(2008, Adventure/SciFi, color)
Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy
Did I hear Aztec Egyptian Zombie Shaolin warriors?
In a nutshell:
Indiana Jones survives a lot of improbable adventures on his way to meet some aliens.
The year is 1957. American soldiers drive along a desert road, drag-racing with perky fifties teens until they reach Area 51. At this point we discover that they’re really Soviet spies in disguise. The Russkies mow down this ultra-high security area’s four or five guards and enter unimpeded. Turns out they’ve had Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) and his pal Mac (a wide and non-digital Ray Winstone) stuffed into their trunk all along. Sword-wielding alleged psychic commie mastermind Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett) orders them to lead her to a certain crate containing... um...
Okay, at this point it gets more than a little silly, what with the adventures in magnetic gunpowder, a Roswell-esque corpse, an ill-advised escape attempt, Mac’s treachery, a pointless high-speed vehicle whose track ends abruptly out in the middle of nowhere, nuclear testing, survival of said nuclear testing by hiding in a flying refrigerator... um...
Now the movie brings up McCarthyism, which costs Indy his job and then is never mentioned again. A young man named Mutt (Shia LeBoeuf) shows up with a letter full of cryptic nonsense relating to his mother (Karen Allen reprising her role as Marion) and grandfather figure (John Hurt as a highly respected professor named Ox). These have been kidnapped by Russians because there are aliens in the Amazon. After endless chases, escapes, and followings of clues, Indy and Mutt end up deep in the Amazon themselves, carrying the crystal alien skull of the title. At this point they are easily captured and reunited with Marion and the outhouse-rat-insane Ox. Marion “dramatically” reveals that Mutt is really Indy’s son, but anyone with half a brain has already guessed that by now.
Off again for further chases, escapes, sword fightings, crotch whackings, and just a few more followings of clues, during which we get the contractually required Indiana Jones Bad Guy Suffers Grisly Death™ scene, as Spalko’s most villainous henchman gets devoured alive by flesh-eating ants. Indy et al. plunge over several waterfalls and into the eponymous Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. It is here that they must return their alien skull to a complicated fortress-thingy at the center of a ruined city guarded by native zombie ninjas.
They find their way to the center of the fortress and set the skull back on its skeletal alien neck of origin, only to be caught again by Spalko and her flunkies. Spalko, in turn, gets caught by the now-animate alien skeleton. Said alien is grateful for the return of his skull and offers them a reward. Spalko demands that he bestow upon her all knowledge, everywhere. Indy and friends hustle out the back while Spalko gets her wish. Apparently, too much knowledge can sizzle your eyes in your sockets before burning you to cinders while all your cronies get sucked into a vortex, because that’s what happens to Spalko and her men. Indy and friends make it out, all except for Mac, who gets sucked into the vortex too when he goes back to look for treasure.
They make it back to civilization, where Indy gets his job back, marries Marion, and (we assume) lives happily ever after.
I liked Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Granted, it’s not as tightly plotted as Raiders of the Lost Ark or as much fun as The Last Crusade, but it’s also nowhere near as unpleasant as Temple of Doom. More than anything, it seems to be the product of two competing visions. From writer/producer George Lucas we get the hamfisted dialog, unbelievable situations, and an incomprehensibly overcomplicated plot. From director/producer Stephen Spielberg we get expert pacing and focused action sequences that always make it seem like exciting things are happening, even when nothing (that makes sense) actually is. In a nutshell, Lucas made it laughable, while Spielberg made it fun.
The commentary has enough good lines that I had enough to quote for this review within the first thirty minutes. As the false soldiers pass a diner called The Atomic Café, Mike says, “Come to the Atomic Café and try the Spent Rod Scramble.” While metal and non-metal objects get attracted to the magnetic alien corpse at random, Kevin explains, “The law of selective magnetism: it only works when things look cool or funny.” Bill and Kevin both make fun of Blanchett’s Emo Philips hair, and when she draws a sword, Bill dubs her, “Colonel Kutcherveineroff.” It’s not as funny as the best Rifftrax, but it’s very, very close.
(2008, Adventure/SciFi, color)