Thursday, December 25, 2008

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull Audio CD Review

It's something of a cliché to say that any novel is better than the movie made from it. However, when you consider that this Audio CD is really a novelization based on the script of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, then how good the movie could've been really jumps out at you.

Living in Southern California, I spend a lot of time sitting on freeways. (Notice I didn't say "driving" on freeways.) To make the time lost in rush hour traffic more palatable, I've got a ton of Audio CD's that save me from boredom or the horrors of talk radio.

One of my latest acquisitions was James Rollins' adaptation of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Read by L.J. Ganser, I almost liked it more than the movie.

As with any book, you get more of the "back story" usually based on the internal monologue of the characters. Here you get a lot more. While the movie starts with the break-in at Area 51, Rollins starts his book by answering the question, "how exactly did Indy end up in that trunk?"

In addition you learn what the relationship between Oxley and Marion is and why it estranged Indy from both of them for years. It makes the story of Mutt's relationship with "Ox" more believable. And it even explains why Oxley would retrieve the skull, go all the way to Akator, then turn right around and put it back where he found it, something that was just a little bit vague to me after only having seen the movie.

There's also a chapter in the book where Irina Spalko performs an autopsy on the Roswell alien stolen from Hanger 51 and she discovers that the alien's have a crystalline skeletal structure. It sounds like it could've been a scene in an early draft of the script and goes a long way in explaining the Soviet Union's interest in the subject.

As for the tale itself, Rollins' takes Spielberg's wild tale and keeps you engrossed enough that you don't have time think to yourself "ya gotta be kidding me." Unfortunately, the same wasn't true of the movie.

Spielberg's on-screen fascination with aliens started with Close Encounters of the Third Kind, followed by the Sci-Fi Channel mini-series Taken and, unfortunately, ended up as the main plot-point in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. I don't have a problem with alien movies, per se, but there were so many tortured premises in the movie that I personally felt that it detracted from what could've been a much more successful (certainly more easily understood) tale.

Given Lucas' penchant for making movies in threes, I'd hoped for at least one more Indiana Jones movie. But given the relatively lukewarm response, even from die-hard Indy fans, I'll be surprised if another script is green-lighted (as they say in Variety-speak.) Hopefully, I'm wrong. The movie came in with so much build-up, and so much anticipation, that perhaps nothing could've lived up to the expectations of the fans.

Back to the Audio CD, there was one reference to "retinal scans" that was so out of period that I noticed it. Sure the idea was around in 1935, but the first actual device wasn't invented until 1975.

But I'm nit-picking. Science Fiction, whether read, heard on an Audio CD, or seen in a movie requires a suspension of disbelief; at least if you're going to do more than just roll your eyes and groan, "ya gotta be kidding me!"

Rollins tells a good tale and L.J. Ganser does an excellent job performing all of the spoken parts. It's a great way to pass the time stuck in gridlock. Personally, I'd much rather be following Dr. Jones' latest adventure, instead of worrying about getting to that meeting on time.

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