Review: Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull

Published 7 years ago by , Updated June 10th, 2008 at 1:34 am,

Short version: While very enjoyable overall, there are some things about it that are incredibly annoying and could have been easily corrected.

harryandlabeouf Review: Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull

I’m going to presume that you have already seen this film before you read this review. It’s pretty filled with spoliers, so be warned!

I don’t think that I have to talk about how much I love Indiana Jones, or how much I’ve been looking forward to this fourth instalment in the franchise. You all ready know, and if you don’t – then why haven’t you been reading Screen Rant before this?

George Lucas is a personal hero of mine, the man comes under a lot of fire from movie fans, but I have stood firmly beside the quiffed, plaid shirted wonder for years, and I can even defend the Star Wars prequels. If it’s possible I’ve been looking forward to Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull more than the last three Star Wars movies – mainly because I didn’t feel that they’d have the same magic as the originals because Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher wouldn’t be on the cast list. I had no such worries with Indiana Jones – Ford would be back, and to me, that made me want to see this new movie.

When it the film was first announced, Spielberg, Lucas and Frank Marshall stated that they’d be doing this “the old fashioned way” with minimal CGI, and that Janusz Kaminski would be kept on a tight leash, and he wouldn’t be using his “white-out” style of cinematography. Recently I’ve become more and more irked by Kaminski’s work, and I was glad that he wouldn’t be blasting white light towards the camera.

I was even happy with the signing of Shia LaBeouf as Indy Jr.: he bears a passing resemblance to Ford, and I knew that they’d be going for a younger audience, so I could make peace with his signing (if only Sean Connery could have come on-board for a cameo). Crystal skulls, science fiction and the 1950’s didn’t worry me; it was good that Ford was playing his age, and I’ve always been happy with the Indy stories, so it didn’t worry me that it wouldn’t involve religious artifacts. I was just ready for Indy.

I couldn’t see Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull on it’s opening few days, but I was happy enough to see it opening weekend. I sat in the cinema waiting, and then the Lucasfilm logo came on screen.

I have to say, I enjoyed the film. It wasn’t mind-blowing, but it was a highly enjoyable action film – Ford was on fire, the wit, the movements, the actions – it’s the best he’s been in years. He even seems to have been working on his comedy.

The opening sequence brought Indy back to us after 19 years and he’s still got it. During the whip-driven action sequence Harrison quips: “I thought that was closer.” I was grinning from ear to ear. With the scene in the nuclear town where Indy realizes that the bomb is going to go off is just brilliant – the look of panic and tearful desperation is outstanding – some of the best 5 minutes of cinema I think I’ve seen.

Even when the bomb goes off – the refrigerator gag – far fetched I know, but it was still cool. Also the fact the the mushroom cloud mirrored the crystal skull – great. I was impressed that the debriefing by the F.B.I. echoed Dr.No, a nice nod to Connery. The chase through Marshall College cool, not as good as other reviews will have you believe, but still a good opening romp.

The graveyard scene with the strange tree dwellers was great, a fantastic sequence that added a nice horror dimension and when Indy and Marion meet for the first time in years – outstanding!

I also really enjoyed the quicksand sequence. I’ve always wanted to see Indy encounter quicksand, and I finally did. It was fun and thrilling.

Now what I didn’t like..

Kaminski: If ever a man shouldn’t be allowed behind a camera – it’s that man. The jungle chase alone – while the weakest part of the film, was hindered even further by his light blasting through the trees.

The CGI alone was bad enough, don’t tell me you’re going to use minimal CGI and then stick in something that looks like a deleted scene from Star Wars Episode 1. The LaBeouf fight scene was just too much, if you can do it practical – do it. If you can’t, leave it alone.

Then there were the crotch hits. George – I know that was you. Humour is good, but not in a scene like that.

Tarzan LaBeouf: This sequence is the single worst part of the movie. I thought Lucas got his Tarzan fixation out of his system with the Wookies in Episode III. The worst 30 seconds in the movie.

Overall there was just too much CGI, and to me computer effects equal no emotion.

The ending of the film, while enjoyable, was just too much like National Treasure. Don’t get me wrong, I like National Treasure, but this is Indiana Jones! The Mayan tribes were under-used, and killed off way too easy by the Russians.

Another general issue that I had was there was a bit too much stage work trying to be passed off as exteriors. This was most notable in the opening Area 51. I mean how hard is it to shoot in the desert? Not very – especially when you have got $150 million to spend.

Overall, despite my nit-picks I really enjoyed Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull. It sounds like I didn’t as I re-read this, but I am just being honest. As a hardcore Indy and Lucas fan, I could just gloss over these, but then I wouldn’t be doing my job.

Was it was good as the originals? No way, but I didn’t expect it to be. I was disappointed in the large amount of (poor) CGI, and Kaminski’s camera work, but everyone did what was expected of them, and as things go, it was a four star summer film.

Our Rating:

4 out of 5

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  1. Niall,

    Considering how much I know you were looking forward to this, very even handed review. I have to agree about that “outdoor” scene at Area 51. Honestly I spent more time looking at the background than at what was going on in the scene because I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that it looked like a shot from the original Star Trek series where they filmed in a soundstage and tried to make it look like the a planet exterior.

    And yeah, the jungle scenes… there were about 3 hits to the crotch too many, and the it seemed like the two vehicles during the sword fight were riding on rails or on a freshly paved road instead of a just-created, rough trail.

    Did you know that there were over 450(!) CGI shots in this movie???


  2. Oh, and what was up with the over use of CGI gophers??? Once would have been funny, but jeez…


  3. Niall-
    Your review falls pretty much un line with mine. It was an enjoyable movie experience for sure, but I think that those of us (me in particular…) may fall prey to our expectations of how the movie is executed technically. All your observations are right on the mark.

    Did anyone else jump and get a subsequent nervous laugh when Indy pops up and blows the dart back into the mayan’s throat???

    I loved that bit and found it to be refreshingly original.

    I just wish that I could go see a film like this through a child’s eyes, with no knowledge of how the shots were achieved, or any concern over how it stacks up against its predicessors, don’t you?

    P.S. Vic-
    I agree the gophers were overused, but you have to admit…he looked a lot better than he did in Caddy Shack! 😉

  4. Speaking of overused CGI, did anyone else notice that Indy’s first use of his bullwhip in the film was CGI’ed (where he yanks the gun out of the Russian soldier’s hands and has it land in Ray Winstone’s)? I mean, it was completely distracting! How can you not use practical effects there?

  5. “Did you know that there were over 450(!) CGI shots in this movie???” – Vic

    I wonder if Spielberg et. al. remember that the original “Raiders” (still the best) didn’t have any CGI shots and yet still produced practical effects shots that stand up even today.

  6. Yep, that was one stinky flick! Horrible!

  7. Jersey, of course they do. The CGI issue has been raised by many and the response has been that they used the most VFX they had at the time and they did the same today.


  8. I know, it’s just I expected a bit more wisdom about where each kind of effect is best used: practical vs. CGI.

    My point was that in several cases practical effects would have been better suited than the CGI they used in the film.

  9. Naill,

    I think you may have seen this movie with your Indy blinders on. I didn’t think it was that good. Maybe 3 out of 5 at best. It severely lacked the “feel” of the first three movies. And while some of the action was very good some stuff i just sat there saying to myself, or my brother who was beside me, “Oh c’mon”. Maybe it was because i saw Ironman right before going in to see this one but I was disappointed. And aliens? Seriously, aliens?

  10. Great Review:

    Interestingly enough it’s been 48 hours since i’ve seen Indy 4 and the more I think about it, the movie is really growing on me. Same with any of you other guys?

    I think that probably like others, I already had imagined how this film should be and since it wasn’t, I was pretty disappointed. BUT, after remembering parts I laughed at, and action scenes I enjoyed I really want to see this movie again so I can focus more on the plot and fun dialogue.

    Maybe it wasn’t as bad as I had originally thought it was. I come to this reasoning because I have a BIG desire to go and see it again.

  11. Nope, it hasn’t grown on me. I posted elsewhere that I tried watching it a second time, got bored and walked out.

    On the other hand although I’ve already seen Iron Man three times I’m getting the itch to go see it again.


  12. nowhereman says, I just wish that I could go see a film like this through a child’s eyes, with no knowledge of how the shots were achieved, or any concern over how it stacks up against its predecessors, don’t you?

    Totally agree with you on this one and because this is what I did I thoroughly loved it. I have seen it twice already and will most definitely have a 3rd viewing again this week!

  13. I am with Simone on this one,
    I saw it and LOVED it!
    Sorry that others here didnt like it.
    I hope this isnt the last Indy adventure.

  14. I agree with Simone, I’m going to go and see it again next week.

    This time, I’m just going to enjoy the movie and not compare and critique it with the other Indy films like I did on the first viewing.

  15. I will be checking it out again. I hope that I still enjoy it and what I didn’t like is less obvious on a second viewing.


  16. Well, I just got back from my second viewing of Indy 4 and I have to tell you guys, it was soooooooo much better than the first time.

    I actually figured out the plot and found myself smiling at all the good scenes. The crazy thing is the jungle chase scene. CGI or not, I break a sweat just watching it. It’s something that hasn’t happened to me in a movie for some time.

    The second time was pure FUN and I would recommend another viewing to anyone who was skeptic the first time or who just wants to understand the plot better.

    First viewing I gave it 3 out of 4 stars and my second time oddly enough it’s now 4 out of 4!

  17. The desert scenes were incredible. For whatever reason they truly captured the late ’50s for me. The jungle scenes were okay, but the ending just didn’t make sense. Were the aliens good or bad? If they were bad did Jone bringing them back to life hurt the world? If they were good what good did they do for the world. Total Recall had the alien technology helping the heroes save the planet. If Indy hadn’t helped the aliens — so what? the bad guys would have been destroyed by the aliens anyway. So my question is what is the story about? There just was no real story.

  18. Rapid, in response to your comment – I wouldn’t say the aliens were “Good” or “bad”. They just awaited the return of the lost skull.

    However, the crystal skeletons’hive mind/the alien entity with them obviously was aware Irina and co wanted to use its powers for nothing but bad reasons. (The skulls have psychic connections, remember,and Irina even stated in front of one what she intended to do with its power).

    Without Indy the Russians probably would have perished anyway – but Indy didn’t know that. Also, it kind of echoes The Last Crusade – even Raiders. The Nazis would have opened the ark, and they’d have died anyway and the ark would have been lost forever on a unknown small island. – The Grail was a “No prize” as its powers didn’t work over the seal.

  19. See, there is the difference. The original Star Wars trilogy and Indiana Jones Trilogies have always been special to me. Though I used to rag on temple of doom for many reasons, it’s still acceptable.

    But Mr Lucas has lost it. Even those who you used to respect can lose it. The man can’t write his way out of a wet paper bag anymore. He’s no longer innovative, and the CGI? I agree that it’s souless… Why? Seriosuly? When you had awesome truck chase scene from the original indiana jones do you need this cartoonish cheesie CGI stuff? It’s not just this movie, it was the star wars prequels too.
    He put Aliens as the main plot? Area 51? Nooo!

    But what really lost my respect for him was his remastering of the original movies. Changing things like Han shooting first, or all the stuff he threw in the background, putting Christianson in Jedi. And that’s all fine, but give us the originals to have… it’s like davinci changing the mono lisa… and not letting us see the original. It’s art in it’s original form, let us have the option.

    OK, this is available now.. finally, but for a man who was originally upset at colorizing the three stooges because it was modifying a classic in it’s original form? This guy just lost all my respect years ago.

    Thinks I hate:

    – CGI
    – Jar Jar Binks
    – All of episode II
    – Mitochlorians.. thanks for ruining the magic of the force… really
    – Space Alien plot in IJ4
    – and i’ll throw in an oldy. ewoks….

  20. Hi Steve, the original Indy and original Star Wars have also always been very special to me. And for the record – I never had a problem with Temple of Doom myself.

    I lost respect for George Lucas with the Star Wars prequels, they were totally awful on all levels. The characters were awful, the fact rubber aliens had been replaced totally with CGI, and CGI landscapes – everything was CGI. I don’t hate or dislike CGI itself, but when an entire film is made up of it – it ruins it. However, although Indy 4 had CGI within, it really didn’t have a lot compared to most movies now days and I advise you watch the making DVD if you haven’t cause there is a lot that could be mistaken for CGI within it, that isn’t.

    ALiens as a plot doesn’t bother me, they tried to link it to a relgious aspect which is what Indy is about, I liked the angle they took. Although they could have done it better.

    As for Ewoks, I really never disliked them. I just always saw them as a representation of pureness and simplicity to express how bonding/care can overthrow cold evil (the empire). Mitochlorians suck however.