Sunday, May 25, 2008

You Call This Archaeology?

I don't like assigning bad grades. Doling out D's and F's for me is depressing work, because I always know the student was capable of doing better, if only they'd done X, Y and Z. So it is with great disappointment that I give "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" a ... D minus. It was awful. I'm only passing it with a squeak because of the occasional sly references to the earlier films, which did make me smile. The rest of the movie made me cringe. It could only have been worse if Jar Jar Binks suddenly popped from the jungle with a cheery "Inddyyyyyy" (and by the end I worried he would).

I don't see how anybody of a certain age -- old enough to have seen "Raiders of the Lost Ark" in the theater, old enough to have adored it -- could possibly like "Crystal Skull". It's pandering of the worst kind, abandoning the cleverness and spiritual subtexts of "Raiders" and "Last Crusade" (let's leave "Temple of Doom" out of it, although after yesterday I think TOD is genius in comparison) for cheesy CGI effects, bad dialogue, and more corn than a prosperous Iowa farm. I know the intent was to evoke 50s scifi B-films, but fer cryin' out loud.

At the end of the sold-out screening, the audience burst into applause. Folks by and large seemed to like it. I, meanwhile, left the theater sad over the state of American moviemaking and the tainted legacy of my favorite childhood hero. When the gang rode into the sunset at the end of "Last Crusade," that's where they should have stayed. Personally, I should have stayed home.

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