REVIEW AND TRACKING: New 'Indiana Jones' Movie is a Worthy 'Raiders' Successor; 'Kingdom of the Crystal Skull' Can Possibly Deliver the All-Time Best 5-Day Opening!
by Steve Mason
Although I did not see Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull at the swanky Cannes Film Festival, rubbing elbows with Harrison Ford, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and assembled elite film critics from around the world, I was at the humble confines of the Paramount Theatre on the studio lot on Melrose in Hollywood at the Sunday 10 a.m. (Pacific) press screening. I am happy to report that, despite early negative reactions from some disgruntled, unprofessional exhibition execs who anonymously posted scathing pans, it is a worthy successor to Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Studio execs will often use expressions like, "This is a real movie," and "We've got the goods." That's the case here for Paramount with this long awaited, much-buzzed-about third sequel to Raiders, featuring the iconic Indiana Jones character. George Lucas and Steven Spielberg have delivered a completely unpretentious, entirely enjoyable "popcorn movie," and it will hit the mark for both Baby Boomers, who grew up with Indiana Jones, and a new generation of moviegoers.
Spielberg has done something very special here. It has been 19 years since Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, but, if you watched the four Indy films back-to-back-to-back-to-back, you'd find that they have a consistent style. There is no sudden jolting leap forward in technology and special effects from the last Indiana Jones adventure 19 years ago. It feels like the next chapter of a really good story, although, Harrison Ford's face shows that some time has clearly passed.
Ford is still the laconic, dry-witted, bullwhip-cracking, fedora-wearing, pro-American hero, although he allows his apprentice, Mutt Williams (played by Shia LaBeouf from Disturbia and Transformers), to do some of the "heavy lifting." LaBeouf successfully keeps pace with Ford's wisecracking, and he is featured in one of the great chase sequences ever committed to film.
The movie is set in 1957, and the bad guys are Soviets, led by spectacular bad girl Irina Spalko, delightfully played by Cate Blanchett. The Oscar winner appears to be having the time of her life. She is the picture of evil with a page boy haircut, form-fitting jodhpurs, a thick Russian accent and an old-style cavalry saber that she puts to good use. Needless to say, Irina and Indy both want the titular artifact, but you can wait to find out why when you head to your local multiplex.
Karen Allen returns as Marion Ravenwood, Indy's old love interest from back in the day (Raiders). She looks great, and immediately recaptures her chemistry with Ford. He may be all of 65 years old, but Indy can still steal a woman's heart.
This is, above all, a Steven Spielberg movie. The airtight set pieces, the clear good vs. evil theme (no shades of gray here) and, above all, that sense of wonder that infuses so many of the filmmaker's mainstream films, are all pure Spielberg. You almost get the sense of what it must have been like to be a kid going to the movies in the late '30s and early '40s and living from chapter-to-chapter of the serials that inspired the Indiana Jones franchise.
From a box office perspective, the disastrous opening for Speed Racer and the softer-than-expected start for The Narnia Chronicles: Prince Caspian has created a perfect release date for Indy 4. As of today, after seeing the film and checking the very latest industry tracking, I think that the number to look for is $173 million. Here is how Kingdom of the Crystal Skull can get there for the Thursday-thru-Monday period: $45 million Thursday, which will include Wednesday after-midnight screenings, $34 million Friday, $36 million Saturday, $34 million Sunday and $24 million on Memorial Day. That is a tall order, but very possible. Those numbers would make it the All-Time Second-Best Four-Day Memorial Day Weekend opening, trailing only Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End. Perhaps more impressively, IJ4 would become the All-Time Best 5-Day opening surpassing the five-day record of $172.8 million set by Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith.
This will be a particularly exciting Memorial Day weekend for Paramount. The studio will almost certainly have the No. 1 and No. 3 movies for the period with IJ4 scoring huge and Iron Man (Paramount), the Marvel box-office juggernaut, likely grabbing at least $20 million over the four-day frame. The studio will likely account for as much as 70 percent of all of the box office generated by the Top 10 films over the holiday.