Cannes Cinema Festivals News

Cannes 2008 Reactions: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Earlier today, the world’s press in Cannes finally got to see Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

Would it be a Da Vinci Code style descent into a snake pit of critical derision or would Indy triumph whilst the doubters melted away like the Nazis at the end of Raiders?

On the whole, the reaction coming out of Cannes seems to be positive with a few naysayers here and there.

Here is a summary of the critical reaction:

Anne Thompson of Variety sets the scene outside the screening and says the film is ‘good enough’ and ‘fun’:

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull had its world premiere at Cannes at 1 PM May 18; the press anxiously streamed into the Lumiere early, afraid they would be shut out–and many were.

There were whoos and whistles before the screening started. The movie unspooled without the usual Cannes logo. The first hour plays like gangbusters and is really fun.

Harrison Ford has Indy down, even as a grizzled “gramps” dealing affectionately with Shia LaBeouf as a 60s greaser with a pompadour.

The movie will do blockbuster boxoffice, and whatever critical brickbats are still to come…

Her Variety colleague Todd McCarthy says it ‘delivers the goods’:

One of the most eagerly and long-awaited series follow-ups in screen history delivers the goods — not those of the still first-rate original, 1981’s “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” but those of its uneven two successors.

“Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” begins with an actual big bang, then gradually slides toward a ho-hum midsection before literally taking off for an uplifting finish.

Nineteen years after their last adventure, director Steven Spielberg and star Harrison Ford have no trouble getting back into the groove with a story and style very much in keeping with what has made the series so perennially popular. Few films have ever had such a high mass audience must-see factor, spelling giant May 22 openings worldwide and a rambunctious B.O. life all the way into the eventual “Indiana Jones” DVD four-pack.

Kim Voynar of Cinematical is also positive, saying it is ‘nicely satisfying’:

Indy 4 is a nicely satisfying continuation of the franchise, and will please most Indy fans.

Though the first act drags a bit, the latter two-thirds of the film pick up the pace, and the film is packed with all the familiar elements fans have come to expect from Indiana Jones.

Harrison Ford is older, of course (aren’t we all), but still brings the role all the charm, daring and humor Indy should have.

However, her Cinematical colleague James Rocchi is very disappointed though, deeming it ‘self-conscious and self-satisfied’:

Loaded with moments referencing the earlier films and full of action sequences that don’t measure up to past highlights of the series, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crustal Skull feels simultaneously self-conscious and self-satisfied, as if a little warm glow of past glory will soothe our bumps and blows from the clumsiness of the script.

The action sequences are nothing to write home about, either; there’s nothing here with the inspired delight of the mine chase in Temple of Doom, or the sheer, guts-and-glory greatness of the truck chase in Raiders.

I think most of us want Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull to be good, which it, sadly, is not.

Jeffrey Wells of Hollywood Elsewhere is mostly admiring, saying he was ‘more than delighted at times’:

Sections of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull are a great deal of fun.

I felt jazzed and charged during a good 60% or even 70% of it. I was more than delighted at times.

What a pleasure, I told myself over and over, to swim in a first-rate, big-budget action film that throws one expertly-crafted thrill after another at you, and with plotting that’s fairly easy to understand, dialogue that’s frequently witty and sharp, and performances — Harrison Ford, Shia LeBouf and Cate Blanchett’s, in particular — that are 90% pleasurable from start to finish.

I heard some guys say as they left the theatre, “It’s okay…it’s fine…it’s good enough.”

I talked to a guy who kind of wrinkled his face and went, “Not really…not for me.” But nobody hates it. It gave me no real pain, and a healthy amount of serious moviegoing pleasure. (Although I was, from time time, slightly bothered.) Fears of a DaVinci Code-styled beat-down were, it turns out, unfounded.

Allan Hunter of Screen Daily says ‘the old magic still works’:

The world can rest easy – the old magic still works in Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull.

It may take some breathless, helter-skelter action to redeem the opening hour’s clunky storytelling, but the first Indy adventure in almost twenty years is like a fond reunion with an old friend and will not disappoint diehard fans or deter a new generation from embracing it as a summer blockbuster adventure ride.

This is money in the bank as far as exhibitors are concerned, but the relief of some critical support will do no harm to what is destined to stand as one of the year’s top moneymakers.

Kirk Honeycutt of The Hollywood Reporter feels it is ‘charmless’:

Director Steven Spielberg seems intent on celebrating his entire early career here.

Whatever the story there is, a vague journey to return a spectacular archeological find to its rightful home — an unusual goal of the old grave-robber, you must admit — gets swamped in a sea of stunts and CGI that are relentless as the scenes and character relationships are charmless.

Glenn Kenny at Some Came Running says it is the ‘most fun’ of the series since Raiders:

…the fourth Indy installment isn’t really an attempt to retroactively create a Spielberg omniverse.

But David Koepp’s script, from a story by George Lucas and Jeff Nathanson and Herge and Edgar Rice Burroughs and Erik von Daniken and Carl Stephenson and…well, you get the idea…does tie together a good number of Spielbergian themes into an eventually pretty nifty package.

Yeah—this is, by my sights, the most fun and least irritating installment of the series since the first one.

Charles Ealy of the Austin Movie Blog says the film is ‘no Da Vinci Code’, likes the new characters and also describes the chaotic scramble of journalists getting into the screening :

There were plenty of justifiable reasons for such savagery toward “The Da Vinci Code.” There are few reasons for such a reaction to the new Indy.

The scene outside the Palais before the premiere was chaos. Dozens of journalists from top-flight publications — with the highest credentials possible for festival access — were shut out of the theater until just before the movie started. And many had to sit in uncomfortable, fold-down seats at the ends of the aisles.

Fans of the Indy series will enjoy the reunion of Harrison Ford and Karen Allen, as well as the introduction of Shia Labeouf.

Labeouf, who has stunts involving knives, vines, swords and motorcycles, is believable as the naive sidekick who is drawn into Indy’s wild world.

Cate Blanchett, as usual, is pitch-perfect as a villainous Soviet parapsychologist.

And to finish, just a quick note on a ‘review’ today published by John Harlow of The Sunday Times (be careful if you don’t want the plot ruined as there are spoilers there).

It is – as I understand it – the first newspaper review of the film, but did Paramount really give the exclusive first look to a UK newspaper (albeit a big one)?

David Poland has some thoughts on this over at The Hot Blog:

After the embarrassingly misreported story on how dangerous Cannes is to Indiana Jones yesterday, The Times Online today offers an alleged first newspaper review of the film… that is nothing close to being a review!!!

All they do is drop a few spoilers and indicate that they liked the movie more than the buzz… the buzz that didn’t much exist and that they propagated!!!

Really… there is nothing much to read here, especially if you don’t want to read spoilers, albeit fairly minor ones. There is nothing approaching a single graph of critical argument about the film… not even hack level criticism.

I just don’t get it. Isn’t The Times Of London supposed to be Traditional Media? Aren’t they supposed to act like adults?

My guess – just a guess – is that they feared printing a full review before the Cannes screening because they had made an agreement with Paramount in order to get early access to the movie.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull has a gala premiere tonight and if you aren’t there you can follow the action via IFC’s Cannes webcam.

The film opens worldwide on Thursday.

> Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull at the IMDb
> Have a look at our countdown to Indy 4 with various facts, pictures and videos
> Check out a video of the Indy 4 press conference over at Anne Thompson’s Variety blog and an interview with Karen Allen
> IFC’s Cannes webcam
> Official Indiana Jones site

Cannes Festivals News

Cannes 2008 Reactions: Blindness

The opening film of this year’s festival was Blindness, directed by Fernando Meirelles (City of God, The Constant Gardener) and starring Julianne Moore and Mark Ruffalo.

Based on José Saramago’s 1995 novel it is about an epidemic of blindness in a modern city.

Here is a summary of some of the critical reaction:

Jeffrey Wells of Hollywood Elsewhere is underwhelmed:

I respected Blindness — I certainly agree with what it’s saying — but it didn’t arouse me at all. Opening-night films at big festivals are often underwhelming on this or that level — bland, suckish, so-so.

I’m sorry to be saying what I’m saying as I worshipped Meirelles’ City of God and very much admired The Constant Gardener. But the truth is that Blindness is more than a bit of a flub.

For what it’s worth, the pacing, performances and tech credits are first-rate.

Kirk Honeycutt of The Hollywood Reporter feels lacks an element of surprise:

Blindness is provocative cinema. But it also is predictable cinema: It startles but does not surprise.

An appreciative critical response will be needed stateside for Miramax to market this Brazilian-Canadian-Uruguayan co-production.

Other territories may benefit from the casting of an array of international actors with some boxoffice draw.

Justin Chang of Variety has similarly mixed feelings:

Despite a characteristically strong performance by Julianne Moore as a lone figure who retains her eyesight, bearing sad but heroic witness to the horrors around her, Fernando Meirelles’ slickly crafted drama rarely achieves the visceral force, tragic scope and human resonance of Saramago’s prose.

Despite marquee names, mixed reviews might yield fewer eyes than desired for this international co-production.

Joe Utichi of IGN is also somewhat disappointed:

Ultimately, Blindness is a brave attempt from this ever-versatile director at creating an intelligent, original sci-fi thriller that, sadly, never quite comes together.

James Rocchi of Cinematical is more admiring:

But while Blindness can be faulted for many things, it also has to be respected for its ambition, craft, and effort;

Blindness shows us a world of wide-eyed sightlessness, and it does so through a fierce vision that only occasionally loses focus.

Xan Brooks of The Guardian is also more positive:

Blindness may well be the bleakest curtain raiser in the history of the festival, a nightmarish parable of the apocalypse, directed by the Brazilian film-maker Fernando Meirelles and just as impressive in its way as his career-making City of God.

It’s a devastating bit of work – a cold-eyed portrait of social meltdown that nonetheless shows how catastrophe can bring out the best in people as well as the worst.

I could have done without Danny Glover’s sage, hushed narration over every stray moment of quiet, but otherwise this was pretty much spot-on.

Sukhdev Sandhu of The Daily Telegraph feels the acting is strong, but not enough to redeem the overall film:

As always, it’s impossible to take one’s eyes off Moore who is so adept at playing roles in which her strength seems brittle, almost masochistic.

Alice Braga, a prostitute who is one of the inmates that Moore and Ruffalo befriend, is also a stand-out performer.

They do well to save a film that, in trying so hard to be faithful to the novel, falls prey to tone-deafness.

Did you see Blindness at Cannes? If so, then leave your thoughts below.

> Blindness at the IMDb
> Find out more about the novel at Wikipedia
> Anne Thomspon speaks to director Fernando Meirelles at Variety
> Will Lawrence also has a piece on Mereilles at the Telegraph