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Indiana Jones and the Dying Franchise

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Nearly 20 years after Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade hit theaters, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas decided it was time to dust off Indy’s hat and give the character another go in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Growing up with the Indiana Jones films, I couldn’t have been happier to hear they were making another film. Of course, the Star Wars prequel debacle is still fresh in my mind, so I couldn’t help but be skeptical. However, an army of Nazis couldn’t keep me away from the theater this weekend. Despite the lackluster reviews that were coming in,I remained cautiously optimistic for this movie.

The plot of the film centers around the Crystal Skull lore, made famous by the Mitchell Hedges crystal skull found in 1924. Archeologists have been mystified by the skull since its discovery and since few scientists have ever been able to study it, not much is known about the secrets it may hold. Legends say that there are more crystal skulls in existence, and while several others have been found, no one can come to an agreement on what their purpose is, or if there even is one. However, there is enough mystery surrounding the skulls to form an Indiana Jones story, or so the screen writers believed. One of the theories, which is explored in the film, is that the skulls are in fact from aliens.

They did there best to capture the magic of the original trilogy. However, there totally wasn’t enough whip for me! Hmm, that sounds bad, but in the original trilogy Indy was using his whip for everything. There’s even a deleted scene in Raiders where he uses his whip to open up a Trojan from across the room! The Crystal Skull has enough tongue in cheek humor and suspenseful moments that you’ll remain entertained from start to finish. Shia LaBeouf’s role as Indy’s son he never knew he had wasn’t as awful as I feared, and it’s great to see Karen Allen again. And then there’s of course Harrison Ford. Let’s face it, the guy hasn’t had a hit since The Fugitive, and many suspected he was a bit long in the tooth to play Jones again. Well I’m happy to say that he does an awesome job. However, he’s definitely a bit slower and not as spry as he used to be. Ford’s nonchalant acting method almost makes Indy look like he’s done this kind of thing a hundred times before. But is the act on purpose? You decide.

As much as I love alien stories, I just don’t know if they have a place in the Indiana Jones mythos. This to me seemed more like something that might happen in National Treasure 3. I think there was a bit too much mixing of the science fiction and adventure genres for my tastes. But looking at Spielberg and Lucas’ track record, I’m surprised aliens didn’t make it into the Indy films sooner.

I was relieved that there wasn’t much CGI. When the name ‘George Lucas’ appears anywhere on something you can bet the film is going to be so heavy with computer generated images, that after two hours in the dark you would swear that Jar Jar Binks went to your high school. But what little CGI there was wasn’t bad, or at least it wasn’t distracting. Rather then have a CGIed Indy swinging through the air, we have real live stunt double, which is always better in my opinion.

Overall I thought the film was good. I’m sure I’ll enjoy it more upon later viewings. Truthfully, I haven’t seen the originals since they released them on DVD a few years back, so I don’t know if those still hold up either. Or maybe it’s just the mediocrity of this film that makes me second guess how much I really loved Temple of Doom.

CNN.com is reporting this morning that Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull not only was number one at the box office this weekend, but it will also go in the books as the second biggest Memorial Day opening. CNN.com went on to say that the film"…grossed an estimated $101 million from Friday to Sunday, plus $25 million from its opening Thursday…" A four day opener grossing $126 million? Not bad for a franchise that’s laid dormant for almost 20 years.

Only time can tell if we can expect more from the Indiana Jones franchise, but with a record breaking opening weekend, Indy and friends might be a ways away from retiring. With the inevitable DVD release before Christmas, the film makers are sure to walk away from this one with a good chunk of change. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is definitely not the best Indy film, but it will probably be one of the best movies you see this summer.

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