Raiders of the Box Office (Theatrical Releases)

May 23, 2008
A thought by James Berardinelli

This week is all about Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. It will unquestionably be the Box Office Champion, although the jury is still out whether it will set any receipt records. It's a curious thing. This is the summer's most hotly anticipated movie and it will make oodles and oodles of money; however, in the end, I think it will disappoint a fair number of viewers. Maybe it's the "Is that all there is?" syndrome. The film delivers action, adventure, jokes, and Harrison Ford. What's missing is the magic. This movie does not turn everyone in the audience into a 10-year old child awed and amazed by the antics of an iconic hero. I was as excited as anyone to see this movie. I got to the screening location early and went in with high expectations. I left the theater discouraged and a little sad. Indy deserves better than this.

I can't recommend anything this week because The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is the only game in most towns, and I don't feel enough enthusiasm about it to advise movie-goers to spend their hard-earned money on tickets. (Uwe Boll's Postal is opening in about 17 theaters across the country, but none in my neck of the woods.) Not that my opinion matters much, nor should it for an "event" like this. There are some films for which critical opinion is important. Then there are movies like The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull where we're merely providing words for people to agree with or disagree with.

I have followed with interest how the tide of public opinion has changed regarding my review. Shortly after it was posted, it was picked up and copied (without permission but with attribution) to several forums. This led to a round of name-calling and insults and a debate about whether I even saw the movie (fueled by the error, since corrected, in which I called Mutt "Mudd"). I had a few defenders, but the climate was ugly. However, after the movie opened, a funny thing happened - many posters to those forums indicated that they agreed with me or even thought I was too "kind." I have always found it to be in bad form to comment on a review until having seen/read/experienced the source material. Those who waited to respond until after seeing the movie were able to offer something to the discussion beyond unchecked venom. It's the lack of basic civility in some posts like these that reinforces my belief that ReelViews should remain free of discussion groups. There are plenty of other places on the Net where one can bash me with impunity. I don't need it to happen on my own site.

Some have predicted that The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull will shatter records. The one in play is $153 million, the best-ever Memorial Day weekend total - a sum acquired by the third Pirates of the Caribbean tale last year. Can a 60-something action hero knock off Johnny Depp? I don't see it happening, even factoring in the nostalgia factor. And the predicted spectacular weather for the northeast won't help. A few hundred thousand people will be on the beach instead of in a multiplex. Indy should do fine, blowing past $100 million with ease, but it would surprise me to read on Monday that he has eclipsed the previous mark. And, in terms of longevity, it will be interesting to see whether The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull has the staying power to outlast Iron Man. Viewers are returning to see the latter two, three, four times. It's hard to imagine many people returning on multiple occasions to re-experience Dr. Jones' fourth adventure.

If you're looking for variety this weekend, avoid multiplexes. There's a 24-plex within easy driving distance of me. Seven of its screens are devoted to Indiana Jones 4, six are showing Prince Caspian, and four offer Iron Man. That leaves seven screens for a variety of unimpressive titles like Speed Racer and What Happens in Vegas.