Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
After a 19-year break, Indiana Jones, the world’s greatest adventurer and probably the world’s worst ever archaeologist — listen, even I know you can’t go around ripping open ancient mummies whenever you so fancy — is back. He is back because he has to find an ancient crystal skull before the Russians do, because the Russians want to use its knowledge to open a chain of aromatherapy salons or, failing that, to rule the world. Yes, it is our old friend global domination. So off he goes on the hunt, narrowly escaping — phew!; he really had me scared there for a minute! — from various dangers. These include gunfire, missiles, oncoming trucks, arrows, poisoned blow darts, bad Russians, perpendicular waterfalls, crumbling buildings, more bad Russians, retracting steps, cliff-edge car chases, screeching ghouls, a tornado of boulders, scorpions, quicksand, yet more bad Russians, being fired half-way across the Nevada desert in a fridge, quickmud, crispy giant red ants, mad monkeys that go ‘chee chee chee’, swords, rapiers, and a nuclear attack. I bet that, at some point, he wished he’d just gone to Brent Cross Shopping Centre for the afternoon. Actually, I once whipped in quick to steal someone else’s parking space at Brent Cross and got a punch in the face for it. So I am only saying that Brent Cross is comparatively safer.
I suppose the fairest thing to say about Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is that if this is the sort of film that gets you excited then you will get excited about this, and if it isn’t then you won’t. However, that said, this is not the sort of film I like and yet I didn’t mind it. Is that any kind of recommendation? That I didn‘t mind it? Anyway, everything happens so dizzyingly fast and with such a dazzling disregard for any kind of realism it sort of doesn’t matter that the plot is a silly rambling nonsense or that Harrison Ford is now 312. Or is it 420? I wouldn’t put it past Harrison to knock a few years off.
Written and produced by George Lucas, directed by Steven Spielberg, it is the fourth film in the franchise, and it is set, this time, in 1957, at the height of the Cold War. Here, our baddest baddie is Cate Blanchett as KGB agent Irina Spalko, a woman of such sharp lines she looks like she’s been created using a geometry set. She also has a hammer and sickle and ‘cccp’ stitched on to the back of her outfit, just in case you are in any doubt. Indy is joined, too, by Shia LaBeouf as rebellious teenager Mutt, who rides into the movie on a motorbike and is meant, I think, to evoke Brando but doesn’t. (‘Even I look more like Brando,’ says my goldfish, Bubbles.) Indy is also reunited with his long-lost love Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen), who last appeared in Raiders of the Lost Ark), while John Hurt, who probably has the best voice in the whole of actordom, plays a deranged archaeologist who is also largely mute.
Happily for fans, I guess, Crystal Skull does exactly what it says on the reel can. There are maps, biplanes, those vehicles with the little red line showing how you are hopscotching over the globe, and one of those letters written as a riddle in an ancient code. I do wish the people who write these would just tell it straight every now and then, as in: the treasure you seek is behind the sofa. It would save a lot of time and trouble. But while the film is distracting, while there is nothing to mind, it is never properly absorbing. The quips are lame, any suspense is cancelled by the fact you know no one is ever going to get hurt — or grazed, or wet even after a tumble down that perpendicular waterfall, or even dirty after having been sucked up to the neck in quickmud — and as for the characters, well. They aren’t awarded any internal happenings at all. Even Bubbles is less shallow. (‘All in all, I have quite a lot going for me,’ says Bubbles.) I know, I know, this sort of film is never about psychological insights, but neither was Bond until Daniel Craig took over and showed you could take an adventure, bish-bash-bosh, stunt-spilling franchise and transform it into something substantial. This does not mean that I wish to see Harrison Ford in his Speedos. I do not. Plus, as he is now 312, or maybe 420, I think it would be unfair to expect it of him.
So, a film to like for anyone who likes this sort of film. And that’s it? Yes. What more do you want from me? I’ll ask Bubbles. Bubbles, what more do they want from me? ‘I don’t know. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go tune up my motorbike.’