Spielberg Returns to the Summer Blockbuster: Revisiting His Roots

 Spielberg over the years has mastered many of the genres, proving himself to be a more than capable director and certainly a master storyteller. However, every director has his or her missteps and Spielberg is certainly not immune.
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull starts out awful and only gets worse. When asked to analyze the film, it’s difficult to wrap my head around it because I can’t even begin to understand what Spielberg could possibly have been thinking with this film. Although Last Crusade may not be everybody’s idea of a best Picture winner, it’s definitely a solid film. However, to give him credit, in his long awaited follow up to his largely successful Indiana Jones series Spielberg treads somewhat unfamiliar ground for the series. As we discussed in class, in his previous Indiana Jones movies he’s dealt with pillars of the Judaic and Christian faith. It’s a difficult area to deal with, especially in such a blatant crowd-pleaser, but Spielberg handles both topics with sensitivity, but his most recent Indiana Jones film doesn’t deal with either faiths, but sets off in an entirely different direction. At first it seems daring to abandon the traditions that fans know and love, but Spielberg shamelessly panders to audience’s expectations without forcing them to question anything as he’s definitely done with his more recent films. Still, knowing Spielberg’s roots in the entertainment field, after minimal examination, it’s clear that he has returned to his regular stomping grounds by producing yet another Summer blockbuster, just different from his Indiana Jones blockbusters. Like I said, after such ballsy movies as Munich, it’s difficult to not only watch him return to making popcorn flicks, but even worse when he does it poorly.
My main issue with the film is predominantly why others like it. I’ve heard a great many people say that they liked the fact that the film took place in the 50s. It set up Indiana Jones in a new era for a new generation of movie-goers while providing a familiar enough set up for older fans of the films. While I respect the fact that he took a chance, the 1950s are an era that he is familiar with and works too hard to make his audience familiar with. His references to the 1950s are heavy handed at best (The Wild One reference comes to mind). This is just one of the many examples of how he gives his audience everything they want, sacrificing his craft for whatever reason. What I will give him credit for is his telling of the 1950s. Although so blatant, the story involving the aliens is something fitting of a 1950s film so it seems right at home in this action flick set in the 50s.
Regardless, in the long run, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull disappoints not only as an Indiana Jones film, but as a Spielberg film. He has once again returned to his place in Hollywood-dom as one of the Summer blockbuster directors (fittingly enough since he’s responsible for the Summer blockbuster). However, it’s been a long time since he’s been in a purely entertainment movie making zone, so he even seems somewhat uncomfortable returning to the genre. All in all, it works as mindless entertainment, but I’ve come to refuse mindless entertainment from Spielberg, seeing as he’s proved his capability as a serious filmmaker.


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