Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

When I began this blog, I intended to concentrate on the obscure – no major Hollywood releases. Just this once, I’ve decided to make an exception and depart from my usual format…

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull opened in theaters during 2008, but I consciously avoided seeing it until just a couple weeks ago (2014). Why? I call it “Sequel After a Long Hiatus Syndrome (SAALHS).” SAALHS is a serious condition that primarily affects successful, beloved entertainment franchises that have lain dormant for some years (an exception to the “successful and beloved” rule is Tron, only a modest money-maker upon its release in 1982. For some reason Disney thought it worthy of a big-budget sequel 28 years later, and it grossed over 400 million). Sooner or later, often for financial reasons, Hollywood decides to exhume the moldy remains of a franchise and see if it can be made to work just one more time.

The prognosis for victims of SAALHS is almost universally negative. The three Star Wars prequels are one good example, and the less said about Blues Brothers 2000, the better. Sometimes a franchise can fight its way through SAALHS, coming out stronger on the other side – the new series of Doctor Who is a great example. But far too often, a SAALHS diagnosis might as well be a death sentence. I was none to eager for the Indiana Jones films to join my personal list of SAALHS casualties. I’d heard the jokes – Indiana Jones and the Search for an Effective, Gentle Laxative, etc. I’d seen the reviews, including the rather scathing South Park send-up. Still, I thought it was now time to give the film  a chance to stand – or fall – on its own merits.

My verdict: though it’s certainly the weakest of the Indiana Jones films, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (from here on referred to as IJ&tKotCS – I’m tired of typing the full title) is still solid entertainment. I didn’t experience the desire to deny its very existence, as I did with Blues Brothers 2000. Strangely, many of the most criticized aspects of the film – Indy surviving a nuclear blast inside a refrigerator, the mere presence of Shia LaBeouf, etc. – didn’t really bother me much. I wouldn’t usually describe Cate Blanchett as “sexy,” but I found her strangely appealing as badass Soviet villainess Irina Spalko (though I did keep expecting a short, mustachioed fellow named “Boris” to step out of the shadows and join her at any moment). Harrison Ford remained convincing as an older, wiser Indy, and I enjoyed seeing Karen Allen’s return to the world of Indiana Jones, even if the chemistry between the two seemed a bit forced.

Don’t worry – I’ll drop no further spoilers – but IJ&tKotCS had me playing along until the very end. It may seem strange to criticize anything in the Indiana Jones franchise for being too “over the top” – after all, we’re talking about a series of films that’s brought us melting Nazis and a 700-year-old veteran of the Crusades – but the final act of IJ&tKotCS lost me completely. I simply couldn’t maintain my suspension of disbelief.

Was IJ&tKotCS as bad as I feared? No. But it wasn’t up to the standard of the first three films, either. All in all, that’s not a bad outcome when you’re fighting a bad case of SAALHS.

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