I think there was a time when most 'Indiana Jones' fans considered 'Last Crusade' to be Indy's final project. It was good at bringing back old characters, it was about the search for the ultimate treasure, AND it ended with our heroes riding off into the sunset. It would have been a glowing film to leave the franchise on, and between that and this, there was a damn near twenty-year gap! However, with the big nostalgia boom of the time (which we still see a lot of today), it was only a matter of time before we started seeing the posters for a new 'Indiana Jones' movie.
Of course, I was 100% in for this and psyched as all hell. But it did soon teach me a thing or two about getting "overhyped". This was something I felt quite strongly didn't "fit" right with the rest of the series. Yet... I saw it three times. The first time was kind of a gimme, the second time was with some friends who paid my admission (thanks again), and the third was for Father's Day, which ultimately meant I DID still pay for three tickets. Anyway, when I first reviewed this over Facebook of all things (I used to be a little more "in your face" with these), the review didn't exactly glow as bright as the Shankara stones when you put them all together. I had a few choice words to say and wasn't as lenient with the way I reviewed things.
Since I hadn't personally seen it since way back then, I decided to go into it with a much more open mind and look for the things that felt right this time. And I'm happy to say that while I still strongly consider this the weakest of the franchise, I was still able to find some things I liked about it. They all seem to present themselves in "moments", however, as I still have a very big problem with the film's overall style. However, I'm decidedly gonna be a little nicer about things this time and suggest what I "didn't like" rather than just tell everyone about how badly it sucked. With that, let's get to the basic central plot where we get Indy getting involved with an alien skull... which is something I feel any real Indiana Jones fan would read and have a less-than-positive response to.
Taking place in 1957, 19 years after 'Last Crusade', Indy (Harrison Ford) is kidnapped by KGB agents, along with his partner, George "Mac" MicHale (Ray Winstone). The Russians, with these two in their trunk, infiltrate a secret government base in Nevada, labelled "Hangar 51". With this, you're pretty much there for it, or not, because this sets the tone for everything to come. This is not the typical Indiana Jones adventure, and you're gonna be in for something different than what you're used to if you're a fan. I will give the film a certain amount of creative credit in that it holds onto the supernatural element that tends to come with these films, and it does so in a solid way for the late 50s, considering the "Roswell Incident" that took place ten years earlier, and the idea that the 50s era does lend itself to a good sci-fi alien story.
The Russians, led by Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett) make Indy retrieve what seems to be an alien corpse from this facility, which he was forced to help retrieve from the UFO incident. A pretty decent fight ensues in which we get a good amount of Indy fan service, although, the Area 51 thing might feel a little too on the nose at times. Our hero does eventually escape, although it's revealed that Mac is a double agent, and we further learn that Indy has some kind of superpowers that keep him safe from nukes but... that's just a whole other thing I could write a load of paragraphs on that I won't get into. Let's fast-forward to the point where we meet "Mutt" Williams (Shia LaBeouf). You know his big reveal by how carelessly thrown together his nickname is if you remember a big end-of-film punchline from 'Last Crusade'.
Mutt finds Indy and informs him that his former colleague, Harold Oxley (John Hurt) found a crystal skull in Peru, but has since been kidnapped along with his mother, Marion (Karen Allen, making her return). This ultimately sends Indy and Mutt on a mission to not only find and rescue "Ox" and Marion, but figure out what this crystal skull business is all about, and what the Russians want with it. One thing that occurred to me this time around is that some of the more obvious things I criticized it for before could have been written on purpose, not only to keep it relatively simple but again, to fit the supernatural element of the 50s era. Indeed, this does include the film being a bit cheesy at times. I think I feel a little better about it now than I did at first, understanding what Spielberg was really going for... but... that doesn't mean it's necessarily good either.
Although I'm looking at this in a new light, there's still a good handful of issues with it that I can't overlook. The biggest thing for me was an overuse of CG, when we know full well that the practicality of the previous films was part of what made them so good. This felt much less "On-location" and much more "in our studio". Further to that, I wasn't a big fan of the dynamic between these characters, namely the fact that this does the whole "bickering couple for laughs" thing once in a while, which for me, ruins just about everything. It's always a cheap laugh in my opinion, much like farting just for the sake of making a funny noise. It's also just the stubborn Indiana Jones fan in me who ultimately feels that something's just off about this one, and it doesn't fall into place quite right. I can give it credit for what it tried to do, and for being different, but that doesn't mean the rest of it is necessarily good in its execution.
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