May 26th, 2008
10:43 AM ET

Indiana Jones and the great divide

The holiday weekend is almost over and “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” has earned a ton of money -– just short of a record amount, as a matter of fact.

Harrison Ford plays Indiana Jones in "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull."

But has it earned goodwill? Plenty, but not an overwhelming amount.’s Tomato Meter stands at 79 percent -– very good, but not the 93 percent posted by “Iron Man” a few weeks ago. “Crystal Skull” received a 67 from Metacritic.

And for every Roger Ebert, who points out that you can only compare Indiana Jones films to other Indiana Jones films (and has high praise for them all), there’s iReport contributor borisvukov, who called it “absolutely horrible.”

But what fascinates me is how many reviewers lay credit (or blame) at Steven Spielberg’s feet. Yes, the man is the director (and in an auteur universe, the director is all), and he’s as much of a draw as star Harrison Ford and producer George Lucas. (And I can remember, when “Raiders of the Lost Ark” came out in 1981, Lucas was the main draw - Harrison Ford was a “Star Wars” supporting actor, and Spielberg, though championed as the man who directed “Jaws” and “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” was coming off the flop “1941.”)

Anyway, I’d say Spielberg is the reason “Crystal Skull” works as well as it does. What other director could pull off the opening game of chicken with such effortless suspense - and over the credit sequence, yet? Who else could handle that nuclear ghost town sequence with such wit?

No, I’d say the movie’s problems (and a chunk of responsibility for those problems) lie with the script (by David “Mission: Impossible” Koepp) and - yes - Lucas, who wanted to do something along the lines of “Indiana Jones and the Martians from Mars.”

Lucas may know his action tropes, but Harrison Ford had him right during the production of “Star Wars” when he said, “George, you can type this [crap], but you sure as hell can’t say it.” When the pulp overwhelms the wit in “Crystal Skull,” the film feels like what Lucas probably had in mind. What Lawrence Kasdan or Philip Kaufman could have done with this material!

So, what side of the “Indiana Jones” divide do you come down on? Where does the film rank among the four? Comment below or send longer reviews to us at iReport.

- Todd Leopold, Entertainment Producer

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