Saturday, May 24, 2008

Indiana Jones and the Extraordinary Frigidaire

In an age when many built fallout shelters in backyards, I'm sure the general population would have been heartened to find that their friendly family Frigidaire could function as a one-man shelter.

In fact, this particular Frigidaire can be tossed about by a nuclear blast and that latch will hold firm, even when it's impersonating a tumbleweed. Hey, it worked for Indiana Jones.

In Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, the world has shifted since the last installment. The Nazis, what is left of them, are hiding out in Argentina. The war in Europe is over, but the Cold War rages on. The government is testing BOUSs (bombs of unusual size) in the desert. The fear of communism hangs in the air; not even Indy is exempt from suspicion. I mean, come on, nothing says pinko like a bullwhip, right? The fact that dear Dr. Jones is kidnapped by Colonel Doctor Irina Spalko does not help.

Let us pause in a moment of appreciation for Cate Blanchett's turn as Colonel Doctor Irina Spalko. The woman played Bob Dylan, after all, and now she's got Catherine Zeta-Jones's Chicago haircut, wubbled wubble-u's, and a desperate desire "to know!"

The quest for knowledge lays at the center of this installment; this is Indiana Jones meets post-modernism. The quest has less to do with religious relics than with the beyond, and the knowledge the beyond can offer.

Nobody asks how the beyond and the truth of items such as the Ark of the Covenant or the Holy Grail affect each other. Apparently, it's possible to have a beyond (at least in Peru) and an Ark designed by the most high God coexisting. And let's not forget the Sankara stones in Temple of Doom's India. In the Jones universe, truth may be a regional sort of thing - but this is pulp fiction, and we smile and go along.

Karen Allen reprises her role as Marion Ravenwood, now Marion Williams. She's older now, but believable as a real woman - her lips aren't jet puffed and she's earned her smile lines. Her main responsibility is her son Mutt (Shia LaBeouf), a charmer of a boy who enjoys leather, his switchblade, and perfecting his ducktail.

I wrote earlier about Harrison Ford and his advancing age. All men should hope to take a punch so well at 65. Indy doesn't shy away from the fact that he's not as spry as he used to be, but he wears it well. There are times when he reminded me of James Garner in Murphy's Romance; older, but wiser for it.

I haven't said much about the plot, not that there's a need. The plot provides opportunities for swordfights on Amphibious Assault Vehicles, trips down perilous waterfalls of death, scantily-clad living dead, ants of unusual size, large snakes, not-quite-quicksand, firefights, caves, spider webs, double-crossings, hidden doors...

Everything we've come to expect from Indiana Jones. So sit back, enjoy, and pass the popcorn.

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