Video Game Archaeology 6: Indiana Jones’ Greatest Adventures

It is time for more Video Game Archaeology! Video Game Archaeology is my monthly exploration of an artifact video game found during my excavations of various bargain bins and yard sales; an examination of a game cast off and long forgotten. This month’s Video Game Archaeology entry is significantly less obscure than any of the previous ones. Indiana Jones’ Greatest Adventures is not exactly an unknown SNES game, though it is definitely not one of the systems most famous games. Still, it is a game based on one of the most popular film franchises ever. I, however, was wholly unaware of the game until it was released for Virtual Console a couple of years ago. I wasn’t shocked to discover that there had been an Indiana Jones SNES game, but it did stun me that I had managed to remain unfamiliar with it for all that time. At first this lead me to conclude that the game simply wasn’t very good. If was worth playing I would have heard about it. That changed when I noticed that nearly everyone who played had only good things to say about it. When I started doing my Indiana Jones movie reviews earlier this month, I finally decided to drop the 8 space dollars needed to download this and see for myself how good it was.

Boxart for Indiana Jones’ Greatest Adventures

Image via Wikipedia

Like Big Sky Trooper last month, Indiana Jones’ Greatest Adventures was from LucasArts and published, at least on the SNES, but JVC Musical Industries in 1994, though this was developed by Factor 5. Factor 5 is famous for the Star Wars Rogue Squadron games, though at the time they may have been famous for the Turrican series. Factor 5 and LucasArts had a long successful relationship, but Factor 5 disappeared a few years ago after the failure of Lair for the PS3.

Indy is a standard SNES action game, much like LucasArts’ Super Star Wars series, also for the SNES or Super Castlevania IV. The Castlevania comparison is an easy one, but they are not particularly similar. At least not more than any two SNES action games. They use the standard level progression and utilize passwords instead of saves, both those are just conventions of the genre. They do both share a primary weapon, the whip. In Castlevania it is a vital, versatile tool. In Indy the whip is much more limited. Especially when it comes to using the whip to swing around the stage. It is more fluid and more precise in Castlevania, while in Indy it feels sloppy and somewhat tacked on. Which is strange, because for the most part Indy controls much more fluidly than the arthritic Belmont.

Graphically, Indy is a nice looking game. Not mind-blowing, but a solid, competent SNES game. Apparently in a nice nod to the fact that Harrison Ford played both, Indy’s sprite is largely identical to the Hon Solo sprite from Super Return of the Jedi, though I haven’t played so I cannot confirm this. The music is a bit iffy. Sometimes it is spot on renditions of classic Indy music, sometimes it is kind of crappy renditions of classic Indy music.

As the name suggests, Indiana Jones’ Greatest Adventures provides playable versions of famous scenes from all three original Indy movies. Starting with the temple and boulder chase from Raiders of the Lost Arc. Each game has about 10 levels, give or take a few for a total of 28. I managed to play most of them thanks to my looking the passwords up online manly perseverance. It is about as accurate as a 2D action game version of a movie could hope to be. Sure there are some strange changes, like Walter Donovan’s skeleton after he chooses poorly being the final boss, but most of the stages are somewhat close to how you remember the scenes from the movies. There are a few Mode 7 stages, but I was not impressed.

Indiana Jones’ Greatest Adventures is a very good game, but it is hardly essential. The fact that so few good games have been made based on these film is baffling, since they are perfect for it. This SNES one is a game worth playing. Maybe not worth tracking down 20 years later, but since it is readily available on Virtual Console I recommend Indy fans give it a whirl, as well as those who appreciate a quality 2D action game.

NFL Picks Week 8

My picks were awful last week, with me going 7-6. Some were obviously bad, like Titans over Texans, but some were complete surprises, like Jags over Ravens. Hopefully this is a blip on my otherwise solid prediction season.

This week is cowards week for me. I want to pick several upsets, but since I kind of want to pick so many, I am going to pick none. I want to pick the Colts over the Titans. Yeah, the Colt were Godawful last week, but they will win a game or two. I want to pick the Vikings over the Panthers, but despite some baffling hype Ponder was worse that McNabb has been all season. I want to ride the Tebow train over the Lions, but I think the Lions are legitimately too good. And I want to pick the Chiefs over the Chargers, but both of these teams are frauds. The Chiefs only beat the Raiders because they had the worst QB play I’ve seen in years and didn‘t have McFadden for most of the game. Palmer had a very good excuse, not knowing the playbook because he had been there all of 4 days; Boller was just sad. I think he played himself out of any sort of permanent roster spot. The Chargers are just as bad as the Chiefs. I still think the Raiders win that division, but he Chargers win this game.

Colts at Titans: Titans
Saints at Rams: Saints
Dolphins at Giants: Giants
Vikings at Panthers: Panthers
Cardinals at Ravens: Ravens
Jaguars at Texans: Texans
Redskins at Bills: Bills
Lions at Broncos: Lions
Patriots at Steelers: Steelers
Browns at 49ers: 49ers
Bengals at Seahawks: Bengals
Cowboys at Eagles: Eagles
Chargers at Chiefs: Chargers

Last Week: 7-6

Season: 71-32

The Big Year Review

Ads for The Big Year seemed to position it as a comedy, which I guess isn’t strictly wrong, but anyone expecting raucous laughs will be disappointed. It is funny; Steve Martin never fails to amuse, Jack Black has a few masterful pratfalls and Owen Wilson is as glib as ever. However, The Big Year is not a film reliant on jokes, it is character driven. And bird driven. It repeatedly starts obvious comic set ups only to quickly deflate them. The Big Year purposefully avoids it comic potential to tell a more sedate, thoughtful story.

The Big Year is about three bird watchers, or birders as they apparently like to be called. Steve Martin plays Stu Preissler , a successful businessman who is eager to retire and enjoy his hobby full-time. Jack Black is a down on his luck middle class guy who wants to do something special. And Owen Wilson is the champion birder who is planning to start a family with his wife. All three end up doing a big year, which is a birder’s attempt to see as many birds as possible in a single year. As much as this movie is about these three characters, it is also about the birds. I am going to assume that the bird information is accurate, though I know little about it myself, but the film revels in the scenery and wildlife of North America. They travel to the four corners of the continent in attempts to see the most rare of birds. Each of the main characters face personal challenges to complete the big year. Real life is always trying to draw them out of their birding obsession, from business, to family to simple survival.

The competition between the trio is mostly downplayed. Black’s and Martin’s characters immediately become friends and their one spat is quickly resolved because both characters are adults. Which is why the laughs are a bit lacking in this supposed comedy. Situations arise that would normally be the fodder for jokes, but characters in The Big Year act like adults for the most part, hurting the comedy potential. Owen Wilson is sneaky, but never truly underhanded. In all it is remarkable how nice and likeable all the characters are. Wilson’s constant absence from his wife opens up the possibility of her cheating on him, but even though he is playing the villain here, he is not a bad enough guy that viewers would relish his comeuppance.

In the end, The Big Year is almost more of a tragedy than a comedy. Each character faces important decisions over the course of the year and must live with the results of those decisions. The results are not unexpected, but in at least one case it is quite sad. AS a comedy, this film lacks humor; as a drama it lacks focus.  It is a likable but forgettable movie that entertains but never truly engrosses the viewer.   The Big Year is about three men choosing what is most important to them and having to face the consequences.


Professor Layton has ruined me for adventure games. I know that Layton’s games aren’t quite classic adventure games, but the differences are why I love Layton and why I am indifferent to most of the genre.

In most adventure games, the developers have to go to extreme lengths to incorporate the puzzles into the game world. The games are intricately designed to give the player the tools needed to solve their problems and to make sure that each of those tools has a believable reason to be there. In the end, I find that it generally hamstrings both the puzzles and the stories the puzzles are propping up. The story is forced into situations that allow the player to solve puzzles and the puzzles are forced to fit into the general milieu. No puzzles involving ray guns, because ray guns don’t make sense. The story needs you to go in this storage closet because you have to have a screwdriver later. It may only be a problem to me, but the delicate blending of story and puzzle usually leaves both unsatisfying.

The Professor Layton series gets around this problem by flatly ignoring it. You solve puzzles because that is what the game is about. Brainteasers and the like. The story of is there because it is the most entertaining method of delivering those puzzles. The good Professor’s cases are always charming, at least somewhat due to his world’s fascination with puzzles. Instead of building the puzzles into the story, though the fourth game has done this a couple of times by the halfway point, Layton merely has characters offer them to the player as challenges. Sure, this crazy old bat has the information you need, but she’ll only give it to you if you solve her puzzle. What the puzzle is doesn’t matter at all to the story. The stories in Layton games are always charming pieces of fluff. They occasionally hit a strong, moving character moment, but rarely is there anything exceptional.

But the puzzles are invariably better than those I’ve encountered in actual adventure games. Solving a Layton puzzle is so satisfying. The game presented you with a challenge and you overcame it. In regular adventure games, when I finally stumble upon the solution, my reaction is usually vague anger. It is either so ridiculously circuitous a solution that I hate the game for thinking it up or stupidly easy, but frustratingly obtuse. Either way it is no fun.

I’ve played enough Layton games now that I know I can never go back to the old games. I’m sure I’ll try them out occasionally, because I can never leave well enough alone. I’m sure adventure game purists will scoff at my missing the point for hating adventure games for what makes them great. The only thing I’m not sure of is my continued access to future Layton games. I can only hope that unlike every other game I like, Professor Layton has been financially successful here in the states and they keep being made. But that is just me being grouchy and pessimistic. At least the Layton movie is being released here next month. I’ll have to buy that.

NFL Picks Week 7

I’m tired and busy, so no commentary this week, just picks:

Seahawks at Browns: Browns
Falcons at Lions: Lions
Texans at Titans: Titans
Broncos at Dolphins: Broncos
Chargers at Jets: Jets
Bears at Buccaneers: Buccaneers
Redskins at Panthers: Redskins
Chiefs at Raiders: Raiders
Steelers at Cardinals: Steelers
Rams at Cowboys: Cowboys
Packers at Vikings: Packers
Colts at Saints: Saints
Ravens at Jaguars: Ravens

Last Week: 11-2

Total 64-26

What I read in September.

September was another month when I put away a ton of books with the help of the book readers on my new smart phone. The quality of what I read doesn’t quite match up with most of the rest of the year, but I can’t really say I’m sorry I read any of the books that I read this month. And in the case of the last book on the list, I am glad to be done with what was a more than 6-year long ordeal.

Long Live the King!
Mary Roberts Rinehart.

This was a strange book. I found it on Aldiko’s list of public domain books and it sounded interesting, so I read it. Rinehart is apparently a famous mystery writer, but this isn’t a mystery. It is an adventure with very little adventuring or a romance without much romance. This is the story of a fictional European Kingdom that is trying to fend off a communist revolution and survive the death of an elderly king when the heir is still a small child.

What makes this book even slightly interesting is that it is written from a decidedly American point of view. The revolutionaries are very clearly bad guys, if they were to gain control of the country it would be a disaster. The monarchy, however, is portrayed as mostly corrupt and incompetent. It doesn’t really get the reader to root for them. There is constant talk of America and the great Abraham Lincoln that never stops reminding the reader that this monarchy business is all nonsense. There are plots within plots and several different factions vying for power, but by the end of the novel, nothing really comes from it.

Long Live the King! is a slog. The elements for a quality adventure or romance story are here, but they never build to any sort of satisfactory climax. It is long and too unfocused to be worth reading.

Pagan Passions
Randall Garrett and Laurence M. Janifer

This is the second of my forays into unknown old stuff on my phone. Pagan Passions is a sci-fi story about what the world would be like is the Greek Gods showed back up after being away for 2000 years. And apparently, what would happen are orgies. Big, oddly sexless orgies.

The protagonist (whose name escapes me) is a college professor and disciple of Athena who is suddenly called upon to become the new stand in for Bacchus. Because Bacchus is dead. Since no one says no to the Gods, he does it. Though he does start to wonder how a God died. During an orgiastic festival in his honor, he sleeps with Aphrodite and pisses off Ares. So as he fights Ares, he finally learns what is up with the Gods.

I’ll just spoil it, since this book is kind of trash. The Greek Gods were actually immortal space criminals. Except for a few who had to be replaced. So the new Bacchus turns them in to the space authorities and frees Earth from their influence. The premise of this book is interesting, but what it actually is is garbage.

Tarzan of the Apes.
Edgar Rice Burroughs

There is a damn good reason that Tarzan has remained a part of pop culture for the more than 80 years since this book was written. This is one fine adventure. It draws heavily on Kipling and is full of pure nonsense, but it hit with the force and energy of a train. The whole thing is rarely, if ever believable. Still, it is hard not to get caught up in it anyway.

Tarzan’s story is the one that everyone knows. A family is marooned in Africa and after his mother as die; a tribe of apes adopts Tarzan. His life with them trains him to be superhumanly strong. After reaching adulthood, he chafes at the primitive society of the animals and luckily encounters another set of castaways, including his famous love Jane. This sets of a series of events that lead to Tarzan rejoining human society.

There is no excuse to have not read Tarzan. It is a short, quick read and is easily available since it is in the public domain. It is a thoroughly pleasant diversion.

The Return of Tarzan.
Edgar Rice Burroughs.

This is just more Tarzan. The first Tarzan was about a sadly abandoned boy growing up in the jungle and eventually returning to civilization. This second book simply contains his further adventures.

After he saw Jane betrothed to another man at the end of the first book, Tarzan returns to his friend in France, who sets him up with a job as a counter-spy for the French government. So Tarzan goes to Morocco and wrestles lions while pissing off some Russian spies. What follows is a series of betrayals, shipwrecks and lion wrestling that strains credulity. Even more so than the first book about a boy being raised by gorillas and teaching himself to read.

It is tough to ignore how much of the plot relies on absurd coincidence, but there is still some entertaining pulp adventure to be found here.

The Princess Bride
William Goldman

This is a re-read and the Princess Bride is one of my favorite novels. Also, I want to write a full post about this book and movie. So I am only going to give the merest review here. The Princess Bride novel has everything you love about the movie (and you love the movie because you aren’t a soulless monster, right?) plus more. It is simply slightly better than the movie in every way. And the movie is a classic. Read this.

The Once and Future King
T.H. White

This should be the centerpiece of this month’s book reviews but I can’t write it. Part of it has to do with the troubles I’ve had reading this book. (see here) I have been reading The Once and Future King off and on for nearly 6 years. So yes, the early parts are somewhat foggy in my memory. If any of it managed to sink in past the thoughts of the Disney version of the first book. The fogginess of the early parts makes it hard to say exactly how the themes fit together. And this book is all symbolism, theme and anachronism.

It assumes the reader knows the story of King Arthur and Camelot and its fall. Which everyone does. Right? At least the gist of the story, about the triangle of Arthur, Lancelot and Guinevere. And of Mordred’s treachery. People should know it and if they don’t they should follow the advice of White and read Mallory. Instead of doing much in the way of recounting what happened. The Once and Future King tries to explain why the events were inevitable. So the first half of the book is about young Arthur and his education at the hands of Merlin. As well as about the early life of the Orkney clan, Gawaine, Gareth, Gaheris, Agrivaine and eventually Mordred. Then the second half is about Lancelot and his triumphs and failings. Then finally about the fall of Camelot.

Arthur’s problem is his inability to reconcile the concepts of ‘might’ and ‘right.’ He starts off fighting the idea that might makes right, but that eventually fails because he fights might with might. In the end, might must win. He tries other approaches of enforcing right and channeling might, but while he has a vision of how civilization is supposed to work, Arthur lacks the ability to realize this vision.

Knowing how this story ends makes it all the more tragic. Everyone, with the possible exceptions of Agrivaine and Mordred, tries to do what is right, but each and every one of them fails in some way. It ends with Arthur dying and/or heading for Avalon, but not before bestowing his vision on a young Thomas Malory and tasking future generations with trying to realize it. There is so much in this dense, dense work that I feel it needs greater focus than I can give it here. It is enough to say that everyone should read this.

Its Secret is Sincerity

The game I’ve been playing for the last 2 weeks, Solatorobo, is a late gem for the slowly fading DS. I’m just having some trouble articulating why I like it so much. In many ways, it is exactly the kind of game I don’t tend to like. It is very shallow. All fights play out basically the same, with in the way of difficulty or design. At the same time, it goes out of its way to hold the players hand. Everything gets a tutorial or an explanation from the characters. The game doesn’t allow, let alone expect, the players to figure out anything on their own. This ties into the last big problem, that the game is terribly talky. Characters won’t shut up. The players every action prompt more dialogue from somebody. Despite these problems, and more, I still really like the game, though. Somehow, a piece of quality shines through the crap that might have drowned this game.

One area is shines is in the graphics. This is a fine looking DS game, especially for one with 3D graphics. It honestly gives Final Fantasy: 4 Heroes of Light a run for best on the system. The sound is likewise excellent. There are still some problems, though. For all that there is a beautiful world to explore, the game denies the player that exploration. The areas available to venture into are usually cramped walkways, sewers and caves and the like. It tantalizes with beauty, but hides it.

As I said before, Solatorobo is quite shallow. All fighting generally boils down to dodging the opponent’s one attack, running behind it, picking it up and throwing it. Ad naseum. There are some flying areas, both sort of explore-y spots and races, but neither of those adds much. Playing the game becomes somewhat rote after a very short period.

If I have all these complaint about the game, how can I saw I like it so much? I think it comes down to the games attitude. This is a bright, optimistic game. Its outlook is more like Skies of Arcadia than Final Fantasy 7. Sure, many of the elements that make up the game world are perfectly designed to appeal to me. I love airships and floating continents. And the fighting robots look like they came straight out of Miyazaki. Much work has clearly gone into the world on which this game takes place. It feels less like the usual checkpoints of places to go in a game, here is a snow town and there a tropical island, and more a cohesive world. There is a history and sense of place that most games miss.

However, that alone would not be enough to buoy a lackluster game. Somehow, Solatorobo is more than the sum of its parts. It is talky, but the story is much better than the usual fare. It is not great by any means, but its tone is so different, so optimistic and bright, that it distinguishes itself. Many times, I sit grinding my teeth every time a game interrupts my play to let some douche-y characters jabber on. (I’m looking at you every Tales game ever!) In Solatorobo, the dialogue, while rarely essential, is usually worth hearing. The picking up mechanic has some life to it, though it is too simple to really power a whole game, but combat is infrequent enough that it is rarely a problem. The game is relaxing. It is a stress free, frustration free romp through a colorful world. Solatorobo is not a great game. It is not a game that will go down as one of its systems best or something essential. What it is is an easy, cheerful diversion. It has its problems, but it is hard to hold those problems against a game that so firmly has its heart in the right place.

Comics Reviews October, Part 1

Action Comics 2. Grant Morrison and Rags Morales. [****]
I loved the first issue of Morrison’s revitalization of Superman. He deftly fused some of the best of the golden age Superman with choice pieces of Byrne’s reboot and later versions. It had an energy that most comics, let alone most Superman comics, lack. It was great, this brash young Superman fighting for the little people and against the studied hate of Lex Luthor. This second issue doesn’t lose the energy, but it does lose control of it some.
Captured at the end of the previous issue, Superman is subjected to torturous tests by Lex and a cadre of military scientists, defended only by Doctor Irons, who in previous continuity was the hero Steel. It is still a magnificent re-imagining of the Superman mythos, with as many warts as possible sanded off. However, the plot of this issue falls into the trap that people often erroneously claim Morrison’s stories fall into. Somewhere in the ideas and the big moments, it loses cohesion and any sense of actual narrative. While that is usually a bogus claim of those whose reading comprehension is poor, I believe this issue strays into incoherence. It feels like 30 pages of story crammed into 20 and that compression leads to a story that feels like some important parts are missing. Still, the ideas underlying the carry it well enough, as long as this is a one-issue blip and not a continued problem.

Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E 2. Jeff Lemire and Alberto Ponticelli. [****½]
The first issue of this series promised much, but didn’t quite deliver it. This issue does. It cleans up the action from the first, throws a few more big science fiction concepts onto the page and manages some deft characterization of the monster fighting crew of monsters that populate this book.
Frankenstein is a no nonsense man of action. Griffith, the werewolf, is an eager young soldier. Mazursky, the sea monster, is a committed, possibly mad scientist with a combination of determination and damage. Velcoro, the vampire, has gotten the least characterization so far, but he seems to be a bit of a sociopath. Then there are the scientists of SHADE, who supply the team with support and crazy tools. It is like a monster sci-fi James Bond. Ponticelli’s scratchy art is a perfect complement to the black humor of the story. It all adds up to a terrific comic.

The Shade 1 of 12. James Robinson and Cully Hamner. [*****]
James Robinson returns the world where he really made his name. Back to Opal City and to the Shade, one of the biggest characters from Robinson’s seminal Starman run. The villain turned hero, sort of, Shade was easily the best character from that series, save for maybe its star.
Despite it being ten or so years since Starman ended, Shade manages to pick up right where it left off but not be alienating to new readers. All information needed is on the page. Shade is jovial and verbose, though he claims to be in the dumps. His girlfriend, police officer Hope O’Dare, suggests an adventure to perk him up. Interspersed in between Shade scenes in an encounter between one Von Hammer and a group of hit men. What he learns from them points him to Shade. There is an undeniable charm to the Victorian born Shade. He is acts like a man who has lived for more than a century might act. He is calm and never surprised but also not jaded. At least not anymore. This is just a great book. I look forward to the rest of it eagerly.


Continue reading

NFL Week 6 Picks

No time for much commentary this week. Last week I was 9-4. Not my best week, but not an embarrassment. This Sunday is a day I have no confidence in my picks. I’m going to take the Eagles over the Redskins because the Eagles have too much talent to keep losing. If they do lose this week, I’m not sure I’ll pick them again. As much as I am a believer in the Bills, I’m taking the Giants over them. Because the Giants motto seems to be “fuck predictability” and after losing to the Seahawks I don’t think many are taking them over the Bills. I’m also taking the 49ers over the Lions. The Lions are going to lose eventually, and the 49ers have been really good so far.

Panthers at Falcons: Falcons
Colts at Bengals: Colts
49ers at Lions: 49ers
Rams at Packers: Packers
Bills at Giants: Giants
Jaguars at Steelers: Steelers
Eagles at Redskins: Eagles
Browns at Raiders: Raiders
Texans at Ravens: Ravens
Cowboys at Patriots: Patriots
Saints at Buccaneers: Saints
Vikings at Bears: Bears
Dolphins at Jets: Jets

Last Week: 9-4

Season: 53-24

You Call this Archaeology? Part 4 Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

So now, it is time for the last, at the present, of the Indiana Jones movies, the much-maligned Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. I know a lot of people don’t like this movie and think it is a crime against the rest of the franchise if not cinema itself. Those people are wrong, and probably stupid. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, while not without its foibles and a few sour notes, is an excellent continuation of the series. It takes the impossible task of making a sequel after 20 years that still feels like the earlier films and not only succeeds, it turns the time gap into one of the films greatest strengths. I have two goals in this review. The first is to show why I like the movie so much. The second is to show how wrong you (the hypothetical you that dislikes this movie, because I‘m sure most people reading this are smart enough to see how awesome this movie is) are for hating it. Sounds easy to me.

Like with the rest of the movies, we can look to the opening scene for a statement of intent. In Raiders it was the Indy/Belloq rivalry, in Temple ‘Anything Goes’ and in Crusade it was Jones Sr./Jr. The opening scene in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is a statement of intent for the rest of the film. Only it seems that most viewers were too distracted by CG prairie dogs to notice. The first sound heard is Elvis Presley’s Hound dog. That is important. It is one of the most famous songs from the ‘50’s and the film is trying to establish setting. It is the same as the shot of the mushroom cloud in a few minutes. This is Indiana Jones in the nuclear age. By this time, the pulp heroes of the ‘30’s that he is based on had disappeared. In their place rose Sci-Fi movies and creature features. Concerns over the dangers and opportunities presented by new science trumped interest in mysticism and the occult. Indy no longer belongs. The world that exists in 1956 is not the world of 1936. Seeing the mushroom cloud in Indy’s brave new world moment. Such people fill this world as Mac, Indy’s treacherous supposed friend and the villainous Irina Spalko with her interest in pseudo-science. We also get the message that while the world has changed, Indy hasn’t. He is still quick with a supposedly witty quip or an opportunistic escape.

The sticking point for people seems to be Indy’s escape from a nuclear explosion via refrigerator. It is patently ridiculous. Much like him being drug for a few miles behind a truck on rough terrain. Or escaping a crashing plane in a life raft. Judging an Indiana Jones movie on realism is flatly refusing to entertain the film on its terms. I can only assume that the people who decided that this scene was where suspension of disbelief was irrevocably broken has never went back an examined the plausibility of the previous films. The unbelievability is a feature, not a bug and it has been that way since Raiders of the Lost Ark. I agree that in some cases, it crosses the line of acceptance, like most of Temple of Doom, and I’ll agree, grudgingly, that the fridge scene fits that bill. It is but a small thing, and an unimportant one to boot. (Also, the fridge was lead lined, what more do you want?) The important thing is the mushroom cloud. That is the image that should dominate Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

One of the biggest reasons I like Kingdom of the Crystal Skull so much is that it is the only Indian Jones sequel. It is the only one of the movies to pick up on theme’s and characters from previous movies and advance them. In fact, it plus Raiders and Crusade tie together to make an effective trilogy. Temple of Doom can safely be ignored. Raiders of the Lost Ark is the story of Indiana’s romance of Marian Ravenwood, but neither appears or is mentioned in Last Crusade. Something must have happened to them in between, and the films’ chronology places 2 years between the two movies. It also has Indy chafing against the bureaucracy of government agencies. He is willing to risk life and limb to help them and they are more than willing to deny him his prize. The Last Crusade is about Indy fixing his relationship with his father, about both of them realizing the importance of family. Kingdom of the Crystal Skull ties those two ideas together. While Indy was preserving one family, he was ignoring another. The lessons he learned in the third movie help Indy resolve his problems from the third.

And we get a stupendous motorcycle chase with Shia LaBeouf looking exactly like Marlon Brando in the Wild One. Now an old man, Indy’s backseat dialogue mirrors his father’s. It is also why the reveal that Indy is Mutt’s dad is not much of a surprise at all. The movie could be any plainer about what was going on. For the next hour of so the adventure is as fresh and pop-y as it ever was. A breathless rush around the world, with only the most tenuous claim archaeological research.

Sticking point number 2 for many people is that the maguffin leads to aliens and not some religious mystical discovery. Frankly, this complaint is asinine. As I alluded to earlier, Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is deliberately echoing the zeitgeist of ‘50s, which means aliens and monsters. Indy is still the pulp hero from the 30s, but it is not the 30s anymore. The early parts of the film use a hammer to establish the time period, with popular music of the time and references to greasers and McCarthyism. It is brilliant, placing the pulp hero in a different milieu. Drawing the line at the existence of aliens, period, in the world seems a strange choice, since no one had problems with the veracity of Hindu death cults, the powers of the Ark of the Covenant or meeting immortals thanks to drinking from the actual Holy Grail. The Sci-Fi twist is one that makes perfect sense for what Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is doing. Same goes for the giant ants. They fit in perfectly with a crazy sci-fi adventure. This is why the Mutt as Tarzan scene fails so terribly. That obvious reference flat doesn’t fit in the rest of the movie. It is jarring and definitely strains suspension of disbelief. Luckily, it last all of 1 minute.

There are several one those jarring moments in Kingdom. Not as many as in Temple of Doom, but enough that it doesn’t rise to the level of Raiders of the Lost Ark or The Last Crusade. Those are two the best adventure movies of all time, Kingdom isn’t near that level. But it is not the unholy abortion that people want to make it seem. It is a good, very good even, adventure movie. It is certainly better than any entry in the genre since the Last Crusade. (I would love to be proved wrong about this, by the way. Just don’t say National Treasure or I’ll laugh in your face then push you down.) All that Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull needs to be enjoyed is a willingness to engage it on its own terms. A willingness not to go in wanting exactly Raiders of the Lost Ark again. An open mind. Too bad that seems too tall a task to ask of most viewers.