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3. 12 Angry Men
4. Die Hard
6. The Dark Knight
7. The Wrestler
8. Ben Hur
10. Raiders of the Lost Ark
11. The Empire Strikes Back
12. The Untouchables
14. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
15. The Thing
17. The Godfather Part II
18. The Terminator
19. Schindler's List
20. Rocky Balboa
A Good Day to Die Hard (2013)
A joyless, empty-headed mess - best avoided
'A Good Day to Die Hard' has the dubious honour of not only having the worst title in a series full of dodgy subtitles, but of being the worst film in general. The best thing you could say about it is that it makes you forgive any flaws found in the previous four films.
The original 'Die Hard' is, for my money, the best action film ever made. It's a perfect marriage of performance, action and script. 'AGDTDH' on the other hand is more like a quickie in a darkened room with an overpriced hooker.
After some vague plot points in the opening sequence, we are reintroduced to Detective John McClane. His son Jack has got into some trouble in Russia and faces a long stretch in prison. So John flies to Moscow, his plan apparently consisting of wandering the streets until he bumps into his son. Anyway, it turns out that Jack is a CIA operative whose mission to rescue a political prisoner is cocked up by the arrival of his wisecracking dad.
A huge problem with this film is that the plot is so convoluted and poorly laid out that for about half the film, the audience have no clue as to what is going on. The biggest action sequence, the initial and lengthy car chase which reunites father and son, has no stakes and no regard for decent editing. It's just a big, dumb and uninteresting effects reel, much like the rest of film. Every 'Die Hard' up to this point has succeeded in delivering the action. The jet-surfing antics in 'Die Hard 4.0' may have been ludicrous, but it was memorable and exciting. This, on the other hand, can't even stage a decent gunfight and the helicopter finale is just a longer version of an earlier set-piece.
The worst thing about 'AGDTDH', though, is the script. It's awful - from the story itself, to the dull villains and inane dialogue. The banter between John and son just consists of the same three or so lines: "I'm your Dad!", "Shut up John!", "Damn you John!" Oh and let's not forget that comedy zinger that gets used a dozen times where McClane shouts "I'm on vacation!" Only, he's not on vacation because he's specifically travelled to Russia to find his son. It just goes to show that having Bruce Willis simply show up with a bunch of f-bombs is not the same as making a legitimate Die Hard film. There is zero tension, no imagination or wit and you know a film is going to be bad it can't even do opening titles right (location headings in one corner, actors names in another).
There is much more I could bring up such as stupid Chernobyl aspect whereby radiation is not an issue and a nuclear stockpile is left sitting there for anyone to collect. Or the way that McClane's character has gone from sympathetic everyman to unlikely superhero to the typical ugly American, knocking out innocent civilians for speaking THEIR OWN LANGUAGE.
Why four stars then? I guess I'm a sucker for seeing vehicular destruction on screen and the finale to that particular sequence did provide that. Also, this film gets a star purely for the cabbie who serenades McClane early on in the film.
In short, it's not just the worst in the series but a pretty poor action film in general and not recommended.
The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
Despite notable flaws, it's a worthy climax to a stunning trilogy
'It takes a little while to get back into the swing of things' explains loyal butler Alfred during one scene in 'The Dark Knight Rises'. He's right too, as anyone expecting Batman to fly straight back into action will be disappointed. However, if you're expecting a solid and emotional end to Christopher Nolan's trilogy, then you'll be very satisfied.
It's eight years since Harvey Dent's death in 'The Dark Knight'. Bruce Wayne has given up the role of Batman, due to the physical and personal toll which it has taken on him - not to mention that Dent's heroic legacy has resulted in organised crime being stamped out in Gotham altogether. So Bruce has become a recluse, his life an empty void without having Batman around. But a new villain, Bane, threatens to destroy Gotham and Batman needs to come back... but does he have the strength, or the spirit, to defeat him? 'The Dark Knight Rises' is not a perfect film by any means. The problems mainly lie in the lack of ideas compared to the last installment. At times, it feels like the most derivative film in the series, with various nods to other films like 'Die Hard With a Vengeance', 'The World is Not Enough' and especially 'Rocky III'. But also, especially towards the climax, it just feels like a bigger, louder rehash of 'Batman Begins', resorting to much more traditional plot devices (ticking time bomb anyone?).
That being said, the quality shines though in this film and everything that happens is executed with a flourish. The action sequences are impressively done, especially the fights between Bane and Batman and there are a couple of incredible set-pieces. As you'd expect, though, it's in the quieter, tender moments where the film succeeds. There are some heart-wrenching moments between Christian Bale and Michael Caine as Alfred, who really sells the role of surrogate father to Bruce.
There are a lot of new characters (and their subplots) in 'The Dark Knight Rises' which means that, for many, the lengthy first act will have audiences struggling to keep up. Anne Hathaway is very good as Selina Kyle (aka. Catwoman) in a role which I honestly did not expect to like. She adds an element of much-needed humour and playfulness, rather than the more sexualised version we saw in Tim Burton's film. Joseph Gordon-Levitt gets quite a lot of screen time, but isn't quite as convincing, as a cop who catches the eye of Commissioner Gordon (the ever-reliable Gary Oldman).
Finally of course, there's Tom Hardy's crucial performance as Bane. After all, what is a Batman film without a decent villain performance? Well don't panic, because Hardy is wonderful and manages to exude more menace and charisma from behind a facemask than many actors can normally. Physically imposing as well as intelligent, it's safe to say that Bane's brutal encounters with Batman easily rank among the highlights of the trilogy.
One major problem people will have with 'TDKR' is that there's a severe lack of Batman on screen. This is true, but I think we've reached the stage where we can look on Bruce Wayne in the same light whether he's dressed in the cape and cowl or not. Remarkably, the film maintains the running theme of the trilogy and sees it through - the idea of Batman being a symbol of inspiration, not just a man.
Another flaw of 'TDKR' is how events are rushed as we reach the climax. Nolan manages to gather an impressive sea of extras for the film's final confrontation, which takes place after months of misery and oppression from Bane, but drops the ball when within seconds he takes us away from this epic scene in favour of the familiar runaway-vehicle chase sequence (taken straight from 'BB'). Also, a surprise twist is revealed way too late in the game to have any substantial impact on the film.
Technically of course, the film is astounding and maintains that level of excellence we've become used to from Nolan's work. The cinematography, special effects and production design all come together nicely. The Hans Zimmer soundtrack is powerful, almost too powerful actually, often drowning out dialogue but in the big scenes it really packs a punch.
Overall, I really enjoyed 'The Dark Knight Rises' but felt that I needed a second viewing to really appreciate it. There are more problems but the way the film expands on the backstory and mythos of Batman, along with it's huge emotional clout, easily make up for it's shortcomings.
Serbuan maut (2011)
THIS is how you do action!
Finally saw 'The Raid' tonight and despite a modest turnout at the cinema, everyone there lapped it up. Me included.
I always cite 'Die Hard' as the greatest action movie and while that still remains the case, there's no denying that 'The Raid' does a damn good job of coming close. It's a relentless thrill ride, with some truly pulse pounding action sequences and importantly... it's shot with competent camera-work, crisp editing and assured direction. THIS is how you make an action film.
The setup is beautifully simple; a vicious drug lord controls a huge apartment block in Jakarta, where he rents out the rooms to dealers, murderers and any other scumbag who needs to lay low. The block is considered a no-go area for police, until one morning, when a squad of 20 or so SWAT members infiltrate it. The plan is to work up to the fifteenth floor where Tama is hiding, and extract him. Sounds simple enough, until the cops are spotted and Tama orders the residents to take them out.
Our hero, Rama, is the rookie cop with a pregnant wife at home. Naturally he's also a martial arts master and capable of kicking serious a** while still showing a degree of vulnerability... he's John McClane meets Bruce Lee.
What works so well with 'The Raid' is the way that the action develops from shootouts, to knife fights and finally to bare fists. There's also a wonderfully eerie vibe which takes over during the first hour, when the cops split up and try to hide from the army of machete-wielding thugs chasing them down. There are siege elements of 'Assault on Precinct 13' and other John Carpenter films, while the blood flies like a John Woo classic.
The fisticuffs on display here are exhilarating and it's a wonder that the entire cast didn't end up in hospital after filming. The choreography is creative, smart, brutal and not since the arrival of Tony Jaa 10 years ago have I been so impressed by one man's athleticism. The final 3-way duel is undoubtedly the high point, although a hair-raising machete fight earlier on is particularly good.
If you're here looking for a plot or deep characters, then you may be disappointed. Having said that, because the film is so efficient and well paced, what character and plot we DO get is done well enough to engage and fill in between the action. Once the action is finished, the climactic scenes don't quite have the same impact but really that's a minor quibble. The soundtrack is surprisingly good too, gradually building and adding layers, fitting the action beat for beat.
I will definitely see this again before it ends it's run at the cinema. It's destined to be one of those films you can put on late at night when you've had a hard day and just need to be entertained. GO SEE IT!
Shout at the Devil (1976)
A proper old-fashioned yarn - ruined on DVD!
On the whole, this is a mostly faithful adaptation of Wilbur Smith's novel and a cracking adventure story.
Shortly before the outbreak of World War One, Irish poacher Flynn recruits a clueless, upper-class Englishman named Sebastian to help him steal ivory from German-occupied territory in Africa. For a while, the pair make a great team and succeed at humiliating the local German officer, Fleisher - but the fun comes to a sudden end when war is declared and Fleisher gets a chance for revenge.
As others have mentioned, this is definitely a film of two halves, as much as the book was. But the rollicking pace and sweeping storyline offer all manner of scrapes and situations that the film is never less than enjoyable. Lee Marvin is thoroughly amusing as the drunken poacher who flits between immature outbursts at those around him and total inebriation. Roger Moore is also impressive as Flynn's opposite, Sebastian, whose a gentleman at first but quickly learns to toughen up as the story becomes more serious.
Supporting characters are also memorable, with Fleisher a mixture of comical and nastiness. Barbara Parkins plays Flynn's daughter and Sebastian's romantic interest with fiestiness and Ian Holm is amusing as Flynn's mute assistant Mohammed.
In terms of action, the film has plenty to offer; gunfights, fistfights, shipwrecks and man-eating crocs for a start. This is all edited in the same frantic style that Peter Hunt's 'On Her Majesty's Secret Service' was, giving a lot of energy to the film. I also love Maurice Jarre's score for 'Shout at the Devil'; epic and tense.
While 'Shout at the Devil' is a cracking yarn and I have loved it since I was little, the bad news is that no decent version currently exists on DVD. German characters (who spoke English in the film) have now been dubbed into German, which is one thing... but no subtitles(!) mean that entire scenes become useless and impossible to follow for the rest of us.
There is of course the issue of running time and to be honest I can't remember if I've actually seen the full version or not (it's been a while). Some TV companies have been known to show the full version and, because of the awful DVD versions, it's a case of pot-luck that anyone sees the film as it should be (I personally have held onto a VHS recording from 1988 which is wearing very thin now).
The Expendables (2010)
Mostly successful and action-packed
'The Expendables' is an old-school throwback to the 80s, we all know this was the intention from the beginning and overall I think it succeeded.
The plot is perfect action movie fodder; the Latin American dictator, the slimy villain in the suit pulling the strings, the traitor in the group, the gang of big hard-nuts carrying even bigger firepower etc. Aside from a sub-plot for Statham's character, which slows the film, 'The Expendables' walks a well-trodden path, but delivers some cracking action along the way. In terms of pacing, Stallone has ensured that the action only gets bigger as the film reaches it's climax. Unlike this summer's 'A-Team' which I enjoyed, this peaks at the right moments.
In this situation, analysing characterisation and story is pointless. Genre classics such as 'Commando', 'Cobra' and 'Predator' were about the mission in hand. The characters may not be as memorable, but they all look the part and get their chance to shine. Those films I mentioned were definitely snappier in terms of dialogue - which is my only real gripe with this film.
Like the last Rambo movie, there is a period at the beginning where the dialogue is forced and laboured. In 'Rambo', Stallone tries to make a point about humanity and redemption etc. but in this case it's more to provide a punchline on which to close the scene. The cameo with Bruce and Arnold is the best example; awkward and not very funny. Similarly, the group scenes (of which are surprisingly few) don't try hard enough to create a sense of camaraderie which we never buy into.
However, the stilted dialogue stops being such a problem once the plot kicks into gear on Stallone's first trip to Vilena. Speaking of Sly, it was nice to see the man himself back in some proper nasty brawls again.
This leads us to the action, which I think Sly has delivered on in spades. The final half-hour is obviously the talking point here, but I also enjoyed various sequences throughout. The dock explosion HAS to be seen on the big screen, it's that epic. Fight scenes were fast and brutal and while some people criticise the camera-work, I was never lost during these scenes. Only the car chases were too frantically shot in my opinion. The finale is truly some of the best action I've EVER seen with an energy that few films of this type manage to capture. Needless to say, the entire tunnel sequence (featuring some kick-ass brawling and Terry Crews' monster of a shotgun) will go down in action movie lore for years to come.
'The Expendables' never overstays it's welcome and that's a refreshing thing in this age of 150mins+ epic family movies. It's short, to the point and a great slice of brainless fun and I am certainly looking forward to the sequel!
The Wrestler (2008)
Beautiful but heartbreaking.
On paper, 'The Wrestler' just seems like another 'Rocky'-type sports movie - but within minutes, that preconception flies out the window and you realise that, despite the well-worn premise, this moving drama is something else entirely.
I haven't seen a film in ages that manages to be both uplifting and truly downbeat at the SAME time. There's no clear separation between the two; in 'The Wrestler', those two things stem from one another. This might not make sense until you see the film, but it all comes down to one man, his flaws and his passion. That man is Randy 'The Ram' Robinson.
A huge wrestling star in the 80's, Randy has seen his best years pass him by - at the expense of his family. Now, 20 years on, Randy reluctantly works in a supermarket, spends his weekends wrestling at school gyms and community centres for small crowds and otherwise blows his money on steroids and a stripper named Cassidy.
Inside the ring, Randy feels alive and most importantly, feels loved. Outside in the real world, his life is an empty mess. What makes 'The Wrestler' so different to standard sports dramas, is not in the fight for victory (after all, the sport itself is inherently a performance), but rather in one man's desperate efforts to maintain the bubble in which he's lived for 20 years. One the one hand, it's thrilling to see him in action but on the other, it's depressing to think that he has nothing else in his life.
Randy is a good guy at heart, but generally messes up and doesn't know how to fix his mistakes. After suffering a heart attack, he decides to retire and tries and reconnect with his estranged daughter and build a romance with Cassidy. However, the outcome one might expect is not the one that we get and the effect is heartbreaking.
Mickey Rourke absolutely nails the role and truly deserves an Oscar for his honest and emotional performance - he also looks fantastic in the ring. 'Sin City' brought him back to the big time, but this his his show and if he doesn't win that Oscar I'll eat my lycra shorts. Marisa Tomei is pretty good as Cassidy, whose own career parallels with Randy's. Her character, however, knows how to separate her life from her job (also a performance for the cheering crowd) and serves more to demonstrate how Randy is incapable of doing that.
The script and direction are both very well done - Darren Aronofsky reins in his own style to suit the story which is admirable. There are still some little touches and subtle tricks, however, which have a tremendous impact. For one example, Randy makes his way to the deli counter for his first shift - the camera follows him as though he's making his way to a big match, with the sounds of cheering crowds in the background. Randy pauses, takes a deep breath and goes through the plastic flaps - and the sound vanishes. It's a perfect insight into Randy's borderline-delusional mind.
But Randy isn't crazy, by no means, he's just passionate for one thing in life. Unfortunately, that one thing is just an act, a show - which makes the whole thing so tragic. I recommend 'The Wrestler' and only knocked 1 star off for a couple of times where the film seemed stuck in a routine, whether that was intentional or not, but it wasn't a major problem. Go see it!
The Mist (2007)
Overall, a nice horror package but has it's fair share of problems
The Mist is a rare film you'll probably get to see it 'clean' (with no spoilers or even much expectation at all). It's not a big film and is shot more like a TV movie than a Hollywood blockbuster. In a small American town, the residents become trapped in a supermarket by a thick mist - but soon realise that something is IN the mist. A siege ensues that becomes as much about the human soul as it does about the nasties outside.
On the whole, I liked 'The Mist' and I think it was a decently acted piece, with a strong human element that's sorely lacking in today's horror movies. Tom Jane is very likable as the typical 'everyman' to which people gravitate towards to at times of crisis. Marcia Gay Harden is delightfully OTT as a Christian fanatic who gradually convinces the townsfolk that it's God's will that they be destroyed. As the situation worsens, so does the behaviour of the people and this becomes one of the more successful parts of the film. The sanctuary of the store, becomes just as dangerous as the mist itself.
While it's a proper B-movie, which I love, the lack of a big budget makes some scenes less effective than they should be. The ropey CG is thankfully kept in the mist or the shadows for the most part, but when it's first revealed around the half hour mark, the impact is taken away by the fact that it's clearly not real. The creepiest moments are those where characters go into the mist and where the horror is unseen. The gore effects however, particularly during a gruesome foray into the drug store are impressive and help to counter the CG beasties' deficiencies.
As I mentioned before, the acting is pretty good and help to sell the situation. However, there are some incredibly dumb mistakes that lead to disaster (and for a horror film, the fact that they stick out is bad). For instance, if you're holed up in a glass-fronted store, don't leave the electric lamps on display right next to the windows! Or if somethings trying to get under a metal gate... try closing the gate!!! It's a shame that a film which concentrates on the human condition, quite successfully, ends up stretching common sense like that.
Now on to the now-famous ending... which I won't give away of course. What I will say is that it's both extremely downbeat AND unexpected. It's bleak, but in a way that you probably wouldn't see coming until it hits you. The idea is fantastic... but I'm not so sure about the execution. First, the music (largely absent until now) smothers the final scenes and changes the entire feel of the film from small intimate B-movie to overwrought epic. Then, the passage of time is so short in the final moments that the outcome loses its impact. Finally, Tom Jane (who has been very good in the film until this point) doesn't quite sell the drama in my opinion. I just don't think the ending manages to deliver the powerful sucker punch it intended - and only a tiny bit of editing would have changed that.
But the good things about The Mist make you forgive the flaws unlike some films where they overshadow them. Either way, it's worth a look but rent it first, because this is looking like a case of love it/hate it.
The Dark Knight (2008)
Flawless and thrilling, deserves Best Picture.
This gets a 10 for now simply because I cannot think of a SINGLE thing I didn't enjoy about 'The Dark Knight'. After months of speculation, a massive viral campaign, huge hype and the tragedy of Heath Ledger's passing, the follow up 'Batman Begins' is here.
Does it live up to the huge expectations I had going in? It did and more.
After months of cleaning up Gotham's streets, Batman sees a chance to live a normal life by passing the reins of crimefighting hero to brave District Attorney Harvey Dent. But when Dent, Batman and Lt. Jim Gordon cut off the mob's funding, the criminal community turns to the unpredictable and dangerous 'Joker'. Essentially one huge social experiment for the Joker, the city of Gotham becomes the battleground for the 'unstoppable force' Joker and the 'immovable object' Batman.
I loved the fact that 'The Dark Knight' plays like a high-powered crime thriller for the most part, and the comparisons to 'Heat' and 'The Untouchables' are pretty spot on (especially the latter, with a great partnership between Dent/Batman/Gordon). When the Joker's reign of terror starts to tear Gotham apart, the film becomes relentless and unpredictable.
There are strong themes throughout 'The Dark Knight' - a rare blockbuster with more substance than many past Oscar winners. How do you fight a terrorist, without stooping to their own brutality? How do you maintain order, hope and morals in a world gradually falling apart? Questions that are more than relevant in today's climate but also universal themes of integrity and sacrifice. I thoroughly respect Nolan and co. for trading in a traditional plot device of destruction for a more real and natural threat. While 'Begins' had a handy microwave emitter and a hallucinogenic to spread panic, here it's the impossible dilemmas and choices that Joker imposes on the whole city, as well as Batman.
One thing I wasn't expecting to like was the third act. I heard that it was rushed and incomplete. I was pleasantly surprised then. Without giving too much away, I can say that the change that occurs and the motives that drive that certain character are perfectly plausible.
In this battle of wills, the character development is crucial. Ledger's Joker has no arc, but serves more as a 'plot device' in itself to change the other characters. Dent (played by Aaron Eckhart, who was excellent) gets the best development his inevitable fall from grace is magnificent to watch.
While everyone talks about Ledger's performance, I want to talk about Bale. I wasn't expecting much for Batman/Bruce Wayne because the focus has shifted to the villains again. But it was nice to see that Bruce still has some issues to deal with and not break his 'one rule' in the face of a new type of villain. Bale's gruff Batman voice was grating at first, but I'm already used to it and understand why it's used, so even that didn't spoil my enjoyment.
Gary Oldman gets much more to do this time around, and even Lt. Gordon gets some tough decisions to make. Gordon is brought to life by the excellent Oldman, bringing both courage and fear to the role, making it more realistic. Maggie Gyllenghaal was much more lively and likable than Katie Holmes' preachy, moany Rachel Dawes and becomes a major factor in the storyline later on.
Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman don't undergo a HUGE change but rather serve to deliver a shred of hope thanks to some wise words. These scenes REALLY help to balance the tone and stop 'The Dark Knight' from becoming depressing.
OK, so NOW let's talk about Ledger. Three years ago when Batman Begins first signalled the Joker's arrival, I was gutted. But that was then... this is now and you know what, and this ISN'T because of his death, he does an Oscar-worthy job! He doesn't PLAY the Joker, he becomes the Joker. It's accomplished through a plethora of mannerisms and habits which make the Joker seem so real and threatening. While Nicholson did a great job in 89 (and I'm not one of these people who's going to turn against that film when I still enjoy it), it was a different type of film. This is much more grounded in reality and the Joker has to be scary... and he bloody is! His 'gags' consist of the classic 'chop into pieces' routine as well as the old 'pencil through eye' howler... hilarious eh? Nolan and Ledger understand that ONLY the Joker should find his gags funny and that's why his performance blows away any other. The energy and conviction which Ledger throws at the role deserves an Oscar and that's all that needs to be said.
I haven't even got on to the action yet in a review of a Batman film! The major set-piece in the middle is a technical marvel and had me on the edge of my seat. But apart from a death defying glide through Hong Kong, the action is mainly a series of brief but brutal punch-ups. Batman takes out his enemies with efficiency rather than showmanship. This time, however, Nolan actually allows the audience to see what the hell is going on. Here's the best part though - for two and a half hours I wasn't missing the action! Not only that, but the action serves the story in EVERY case.
While writing this review I've still been unable to think of a single thing I didn't like, love about 'The Dark Knight'. It's a fantastic balance of thrills, horror and drama, with a small touch of humour (which goes a long way). It's bleak and unsettling yes, but profound and substantial and easily transcends it's genre to become something much greater. It's not just the best film of 2008, not just the best superhero film ever made - it truly is one of the best films I've ever seen - no joke.
The Incredible Hulk (2008)
A pleasant surprise!
HULK SMASH! 'The Incredible Hulk', while not without it's flaws, is a much leaner and meaner version of the comic book tale than Ang Lee's disappointing 'Hulk'. Instead of delving too deep into psychological issues and family trauma, the new film keeps moving and never strays from the action.
Now let's get something out of the way that bothered me a lot. 'The Incredible Hulk' cheats here by being a sequel to a film that doesn't exist! It's not an origin story but it's not a sequel to Lee's film either. The opening sequence recaps events that didn't actually take place in 'Hulk' and this makes the first ten or fifteen minutes especially awkward. It's almost like you have to do your homework on HOW the Hulk gets created before turning up, which is OK I guess because it's such a well known character.
Now onto the positives. The opening action sequence in Rio's shanty towns is amazing, up there with something out of the Bourne movies, except with the added bonus of including a Hulking-out scene! Ed Norton and Tim Roth are both good as enemies while their digital counterparts are also rather impressive but more on those in a sec. There's some nice humour thrown into the mix, stopping the film from getting too serious.
With ten times more energy than 'Hulk', the movie leaps from one action sequence to another and although it gets a little bit choppy later on, it's much better than the incoherent finale of the other version. The effects range from fantastic to that kind of gravity defying look that most comic book movies seem to pick up. But on the whole I was impressed and every time the Hulk gets mad (which is a lot in this film) it always makes you smile.
The final battle between Hulk and Roth's Abomination is savage stuff, with the pair roaring and growling like wild beasts. If you a bit let down by the Transformers-lite showdown of Iron Man, then you might prefer this one which I'd say is better.
Sorry if this review is all over the place, I just felt I needed to say that 'Incredible Hulk' is a pleasing entry into the genre and I'm actually looking forward to the inevitable sequel!
A pale shadow of what Indy was all about
As most other people on here, I loved the first 3 Indy films and consider 'Temple of Doom', previously the weakest to still be a rock solid adventure. I wasn't expecting another 'Raiders' from Spielberg and co. but I was hoping 'Kingdom of the Crystal Skull' would at least be a worthy Indiana Jones film. It wasn't.
Things started off quite well, with the opening scenes building up nicely to the first action sequence. The familiar images of 50s Americana, sprawling landscapes and villainous Russian (replacing the Nazi) soldiers gave me the impression that this would be a winner. Even the ridiculous stunt that ends this sequence didn't stop be enjoying myself.
For the first half or so, KOTCS is actually good fun and in the spirit of the other three, with a motorbike chase that combined comedy and fantastic stuntwork in the classic tradition. The chemistry between Ford and Shia LeBeouf works well and keeps things interesting... until about an hour in and the film takes a nosedive.
Now, I don't have an issue with the 'subject' of Indy's quest, nor does Indy's age concern me. What I do take issue with is a script that over-explains every plot point to tedious length and throws in silly gags that would be mores suited to 'Pirates' than Indy. Seriously, how the hell thought it would be a good idea to have Shia LeBeouf swinging like Tarzan with an army of monkeys and being able to catch up with a speeding jeep?! And it's not just one or two bad moments that ruin the film, it's the entire script, which is unavoidable AND inexcusable in a series that otherwise is funny and creative. It could NOT have taken 19 years to come up with this mess. And another problem that plagues the entire second act is the acting from John Hurt and Karen Allen, both grinning and laughing throughout what should be the most tense and nail-biting moments of the film. Plus, the romance between Ford and Allen is rushed and virtually redundant, making the ending all the more worse.
It's all well and good to say 'It's Indy, not Shakespeare' and that 'You have too high expectations' but this is nowhere near the same level as the others. AND if it wasn't for false promises of minimal CG and the 'new and original' story, it wouldn't be as much of a disappointment. The climax is anything but, and comes off as a poor imitator to Raiders and Close Encounters, with Indy looking on. In fact there's a severe lack of 'Indy moments' in this film and thats a shame, highlighted even more by the awful John Williams score.
The set-pieces were OK, but what should have been the 'tour de force' jungle chase, became a CG farce lacking the pace or tension of, say, the Tank Battle or Jeep chase from LC and Raiders.
This may seem like some fanboy rant, but like many people I can't believe that this is from the same series that owned the 1980s and the entire adventure genre, or from a director that should have known better. The damn-near flawless trilogy has now been tarnished by a mediocre homage/parody that falls short on tension and ideas around the halfway mark.
As Sallah would say, 'Sorry Indy...'