One of the most eagerly and long-awaited series follow-ups in screen history delivers the goods — not those of the still first-rate original, 1981’s “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” but those of its uneven two successors.
“Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” begins with an actual big bang, then gradually slides toward a ho-hum midsection before literally taking off for an uplifting finish.
Nineteen years after their last adventure, director Steven Spielberg and star Harrison Ford have no trouble getting back into the groove with a story and style very much in keeping with what has made the series so perennially popular. Few films have ever had such a high mass audience must-see factor, spelling giant May 22 openings worldwide and a rambunctious B.O. life all the way into the eventual “Indiana Jones” DVD four-pack.
Loaded with moments referencing the earlier films and full of action sequences that don’t measure up to past highlights of the series, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crustal Skull feels simultaneously self-conscious and self-satisfied, as if a little warm glow of past glory will soothe our bumps and blows from the clumsiness of the script.
The action sequences are nothing to write home about, either; there’s nothing here with the inspired delight of the mine chase in Temple of Doom, or the sheer, guts-and-glory greatness of the truck chase in Raiders.
I think most of us want Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull to be good, which it, sadly, is not.
Sections of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull are a great deal of fun.
I felt jazzed and charged during a good 60% or even 70% of it. I was more than delighted at times.
What a pleasure, I told myself over and over, to swim in a first-rate, big-budget action film that throws one expertly-crafted thrill after another at you, and with plotting that’s fairly easy to understand, dialogue that’s frequently witty and sharp, and performances — Harrison Ford, Shia LeBouf and Cate Blanchett’s, in particular — that are 90% pleasurable from start to finish.
I heard some guys say as they left the theatre, “It’s okay…it’s fine…it’s good enough.”
I talked to a guy who kind of wrinkled his face and went, “Not really…not for me.” But nobody hates it. It gave me no real pain, and a healthy amount of serious moviegoing pleasure. (Although I was, from time time, slightly bothered.) Fears of a DaVinci Code-styled beat-down were, it turns out, unfounded.
The world can rest easy – the old magic still works in Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull.
It may take some breathless, helter-skelter action to redeem the opening hour’s clunky storytelling, but the first Indy adventure in almost twenty years is like a fond reunion with an old friend and will not disappoint diehard fans or deter a new generation from embracing it as a summer blockbuster adventure ride.
This is money in the bank as far as exhibitors are concerned, but the relief of some critical support will do no harm to what is destined to stand as one of the year’s top moneymakers.
Director Steven Spielberg seems intent on celebrating his entire early career here.
Whatever the story there is, a vague journey to return a spectacular archeological find to its rightful home — an unusual goal of the old grave-robber, you must admit — gets swamped in a sea of stunts and CGI that are relentless as the scenes and character relationships are charmless.
…the fourth Indy installment isn’t really an attempt to retroactively create a Spielberg omniverse.
But David Koepp’s script, from a story by George Lucas and Jeff Nathanson and Herge and Edgar Rice Burroughs and Erik von Daniken and Carl Stephenson and…well, you get the idea…does tie together a good number of Spielbergian themes into an eventually pretty nifty package.
Yeah—this is, by my sights, the most fun and least irritating installment of the series since the first one.
There were plenty of justifiable reasons for such savagery toward “The Da Vinci Code.” There are few reasons for such a reaction to the new Indy.
The scene outside the Palais before the premiere was chaos. Dozens of journalists from top-flight publications — with the highest credentials possible for festival access — were shut out of the theater until just before the movie started. And many had to sit in uncomfortable, fold-down seats at the ends of the aisles.
Fans of the Indy series will enjoy the reunion of Harrison Ford and Karen Allen, as well as the introduction of Shia Labeouf.
Labeouf, who has stunts involving knives, vines, swords and motorcycles, is believable as the naive sidekick who is drawn into Indy’s wild world.
Cate Blanchett, as usual, is pitch-perfect as a villainous Soviet parapsychologist.
All they do is drop a few spoilers and indicate that they liked the movie more than the buzz… the buzz that didn’t much exist and that they propagated!!!
Really… there is nothing much to read here, especially if you don’t want to read spoilers, albeit fairly minor ones. There is nothing approaching a single graph of critical argument about the film… not even hack level criticism.
I just don’t get it. Isn’t The Times Of London supposed to be Traditional Media? Aren’t they supposed to act like adults?
My guess – just a guess – is that they feared printing a full review before the Cannes screening because they had made an agreement with Paramount in order to get early access to the movie.
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull has a gala premiere tonight and if you aren’t there you can follow the action via IFC’s Cannes webcam.
But the movie started to become a reality when, in 1977, Lucas was on holiday in Hawaii with his friend Steven Spielberg. The director of Jaws told him that wanted to make a Bond film, but Cubby Broccoli (then producer of the franchise) had turned him down twice.
Lucas said that he had his own concept for a hero (then called ‘Indiana Smith’) along similar lines – an archaeologist and adventurer inspired by the serials and comics he – and Spielberg – had enjoyed as children.
Production was based at Elstree Studios just outside of London and also shot in various locations around the world including La Rochelle (for the Nazi submarine base), Tunisia (for Egypt section ), Hawaii (for the opening jungle sequence) and the United States from June to September of 1980.
The film was a huge hit when it was released in June 1981 and became the biggest film of that year, eventually grossing $384 million worldwide.
It was also nominated for 8 Oscars (including Best Picture) and ended up winning for Sound, Editing, Art Direction and Visual Effects.
Here are some quick facts about Raiders:
The name Indiana Jones was inspired by the name of George Lucas’ dog Indiana and Steve McQueen’s eponymous character in the 1966 film Nevada Smith.
The opening shot of a mountain peak in the jungle is a reference to the the Paramount Pictures logo. Similar shots open the following two films.
Alfred Molina has a small role in the opening scene (‘throw me the idol!’) and it was his screen debut. On his first day of filming he was covered with tarantulas – it was not the last time he had trouble with spiders as many years later in 2004, he would star as Dr Octopus in Spider-Man 2.
The airplane Indy escapes on in the opening sequence has the number ‘OB-CPO’, which is a reference to Obi-Wan Kenobi and C-3PO from Star Wars.
Toht, the sadistic Nazi interrogator (‘Good evening Frauline!’), was played by British actor Ronald Lacey. He also played the character of Harris in the TV series Porridge. There are two strange coincidences involving Lacey and the film: he played The Bishop of Bath and Wells in an episode of Blackadder II in 1985 – a character who threatens people with a red hot poker. In Raiders, his character threatens Marion with a red hot poker in the opening scene. Also, Lacey starred in an episode of Magnum, PI in 1984 (The Case of the Red-Faced Thespian) – the very series that prevented Tom Selleck from starring as Indiana Jones.
The scene where Indy shoots a swordsman in the Cairo marketplace was scripted as a long fight, but Harrison Ford was suffering diarrhea at the time, and asked if it could be shortened. Spielberg joked that they could only do that if Indy pulled out his gun and just shot the guy. The scene worked so well that they kept it in.
An amateur shot-for-shot remake of Raiders was made by Chris Strompolos, Eric Zala and Jayson Lamb, who were children in Mississippi. Filmed over 7 years (1982-1989) it was known as Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation, it was rediscovered in 2003 and even acclaimed by Spielberg himself, who said he was impressed with the “very loving and detailed tribute” and “appreciated the vast amounts of imagination and originality” of the film.
INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM
Given the huge success of the first film, a sequel was an inevitability. In 1982 Spielberg made E.T., which even outstripped Raiders to become the biggest grossing film of all time.
When he unveiled E.T. at Cannes that year he was interviewed by Wim Wenders about the future of cinema:
Despite the financial pressures on studios and filmmakers in the early 80s, Spielberg had already established himself as the most successful filmmaker of his generation.
The film was technically a prequel as it is set in 1935, a year before the action in Raiders begins.
It opens with Indy in a Shanghai nightclub attempting to trade artifacts with a local gangster, only for it to go wrong. Indy escapes with the club’s singer, Wilhelmina “Willie” Scott (Kate Capshaw), with the help of a young sidekick called Short Round.
They get on a cargo plane and after it crashes in the Himalayan mountains they bail out and end up in a village in India ravaged by evil forces nearby. The villagers persuade Indy to retrieve the Sankara Stone and the kidnapped children of the village who are held captive at nearby Pankot Palace.
The production was again based at Elstree Studios and location shooting was done in Sri Lanka. However filming was disrupted when Harrison Ford injured his back. Despite this setback, Spielberg found a way to shoot around it, with stuntman Vic Armstrong as a stand in.
Here is the original theatrical trailer:
It was released in May 1984 amidst a blizzard of hype and expectation as this report from Ted Koppel’s Nightline shows:
Although it was rated PG, the violence on display led to the creation of the new PG-13rating as the MPAA came up with a category that covered the area between the PG and R ratings.
Some facts about the Temple of Doom:
The title was originally Indiana Jones and the Temple of Death
This was the first sequel Spielberg had ever made – outside the Indy series, the only other sequel he directed was the Jurassic Park follow up, The Lost World.
The club at the beginning is called ‘Club Obi Wan’, another reference to Star Wars character Obi-Wan Kenobi.
The scenes involving Indiana hiding behind a giant rolling gong, the mine cart chase sequence, and leaping out of an aeroplane in a rubber dinghy were in an early draft of Raiders and revisited for this film.
Indy’s associate in the opening night club scene is played by David Yip – best known to UK audiences for his role in the TV series The Chinese Detective.
Kate Capshaw would eventually become Steven Spielberg’s wife.
Spielberg, Lucas and screenwriter Jeffrey Boam came up with a more humourous film that featured an extended prologue of the young Indy (played by River Phoenix), a story that saw him hunt down the Holy Grail and Sean Connery cast as his father.
It was shot in a variety of locations including Spain, London, Germany, Jordan, Venice and the US.
When it opened in May 1989 it broke box office records by grossing $50 million in a single week and was the second highest grossing film that year behind Tim Burton’s Batman.
Here is the original theatrical trailer:
Here are some facts about The Last Crusade:
The opening prologue with River Phoenix as the young Indy hiding in a circus train, shows how he learned to use a whip, scarred his chin and why he has a fear of snakes.
After the criticisms of Temple of Doom, Spielberg reportedly said he wanted to complete the trilogy for George and ‘to apologize for the second one’.
Tom Stoppard did an uncredited script polish and wrote the scenes in which Indy complains to his father about having abandoned him as a boy to go off on his own adventures.
Spielberg turned down Rain Man and Big to make this film.
The actor who plays Hitler in the book burning sequence is Michael Sheard. He also had a role as the U-boat Captain in Raiders and originally auditioned for the role of Gestapo agent Toht. He is known to UK audiences for playing the role of Mr Bronson in the TV series Grange Hill.
Even though he plays his father, Sean Connery is actually only 12 years older than Harrison Ford.
Lucas rejected the draft despite Spielberg reportedly liking it. Jeff Nathanson was then hired in late 2004 to write a new draft, which was then passed over to David Koepp who is the credited writer for the new film (Lucas and Nathanson have story credit).
Finally in January 2007, Lucas and Spielberg announced that the fourth installment of Indiana Jones would definitely begin production that summer.
Shooting finally began on Indy 4 in New Mexico in June 2007 and the first image of Ford (taken by Spielberg) was officially released:
Footage of the first day’s filming in New Mexico was also released:
During Paramount Pictures’ presentation at Comic-Con in July, the audience got a special live video greeting from Hawaii as Steven Spielberg – along with Harrison Ford, Shia LaBeouf and Ray Winston – announced Karen Allen would be back as Marion Ravenwood:
Shooting then continued and on September 9th, Shia LaBeouf revealed (at the MTV Video Music Awards in Las Vegas) that the title would be:
Principal photography finished in October 2007 and this was the first trailer:
Yesterday in Cannes, the stars and Spielberg did a full day’s press at the Carlton Hotel and in the evening threw a small press cocktail party where the actors mingled with journalists.
According to Anne Thompson of Variety, producer Kathleen Kennedy explained why Spielberg wanted to do all the press before they had seen the film:
He really wants to try to preserve the experience for the audience, so they don’t know everything before they see the movie, like it was on the first three Raiders pics.
“If you learn everything, no one can get surprised anymore,” said Kennedy. “You can’t discover this movie until we let them discover it.”
Today, the film will get a world premiere at Cannes and on Thursday will be released worldwide.