Case for the Prosecution: Your Honour, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, today we present to you the case against Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull .
Case for the Defence: Let me interrupt you there…
Prosecution: But, I haven’t started.
Defence: I just wanted us to agree to not allow the term “Nuking the Fridge” as admissible evidence.
Prosecution: Outrageous! Your Honour, please… I must be allowed to present my case without these petty interruptions. And no, I won’t agree not to submit “Nuking the Fridge” as evidence. Said term is important to my case.
Defence: We don’t accept the whole “Nuking the Fridge” attack. Indy has performed similarly outrageous stunts in past films and nobody complained… Look at the leap from the plane in the dinghy in Temple Of Doom …
Prosecution: Ah, but the leap from the plane wasn’t from very high up. That sequence was more about a long dangerous sledge ride down the side of a mountain. Much more believable…
Defence: Any way... The monkey swinging scene is much more embarrassing…
Prosecution: Yes, thank you. And that brings me to my first point… Over-reliance on CGI. During production Spielberg said they wouldn’t use much CGI…
Defence: Oh, come on. Too much CGI doesn’t necessarily mean a bad film.
Prosecution: True, but in a series of films which previously had used more traditional effects techniques and practical stunts, the CGI effects in this effort are glaring. We ended up with CG monkeys, flying saucers, aliens, jungles, gophers, ants and every example stood out like a sore thumb.
Defence: All the previous Indy films have loads of effects in them. They only weren’t CG FX because CG FX barely existed back then.
Prosecution: Yes, but they served the story. Here they seem to get in the way of the narrative rather than help it. Could you see a CGI gopher showing up in any of the other films and looking anything other that ridiculous?
It’s George Lucas proving that with his over use of CGI he doesn’t need to make a logical progressive story anymore; he can write what ever he fancies and is pretty much guaranteed that the effects wizards will stick it in the film… It’s endemic of Lucas’s later work.
Defence: The prosecution’s dislike of the prequels is a matter of record and is not relevant to these proceedings…
Prosecution: If the cap fits…
Defence: But Lucas didn’t write this.
Prosecution: He has a story credit. And you can bet he had overall control of what was written. As it is something like eight different writers had a go, including Frank Darabont. The Darabont script was loved by Spielberg but not by Lucas who decided to rewrite it himself. The sheer number of different writers and re-writing it went through over the years; I’m not surprised it’s shoddy…
Defence: Too many cooks? Still nineteen years between films is a long wait. The film didn’t have a chance of living up to the hype.
Prosecution: Oh, come on, that’s a crock… They made three, well, two and half, excellent films before. Every time they reference Indy mythology they just highlight the fact that the earlier efforts were better films with better characters. All they had to do was do the same again. They had plenty of time to refine and refine again.
Defence: It’s not as easy as that. Sometimes with a series like this the amount of fan hype is a bit ridiculous…
Prosecution: Oh, so it’s the fans’ fault they got it wrong?
Defence: I’m not saying that at all.
Prosecution: Good, because I’d hate it if you blamed the failings of this film on fans expecting too much, you know like a good story and compelling plots…
Defence: Okay, okay, it’s far from the best Indiana Jones film, but that doesn’t stop it from being a damn good romp.
Prosecution: It is a damn good romp. But it’s a romp that has problems whichever way you look at it.
Defence: And perhaps, if it hadn’t been part of the Indy franchise it would have been appreciated more?
Prosecution: Yes. Russians; space aliens; flying saucers. These things belong not to Indiana Jones. And if his name hadn’t been in the title maybe it would have done better. Even Spielberg wasn’t happy about the space aliens…
Defence: Lucas said they weren’t space aliens, they were interdimensional beings…
Prosecution: What does that even mean? Could they not just pick a thing and go with it? Space aliens. Extraterrestrials… Interdimensional beings? A flying saucer that lifts off and then disappears… The whole idea of aliens seems to run at odds to the mystical mythical themes that Indiana Jones films have always had.
Defence: What about the cast? You can’t deny that Lucas and Spielberg assembled a stellar cast for this film.
Prosecution: Very true. I’ll concede that point. Unfortunately that talent was wasted on pointless confusing characters. From Cate Blanchett’s one-dimensional Russian woman in the bad wig and the mad John Hurt exposition character to Ray Winston as Indy’s supposed best friend who switches sides so may times it makes you dizzy. These inferior characters just made us miss Sallah and Brody and others even more.
Defence: Marion! What about Marion? She was great. And she looked good. Everyone was glad she came back. And Indy got the girl he was always supposed to get.
Prosecution: Yes, I agree that the return of the Marion Ravenwood character was welcome… However her son was not. Nor the actor playing him or the ham-fisted attempt to switch the father/son role from The Last Crusade in having Indy as the grumpy dad this time round.
Defence: Oh, come on Shia Labeouf wasn’t that bad.
Prosecution: We’ll have to agree to disagree on that.
Defence: And Jim from Neighbours was in it…
Prosecution: Yes and the conversation he had with Indy about what they did during World War Two were far more interesting than anything we were shown in the film. Which brings me to another point: the choice to set the film in the ’50s?
Defence: The films were based on pulp fiction, moving it into the ’50s and pulp sci-fi was a logical progression.
Prosecution: And yet Indiana Jones just doesn’t seem to suit the era. I can’t understand why they didn’t dye Harrison Ford’s hair and set it in the mid ’40s. He looks good enough that they could have gotten away with it. We could have seen some of the compelling stuff Jim from Neighbours refers too. And we could have had Nazis in it. The film is sorely missing its Nazis. The Russians are just cardboard cut-out generic baddies. You could replace them with anything from robots to Roman Soldiers and there would be little difference. At least the Nazis had some character.
Defence: So you say it references its past too much but at the same time you miss elements from that past? You just want the best of both worlds.
Prosecution: If it could have found that balance. Yes.
Defence: The film tried to move the character forward while retaining the basic plotting and iconic motifs of the earlier films, and it succeeds in doing that.
Prosecution: But they didn’t move the character forward. It’s just going through the motions… They just transplanted him to a different era. An era in which he didn’t fit. What they did was ground Indy in neither the new era nor the glories of the past and that made for a character and a franchise that seemed tired looking.
The previous films were iconic. They were loved the world over and parodied in film and TV for years. This just seems like another one of the countless parodies and homages we’ve been subjected to over the years. The only thing this film adds to the Indy canon is the term “Nuke the Fridge.”
Defence: Yeah… But Jim from Neighbours is still cool.
Words by: Steven Ellis