G’day! I’ve decided that every two weeks, I’ll post fairly short reviews of 5 movies/TV series. I’ll try to keep them spoiler-free, although I won’t always be successful, so here’s the disclaimer:
WARNING: POTENTIAL SPOILERS AHEAD. PROCEED AT OWN RISK
OK, now that that’s out of the way, here are this fortnight’s five movies:
- Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), rated M for moderate violence
- Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984), rated M for moderate violence
- Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989), rated PG for mild violence
- Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008), rated M for frequent action violence
- London Has Fallen (2016), rated MA15+ for strong action violence
Those are the Australian ratings. The American ones:
- Raiders of the Lost Ark – PG
- Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom – PG
- Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade – PG-13
- Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull – PG-13 for action adventure and scary images
- London Has Fallen – R for strong violence and language throughout
OK, now that that’s out of the way, here are my reviews of the movies (and at the end their trailers).
Raiders of the Lost Ark
OK, does this movie even need reviewing? The first-ever Indiana Jones movie (although chronologically the second) was the most successful film of 1981 – and is widely regarded as one of the greatest films of all time – for a reason. Set in 1936, Indy (Harrison Ford) discovers a Nazi plot to find the long-lost Ark of the Covenant – and use its powers to take over the world. Their archaeological team is headed by Indy’s old nemesis Rene Belloq (Paul Freeman), who at the start of the film steals yet another artefact that Indy discovered. Indy must team up with his ex-girlfriend Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen) – operating a bar in Nepal – to head to Egypt and try and find the Ark first, and keep it out of the Nazis hands.
As is probably quite well-known, this film certainly shouldn’t be watched for historical or Biblical accuracy – you’ll simply be disappointed if you do. It takes some fact, and mixes in a huge dosing of fiction – which it’s meant to do, as summarised by producer George Lucas during the film’s production: “The movie we are making is not based on reality”. (That said, it got the Ark’s appearance almost exactly – if not exactly – right, and the Ark’s “powers” – or rather the manifestations of God’s powers through it – are fairly realistic.)
What this film is though is sheer, thrilling, fun, edge-of-your-seat adventure. From the film’s opening moments in South America to the somewhat gruesome supernatural climax, Indy jumps from one frying pan into another, one action scene after another – all without ever sacrificing a cohesive plot, and still slowing down enough for us to catch our breath (and develop the characters). And they’re REALLY exciting and tense action scenes at that! One is often left wondering how on earth Indy can escape – although in the end, he of course always does 🙂 . True, it’s somewhat violent – the climatic scene might scare young kids – but that really doesn’t detract anything from the film’s fantastic quality.
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
I said that Raiders was highly praised for a reason. Similarly, its prequel The Temple of Doom is controversial for a reason. Set in 1935, Indy (Ford) and his buddy Short Round (Jonathan Ke Quan) narrowly escape Shanghai after a deal with a crime boss gone wrong – unintentionally dragging night singer Willie Scott (Kate Capshaw – director Steven Spielberg’s current wife!) along for the ride. After crash-landing over India, they meet a starving village where the shaman (D. R. Nanayakkara) informs them that the village is dying because evil people who tried to get them to worship their ”evil god” stole the local Sankara Stone AND kidnapped all their children. That night, one of the missing children – starving and malnourished – stumbles into the village and says that the evil is coming from Pankot. Indy, Willie and Short Round head to Pankot Palace, where the British Captain Blumburtt (Philip Stone) has also just arrived to investigate rumours of a revived Thuggee cult operating out of the palace. A bit of interesting info & backstory (and a humorous but disgusting dinner scene) unfold. After an assassin attempts to kill Indy that night, the trio discover a hidden entrance to a booby-trapped tunnel, which leads (after much – and humorous – peril) to a Thuggee temple, where they are just in time to witness a gruesome human sacrifice (in which the Thuggee high priest Mola Ram – played by Amrish Puri – reaches into the victim’s chest, rips his still-beating heart out, and lowers the person – STILL ALIVE – into a pit of lava). They also discover that the Thuggee have made the missing children slaves working the mines, looking for the last 2 missing Sankara Stones (out of 5), which when brought together, will allegedly unleash a demonic power that will allow the Thugs to take over the world, and destroy the Judeo-Christian and other religions once and for all (their literal plot). How will the trio escape and save the day – and the world?
This film is very dark and violent. And I mean REALLY dark and REALLY violent – as evidenced by the human sacrifice scene. There’s also voodoo, Indy being forced to drink blood from a rotting skull (shown above), etc. It’s not the most comfortable of films, and is definitely not suitable for children. However, the only really “uncomfortable” part is the middle part. The first half of the film is really, REALLY good. And the clips I’ve seen from the last half (when I originally watched it, I only got as far as Willie being lowered into the lava pit) are pretty darn good, too! And I’m no longer particularly bothered by the middle part (although I 100% understand and sympathise with those put off by it!). In the end, it’s a good movie, but the weakest Indy film.
Just a quick note: some accuse the film of being “sexist” for its portrayal of Willie. Capshaw’s performance is just plain HILARIOUS, she’s there for COMIC RELIEF (which this movie seriously need). Sexism plays no part in the film.
And then there’s the “racist” accusations. There is NOTHING in the film that portrays Indians negatively. There are of course Indian villains, but that is another matter entirely. (It’s like saying the Indy movies are negative towards Germans for having German Nazi villains – and before someone objects “But they’re historical!”, so were the Thuggee.) And yes, the Thuggee were a REAL cult that operated in India between the 1300s and 1800s. They were a very dangerous menace – yes, they sacrificed to Kali – and were finally suppressed by the British. So it’s quite ironic that some condemn the film as “colonial” for showing the British mop up the Thugs at the end, when that’s what happened in real life!
(And as for the dinner scene: that’s the Thugs, not most Indians; AND the Aghori – a Hindu tribe in India – really do eat human flesh and drink from human skulls. In other words, the movie is much more realistic than most people realise, which is part of the reason I’ve come to appreciate it.)
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
The third instalment in the Indy franchise is the lightest and least violent – and also the most spiritual. Set in 1938, Indy (Ford again) discovers that his father, Grail researcher Professor Henry Jones Sr (Sean Connery), has been kidnapped by the Nazis to help them in their quest for the legendary Holy Grail, whose power they hope to utilise to take over the world.
Some condemn the plot for effectively recycling the premise of the first one. But honestly, who cares? And after the gory Temple of Doom, I frankly think this film was quite needed. Once again, it’s not Biblically or historically accurate, but it’s not meant to be. It’s meant to be a fun and light-hearted adventure watching Indy and Henry get chased by Nazis around the world as they try to beat them to one of the most significant artefacts in mankind’s history (to paraphrase one of the villains). And it succeeds quite brilliantly as that. The movie’s quite light-toned, and VERY funny. Harrison Ford and Sean Connery are a fantastic father-son duo, and their relationship is possibly the best in the series (the other contender being Indy-Marion in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull). I really don’t get why the relationship was condemned – it truly is great. It provides much of the humour, and this film abounds in humour – while still remaining an exciting and fun action-adventure. The violence is toned down considerably from the first two films (thankfully!), and it is the most family-friendly of the Jones movies (although Temple of Doom‘s the only one I would describe as unsuitable for children). A worthy addition to the Indy canon.
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
The much-condemned – but still highly successful – fourth installment in the Indiana Jones canon is lots of fun, and not nearly as bad as often made out. Set in 1957, Indy (do I even need to name the actor?) finds himself dodging Soviets while trying to discover the secrets of a mysterious crystal skull AND the legendary lost city of Akator (aka El Dorado) at the same time. It’s actually surprisingly hard to describe the plot in much detail, without, well, going into too much detail.
Personally speaking, I found this to be THE most interesting of the Indy movies – perhaps because I’m an ancient history conspiracy theorist. The revelations about the ancients & events was extremely interesting, and fairly close to what I believe to be fact. (I’m really struggling not to spoil here.) The visuals for this film are dazzling. Many condemned the film for its CGI (!?), but let’s face it: if the original Indy movies had been made today (or if today’s special effects were available in the 1980s), the original movies would have been CGI-loaded. Plus, as I said, the visuals ARE dazzling. The 1950s setting provided a great backdrop. And there’s nothing to complain about the acting – Ford is as good as usual, and John Hurt performs his role excellently, as does just about every other actor (yes, including Cate Blanchett as the villain, Col Dr Irina Spalko). The action is just as good as its predecessors – and it actually continues The Last Crusade‘s policy of toning down the violence from the first two (true, Crystal Skull is more violent than Last Crusade, but its still milder than the original). And I actually found it quite refreshing to watch. A great movie.
London Has Fallen
The controversial and widely condemned sequel to Olympus Has Fallen (2013) (which I haven’t seen) isn’t nearly as bad as critics make out. Secret Service agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) is planning to retire (his wife is pregnant) but has one last mission: to organise President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart)’s security during the funeral of British Prime Minister James Wilson, who suddenly passed away in his sleep. However, it’s a trap: as 40 of the world’s leaders – including Asher – gather in London for Wilson’s funeral, a large and well-coordinated group of Middle Eastern terrorists launched a major terrorist attack, killing all the leaders bar Asher and the new British PM Leighton Clarkson. As the British and American authorities scramble to find the terrorists’ operating base, Banning must protect Asher (who was shot down trying to escape the city) and get him to safety before the terrorists can capture him and execute him before the world.
The film’s plot is admittedly a little thin, and it is quite violent (NOT suitable for pre-teens), but it’s nonetheless a very exciting and fun (but brutal – seriously) action film. Much of the brutality is derived from Banning’s ruthless “take no prisoners” approach to the terrorists (which is really how it should be handled). Many condemn the film as “racist” for having Middle Eastern terrorists as the villains. Um, excuse me? The Middle East is a hotbed of terrorism & a major cause of it, but it’s “racist” to put it in a film? Go get a life. Again, London Has Fallen is quite brutal (although for the most part I wasn’t too bothered), but is nonetheless a fun mindless action thriller.
Here are the trailers:
Raiders of the Lost Ark:
The Temple of Doom:
The Last Crusade:
Kingdom of the Crystal Skull:
London Has Fallen:
And the clips:
And of course I’m curious as to what you think of these movies!
(P.S. If you like, you can send me a movie review and I’ll post it on my other site Blockbusters Reviewed.)