Indy 4: Initial Thoughts (no spoilers)

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal SkullI couldn’t make it to the local midnight showing of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, so instead I plumped for the next one on the largest local screen (which is also the cheapest student rate locally — hurrah!) A whole 11 hours extra waiting…

The film has now been out in the UK for just over 14 hours, and goodness knows how long elsewhere, not to mention last Sunday’s premiere at Cannes, so the ‘net is already packed with thousands of opinions and full-bodied reviews (almost 3,000 people have already rated it on IMDb, unsurprisingly placing it in the Top 250). Hundreds of thousands more will follow in the ensuing hours, days, weeks and years — I’m sure discussion of Indy isn’t going away soon. Nonetheless, I’m throwing out my thoughts onto my little plot of webspace, just in case anyone cares. I’ll post a proper review another time, but these are a quick handful of reactions having finished the film less than an hour ago. They are, as the title notes, spoiler-free.

From the first shot it’s clear that a playful, entertaining spirit will pervade the film. It’s a bit of a slow open after that, but once it kicks into gear it’s excitement all the way. There are several exciting sequences, most notably the much-trailed jungle chase, so there’s no disappointment there. It also has the best idea for a sword fight since Pirates of the Caribbean 2. The MacGuffin is decent enough — not as iconic as the Ark or the Holy Grail, perhaps, but it more than serves its purpose. There are fewer quotable lines than you might hope, but the dialogue is still witty. It’s occasionally a bit silly too, but most of it’s in-keeping with the near-B-movie spirit of the franchise.

Indy’s age is playfully acknowledged, but it doesn’t become an excuse — he still gets plenty of action and drives the story. There are nice references to his earlier adventures (including the TV series) and what he’s been doing for the last 20 years. Most fans will appreciate that, I think. One might argue (and some reviews have) that a few actors are underused in their supporting roles, but this is Ford’s film and they’re no worse than, say, Sallah in Raiders and Last Crusade — I doubt they cast John Hurt, for example, and then wrote him a relatively small part. As with the opening image, Spielberg ends the film with another playful beat aimed primarily at fans.

To rank Crystal Skull in relation to the original trilogy, it’s the third best — but that’s behind Raiders, a certified classic, and Last Crusade, one of the first films I ever saw and which I love dearly. Aside from those, it stands head and shoulders above many other action/adventure films. Will it hold up as well as Raiders has in 27 years’ time? Who can say. But right now, it’s damn fine entertainment.

A proper review of Kingdom of the Crystal Skull will appear as #32 in the next few days, following my review of Iron Man.