Thursday, May 22, 2008

Film Review: "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull"

A Film Review & Event Report by Ken Pellman
"Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull"
at Edwards Big Newport, Newport Beach, CA
Rated “PG-13” for adventure violence and scary images
124 minutes
Lucasfilm (via Paramount Pictures)
Now Playing Everywhere

I can recall going to see the first Indiana Jones film, “Raiders of the Los Ark", in 1981. I was just a boy at the time, probably the youngest edge of the target audience. After Disney obtained the rights to create theme park attractions based on the character and films, I waited eagerly for a Disneyland manifestation. That finally opened in 1995, and I was fortunate enough to watch the Temple of the Forbidden Eye built from the ground up, take a few test rides, and even work at the attraction in the summer of 1996.

The film series does not have the same hold over me as the “Star Wars” series, but the long-awaited fourth film did prompt us to break our cinema-going drought.

We went all-out, of course, seeing the initial, midnight screening at the Big Newport, where the screen is huge, the audience responsive, and the sound system so loud and pumped up that it “rattles your colon”, to quote’s Rick West.

The folks at outdid themselves, again organizing a charity fundraiser as part of a campout line-up of fedora-wearing, whip-cracking Indy fans. There was an auction and an outdoor screening of two fan productions - "Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation" and "Indyfans and the Quest for Fortune and Glory".

In the crowd were many of the usual suspects and it was good to see our friends and acquaintances again. Thankfully, Keelie’s Aunt Kendra and Uncle Steve babysat Keelie, allowing Kori and I to mark my birthday and the anniversary of our engagement with a dinner out alone before we dropped in on the festivities.

Like the three other films, this one finds our hero in a series of perilous circumstances and dealing with mystical forces. Set in 1957, the Nazi villains are long gone, as are some of Indy’s friends and his father. The villains are Soviet communists. They are indeed the villains, but the film also takes the opportunity for some mild lamenting of “red scare” paranoia, with a moment that perhaps is a metaphor for concerns about the Patriot Act.

We’ve all changed a lot since 1989’s “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” – the audience has changed, moviemaking has changed, director Steven Spielberg has changed, and of course Indiana Jones has changed – but not too much. Special effects have definitely changed, with digital effects being used liberally and effectively – which has, perhaps, the biggest effect in making the feel of this film different from the other three.

Unlike the other three films, Indy is not given a new love interest. Instead, we get to see one of our favorite characters return. Shia LaBeouf joins the mix as Mutt Williams, and teaming up with Indy, is prominent and central through much of the film. So if Indy is too old for the ladies, Mutt can give them something at which to stare.

Some of the subject matter is sure to be of interest to Roswell conspiracy theorists. The “crystal skull” subject and exotic locale (the jungles of South America) is a nod to the Indiana Jones: Temple of the Crystal Skull attraction at the DisneySea theme park in Japan (or, perhaps, the reverse is true, depending on when the basics of the plot were decided). Like the previous installments, there are plenty of elements that would be ripe for exciting theme park adaptation.

Which brings us to one of the things people love about these films – the action. There is plenty of over-the-top action and the humor that often is intertwined. A nuclear test blast is thrown in for good measure. There are also a few nods to the earlier films and other wink-wink moments.
In the end, we have even more character development and depth, and the franchise is left wide open for more adventures.

"Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” <>

Pellman's Bottom Line(TM): You’re already going to see this if you are an Indy fan. Otherwise, see it if you want a good popcorn movie. It doesn’t pretend to be anything else.

Pellman's Rating: 3 Brooms(TM) out of 4

Pellman's Suggestion (Theater or Home Viewing)(TM): See this on a large screen. Get to the Big Newport if you can (300 Newport Center Drive, Newport Beach, CA).

-Ken Pellman
(c)2008 Ken Pellman, all rights reserved. This review may not be further stored or shared in any way, shape, or form, by any means, without my express written permission. The statements in this review, unless otherwise stated, are my personal opinions and are not presented in connection with any entity with whom I may be or may have been associated.

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