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Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull Is Better Than Raiders Of The Lost Ark

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We Defend the Indefensible

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is better than Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark We Defend the Indefensible
Lucasfilm

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is better than Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark. Yeah, right we hear you shout. Sometimes, a classic isn’t as good as it’s made out to be, and sometimes a film that people write off as a howler is actually… good.

You’ve seen the headline and you’re probably set to punch your screen, but hear us out. We would never go as far as to say that Steven Spielberg’s 1981 archaeology-em-up, Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, is bad.

Who doesn’t love seeing young Harrison Ford heft bags of sand, get sweaty, and play with his whip? But…we will go as far as to say this: The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is better.

Public opinion isn’t exactly on our side. Raiders of the Lost Ark has a 96% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes, which is quite frankly ridiculous.

No film is that good. While Kingdom of the Crystal Skull’s 54% leaves it lagging, we think it’s an unfair reflection of this neglected gem. Why? Hold our hand and read on.

1. Kingdom of the Crystal Skull made more money internationally

Here’s something worth remembering: films exist to make money. Yes, they can be works of art. Yes, they mean a lot to people. But they’re big business, and if they do big business at the box office, they’re a success no matter what you think.

The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull made over $790 million worldwide. Admittedly, Raiders made more overall when adjusted for inflation but a whopping 63% of those earnings were domestic.

Whereas around 60% of Kingdom’s takings were from international cinema-goers. For us, this indicates a wider appeal. It indicates that more people got more out of the 2008 film. 

And as well as showing financial success, it suggests that the film was better able to cross boundaries and bring people together, which in the modern world, can only be a good thing. So, thanks for the love-in, George Lucas and Stephen Spielberg.

2. Nazis are cheating

Yes, Major Toht (the Gestapo agent with the round glasses) is a good baddie in Raiders. The weird voice, the breathing thing he does when he gets excited about burning Marion.

But he and the other key bad guys in that film are NAZIS. Come on. It’s too easy to take the most evil people in 20th-century history (and perhaps beyond) and stick them in your film.

It’s like saying something happened because ‘God did it’. And, come to think of it, Raiders sort of does that too…

In Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, by contrast, the film has to work much harder to come up with bad guys. Yes, the Russian mafia are not exactly nuanced baddies, but the FBI and the US government don’t exactly come out strongly on the side of good in the film either.

And it’s much braver to make the USA an ambiguous presence in a film like that.

3. Old Indy

One of the reasons that The Last Crusade is quite possibly the best of the original Indy trilogy is the performance of Sean Connery as the older Dr Jones.

It’s not just that he’s a good actor, it’s that he brings pathos to the film with his physical frailty and the sense of those lost years of a father-son relationship.

OK, 2008 Harrison Ford was in far better shape than Connery in 1989 and he plays the Indy of Kingdom with impressive vigour. But the years are etched into his features.

The jowls, the craggy face. The bulkier build, the way he breathes more heavily after an action sequence. Life and adventures have taken their toll on our hero. He’s not a superman any more, and perhaps he never was.

On top of that, we have the emotional reunion of Indy and Marion after years apart. And Karen Allen (who plays Marion in both films), while wonderfully preserved for a woman of 60, is also visibly aged.

What’s more moving than the reunion of lovers when they’re no longer young and beautiful?

4. Nostalgia

Can you honestly say that when you took a seat in that cinema to see Kingdom of the Crystal Skull for the first time you weren’t excited by the potential of what was about to happen? By this point you knew who Indy was, you knew what he’d been through.

Back in 1981 before you saw the movie you wouldn’t have had that feeling, it was all new. The feeling of anticipation gifted to you by Kingdom of the Crystal Skull would’ve been worth its weight in gold.

Look, you may not agree with us. You don’t have to, it’s your right as an argumentative human being on the internet. But this is our hill, and while we at TheCultureCrossing.com aren’t willing to die on it, we are willing to put it on the internet and wince. And what’s braver than that?


There you have it, that’s our argument for why Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is better than Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark. Is there anything we missed out that you think could’ve been on this list or are we way out of our depth with this argument? If so, leave us a comment below.


Read more defend the indefensible articles HERE.

Read IMDB information about Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull HERE.

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No Time To Die – Review

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Metro Goldwyn Mayer

No Time To Die is the 25th instalment in the official James Bond series. It’s the VERY long-awaited follow-up to 2015’s Spectre. The 6-year gap between the two films is only matched by the same gap between Timothy Dalton’s last outing in 1989’s Licence To Kill and Pierce Brosnan’s debut in 1995’s Goldeneye. Here’s our review of No Time To Die.

SPOILERS: If you’re reading this then you’ve probably seen the film, but if not there are spoilers ahead.

Of course, there are mitigating factors in that enormous gap. Namely COVID. Which made No Time To Die the first major film to delay its release due to the pandemic. Although, this film has had a difficult gestation irrespective of the global situation in the last 18 months. As soon as Spectre was released the speculation over Daniel Craig’s future in the role began. With him initially suggesting he would rather slash his own wrists than play the iconic spy again. He did a mea culpa on Stephen Colbert’s Late Show in August 2017, where he confirmed he would appear as Bond for a fifth and final time. The original director and writer, Danny Boyle and John Hodge, left the project a year later over creative differences. Cory Joji Fukunaga took over as director. While Bond script veterans Robert Wade and Neil Purvis took charge of the screenplay – with a sprinkling of magic from Fleabag’s Phoebe Waller-Bridge.

Delays

Originally slated for release in April 2020, at long last, we finally get to see Daniel Craig’s denouement as 007. His portrayal of Bond has been very much in keeping with the character of Ian Fleming’s original novels. His performances have certainly followed the dramatic lineage of Sean Connery and Timothy Dalton. Rather than the lighter portrayals by Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan. Yet his Bond has displayed a vulnerability only really demonstrated with any plausibility by George Lazenby in his solitary outing as 007 in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

The deference to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is presented in stark relief throughout this 2h43min epic. Making this the longest Bond film in the series. As this was the first film I’ve seen at the cinema since before the pandemic, I was already excited before I even sat down. As a massive James Bond fan as well, I was close to apoplexy! I felt a tangible shiver go down my spine as the iconic gun barrel sequence appeared before we see James cruising around Italy in the classic DB5 with Madeleine Swann at his side. This anticipation was clearly felt by other cinema-goers. They have made No Time To Die break the UK box office record for the biggest opening weekend. It took almost £26m, breaking the record previously held by Skyfall.

I’m not going to spoil the plot for those who’ve not seen it. I had made a conscious decision to avoid spoilers before I went.

A step up?

This film is another shot in the arm for those who see Craig as the definitive Bond. This was aided by a refocusing of the Bond canon after the main tropes of the series were stretched to breaking point by the invisible cars and melting ice palaces of Die Another Day. And then stretched still further by Madonna’s cameo as a fencing instructor. Daniel Craig was given leeway to truly regenerate James Bond for the 21st Century. The stripped-back nature of Casino Royale, without most of the supporting characters that have been a staple of the series like Q and Moneypenny. Gave him licence (pardon the pun) to explore the deepest and darkest recesses of the Bond psyche. Some well-drawn female leads and villains really allowed Craig’s Bond to spar with them with depth and genuine emotion.

That exploration continues and grows in No Time To Die. We get to see an ageing, truly world-weary Bond, whose past he appears unable to escape. This leaves him in a state of almost constant angst. Paradoxically though, we also see him truly relaxed at times. In a way I can’t recall ever seeing James Bond in any of his previous cinematic outings.

Screen time

The issue with that exploration is that a number of characters then have their screen time cut. Moneypenny is reduced to little more than a cameo. And Remi Malek’s Safin is almost secondary as he features in the opening moments as his story is told, but then disappears for what seemed like an eternity. He of course reappears but he almost seems a mild irritation within the plot and merely a conduit to allow us to see the climax of Daniel Craig’s Bond era. It’s a disappointing underuse of a terrific actor. One with a captivating screen presence, who could have been one of the most menacing Bond villains of all time. That said, the influence of his dastardly but highly sophisticated plan is felt by all of the main protagonists. Christoph Waltz’s Blofeld continues to wreak his havoc with malevolent glee from his cell. He again revels in the chaos of his twisted sibling rivalry with Bond.

Lea Seydoux is wonderful again as Dr Madeleine Swann, picking up where she left off in Spectre and giving Bond as good as he gets in every way imaginable.

There are new characters who definitely cut through. Ana De Armas is utterly charming in her relatively brief time on-screen as Paloma, while Lashana Lynch takes no nonsense from Bond as Nomi. She also gives us a potential indicator as to the future direction of the franchise. Which has been the subject of much discussion in all quarters. That debate has even made its way into the political sphere with even Boris Johnson weighing in on what gender the next actor to play 007 should be.

Score

Hans Zimmer’s score is classic Hans Zimmer, adding power and bombast to the usual mix of stunning scenery and brilliantly choreographed stunts. He brilliantly weaves nods to previous entries in the Bond musical tapestry throughout his score. While his cues are always thunderous, they never overpower the action on screen, but do add a sonic rumble that I don’t think has been heard in a Bond score for quite some time. I found Fukunaga’s direction a bit mixed, with some of the cinematography unnecessarily showy. Some of the tracking shots almost gave me motion sickness while some (admittedly beautifully composed) shots of the scenery seemed to have made the edit purely so as whoever the drone operator was could demonstrate their skills.

Duration

The film is much too long, although at no point did I check my watch. It’s not that any of the plot points are superfluous, more that the pacing is a little slow in places. Some of the dialogue feels cliched and clunky, making what is a great story feel a tad generic. Which doesn’t do anyone justice. However, there were some excellent jokes, and I laughed out loud several times. You don’t have to be a 007 super fan to get some of the self-referential humour that they seem to enjoy sprinkling throughout the film.

Billie Eilish’s theme song is a worthy addition to the collection and certainly sits comfortably within the top half of the ‘Bond Theme Chart’. It’s definitely more memorable and evocative than Sam Smith’s ‘Writing On The Wall’ for Spectre. Her voice trembles at times as you can almost feel she recognises the significance of singing the theme for Daniel Craig’s final appearance in the franchise.

It was also very pleasing to see that this film has moved with the times and reflects the world of 2021 with its portrayal of women. Every single female character had a genuine purpose and important role within the plot. While of course, the female actors playing those roles are all irrefutably glamorous and attractive. There was genuine respect and no objectification of women.

Wrapping up

I came out of the screening with mixed emotions. Glad to be back in the cinema on one hand, sad that Daniel Craig’s stint ordering Martini’s was over on the other. I was pleased that such a good climax had been created to bring this era of Bond to a close, and all its story arcs had been brought to conclusions. I’m also excited and apprehensive in equal measure for the future of such an iconic film series. But I was disappointed with some of the characters not getting the necessary screen-time to truly develop their characters. Surprisingly, I was almost tearful at the final few moments, especially as the credits rolled.

Overall, this is a loving homage to the James Bond series, past and present. It’s a solid if unspectacular film in its own right, but the performances of Daniel Craig and Lea Seydoux, as well as the Bond history it wraps itself in, elevate it beyond that.

It’s not Craig’s best Bond film, as Skyfall is almost untouchable in my opinion, but it does bring closure to his tenure in the tuxedo in a manner that should please Bond fans across the board. It also tantalises us as to what the 6th age of Bond will look like. Let the intense speculation begin!


CULTURE CROSSING SCORE 7/10


Thank you for reading our review of James Bond No Time To Die. Do you agree or disagree with our points or have anything to add? If so, leave us a comment below.


Check out who we think could be the next James Bond and why HERE.

Read IMDB information about No Time To Die HERE.

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