Thursday, May 22, 2008

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull ***

Director: Steven Spielberg
Cast: Harrison Ford, Cate Blanchett
Karen Allen, Shia LaBeouf, John Hurt, Jim Broadbent, Ray Winstone

The "Indiana Jones" films have always been successful for one important reason; with their gleeful combination of excitement, vintage serial aesthetics and pure star power, they make you feel like it's the first time you've been to the movies.
The series kickstarted more than a quarter of century ago with the flawless "Raiders of the Lost Ark" which was followed by two other films, in what turned the main character into the ultimate adventure hero.
Now at 65, Ford reprises his role as the khaki, whip and Fedora clad, snake hating archaelogist with the same refreshing energy and charisma he possessed twenty years ago.
Following what has become a formula, the film opens with the Paramount logo turning into a real mountain, this time set in Nevada (which instantly reminds you of Richard Dreyfuss) where a group of KGB agents, led by Colonel Doctor Irina Spalko (a superb Blanchett in full Ninotchka before Paris mode) have kidnapped Indy and take him to an army vault where he is forced to help them find a mysterious crate.
After failing to stop the Communists, surviving a nuclear attack and being suspected by the FBI of having Red liaisons, Indy is fired from the university where he works in and sets off to find Harold Oxley (Hurt), his mentor who mysteriously disappeared while doing research in South America.
All of this, of course, has happened within the first thirty minutes which also introduce us to Mutt Williams (LaBeouf) a greaser who becomes Indy's sidekick, the search of the mysterious title skulls in Perú and the return of Marion Ravenwood (Allen who is perhaps the best thing in the movie).
By no means a reinvention, this is a direct throwback to what we have come to expect of Indy's films. including the visuals (director of photography Janusz Kaminski emulates Douglas Slocombe's work from the first three films and the visual gags paying homage to the Lucas/Spielberg filmography are a joy to behold).
In a constantly changing world, where threats come in unexpected shapes and forms, it's somehow relieving to return to a time and place where enemies came with distinctive uniforms and accents.
What's ironic is that as insulting and politically incorrect as that sounds at the center of the film lies the contradiction that is Imperialist ingenuity, something so well concocted and marketed that it ends up appealing to everyone because it touches the unique ground of human excitement.
Not to say that "Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" is American propaganda, because even if it reduces Communist Russians to villain stereotypes it has established that none of this is real and for a Spielberg film it's even a bit critical of the era.
When Indiana gets blacklisted, we see a country so blinded by fear that it didn't care to make a difference between right and wrong and when later we see a 50's archetypical American suburb get smashed to bits by nuclear testing we come closer to grasping the terror behind it.
Not even Mayans where the Inca ought to be or the continuous need to raise the level on stunts and pyrotechnics will take you out of this ride.
And that's the other thing that makes "Indiana Jones" so fantastic: their ability to exist in a world where everything can, and probably will, happen.
A parallel universe of sorts where Indian, Mayan and Christian deities all get to share the spotlight with bizarre military plans based on conspiracy theories.
And a universe for that matter where a senior citizen is able to reignite the engines of our deepest fantasies, the ones we grew up to, the ones in which we were astronauts, spies or archaelogists and the world seemed to be but the next adventure.

1 comment:

woodstock said...

i'm gonna read this after i watch it, which will happen this week.

so far i wanna comment about the movies i'm watchin section on the hq. i loved that you loved "sleeper". when i watched it i wanted so badly that you saw it cos it was one of the most hilarious pieces of celluloid i had seen! and all those other allen movies you've seen this month!! uhg i wanna catch them soon - no one like allen to make me feel excited about movies again.