Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

Twenty seven years after ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’, a movie of such monumental greatness that calling it legendary does it an injustice, Harrison Ford has put on his dusty Fedora, Steven Spielberg has slipped behind the directors chair only he is allowed to sit in, and George Lucas has fired up every single technological advancement he has pioneered to help create a long overdue fourth installment with ‘Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull’. We already know that it’s gonna make a ton of cash, but is it any good?

Having pretty much dispatched with the Nazi menace, it’s the late 1950’s and Dr. Henry Jones (Harrison Ford – obviously) finds that there is very little rest for the weary as the Red Scare has completely gripped the nation of the United States in fear, and for good reason as we will soon find out. A group of commie scientist led by the sword carrying Doctor Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett) have cornered Dr. Jones and his MI6 red stuffing buddy Mac (Ray Winstone) in a warehouse full of top secret U.S. government artifacts, because Dr. Spalko needs something in there and only Indiana knows where it is. Well Indiana does help them locate this artifact but quickly turns the tables on his captors in one of the many tour de force action sequences in this flick, culminating with Indiana finding himself in the middle of a nuclear bomb test. How in the world is he gonna get out of this mess? I think he’ll find a way.

Since there is a cold war going on and Dr. Jones did just help a bunch of Ruskies steal some valuable stuff, all of the sudden he finds himself on the watch list. Indiana Jones. A Commie. You’ve gotta be kidding me. Forced to take a leave of absence from his teaching duties due to pressure from the Feds, Indiana is about to go a little vacation until he is approached by the precocious greaser Mutt Williams (Shia LeBeouf), looking like The Fonze twice removed, who informs Indiana that his old colleague of his Professor Oxley (John Hurt) has been kidnapped by some Ruskies while searching

for an artifact, the same Ruskies that were giving Indiana a hard time. Worst still, these commies have kidnapped Mutt’s mom, who has advised her son that there is only one man on the planet who can get to the bottom this mystery and save everybody’s butts in the process.

Now that the players have been introduced and the plot has been laid out, the game is now afoot and it’s time for an Indiana Jones movie to start with more swashbuckling action than you will probably be able to tolerate, the prerequisite supernatural element that really shouldn’t be messed with that we’ve all come to expect, some bullwhip mastery, a serious aversion to snakes and the glorious reemergence of Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen) in an adventure for the ages. In theory at least.

First, unless you’re just one really angry dude, it’s impossible for an Indiana Jones movie to suck. Impossible. There’s just too much talent involved for this to happen. Harrison Ford is Indiana Jones probably more than any actor is any character in the history of movies. Steven Spielberg is arguably, and the argument would have to be a strong one to indicate otherwise, the greatest film director ever. From sound to visuals there is probably not a more important person in the advancement of film technology than George Lucas. That’s a lot of firepower right there folks. Everything pretty much works as you would expect it to in this iteration of the Indiana Jones legend with Ford doing the things and making the great escapes that we’ve come to expect from the Indiana Jones, Spielberg directing over the top amazing action sequences with a breathtaking rush, and keeping the film rolling along on roller coaster rails. The visual sequences and sound design are as breathtaking as ever with John Williams providing yet another thrilling score. Plus Karen Allen is back which is great and they had the forethought to cast probably the greatest working actress of our time in Cate Blanchett as the villain. Outstanding.

So why didn’t I like this movie more? Why when I’m asked ‘how did you like ‘The Crystal Skull’ I can only reply: ‘Oh…It was okay’. Despite all the fantastic elements that were within this film I still came away with the feeling that something was missing, as if it had no soul. None of the magic that was present in ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ was in ‘The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull’ and there’s no way you can avoid comparing this film to its predecessors, all which are a step back from the film that preceded it. Is Harrison Ford at sixty five, the same age as my Dad, too old to be swinging from the rafters? Probably. As a twelve year old watching some dude as old as my dad kicking ass made complete sense to me, since my old man could pretty much kick anyone’s ass. Watching this film with my twelve year old son watching some dude as old as his granddad laying folks to waste is a bit of a stretch, since I’d be telling my Dad, whose still pretty tough, to sit his old ass down and relax. The action sequences were spectacular looking but lacked any real feeling of danger for our heroes and as such didn’t have that visceral thrill that we’ve come to expect. Narratively speaking, where previous Indiana Jones movies have always had a supernatural element, the have always managed to make that element connect to the world as we know it somehow. This time it’s as if the story was ripped from the pages of the Weekly World News as ‘Close Encounters’ meets ‘Apocalypto’ or something and quite honestly was pretty darned silly.

‘The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull’, standing on its own merit, is a fine piece of summertime entertainment, there is no doubt about that in my mind. It’s just not a great Indiana Jones movie, which probably isn’t fair to this movie, but that’s the price that you pay for greatness, and this version came up well short.

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