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Capt. Sage's Review of
Indiana Jones and the
Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

"Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" is a well paced action adventure movie that uses to its advantage its heritage and the aging of its actors. Although this time around I found the characters and their actions to be a bit more stock and stereotypical, they still had witty dialogue that I enjoyed, as well as amazing chases and fight scenes. Various aspects of the Indiana Jones universe were introduced very smoothly. The movie maintained a mood of adventure, because despite horrors and dangers, it was still fun.

The beginning sets the tone well, starting us off with an amazing fight scene that also included some very humorous moments, remaining true to the characters. After that, the movie slows down for a bit of exposition, paced just right. The movie then continues on the main story arc, which has never been left (a rare treat in a movie nowadays!) and continues with action sequences, both slower and faster paced, right to the end. You arrive at the end of the movie having felt that you have been on a very action-packed adventure, but also that you had time to fully explore everything.

The characters were acted very well. I didn't really have any trouble believing that they were who they said they were. It seemed like I'd seen all of the characters and their situations before, but at least they were done well1. The dialgoue, as I mentioned, was excellent throughout, managing to convey the story very well. And, unusual in movies nowadays, some effort was actually taken to make sure that the dialogue was audible and not obscured by (in this case well-done) foreign accents, gunfire, and explosions! As a result, I actually managed to comprehend and enjoy the witty dialogue.

Aging of the actors, especially the title character, was used to the film's advantage instead of against it. The aging was acknowledged, and the setting of the film is appropriately later than previous installments. The movie kept the action believable- the characters are more often using their wits to position themselves in a fight, rather than always performing superhuman feats. This keeps the characters believable, and we are thankfully never forced to say, "No, he's too old to do that." Indeed, a lot of the time Indiana is just as humanly vulnerable as he was in other films- he simply manages to win through in a believable way, just as in the other Indianan Jones movies.

People new to the series need not fear going into this movie. Various aspects of the Indiana Jones universe and characters were introduced slowly, clearly, and naturally, without a hint of staleness. The material flowed naturally into the story and was not included merely to be homages to the original, and actually added new things to the series to enjoy.

This movie has a strong horror component in about the middle of the film, but afterwards, thankfully, we manage to get past most of that. Even during it, the movie didn't deteriorate into giving us stereotypical "Boo!" or slasher moments. Instead, it stuck to a gripping, adventurous spirit. The archaeological interests of Indiana Jones helped here. For the first time in the series, I felt somewhat curious about the solution to the historical mysteries the film covered, spurred on by the interest that Indiana Jones had. His interest helped me get past the almost overly done gruesome bits. The grotesque moments were never half as bad as other Indiana Jones films, instead concentrating on the fun and adventure, and since Indiana Jones stimulated my curiousity, I grew to like him more.

"Crystal Skull," the fourth movie in the series, is far better than most series' second movies, largely due to good acting and dialogue, as well as excellent pacing. It maintains the adventure of Indiana Jones movies and honors its legacy while not being encumbered by it, which gave it the freedom to add to it. I'm glad to see a lovingly crafted movie added into this fun series.

SPOILERS

I found that Mutt's growth into a forward-thinking explorer was far more natural and pleasant to watch than many similar movies' attempts to grow young new characters into heirs of a beloved dynasty. I also really loved his line asking if Jones was in his eighties, seriously overestimating his age!

One part of the film I especially enjoyed was an actually heroic hero. At one point, Jones promises to give back the crystal skull to Ox in a moment, and a few seconds later, he actually does so. It was delightful to see a hero keeping a promise instead of forgetting or lying or refusing to fulfill his promise. I was also impressed by his efforts to save his unworthy friend at the end of the film.

I didn't really like the surprise son plot thread of the film. It says something sad about America when cutting apart love is being perceived as normal, and we can't even contemplate romance as leading to commitment despite arguments and obstacles.

The aliens teaching prehistoric humans was also one of the worst parts of the film. I really hate that cliche, both because I've seen it done about a million times (and several times far better) and because it cheapens human history. Thinking that our forebears needed help from aliens allows us to perceive our ancestors as stupid, and dims our view of their true nature and achievements. We shouldn't be trying to see our past as being dumb or as being idyllic, but instead as full of people similar to us, but different. Involving aliens makes history more boring, because there isn't any possibility of learning anything about humanity or the past. In fact, it all works against Indiana Jones' academic discipline, because if ancient people couldn't have made it without alien help, then there's no point to archaeology - the ancients were stupid and there's no point to learning what they knew or how they lived, because it wasn't going to be successful. I think our ancestors deserve more credit and dignity than that. (After all, they made us, didn't they? They can't have been so dumb if they made geniuses like us!)