Bram's Reviews > Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull by James Rollins
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's review
Jun 03, 2009

it was ok
bookshelves: 2009
Read in June, 2009

This book had a couple serious obstacles to overcome right from the start. Serious enough that asking "why did you read this, Bram?" is not only fair, but fully expected. First, it's a movie tie-in that's an adaptation of a made-for-film story. Presumably (and one could certainly say obviously), this story is better told on celluloid. Second, it's easily the weakest of the Indiana Jones stories that have been made into movies. And considering that Temple of Doom and The Last Crusade, which I love with a fierce and irrational passion, are an outrageous horror-comedy-bizarro dream and tepid rehash of Raiders, respectively, this must have been difficult to arrange, even for The Neck himself. I actually enjoy the Crystal Skull a good bit, but I am still stunned by some of the weirdly inexplicable choices that the Beards made this time around ("Nuking the Fridge" and "Tarzan Cartoon Sequence" being only the most noticeable of these). I'm not going to get into a discussion of plot, acting, and execution here, but there were certainly some poor choices and missed opportunities.

So why would I read this book? For starters, Raiders of the Lost Ark is my favorite movie, and I was pretty damn excited (and nervous) about a new Indiana Jones installation last summer. I intentionally, winkingly let myself get swept up in the hype. I wasn't disappointed or terribly impressed with the final outcome, but I figured I could turn to the book to get the only things it had to offer a story like this: additional scenes, of which it has only a scant few, and insight into the psychologies of the main characters. Now for those who have seen the movie this may seem impossible, but it (the movie) has more psychological insight, based purely off of C+ grade facial expressions, than the novelization. This was, understandably, a bit of a disappointment and the main reason I initially set this one down months and months ago.

I'll be gentle: this book is not good. The writing fluctuates from barely passable to truly awful. Take a look at this gem of a passage, wedged in between a (well-filmed) high-speed jungle sword fight:

They now seemed evenly matched.


As she turned and straightened, the top two buttons of her tunic popped open.

Mutt's attention faltered...just for a split second. His gaze dropped for a fraction of a heartbeat. He was a guy, after all.

Spalko took advantage, smashing a fist at him...

If that doesn't make every fiber of your being groan, I'm not sure what will. I don't think this snippet was in the movie (at least explicitly), and for that I can forgive George all the Ewoks, Gungans, Pecks, Greedo-shooting-firsts, and young Anakins in the world.

Actually, that last sentence is completely false.
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Reading Progress

06/03/2009 page 208
08/29/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-11 of 11) (11 new)

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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

Proust and this, eh? I guess you're well-rounded.

Bram That's one hell of a euphemism. Unfortunately, I think Proust may have permanently disabled my ability to enjoy a book like this. How terribly snobby does that sound?

message 3: by [deleted user] (new)

I can't believe I just voted for a review of a film novelization. But it was good!

It's been a long time since I've read a novelization... Like half my classmates, I used to read them all the time in grade school for book reports, and even then I was vaguely conscious of what a profoundly sad fate it must be for a writer to end up churning out this shit great stuff. I was especially fond of The Empire Strikes Back by Donald F. Glut (also a "Goodreads author"), but I still can't imagine a literature more superfluous -- and depressing.

message 4: by Daniel (new)

Daniel I have to say, "smashing a fist at him" may be the greatest bit of bad writing I've read in ages. Thank you for bringing it to my attention.

message 5: by Bram (last edited Jun 07, 2009 05:59PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Bram Thanks guys. I might have to check out ESB at some point, David--I love the film. Any surprising additions/changes? I must be a tad masochistic to be considering another one of these...

Do you think phrases like "smashing a fist at him" are utilized because they're somehow innovative? There are quite a few of them in here, and their usage is frequently meaningless and incorrect (and unintentionally hilarious). I was equally appalled by "he was a guy after all". The sentiment, the timing-terrible. But bonus points for using "tunic" instead of the pedestrian "shirt".

message 6: by Brad (new) - added it

Brad I am glad you cleared up your final sentence at the end of your review, Bram...I was gonna say.

Oh...and all you've done is make me want to read this obvious piece of absolute trash even more. But I imagine you guessed it would have that effect on me.

Bram Haha--I knew it wouldn't deter you. I'm as interested as ever in Campbell Black's Raiders rendition--I love the idea of novelizations that don't quite sync with the movie.

message 8: by Brad (new) - added it

Brad Bram wrote: "Haha--I knew it wouldn't deter you. I'm as interested as ever in Campbell Black's Raiders rendition--I love the idea of novelizations that don't quite sync with the movie. " Yeah, me too. Even when the writing is crap there is still something cool about the added bits, especially when you love the movie. Think I'm going to watch Raiders today, actually. I haven't seen it since last month.

Bram Haha, my Indy dedication pales in comparison to yours. It would take only a nudge to make you like me, to push you out of the light.

message 10: by Brad (last edited May 26, 2010 11:11AM) (new) - added it

Brad Now you're getting nasty

message 11: by Bram (last edited May 26, 2010 11:08AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Bram Thank you (I think? heh), Caris.

From Shakespeare to Indiana Jones---to quote Willie Scott from the Temple of Doom (intoned with disgust): "Hard to believe, isn't it?"

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