Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
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Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull

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DVD

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Blu-ray

There are a lot of old tired sayings like ‘you can’t go home again’ or ‘lighting won’t strike in the same place twice’. The thing about these kinds of sayings is there is always something that proves them wrong. For action flick fans this proof comes in the form of a movie, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls’. It has been nineteen years since the beloved Indiana Jones hung up his fedora hat and put away his whip and gun. For many years there was buzz in the Hollywood trade magazines that there were planes to make a forth installment of this famous franchise. At times such a film appeared as illusive as the mysterious artifacts Indy would chase around the world. Then, slowly, the rumors became increasingly solid and soon there was concrete proof that the movie would indeed be made. Even better news came when it was revealed that Harrison Ford for reprise his role as Indy. One thing that many forgot is that anticipation is rarely met by the reality. When the film was released it is a great moment but too many fans and critics expected that proverbial lighting to hit the same mark. While ‘Crystal Skull’ is one of the better action movies to come around in a long time nothing can meet the standards set by the original film. ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ was cinematic history placed high in the pantheon of film; it was and remains legend. While this new film is in the same franchise in this particular case it is unfair to strictly compare ‘Crystal Skull’ to ‘Raiders’. Yes, this is an Indiana Jones flick but you will have a lot more fun if you take this new film for what it is; a fun roller coaster ride of action. Earlier this year Paramount re-released the first three Indy Jones movies in special edition. Now you have the opportunity to make sure your collection stays up to date with the DVD or Blu-ray editions of ‘Crystal Skull’.

This film fulfills the mandate that Steven Spielberg and George Lucas set for themselves back in 1981 with their first Indiana Jones movie. They are baby boomers and as such grew up with a different movie experience than modern viewers. Back then we would go to the local movie house and spend the entire Saturday afternoon there. Usually there was a main attraction and a secondary flick shown. There was also a bunch of cartoons, a newsreel and an action serial. If any of these terms are unfamiliar to you check with your parents or grandparents. The action serial was basically about 15 minutes of a movie that always ended with a cliff hanger. Sometimes it would be literal as the hero dangled from a cliff. These were fun. They had almost non stop action. Often it would be on the silly side and frequently beyond belief but we enjoyed each installment and anxiously awaited the next episode. Spielberg and Lucas took this concept and just glued the episodes together for the Indy films. It may be one contiguous movie but it is supposed to have the look and feel of these old serials. Back then the plots didn’t have to make sense it just had to hold things together to let the action happen. When that did come around the stunts were fantastic to watch. This is what you get in this movie. It will keep you on the edge of your seat through the entire running time.

The basic story for the film came from George Lucas but he handed the reigns over to David Koepp for the scripting. He has quite a history behind him and undoubtedly a noteworthy future ahead. He wrote the screenplays or the likes of ‘Spider-man’, Jurassic Park’, ‘War of the Worlds’ and ‘Carlito's Way’ to name just a few of his hits. This is a man who certainly knows how to craft a story. This had to be one of the most difficult scripts to come up with. He had to manage to include all the Indy trademark scenes while blazing new ground. One of the key things to an Indiana Jones movie is to place the characters within a very specific part of history. In two of the first three films it was the Nazis. This allowed for the younger Indy to battle the undisputed forces of evil which was in line with the old serial action flicks. With this movie it cannot be dismissed that Indy has aged nearly two decades placing him in the sixties. The natural enemy to fight then was the agents of the Soviet Union. While this did result in some controversy it was consistent with the time and place. During the years of the cold war the ‘commies’ where vilified as the means to end our way of life. Even if your political point of view is different from that it was how things were back then. This film was deliberately made seem like it came from that period. This time period was also the height of the public’s infatuation with outer space and aliens. All of this is reflected in the story but it would be impossible to provide much of a synopsis without giving too much away. This is a film that you have to experience. Okay, I’ll say this. Some of the plot devices push things a bit with credibility but then again people having their faces melt off aren’t all that realistic but it sure was cool to watch. The same thing here; do not try too dissect this film, just enjoy it.

This is also a trip into the past for Spielberg. As is natural for any auteur to grow and change over the years. Spielberg had to go back to emulate his old style for this film. It has been awhile since he made a swashbuckling movie like this but the master has not lost his magic touch. In recent years Spielberg has turned more towards emotional heroes that capture the audience with their sheer humanity. While Indy surely is an emotional human being his is first and foremost a man of action. He may have some grey hairs on his head but the fire of his quest for the truth still burns. A lot of this has to do with the skill of Ford as an actor. It is understandable that a professional like him would be reticent to retread old territory Ford knows what helped him gain the fame he enjoys. In this film he looks like he is having a lot of fun. Any many of his age would love to prove he still has the stamina to pull off something like this and Ford still reigns on the top of the action hero pack. This film has remained true to the look and feel of the original three movies. It has is paced to perfection always giving Indy and impossible situation to get out of right on cue.

This movie is a mixture of old and new. Shia LaBeouf adds the perfect touch as the young rebel without a clue, Mutt Williams. He adds something for the younger audiences to grab onto and identify with. Returning as Marion Ravenwood is Karen Allen. The years have been kind to this still beautiful and talented actress. She is as feisty and high spirited as even; the only woman who could ever match Indy for sheer determination. The first half of the film has to help set the time and locations as well as reintroduce the characters but once things get moving there is no stopping Indy, Marion and Mutt.

When it comes to releasing a DVD you can’t ask for much better than the job that Paramount does. The video and audio presented here is absolutely reference quality. For those out there who have not yet moved on to Blu-ray there are two ways to get the film on DVD. There is a single disc version but for about $5 you can get the two disc special edition. Go for it; you will be very happy with the upgrade. One the first disc is a featurette called ‘The Return of a Legend’ and a look at the pre-production. The second disc contains a production diary, how the scenes were visualized, galleries and a look at the Lego Indy Jones game. This is a return to the action flicks on our youth that will mesmerize the entire family. It is not up to the original, this is true, but it is a rocking good time.

Posted 09/26/08

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