This is going to sound kind of random, but "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" is a pretty fun ride - if you keep your expectations reasonable.
If you've followed the work of writer George Lucas and director Steven Spielberg in the last 15 years, you should know to lower your expectations for the franchise's fourth entry. Early in their careers, the filmmakers were unfairly blamed for ushering in the era of stupid blockbusters - I say unfairly, because movies like "Jaws" (1975) and "Star Wars" (1977) were smart blockbusters.
More recently, they are responsible for some of those bad blockbusters. I point to Spielberg's "War of the Worlds" and Lucas' "Revenge of the Sith," both from 2005.
After realizing as a kid that I loved "Return of the Jedi" (1983), the next step, as a budding entertainment writer, was to figure out why I loved it. The documentary "From Star Wars to Jedi: The Making of a Saga" helped me out.
"Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" director Steven Spielberg and writer George Lucas waved as they arrived for the premiere of the film May 18 at the Cannes Film Festival in France.
After we are shown clips of set builders slaving over Jabba the Hutt's skiff, Lucas notes that the establishing shot of the skiff only lasts for an eyeblink in the finished film. He explains that many filmmakers make the mistake of showing off their work; it's better to put story and characters first.
Indeed, that's why I liked "Jedi." It's also why I liked 1989's "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade," which is packed with great Lucas-penned exchanges between Harrison Ford's Indy and his dad, played by Sean Connery. And it's why I liked 1993's Spielberg-helmed "Jurassic Park," in which we genuinely worry about the characters' fates as they are menaced by awesome-looking dinosaurs.
In "Skull," Ford engages in some fun interplay with Shia LeBeouf and Karen Allen, but clearly, this is of secondary concern to Lucas and Spielberg, who are now hopelessly obsessed with technology.
"Skull's" chase sequences are all about digital effects, and while some of them are fun to watch, the final sequence is exactly what Lucas once warned against - showing off. The phrase "Look what we can do!" might as well be plastered across the screen.
At any rate, I'm glad to see Indy again, and "Skull" is better than Spielberg's and Lucas's failures of recent years. But mostly, it just gives me a jones to rewatch the first three "Indy" films.
- By John Hansen,