Indiana Jones: Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

I just came back from watching the new Indiana Jones movie, and I have to say that it is decent, but not great. In terms of how it compares with the rest of the movies in the series, I’d say it’s on the same level as The Temple of Doom, which means it’s the worst of the bunch, but still entertaining nonetheless.

Now, how much nostalgia plays into my assessment can’t be evaluated objectively. Although I was still in China when the first three movies premiered, I nonetheless have very fond memories of those movies, seeing as how they were some of the first few movies that I have watched in America. It is safe to say that Indiana Jones created my expectations of all action adventure movies should be.

I came into the movie with somewhat modest expectations: I didn’t expect the movie to recreate the excitement I felt when I first watched the movies, but I did expect some entertaining action sequences. In that respect, the movie did not disappoint. Whatever my opinion of Steven Spielberg’s body of work, I have to say that he is, on a technical level, an excellent director. All the stunts and action sequences were very well choreographed. The edits weren’t so quick as to induce nausea, like most action movies have a tendency to do, and the cameras are all placed strategically so that there is never any interruptions in the action. Also, the special effects are obviously much better looking than the ones in the original trilogy, and they weren’t over the top in any blatant way.

So yes, the movie is entertaining, but I felt like there was too much of an inclination to try to one-up the stunts and action sequences in the previous movies. Understandable, of course, since it is a sequel after all. But some of the stuff is ridiculously over the top that even someone like me, who is already familiar with the already implausible actions in the movies, found it incredulous. But I don’t think this is a serious problem, because if you are already a fan of the franchise, you quickly learn to ignore these things and just enjoy the spectacle of it all.

But the movie is disappointing in the sense that it never does manages to recreate the kind of pure joy in watching Indy pulls off some crazy shit, like the first three movies did. To this day, I still get a thrill when I watch the old movies, albeit not to the same degree as I did when I was younger. But this movie largely fails to elicit that kind of response from me. I appreciated the action sequences from a technical point of view, but I had no visceral reactions to them. There were a couple of moments when I had that feeling, when John William’s familiar score is playing, and Indy is doing some crazy shit, and it does take me back a little. However, those moments are largely absent from the movie as a whole.

Who knows, maybe I’m just getting older, so it would be unrealistic and unfair for me to expect the same kind of visceral thrill that I got when I was much younger. So again, I return to the original question: just how much does nostalgia have to do with it? In the end, I would have to admit, if I were to be completely honest, that without the words “Indiana Jones” in front of the title, The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull would not be all that different from movies like The Mummy or National Treasure.

Which is ironic, because without Indiana Jones, movies like The Mummy or National Treasure would not exist. So it is strange to see Spielberg and George Lucas making a movie that feels like movies that are imitation of the franchise that they have created.

Man, I feel old.

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