movie review: indiana jones and the kingdom of the oh whatever

Ok it’s late.  I saw Indy 4 last night (this morning?) at midnight, didn’t get much sleep and spent the whole day hard at work tossing Vipers around and bitching about the movie.   It’s past midnight now so this will be a short, spoiler-free review, but see the picture up above?  That’s basically how I feel about it…

I know, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but after you see the movie you’ll get it.  Then you’ll come back here and take another look at this post and you’ll laugh your ass off.   It’s weird, I didn’t hate the movie, and neither did the other members of the Super Summer Movie Fun Club, Go!  But well into the night, we were foaming at the mouth, expressing our frustration about how much was wrong with the film.  A frustration that, 24 hours later, still drives me to doing this:



It’s most likely because Temple of the Crystal Skull starts out on the right foot.  We are all pretty much in agreement that, with one glaring, monstrous, unforgivable exception (see above images), the entire first act of the movie was really good.  Despite the intense feeling of anticippointment that has built up over the last few months, we were actually beginning to think we’d be in for a fun, smart, grinning ear-to-ear ride.  Maybe all those lowered expectations was the real movie magic!

But then the floor dropped out and our already lowered expectations were dumped into the sub-basement – which then collapsed, tumbling what was left of our hopes for this movie into a bottomless pit.

After the first act, it seems like everyone just stops trying.  Harrison stops acting, Steven hands the director’s chair over to George and George is too busy playing with his digital monkeys.  The movie becomes little more than an exercise in connecting the dots between action sequences (and when screenwriter David Keopp connects the dots, it’s not with a fine-quilled pen; more like a can of black spray paint).

And speaking of action sequences… remember all that talk from the production camp that Kingdom Of The Christmas Skull  was going to be a return to old-school action?  That they were unplugging their computers and focusing on stunts, physical effects and “keeping it real?”

Come on, George, do you honestly believe people can’t tell the difference between real and fake??



The computer-enhanced action went so far over the top it’s in orbit right now.  Even the old movie serials made some effort to have you believe what the hero did was possible, and part of that was because it was a real actor on a real set fighting real guys; it inherently looked more plausible because it was real.  When you “enhance” an action sequence past the point of physical possibility, guess what?  No one buys it.  And when no one buys it, they stop caring and when they stop caring, no matter how much action you throw at them, they get bored.

Part of the charm of the original Raiders was that things didn’t always go right for Indy; he’d get into a scrape, his clever plan would go wrong and he’d just manage to squeak his way out of it.  Not only was it believable, it was charming.  It said “here’s a guy who thinks he’s an action hero but he’s just a regular, falible guy like you and me.”

In Kingpin of the Crispy School,  there is no attempt whatsoever to make you believe; early in the film they acknowledge that Indy is now sixty, seemingly to plant seeds for later, but they are never sewn; “Grandpa” Jones gets into impossible situation after impossible situation, simply punching, shooting and driving his way to victory as if he were thirty.

And so I was bored.  Ok, sure, I know Indy’s not going to die, but at least hold my attention with an interesting or inventive way out!

Ultimately, despite my kvetching, I think Cream Bun of A Pistol Dull  has an enjoyment factor slightly ahead of Temple of Doom  and Last Crusade,  largely for the wonderful first act.  In describing the rest of the movie, I think Princess Leia said it best when she told Han, “you have your moments – not many of them, but you do have them.”



Super Summer Movie Fun Club, Go! members crack their bullwhips:

STEVE: 5/10 (with RAIDERS) 7/10 (without RAIDERS)

For my money, the original RAIDERS is a perfect film of its type.  It’s difficult for me to judge CRYSTAL SKULL against it because the sequel feels like it takes place in a completely different universe — just as TEMPLE OF DOOM and LAST CRUSADE do.  In my opinion, NONE of these movies are truly worthy follow-ups, so I choose to compare the new film only to the earlier prequel & sequel.  SKULL doesn’t have the demented energy/grating humor of DOOM, or the gentle schmaltz/insulting self-parody of CRUSADE.  For better or worse, it feels more even and unified in a way the other movies do not.  The opening act of SKULL is terrific, but unfortunately it transitions into somewhat dull and meandering midsection (flabby, like an old man?), before coming to an intriguing finale.  Spalko is the best villain since Belloq, and Mutt is a surprisingly effective sidekick.  The biggest disappointments to me were two things I was most looking forward to: Karen Allen and the John Williams score.  While it’s clearly no RAIDERS, I think this is clearly the best of the other three.  (Yes, I liked the fridge.  So sue me.)


24 Responses to “movie review: indiana jones and the kingdom of the oh whatever”

  1. May 23, 2008 at 2:54 am

    You crushed my soul :(

    Now I’ll just wait for the Blu-Ray release.

  2. May 23, 2008 at 5:42 am

    Dammit, your enigmatic refrigerators post has me curious to see it now.

  3. May 23, 2008 at 7:35 am

    This makes me sad for three reasons:
    1. Typically I try to ignore reviews and then I’m delighted by lowered expectations.
    2. You were soooo right about Speed Racer that I know you’ll be right about this.
    3. I have tickets to see it tonight.

    We’ll see if you follow your mark on reviews… ;)

  4. 4 Captain Otter
    May 23, 2008 at 8:46 am

    No, really, don’t hold back. What did you think?

  5. May 23, 2008 at 8:57 am

    It’s not soul-crushing bad, Peter, it’s just not as good as it could have been.

  6. May 23, 2008 at 9:04 am

    The fact that we were “promised” more physical effects and less CGI and then not even using real monkeys for a 1 minute scene was the most frustrating thing for me.

    Frakkin’ monkeys…..

  7. 7 Sofos
    May 23, 2008 at 11:54 am

    As midi-chlorians are to the Star Wars prequels… now Aliens are to Indy.

    It was like watching a really bad episode of the Young Indy TV series.

    Thanks Uncle George… again.

  8. May 23, 2008 at 12:29 pm

    Great review Mojo, pretty much what I wrote on my blog about it.

    Love the refrigerators…I mean, WTF was that about?

  9. May 23, 2008 at 4:49 pm

    Hi there,

    Just arrived from the cinema, and i must admit i can vouch every single word Mojo said. I also agree on his decision on not spoiling the plot (many people haven´t yet seen it).
    There´s a lot to be said about that fridge…hmmmm

    I also read on the promised non-CG approach, and was surprised not only at the amount of shots with some kind of CG present in the flick, but also on the apparent quality of many of them. Is it me, or they have gone mad with motion-blur? There were times were the softness and lack of detail of some backgrounds was too evident and couldn´t be bought on DOF alone.

    At certain times my brain was wording (silently, of course), hey that´s like in The Mummy, hey boy, that´s like in X-Files, hey, look at that …. whatever.

    Though entertaining, i expected a bit more, and a more solid plot. This one won´t age as well as it´s predecessors, i´m afraid.

  10. 10 amayala
    May 23, 2008 at 5:34 pm

    I have to disagree about the refrigerator. I predicted it before it happened because it made the most logical sense to me, but when I saw the scene actually play out, it definitely defied reality in a really far-out, far-fetched, beyond even the scope of Indiana Jones kind of way. Sorry. Although I did like the movie and how it tied in some of the very real concerns of the 1950’s. The ideas behind it were actually quite accurate to some of the speculations of the time period. I also liked that it kept some of the cheesiness and the typical Indy stuff. The “rope” sequence made no sense, however. My husband turned to me later and said, “But didn’t he have a bullwhip?”

  11. 11 darthmojo
    May 23, 2008 at 6:23 pm

    I don’t think we’re disagreeing about the fridge since we both thought it was ludicrous. So many of the ludicrous moments could have worked if they had just reeled it in a little; I think the audience goes into an Indiana Jones movie prepared to suspend disbelief and accept a very generous helping of fantasy – in this case, however, the film makers took advantage of the audience and expected us to just believe anything.

  12. 12 Simon
    May 23, 2008 at 6:28 pm

    ILM uses quite a few miniatures still…a lot of people mistake them for CG.

  13. 13 calmixx
    May 23, 2008 at 6:55 pm

    You know the coolest thing about Raiders? When they wanted a guy to hang off the back of a truck . . . they had a guy HANG OFF THE BACK OF A TRUCK. Sure they sped up the film, but it was an ACTUAL person hanging off an ACTUAL truck on an ACTUAL road.

    If you recall, Temple of Doom was a very big deal because for the first time, they had “robotic dummys” that flailed around when they fell off an actual rope bridge.

    That seemed cutting edge at the time and all they did was shake their arms.

    All the CGI in this movie is horrible and just reminds you of how badly they screwed up Star Wars.

    Tell the truth Mojo, the real reason you didn’t want to spoil the plot was because it doesn’t even matter. Apparently they spent 20 years looking for the right script and then made this one anyway. It wasn’t terrible, but man – Indiana Jones and the quest for those damn kids who won’t get off my lawn . . .


  14. May 24, 2008 at 7:20 am

    Yeah, but apparently it has Kermit The Frog in it and when I see the movie…Oh God, I’m gonna hate this, aren’t I?

  15. 15 Boris
    May 24, 2008 at 9:05 am

    Overall, it is a solid Indiana Jones movie, which I enjoyed a lot more than my recent sixth-or-so viewing of “Raiders of the Lost Ark” (perhaps it doesn’t hold up to multiple viewings?). It could use a few more gags, although there are plenty throughout the film, but the first act is fantastic, especially the ingenious way of using “Hound Dog” to hit you with the timeframe and not try to make-believe it’s still 1938. The Paramount lair is a nice little twist, which almost made me believe I was watching yet another commercial, though it would’ve been more accurate to the original intent if they had used the new Paramount logo instead.

    I don’t feel the movie is significantly out of step with the previous trilogy in terms of realism or otherwise. Yes, it could’ve absolutely done without the refrigerator scene, but when in doubt, Indiana Jones movies should strive to be more fantastic, which includes an excessive use of CGI to make them look like they were made on a TV-or-worse budget, because that’s exactly what the old serials would’ve used if CGI had existed back then, and I presume the old Indy movies as well, given the making-of note about using serial and television techniques to save money, consistent with the overall “modern serial” approach.

    I mean, what is the difference between using horrid effects as in the old Flash Gordon serials (real animals painted to look alien, obvious spaceship miniatures, cardboard costumes) and unnecessary, possibly even bad CGI? It translates to the same visual language. Yes, there are elements that used to look more realistic because of physical constraints, but I’ll take a CGI matte painting over a painted animal any day. The new Star Wars trilogy is a different story, however — you expect it to revolutionize visual effects and absolutely not look like a low-budget feature in terms of effects or otherwise, which is it ended up being relatively disappointing.

  16. 16 ElHombre
    May 24, 2008 at 5:55 pm

    Just saw the movie today. Most of what Mojo has said is on the mark. I didn’t mind the fridge scene, though. It and a historically approporiate way to start a fight scene in the Fifities helped bring Indy into the reality of the two decade gap. Aaand then… ouch.

  17. May 25, 2008 at 4:06 am

    Oh god..I’m mundo apprehensive now:( I’ll let you know how I faired in a bit….

  18. 18 ety3
    May 25, 2008 at 2:22 pm

    The fridge didn’t bother me. The aliens don’t bother me. Cate Blanchett’s accent doesn’t bother me.

    What bothers me is … how can Henry Jones Sr. be dead? He drank from the Holy Grail?

    That’s what’s bugging me.

  19. 19 Boris
    May 26, 2008 at 2:23 pm

    You have chosen wisely. But the
    Grail cannot pass beyond the
    Great Seal. That is the boundary
    and the price of immortality.

  20. May 26, 2008 at 4:31 pm

    The fridge didn’t bother me at all for two reasons:
    1) The sequences “AW – come ON!” potential rests upon a sliding scale which is dependent on withheld information. In other words, if we’d been told that the shot was one megaton or higher well, yeah – we’ve got a new definition of “ridiculous”. Supposing two or three kilotons, however, and I’m totally on board with it, ‘specially on account of the lead-lining.
    2) This ain’t Jason Bourne – it’s Indiana frakkin’ Jones. That still carries a lot of water where I come from.

  21. May 27, 2008 at 1:01 am

    OK, it was good….I really enjoyed the majority of it.
    My only gripes really were that Shia and Karen could have been used more…Karen’s dialogue in particular seemed stilted. There were some great moments, and some really fun ones…BUT perhaps it’s just me, it’s never the same when your heroes get older.
    Or is that when you get older? Oh blimey…..

    Anyways, 7.5/10 for me.


  22. 22 Captain Sidney
    May 31, 2008 at 2:09 pm

    Raiders of the Lost Ark won worldwide adoration because of the hero Indiana Jones. Because Jones was believable, even in unbelievable situations! Every single event Jones participated in during that film “felt” believable and real. Jones got scarred and scared! We, the movie viewer, could identify with him. The entire gist of those old movie serials was that the hero worked his ass off to make it out alive and with the girl! That’s what Raiders did perfectly. Temple of Doom, not so much. Last Crusade,IMHO, got back on track and added Dad to up the ante – it “felt” better.

    Crystal Skull was an ill conceieved plot, filled with “stunts” that weren’t believable. For an Indiana Jones movie to rip you right out of the realm of it’s believability and deposit you back into your movie seat with full realization that you are now watching a movie and not enjoying an incredible adventure 19 years in the making…is just plain wrong. George Lucas has officially “lost it”. All it took for him to prove it was Anakin Skywalkers easy turn to the darkside and a damned “lead lined” refridgerator!!

    Hell, the Marvel comic book series had better stories and adventures for Indy! And that series stunk!

    Shia was not believable at all! Karen Allen was wasted and Cate Blanchette was … goofy.
    The villains were not believable at all!

    I did love the hints dropped about Indy’s “secret agent” days. That was intriguing!

    Thank you for letting me share my thoughts.

  23. June 2, 2008 at 10:50 pm

    Well, I got a kick out of “Indiana Bones and the Tube of Bengay”
    or whatever it was called… LOL ! Sherpa LaBoof was OK as a
    “greaser”, and the monkeys made me laugh. Karen Allen RULES !
    Your review however, (I must admit) is priceless ! :-)

  24. September 1, 2008 at 10:58 am

    Unfortunately I have to agree with you, mojo. I saw the movie last night and my review mentions many of the points you did as well. I liked seeing Harrison Ford on the big screen (as I was too young to see the other Indiana Jones movies in theaters), but the story was so weak I was just going “Oh my goodness” all the time. Karen Allen was very disappointing and it’s only due to a good chemistry between Shia and Harrison that the movie was somewhat entertaining.

    And I liked the fridge scene, as absurd as it was ;)

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May 2008

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