford, could even hold a match to the glory of the original series.


 
 
 

 
Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull Movie Poster  
 
 
 

The movie felt like a cross pollination of the Indiana Jones, The Mummy, the National Treasure, and the Stargate movies. Each of these movies is good in its own right, but this kind of mish-mash of features lacked all the magic of the original Indiana Jones series while at the same time, taking all the cheesy aspects of these other movies. And the CGI effects? Is that really necessary? None of the original movies relied on such blatant CGI and they were fantastic. This Indiana Jones has such superfluous CGI which may not have been so bad if it wasn't so obvious.


 
 
 

 
Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Cyrstal Skull Group Shot  
 
 
 

The highlight of movie for me was probably the unexpected appearance of Karen Allen playing Marion Ravenwood who you might remember from Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Arc. Her smile and twinkling eyes lit up the screen. In fact, when Jones replies to her, "Sure there were a few women, but they all had the same problem .... they weren't you babe," the camera cuts to her with this starry-eyed, teenage-girl grin and I think it was the only time during the entire film that I found myself lost in the moment. The banter between the two was, by far, the most enjoyable aspect of the movie.


 
 
 

 
Karen Allen Returns As Marrion Ravenwood In Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull  
 
 
 

Up-and-comer, Shia LaBeouf, is a guy I really want to dislike. He plays Mutt Williams, a greaser with a penchant for archeology in the Crystal Skull. I don't know what it is about him that I want to dislike, but I'm happy to say that I can't. He really grows on me. I think maybe the problem is that I don't really like the movies he's been in - Disturbia, Transformers - and this has left a negative residue on my vision of him as an actor. But, I have to say, he does a really good job in the movie and I look forward to seeing him in some other stuff.

So, I guess, I wouldn't recommend this. Harrison Ford is fun to watch and is doing phenomenal for his age, but the story is just not good.



Reader Comments

While I think we share the same general view on the film, we really don't view MUTT (Shia Saide LaBeouf) the same way at all. He was horrible. There, I said it. Then again I think he was just as bad in Transformers. If that guy can act, it certainly doesn't show in the so called blockbusters. Thank goodness we have Iron Man to save our blockbuster summer. If we want to see a real young Indy Jones, look back to River Phoenix. Rest in Peace.

Look at Shia's filmography. He hadn't had much until Transformers. Its as if someone anointed him as the new young action star, before he was actually an action star... http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0479471/

That said, please don't take this personally Ben, as I don't want to end up as a bloody pulp at cfUnited. :-)

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I think it was actually Shia's role in the 2003 movie "Holes" that got him noticed by Hollywood execs.

I'm still waffling over the decision to see Indy 4. I'm sure I'd enjoy it, but things have been hectic lately and I not sure I want to make the time to go see it.

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I took my son the day it came out and we both enjoyed it. What's interesting is that I didn't think I enjoyed the film until I came home and watched the first three on DVD again.

My final conclusion was that this film was no more ridiculous in plot than the first three and the CGI, had it been available to Lucas and Spielberg for the first three, they most certainly would have used it. A number of ridiculous CGI moments in the first three films:

- The readable burn imprint on the dude's hand
- The sun beam
- The room filled with snakes Indy miraculously lives through
- The opening of the Ark of the Covenant (gotta love the ghosts)

- Short Round driving the car
- Jumping out of a plane in a blow-up boat... all three survive
- All three survive an immediate fall off a cliff
- Five magic rocks
- Ripping out someone's heart and burning them in a lava pool
- The roller coaster ride which jumps tracks
- Chopping a bridge over a cliff with alligator infested waters below

- The tank going off the cliff
- The birds that Connery scares into bringing down the plane
- The whole segment with the grail is pretty unreal
- The super-aging claymation

My father laughed when I took my son... he thought the first three were entertaining, but absolutely over-the-top. "That's what makes Indy" he said. I didn't really find this one to be a "mesh" of the films as you've outlined (I think the roots of those films came from Indy so maybe I can see where you might think that) although agreeably I too wasn't very particularly fond of Mutt (Marian made the film for me too), but again this film was no more outrageous than the others which is why I'm sure my son will always remember this film as part of the Indy saga. Certainly not my favorite film, but one I'll definitely add on the shelf next to the first three DVDs... just like Star Wars.

It looks as though another Mummy is coming out this Summer and I've heard rumors of the director wanting to create the final two Stargate films (the script was originally written for three films). The end of the last National Treasure certainly looked to a third as well.

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See I thought the movie was actually pretty good - much better than I expected.

Except the bits that had anything at all to do with aliens.

Aliens do not belong in an Indiana Jones movie.

Each Indy movie had a couple of things that were a little (or a lot) over the top - Rick mentioned a lot of them. But they seemed to me to fit.

Aliens just don't. They're all wrong for Indy, at least to my mind.

I can handle dozens and dozens of accented Soviets driving around 1950s America. I can handle artifacts with special powers. I can handle ancient civilisations attempting to protect their untouched city.

But aliens?

The whole time there was anything alien related going on, I just sat there thinking "George Lucas has lost his marbles". Apparently Spielberg and Ford knocked back a cool dozen revisions of the script because they were too "out there", so goodness knows what the thing was like before the final screenplay.

But all told, I was happy enough with that as a neat wrap-up to the 3 previous movies (frankly though, nothing can top The Last Crusade).

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IMHO the only part I couldnt quite deal with was the Tarzan bit during the jungle chase scene - what the hell was that? The rest, while indeed over the top, I think was passable for a summer fun time ride movie.

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@Josh,

I think the only difference is that went in expecting to not like Shia at all, so I already had expectations to be disappointed. As far as saving our summer, I am still looking forward to the Dark Knight. I think Christian Bale makes a badass Batman.

@Rick,

I guess that just goes to show that people have really romanticized memories. I don't remember almost any of that stuff being CGI. Of course, that was 20 years ago and I probably didn't even know what CGI was at the time. But, as much as some of that was over the top, at least it didn't involve aliens, which I think we can all agree was just crazy.

That's cool to hear about Stargate 2/3. I loved the first one. But I wonder if they will be any good? It's been so long and I was a huge fan of Kurt Russell.

@Jono,

Word up! Aliens had no place there at all. I don't know what they were thinking!

@Rob,

Yeah, that tarzan stuff was just ridiculous.

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I didn't understand the point where Indy said that it was imperative that they returned the skull instead of the Russians. Why? What was the big deal? The Russians were the ones that ended up returning the skull anyway, and what good did it do? The aliens killed her and then flew away. What was the point of that? Kind of anticlimactic don't you think?

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And how did the Spanish guy get the skull hundreds of years ago, when it crash landed in Roswell, and that skull also belonged to the alien in the ancient space ship, that had oodles of traps getting to it, that someone had reset at some time? More plot holes than swiss cheese.

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@Brian - We're a couple people sitting around talking about a movie we all saw, should expect nothing but spoilers! :)

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@Jamie: I'd argue with you a bit on that one, as the post and the comments started off with spoiler-free/spoiler-light reviews of the movie.

But it's all good. I'll just cover my virtual eyes and unsubscribe before I hear more.

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@Brian - ...and a more general discussion of this versus other IJ movies, okay, I agree with you, sorry :) The movie is still worth seeing. The plot is sort of an afterthought, thrown together to support the George Lucas special effects and action. Still worth seeing, even if you know the whole plot!

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My problem with the movie was not the ridiculousness of it, it was the lack of character development. Can anyone tell me the name of the guy that was eaten by ants? He was being eaten and the movie tried to make it dramatic, but all I could think was, "I don't know who this guy is so I don't care if he dies." At the end of the movie, that one guy is sucked into the UFO. Who was that guy? Does anyone know?? The movie made a half-hearted attempted at a sub plot where he's greedy and that's why he didn't get away, but they didn't do it well. Earlier in the movie, he's *gasp* a bad guy! Then later he's *gasp* a good guy. And both times I'm thinking to myself, "should I care? Because I don't care."

Contrast that with the previous installment of the franchise. When the Nazi has a gun to the hot blond chick's head, Indiana Jones surrenders his gun to protect her, then she takes the diary from him and reveals herself as a traitor - THAT I cared about! At the end of the movie, she dies because of her obsession with the grail. I cared because I knew who she was. Her character had been adequately developed.

This movie was an example of using action and CGI *instead of* plot and story. A good action movie uses those tools *in support of* plot and story. It's a bit like people who want flashy, dazzily bits in their software just because they can, rather than in support of some real requirement. I blame MySpace.

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I agree that River Phoenix was much better suited for an Indy movie.

--- Spoiler alert ---

There is a fine line in action movies between exciting action that causes your pulse to race and makes you wonder how the hero will ever make it out alive! (Indy 3: River Phoenix is escaping bad guys on the circus train)

...and...

action that's so over the top that you know he's being protected by the hands of the screenwriter and a special effects team. It becomes so obvious that you can disconnect entirely. (1..2...3 waterfalls?! come on!)

...here's what I want to know: during the bomb test, what would he have done if that fridge didn't say, "Lead lined?" what was plan b? ;-) However, that was the most beautiful bomb test I've ever seen. :-)

As always, interesting review.

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SPOILER ALERT

Was it just me, or did it feel like it was no big deal when they found the skull? In the previous ones, I remember being on the edge of my seat. Like when he got the grail, and when the ark was opened, etc. When they found the skull, it was ho-hum, and when Irina placed the skull on the skeleton, it was ho-hum as well. And cliched too. Who didn't know exactly what was going to happen to her?

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A. Harrison Ford needed to go the Connery route, but didn't quite pull it off
B. There's something about Shia that just irks me...don't like him, don't think he's a very good actor
C. Hollywood has become a blatantly shameful $ slut recycling anything that they think guarantees them a win

Add these up and we, the Indy fans are the ones who truly suffer here.

Thanks for the post Ben, I like your movie reviews.

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