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As Long as We Remember...

May 30, 2008

Indy Adventures On

Edward Lulie III

“Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” reunites star Harrison Ford with Karen Allen in another adventure epic. While time may have added wrinkles and a few creases the movie formula still works.


This time it is 1957 and the foe is Russian, not Nazi. However the henchmen are still largely comic foils, although Cate Blanchet is just great as Spalko, the dark haired foe set to gain power for mother Russia and good communists everywhere. Her minions are very dangerous to movie extras but the main characters are by and large immune to explosions, bullets and blunt trauma.


It doesn’t matter, this is a comic book come to life. Forget all about the plot, it really doesn’t matter. This film coming 27 years after the first classic is all about storyboards and action. Lots of action, pretty much non-stop from the beginning. There is no great message or statement about saving the planet or anything else, but hey, it’s an Indiana Jones Movie!


A pleasant surprise was that at age 65 Harrison Ford can still play an action hero; and he does it well. Sean Connery (who played Indy’s dad in “The Last Crusade”) managed that feat as well for many years but is only in this movie as a prop photograph (obviously no longer in the Jones Universe in 1957).


Indy is back, grayer and creased more, but still tough. Anyone remember Randolph Scott? Harrison Ford reminds me of him at his best. Mr. Ford demonstrated that he still has the talent and charisma to keep making these films for years to come.


Back in 1981“Raiders of the Lost Ark” surprised critics and beguiled movie lovers when it hit the screen. Steven Spielberg and George Lucas had made a movie with little social commentary and less art, hence the critic’s disappointment. They never saw the wild popularity of what was clearly an action film and – with few exceptions – begrudged its success; but the public loved it and still does.


The movie was primarily homage to the old B-level Saturday afternoon adventure movies. It was never about art; it was all about entertainment. This hero was terrified of snakes, but fearless in every other aspect. The action sequences were stunning, if unbelievable. The scenery was great and the acting surprisingly good.


The formula continued as the public wanted more; so they made the very forgettable “Temple of Doom” followed by a much better “Last Crusade.” Crusade was the best movie since Raiders, only faltering in the final scenes with an ending that really didn’t work. Still the “Last Crusade” had scene stealer – Sean Connery. Last Crusade was released in May 1989, almost 20 years ago.


Mr. Lucas and Mr. Spielberg finally got back together to make another Indy film. The old formula is pretty worn in 2008. It hangs together because movie goers generally aren’t going for educational or cultural enlightenment; they just want to be entertained. If the price of admission is to leave reality in the parking lot, so be it.


As long as the sound effects and visual images are impressive and they can enjoy what the actors (and actresses) are doing on screen, then movie goers are happy. They tell friends who go to see it, and the money flows in.


Where critics see the bad lighting, poor continuity and obvious defects, the general public is mostly oblivious, for them it is a question of “if” they enjoyed the film. This movie is (as many critics complained) essentially a long amusement park ride. You get the impression that the plans for an actual park ride were being drawn up along with the movie script and are awaiting the final approval depending on the films box office receipts.


 In this outing Indy is older, perhaps wiser and Mr. Ford carries off the part masterfully. Here he is back again as Indy doing stunts and kicking….well you know. By the way, Harrison Ford says that he did all his own stunts in this movie. Now I will concede that he looked very sharp and spry scaling a mound of crates but were all of the stunts actually done by him personally?


Well I suppose in Hollywood they were never supposed to all be his stunts in the first place. By my standards doing any stunts at age 65 is remarkable. Yet do we really believe that is Harrison Ford swinging dangerously across the screen?


Do I care?


Well, yes, actually I do care. I’d like to see Harrison Ford continue to be healthy so he can keep making more films for years to come.


If he actually is doing all the stunts that you see in this movie then he has discovered the secret of eternal youth and needs to share it with us.


            Hollywood may make more Indy movies after the success of this film. While the formula may be a bit threadbare, it is something that has worn well over the passage of time. Like a favorite pair of old blue jeans, faded, with a hole or two, but comfortable. You prefer them not for making a fashion statement but purely for comfort.


Film critics may despair at the public’s adoration of something so totally without artistic or social messages; but this is a movie all about forgetting reality and enjoying the ride as Harrison Ford dons his fedora yet again.


It may not be artistic or stylish, but it is enjoyable; if you want a few hours of escapist entertainment then take the time and go see it. “Crystal Skull” is like those jeans, it’s not fashionable but it is comfortable.


That’s why the formula still works.


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