US Release Date: 05-22-2008
Directed by: Steven Spielberg
- Harrison Ford, as
- Indiana Jones
- Cate Blanchett, as
- Irina Spalko
- Karen Allen, as
- Marion Ravenwood
- Shia LaBeouf, as
- Mutt Williams
- John Hurt, as
- Professor Oxley
- Jim Broadbent, as
- Dean Charles Stanforth
- Igor Jijikine, as
- Pasha D. Lychnikoff as
- Russian Soldier
Harrison Ford in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
George Lucas failed miserably when he tried to revive his Star Wars series in 1999, so I was a little worried when I heard he was doing the same with the Indiana Jones franchise. My fear was a little soothed by the thought that with Indiana Jones, Stephen Spielberg would again be directing. Now after seeing Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, I can safely say, my fears were groundless. Seeing this latest installment is like meeting a long lost friend and discovering that they haven't lost any of their charm. Spielberg, Lucas and Ford have managed to recapture the magic and brought adventure back to the movies.
One of the best decisions made when making this movie was that instead of trying to hide the number of years that have passed since the last one, the plot embraces the passage of time and makes it integral to the story. The movie is set in 1957, nearly 20 years after the last one and Indiana Jones is still up to his old tricks, and even though there's a lot more grey in his hair, he still manages to put up a good fight and swing a mean bull-whip. Mention is made in passing as to what Indy has been up to over the intervening years. During the war it seems that he worked as a spy for the allies, but has since returned to teaching and adventuring. His father and his old friend Brody are both mentioned as well.
Where the first three movies were based loosely on the adventure serials of the 1930s, this one bears some traces of a 1950s Sci-Fi B-movie. I don't want to give away too much of the plot, but the story is basically a race between Indy and a group of Russians to find a crystal skull that the Russians believe is a weapon of enormous power. The quest for the skull takes Indy from the desert of the Southwest to deep into the Amazon Rain Forest. His sidekick for this movie is Mutt (LaBouf), the son of Indy's old flame, Marion Ravenwood (who's also along for the ride). Mutt, very much a product of the 1950s with his switch blade, pompadour and motor cycle (including an entrance that is a tribute to Brando's The Wild One) helps bring some youth to the proceedings.
The movie's only weakness is that the action is over-the-top at times. Indiana is completely indestructible and you never feel that he is ever in any real danger. This is in tune with the mood of the last Indiana Jones' movie, but a far cry from the darker, more realistic first film. I blame CGI for the over-the-top action scenes. There are scenes that wouldn't have been possible to film when the movies first came out that they are able to film now with the help of computers. Indy's trip in a refrigerator (you'll know what I mean when you see it) and when Mutt does his Tarzan impression are two scenes that leap to mind.
As in the earlier films, the best thing about this movie is the character of Indiana Jones. Ford is great again as one of filmdom's most iconic heroes. You first see Indy in silhouette and the shape of him in the hat, accompanied by that theme music is enough to give chills to any fan of the series. He's lost little over the intervening years. He stills bumbles through his adventures, making it up as he goes along, and getting beaten up as often as he beats up.
Lucas might have failed with the Star Wars sequels, but with the help of Spielberg and Ford, he makes up for it here. Once again, Adventure has a name and that name is Indiana Jones.
Shia LaBeouf, Harrison Ford and Karen Allen in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
Indiana Jones is back and it is great to see him in action. He is older and the setting, 1957, seems better brought to life than the 1930's of the previous films. The movie opens with a roadster tearing down the street wanting to drag race. It is a bit reminiscent of the Lucas directed American Graffiti. Later, Indiana and Mutt talk in a corner soda shop that looks quite similar to the one in the Spielberg produced Back to the Future. The only thing that established the era of the previous films was the presence of Nazis.
Indiana's reunion with Marion is one of the movie's bright spots. Of all the women featured in the series, she was the one who suited him best. She is tough and independent. They had the best chemistry and the only true love story, that did not seem forced. Their meeting in the jungle should have, and could have, been played up a bit more romantically. Think Bogart's and Bergman's reunion scene in Casablanca. It would have added some emotional weight to a script that occasionally becomes very light.
The new cast members hold their own. LaBeouf plays the biker Mutt, like a natural. He first addresses Indiana as, "Old man!" His best action scenes are when he is on his motorcycle. The Tarzan act is a bit much but it hardly ruins anything as it is short and part of a much larger action sequence. The series could definitely continue with Mutt taking over the lead. Blanchett does another accent with comfortable aplomb. Indiana makes a joke about it when they first meet.
The big glaring issue with this installment is the ending when we learn the secret of the crystal skull. It contradicts everything that has come before in the series and takes Jones into a new direction and reality that never existed before. If you can forgive Lucas's and Spielberg's huge misstep there is still fun to be found.
Even though Lucas and Spielberg messed up the movie series, Indiana Jones remains the greatest action/adventure movie character of all time. This may be the last time we see Ford wear that Fedora, but it is an image that will last as long as Humphrey Bogart and his trench coat, Charlie Chaplin and his cane, John Wayne in his cowboy hat and Marilyn Monroe in her white dress. Indiana Jones is immortal.
Adventure not only has a name, he has a son.
Although I agree with most of what my brothers have written I take exception to a few things. Scott, not everyone thinks Lucas “failed miserably” with the new Star Wars movies. Many of the young people I work with enjoy them much more than “those old ones” as they put it. As for me, I like the original trilogy better too but can appreciate the newer ones as well. Eric, I think the earlier Indiana Jones movies successfully “brought to life” the time period of the 1930s, especially in the opening nightclub scene in Temple of Doom.
Apart from those minor quibbles I think my brothers are spot on. Watching this movie is like visiting an old friend. Like all of us Jones is now 20 years older. He still retains his charm and taste for adventure (although his reflexes with the bull-whip are a bit slower). LaBeouf is a good addition to the franchise. He’s a chip off the old block and shares a nice camaraderie with Ford.
Eric is right about the jungle reunion between Indiana and Marion. It should have been played up more romantically. She is, after all, the love of his life and (I think it’s OK to give this away now) the mother of his child. Yet the scene is filmed like a throw-away moment.
Scott is right about the over-the-top CGI action. Jones surviving a nuclear blast by climbing inside a refrigerator has to be the worst stunt in any of the movies. Mutt swinging nimbly through the trees and catching up to a speeding vehicle is a bit much. And these Russian Comrades make Storm Troopers look like expert marksmen by comparison.
The glaring issue you mention Eric is a horrible way to end the movie. Inter-dimensional beings? Really? And was it just me or did the crystal skulls themselves look slightly ridiculous? Yes, the character of Indiana Jones is iconic and it was a pleasant diversion hanging out with him again for a few hours. But the weak script and completely outlandish action sequences make Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull a disappointment.
Photos © Copyright Paramount Pictures (2008)