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Wick's Review

Created May 26, 2008 12:49AM PST • Edited Jun 02, 2018 10:22PM PST

  1. Quality
  2. Very Good 3.5

    State-of-the-art big screen adventure, not perfect or even great, but culturally significant and plenty of fun.

    Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull starts off beautifully, naturalistically, drawing you in for the surrealism to come, then sustaining this state of grace until roughly halfway, when the relentless hyper-reality begins to wear. Jonesy movies all arrive at this point sooner or later, when our willingness to suspend disbelief no longer commands the mental energy required to continue doing so.

    In fact, this movie’s forebears necessitated the invention of the ViewGuide Reality Factor. Most every movie has reality conceits, none more than Jonesies. The question is, can you tolerate the high rFactor for two hours and still enjoy the movie? The Reality commentary at bottom might guide you to an answer, while the Film commentary two boxes down provides more color.

  3. Very Good 3.5

    Harrison Ford’s still got it: laconic charisma, smooth baritone, respectable biceps. Shia Labouf, as the next gen, makes an underwhelming debut, forced to play the Wild One though he’s a natural Mild One. Karen Allen, last seen in Raiders of the Lost Ark oh those many years ago, charmingly reprises her pretty-girl grit.

    The great Cate Blanchett, like Meryl Streep before her, can play any part, enunciate any accent. Here the script lets her down: her Soviet Colonel Dr. Irina Spalko spends most of the movie in humorless fulmination. Though in fairness, what can you do with Soviet characters? Like the Evil Empire they served, style isn’t their strong suit.

    The generic performances of the other primary players – Ray Winstone, John Hurt and Jim Broadbent – do little to distinguish the movie. Though we do extend a thanks to Winstone (Beowulf unbuffed) for the sobriquet he bestows on Indy: Jonesy.

  4. Male Stars Very Good 3.5
  5. Female Stars Very Good 3.5
  6. Female Costars Great 4.0
  7. Male Costars Good 3.0
  8. Great 4.0

    How do you make a film this stupendous? Beyond the obvious – the dream team of George Lucas & Steven Spielberg – toils a dozen stunt doubles, 75 stunt men, and by my count roughly 200 animation artists, to quantify the scale of the undertaking a bit. This cinematic army applies the highest possible production values to what is essentially kitsch – not unlike a Crystal Skull, come to think about it. Thus the movie has been roundly criticized for being too unreal, too CGIed. To my eye, it is no more so than previous installments, e.g., the ridiculous boulder scene that got things rolling in Raiders.

    No, the problem remains that the Jonesy series can’t shake its relentless “Look Ma, no hands” ethos. When you’ve got 75 stunt men + 200 animation artists at your beck and call, that’s a dangerous Jones to indulge.

    Charm lightens this load of industrial magic. While far from charmless, Indy 4 contains nothing comparable to Harrison Ford bringing a gun to a sword-fight in Indy 1, or Sean Connery’s hilarious turn as the senior Prof. Jones in Indy 3. Such an imbalance in the Cinematic Force ultimately wears down the movie’s welcome.

  9. Direction Really Great 4.5
  10. Play Good 3.0

    Several funny bits. For instance, who’d’a thought “I like Ike” would work as a punch line?

  11. Music Perfect 5.0

    Let us now praise perhaps the greatest movie theme in cinematic history. Dunh, dunh, duhhh, dunh, dunh, dunh. If the Raiders March doesn’t get you going, you’re just not a movie fan.

    John Williams, the creator of this bravura theme and so many others, stands alone in modern Hollywood. Perhaps his Star Wars theme is greater than the Raiders March, but at the moment I don’t think so. Dunh, dunh, duhhh, dunh, dunh, dunh.

  12. Visuals Great 4.0

    “Deja Vu all over again,” to quote the great Yogi Berra. While the spectacular stunts, effects and set pieces boggle the mind and challenge the senses, they don’t break new ground. Of course, how can they at this advanced point in cinematic development? Especially when the story is set in the late 1950s.

  13. Content
  14. Risqué 1.6
  15. Sex Innocent 1.2
  16. Violence Fierce 2.1
  17. Rudeness Polite 1.4
  18. Surreal 2.9

    Two supernaturals (Circo & Bio) and a surreal (Physio) make for a surrealistic stew. Of course, surrealism characterizes the reality factor of the Jonesy series: a dreamlike state where events flow faster than normal, props appear as needed and people exist at the center of a familiar yet altered universe.

  19. Circumstantial Supernatural 3.4

    There are two levels of circoreality at play here: tactical and historical, the former supernatural, the latter merely inaccurate.

    Tactically, speeding cars serve as perfectly stable platforms for sword-fights, trees deftly catch automobiles flying off cliffs, and machine gun fire thick as a tropical rain barely nicks our heros. While great fun in small doses, this circumstantial silliness wears thin over an extended period, as noted above.

    Historically, the Soviets only invaded America in the movies. OTOH, their true believers apparently still lack a sense of humor, given a story emerging out of Russia today that Communists “of the Leningrad region” are complaining about how Indiana Jones Irks Communists. Leningrad? Living in the past, are we? Those were the days. Everyone pretended to work while the bosses pretended to pay. Man, I can see why you’d want to go back there…

  20. Biological Supernatural 3.2

    If cut, “do I not bleed?” Shakespeare’s Shylock did, but Indiana Jones surely does not. Not much anyway. Indeed the humans in Indy’s cinematic universe endure any blow, tolerate any sting, absorb any radiation in pursuit of their heroic endeavors.

  21. Physical Surreal 2.2


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