THE PREMIERE OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL
When Titan's Dreamwatch folded it became Total Sci-Fi, a web site presided over by my friend Matthew McAllister and a bloody good income source for yours truly as well (sadly Titan called it a day with their online presence in 2009). I was once asked by someone why I had only utilised a short number of words on a review of something (I forget what). The answer to that is simple: the difference between Total Sci-Fi, as an off-shoot from an actual newsstand publication, and many other genre-related web sites, is that Titan still paid by the word. This meant strict word counts on their reviews - usually between 200 and 300 words.
I miss Total Sci-Fi a great deal - as does my wallet!
My proudest moment on Total Sci-Fi was when I became one of the first people in the world to have their Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull review online.
Here was my email to Matt, accompanied by my review [below], which I sent about an hour after getting out of the Cannes world premiere:
I waited 90 minutes in the baking sun to get into this
monster so you can get this sucker up right away!
Sadly, it's pants. I know I know - I wasn't the only
one though. Think this is going to get a rough time
from critics. It got boos at the end credits in
Cannes (along with some cheers to be fair) and some
REAL boos for LeBeouf's character. He's AWFUL in it.
Walk outs before the end credits too. A lot of
deflated journalists and filmmakers.
And how right I was.
My Indiana Jones review got a record number of views on Total Sci-Fi. Interestingly, the other critics - for far loftier (and better paying!) outlets than Titan - swallowed their pride and, doubtlessly worried about risking being alone in their disdain, sucked-up to ol' Steven on this one. A bit like how I imagine some of these enthusiastic Skyfall reviews have come about. The initial reviews from Variety, The Hollywood Reporter and elsewhere hailed The Crystal Skull as an outright masterpiece, with one of the trades (and I forget which one) even claiming the film met with an estactic ovation.
That's the way the trades try and re-write history for their Hollywood over-lords. In this case it didn't happen, wasn't happening and, five years later, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is rightly seen as a disaster. A byword for ill-advised sequels.
Not to pat myself on the back or anything but I was the first voice of criticism out there. My only regret is going with 5/10. I wobbled about this - going back and forth between 4/10 and 5/10. I really did want to think that, maybe, I might want to watch this again sometime but, alas, I've never had the urge to go back and re-evaluate Kingdom of the Crystal Skull . Unlike Raiders of the Lost Ark, my memories of it are of mind numbing boredom, disappointment and that really stupid bit where the main cast keeps falling down massive waterfalls in a small boat, just like a Looney Tunes cartoon, but remain unharmed each time.
Anyway, with 300 words to spare here is the review I typed up immediately after getting out the screening...
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Harrison Ford, Cate Blanchett, Karen Allen, Shia LeBeouf
Indiana Jones returns to action in 1957, where he becomes involved in a Soviet plot to locate the secrets behind the Akator – an ancient race of space aliens who hold the key to human mind control.
Oh dear, where to even start? If you hoped that the new Indiana Jones movie would feature extraterrestrial beings, comic relief meerkats and an obnoxious leather jacket wearing, rock ‘n’ roll lovin’ teenaged son for our title hero then this is the summer picture for you. However, if that brief description fills you with dread then prepare to be broken hearted.
Sure, Indy 4 comes up trumps with a small handful of set pieces but the plot is so daft, and the supporting characters so forgettable, that this long-awaited sequel soon becomes a drag to endure. Worst of all is Spielberg’s decision to bring back Allen as a love interest. Although the star of Raiders of the Lost Ark has aged well her performance in this boils down to nothing more than smiling like an 18 year old in love and mugging knowingly at the camera.
Likewise, LeBeouf as Indy Jnr. is too cocky and smug to be endearing and the sequence where he swings through vines in the Amazon wilderness (complete with “hilarious” CGI monkeys) is so cartoon-like that its very inclusion serves only to drag the viewer out of the plot at hand. Lead villainess Blanchett should be comedy gold as the flick’s sultry Soviet megalomaniac but, onscreen, she radiates a likeability and sexiness that makes her no threat at all to our hat-clad hero.
The end result is to the original Indiana Jones trilogy what Alien Resurrection was to its franchise – a tired, preposterous and, ultimately, pointless attempt at cash-fleecing from a group of Hollywood royalty that really should know better.
Back to blockbuster 101 class for you Mr. Spielberg!