Monday, 13 December 2010

Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Crystal Skull

In contrast to a film about the realities of political life in the US city, I watched the fourth of the films in the Indiana Jones series bringing back the team which created the first in 1981 Harrison Ford as Indiana and Karen Allen his former lover who in the latest Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, discloses her son, is in fact his child. The film is directed by Steven Spielberg with George Lucas one of three producers.

The first film cost $20 and made over $380 million with nine Oscar nominations and winning five in 1982. Two years later a prequel was released which met with mixed reviews but which also made a profit of over $350 million. There was then a gap of five years before the third film which featured Indiana as a young man as well as his current age and featured Shaun Connery as his father. The film cost twice the original at $55 but made over $400 profit and was considered to be the last, except that public pressure on Spielberg, Lucas and Ford for another continued.

It was decided to set the new film in 1950’s so that the Chronological age of Harrison in the series also matched his age in real life that is someone in their mid sixties. The setting also provided the opportunity to make the villains the Russians and make use of the idea about aliens and space ships current at the time (and since).

The enemy is headed by Cate Blanchette, a million miles away from her role in Lord of the Rings, as a villainous Stalin era fanatic wanting the ultimate brain controlling ability. The film is set in the era when the Soviets were known to have developed truth drugs and were experimenting with mind control techniques and which were used in the Korean War. There is the Michael Caine film the Ipcress File in which scientists are captured, brainwashed and rendered ineffective and the original Manchurian Candidate in which the son of a prominent political family is brainwashed while serving in the Korean War with other members of his platoon, to return with everyone saying the he is a hero saving their lives and this leads him to becoming public and political figure and leading to his attempting to assassinate the President of the United States.

The film opens is an excellent fast moving action sequence in which Indiana and his friend played by Ray Winstone as a long standing British agent are captured by a Russian military group complete with US army style vehicles and outfits and taken to a secret but poorly guarded store of secrets papers and objects in the middle of the Nevada desert. Ray has in fact sold out the information in the hope that he will be able locate an object which he recovered for the US Government and which has importance both in terms of the mind control project and locating the city of gold known as El Dorado, Winstone’s interest. When they enter vast store everything is in numbered boxes but Indiana thinks of an ingenious way to locate the boxes whose contents has intrigued him. It proves to be the remains of an being from beyond the known earth. I choose my words carefully as will be revealed later. They are looking for something which the box does not contain.

Indiana escapes but finds himself in a nuclear test site in desert where a small town has been created to see the effects of a the explosion which unfortunately is about to take place. Fortunately he closes himself in a lead covered fridge and is blown clear, manages to get out and is decontaminated, the first of several stretches of credulity in the film, which never takes itself seriously. As a consequence of his involvement albeit unwillingly Indiana is forced take a prolonged holiday from his university position and he is about to go off when he is approached by the son of his former lover and told that an old colleague has disappeared after discovering a crystal skull. He passes a letter and a document an ancient picture language and this sets them off to Peru pursued by the Russians. They find the skull but are captured by the enemy who also have captured his former lover and the young mans. Mother. The skull has powers and under its influence it tells Indiana to where to return it. Before reaching the destination there are various exciting adventures which include a drop down not one but three large water fall drops, escaping killer ants, a killer native tribe and several confrontation with the Russians. The film is full of references to other films of the period with the young playing James Dean in the Wild Ones. The film also touches on the beliefs/legends that many advances in human development were in fact passed on knowledge from superior beings. What they find is not a city of gold but the treasure of knowledge in the form beings with the power to communicate through dimensions of space and time. The film ends with Indiana and his former lover marrying in the presence of their son.

The film cost nine times the original to make and grossed nearly $800 million dollars so as before was popular at the cinema but received mixed reactions from the critics. At times what the film makers described as great fun seemed very silly, On one hand the latest technology was used creating in effect a video game in which the actors subsequently participated to provide the human face. Harrison Ford is said to have undertaken many of the stunts, to prove was an old man can do, although he admitted to keeping himself fit and that it took two weeks of intense effort to relearn to crack the bullwhip again. There were some good touches and ideal fare late on a Saturday night although it would have been more enjoyable if I had drank a bottle of Asti or several beers. John Hurt played his old colleague who they rescue and participated in the latter part of the adventure. Jim Broadbent plays the University Dean, friend and protector of Indiana when the FBI and the Un-American Activities investigators misunderstand the position. Sean Connery was invited to provide another link between the films as Indian’s father but declined offering the lame excuse that he found retirement too enjoyable.

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