We went to the movies today to see the latest Indiana Jones escapade: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. I had to look the rest of the title up as that part of the film made no impact on me at all!
The reviews I’d read were a bit mixed, but Roger Ebert seemed as pleased as punch about the movie just because it was so much fun that I thought it would be worth catching it at the cinema rather than waiting for the DVD to come out. If nothing else, the sound in cinemas is far more effective than what comes out of our TV – although when we’re watching West Wing (we’ve just gone through the entire sixth season), the phones ringing in the background often seem to be pitched somewhere away from the TV and occasionally make us want to go and answer them.
Anyway, the film is a hoot. It doesn’t take itself in the least bit seriously, plays off against Harrison Ford’s age on more than one occasion, fills itself with in-jokes, references itself back to the other movies - and offers the most extreme villains (and, as usual, disposes of them in particularly nasty ways – they just never learn, do they?).
The car chases and fights on car chases are so absurdly over-the-top you’d have to be a misery guts to carp at them (one or two reviewers have managed to play misery guts), and the spectacular destruction of practically everything in sight has a certain kind of odd satisfaction. It’s a bit like going to the refuse dump (or tip, as we used to call it; it’s now something absurd like the transit station), and throwing piles of glass off the back of your vehicle, or large pieces of borer-ridden furniture, or great heavy chunks of metal, all of which you can smash with completely-permitted freedom.
The Indy story is pretty regular: it starts off with lots of nasty Russians taking over the atomic bomb site in Nevada (Indy manages to set the bomb off, though how he does it is anyone’s guess), shifts to Indy once again in his proper employment as Professor in some elitist college (which narrowly avoids getting thoroughly wrecked), and then sets him off on a madcap trail around half the world, creating havoc everywhere with his newly-found companion, Mutt Williams, a much younger bloke with a surprising ability in sword-play and a penchant for doing his hair rather too often.
There are a couple of real plot surprises (the film doesn’t really have time for much plot with all its other antics), and a curious ensemble of characters, Shia LeBeouf as Mutt, John Hurt as a cracked archaeologist, Karen Allen (dug up, as it were, from the first movie in the series) as Indy’s old flame, and Ray Winstone as a goody/baddie/goody/baddie who doesn’t quite know which side he’s on from one scene to the next. Cate Blanchett has enormous fun as the villain (she’s more interesting than similar bad females in the Bond series, which is saying something). She has a sidekick with a constitution like an ox, and a seemingly endless supply of minor villains, none of whom survive – as far as we can tell.
And since we spend some of the time in South America, we have nasty South American natives – slightly more pleasant than the islanders in Jackson’s King Kong – as well as FBI agents and KGB agents and probably various others whom I’ve forgotten about already.
Being only two years younger than Harrison Ford, I find it hard to imagine how he coped with the rigours of filming this piece; sure there are doubles and stunt men in droves, but there are a couple of scenes where it’s obviously him, and you think: that must have puffed him out, or left him very sore.