Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull has been unveiled at last for international critics, and with most verdicts coming in mixed to above-average, our discriminating tastes still found much left to be desired. Defamer editor Seth Abramovitch and senior editor S.T. VanAirsdale attended yesterday's screenings in Los Angeles and New York, respectively, after which the slow process of psychological reckoning and franchise restoration began the only way they knew how: via instant messaging.
What follows contains numerous spoilers, though not much that isn't distinguishable from the trailer or the word-of-mouth teeming around the Web this morning. In any case, if you want a virginal Indy experience when the film opens Thursday, we'd recommend skipping to the next item right about now. Or join in the fray as our wounded critical minds clear the air and let the healing begin.
STV: I'm reading a few OK reviews here and there.
SA: I did that too.
STV: I don't get it; that movie was not good.
SA: No. Bad. A.O. Scott said he was bored. The opening was the most engaging part, but still not great
STV: It was engaging-ish.
SA: The whole movie felt tone-deaf.
STV: But where Raiders was a throwback to the serials of yore, this was a throwback to Raiders and as such was both parodic and, yes, tone-deaf.
SA: The rambling exposition was ridiculous.
STV: SPOILER ALERT! Shia LeBeouf is his son! SHOCKER!
SA: There were no surprises, and I don't understand the plot.
STV: OK, so: Some Russians break into Area 51 with Indy and pal Ray Winstone as their hostages. They want something in the hangar there, but it's a bombing range. That sets up a nuclear bomb point that goes... poorly.
SA: Well, we return to the massive warehouse that ends Raiders. So instantly the reference is made: This is vintage Indy.
STV: OMG there's the Ark! I wish the Russians had stolen that.
SA: Yeah, me too. So the mean Russian lady cuts open the tinfoil-wrapped alien baked potato —
STV: The heavily magnetized tinfoil-wrapped alien baked potato!
SA: That only starts pulling metal towards it when Indy arrives. Action sequence, mushroom cloud.
STV: Indy escapes unharmed, but the Feds suspect him now because he aided the Russians. He gets sent out on a leave of absence from university! Blacklisted! Jim Broadbent shows up, does dignified Jim Broadbent shit: Drinks, has an accent.
SA: Indy addresses a series of framed 8x10s of actors who refused to sign on for the sequels and/or died. He boards a train — destination: unknown. Or can't recall.
STV: Here comes Shia La Brando.
SA: His hog is his steed.
STV: Who just happens to find Indy on a moving train — from the platform. They go have a burger and Cokes at the New Haven diner where the KGB also hangs out after lower-division biology class.
SA: Indiana explains the legend of the crystal skulls, but we miss it because were too preoccupied monitoring the table behind him and how they deal with the "Shia Rewetting His Comb In Their Glass of Coke" problem.
STV: Shia: "Ugh, this is Diet! Fuck!" Anyway, they fight off the KGB. A chase ensues. They lay waste to Yale, go biking through the library. Next stop Peru!
SA: Yes! The Redline Express to savage countries guarded by a loincloth-clad, brown-peopled nation.
STV: And there's Ray Winstone again, who betrayed Indy early on by selling out to the Russians.
SA: Do they find the skull at this point? Or fend off Russians?
STV: They find the skull, then are caught and taken to a Russian fairgrounds/labor camp deep in the Peruvian jungle, where comrades dance, Marion's being held hostage and Cate Blanchett digs out her Roswell space alien. The skull has mental powers — she wants to brainwash the world.
SA: Finally, we have some idea what this movie is about. Indy is in arm restraints and goes face to face with the crystal skull. This is no ordinary quartz skull that looks like an alien head! The skull hurts his brain!
STV: And mine! Anyway, they are reunited and they escape with Shia and John Hurt, who does an hour or so of crazy-man schtick. Quicksand, snakes... Fuck it, jump ahead 30 minutes.
SA: So they escape again with the skull. Are they in Incaland yet? Does all this take place in Peru, or are they in Mexico?
STV: Your guess is as good as mine.
SA: They arrive at a Mayan temple only accessible by removing stone chads. Suddenly! 50,000 dancing chihuahuas appear! Then they are certain this place has significance.
STV: I can't keep going. The end!
SA: Shia didn't need to be in this movie; nor did john hurt. WTF was that?
STV: Shia is the future of the franchise.
SA: The whole skull thing — carrying around a Lucite skull that seems to have 1,000 purposes? Repels ants! Scares savages!
STV: The ants were horrifying.
SA: That was at least, like, something to watch.
STV: SPOILER ALERT! Those fucking ants pulled that big Russian dude INTO AN ANTHOLE AND ATE HIM.
SA: That was cool; it at least had some bite. And did you notice how Indy doesnt put up a fight? He just keeps answering every question that she asked him. Right from the first scene! 'Where is it?' 'Well, it's over here!' Or, 'See theres this legend that goes...' I mean, what happened to spitting in their faces and saying, "Never!"
STV: Yeah, fuck that.
SA: I want the old Indy.
STV: I want the Indy who steals artifacts, destroys everything in sight.
SA: It felt like Invasion of the Indy Snatchers. And the end was a mess. I have no idea what the fuck that was nor did I care.
STV: I mean, that whole alien subplot was literally laughable.
SA: What about the triple waterfall sequence? I could hear an audible groan. I mean, if you're going to just have a car tumble down three waterfalls like a pachinko machine, don't warn us ahead of time
STV: But I love, love, love that long shot of the valley below them collapsing and the spaceship flying up. Storywise, it was absurd, but the shot was fantastic.
SA: I got angry when I saw the spaceship. I felt they ruined the franchise by making it so sci-fi
STV: Maybe so. But technically speaking, it was really well-done. But then there were the monkeys.
SA: Oh yeah. Shia turns into Tarzan. They really lost their minds, kind of.
STV: Shia as Marlon Brando as George of the Jungle. I'll take at least two more installments of that.
SA: What about the cactus-LaBeouf-cockballtorture sequence?
STV: Cactus is an interesting plant variant in the jungle.
SA: Indiana Jones and the Ow LaBeouf's Balls.
STV: And poor John Hurt!
SA: I wonder what he thought when he read the script: "He caresses the crystal skull again and mutters an unintelligible phrase."
STV: His character's name is "OX." Better than "THE ELEPHANT MAN," I guess
SA: The audience was mostly dead silent for the movie. There wasn't one moment when you felt joy. I mean, there's a few stunt sequences that were well-done. That first five minutes, I liked.
STV: The drag race was a good tone-setter.
SA: Oh! Get this: our sound was out the first minute of that, which is like an eternity when fanboys are rioting.
STV: Who were those people who came out of nowhere to beat up Indy and Shia with the Parkour action moves and the blowdarts?
SA: Oh, that was killer blowdart skull mask killer pygmies! They were guarding the sound stage!
STV: I think they symbolized the fans who were down on the whole idea of Indy 4 from the start. They kick LeBeouf's ass until Ford, symbolizing Lucas, shows up to blow a poison dart in their mouths.
SA: At least a blow dart was a reference point I got.
STV: And then there's M. Night Spielberg, who must never touch the franchise again. If LeBeouf comes back, as it seems he will, give it to someone else.
SA: My friend asked why he needs to have Transformers and Indy. It's true. How much LaBeouf can one nation swallow?
STV: This movie is gonna make so much money. Paramount is going to win the summer easily.
SA: I mean, my friend liked it. Maybe it was actually a fun summer movie, and we both need attitude readjustments. The problem is that Iron Man opened two weeks ago. If it hadn't, I honestly wouldn't have remembered that a summer movie can be good.
STV: I refuse to accept responsibility for a blockbuster sucking.
SA: Even Transformers seemed more emotionally true. Giant alien robots — something to care about. I wonder if the fanboys will revolt.
STV: This movie's gonna make $400 million next weekend.
SA: How much will it really make?
STV: This is Pirates/Spider-Man territory. If they're counting over Memorial Day, easily $140. Anyway, let's end on a positive note. Man, wasn't Iron Man great?
SA: Get Smart: In theaters soon!