INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF
THE CRYSTAL SKULL
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
isnít exactly the 4th installment Iíve dreamed of, but with Harrison
Ford pushing 66 and nearly 20 years since The Last Crusade, itís
still a charming film that might have you applauding a few times but
never checking your watch.
This isnít the ďcrap on your childhoodĒ disappointment of the Star
Wars prequels, which frankly I was preparing myself for considering
some of the negative internet buzz and puzzling comments from George
Lucas asking us to lower our expectations. It also isnít a corny
sendoff like Rocky Balboa, either. Itís a good solid movie thatís as
entertaining as the original entries in the series.
And we can thank Steven Spielberg and Harrison Ford for that.
We canít deny George Lucas as one of the greatest creators of movie
fiction, but his storytelling, dialogue, and direction skills
arguably leave a lot to be desired. The guy can pull the most
amazing monsters, good guys and bad guys out of a hat. Vader and
Yoda will likely exist in some way, shape, or form a hundred years
after heís dead. They are as fantastic and endearing as Superman and
But as the prequels to Star Wars showed, poor movie making and bad
acting throw all that hard work out the door.
Steven Spielberg is easily one of the greatest filmmakers of all
time, and this film is lucky to be directed by him. Sure, heís made
better and more important films, but the guy can put some pretty
sweet shots together. From artful use of shadows, to jungle action,
Spielberg is the ultimate summer film master. I forgot how exciting
he can make a 10 minute series of car chases and crashes. Thereís
several of them in Crystal Skull that are as good as anything youíve
seen in Raiders or The Last Crusade. And yes, the Russians in this
movie are just as bad as marksmanship as The Nazis, practicing at a
shooting range no doubt run by the same inept folks that train
Stormtroopers and The A-Team.
Harrison Ford is the glue that holds it all together, though. Nobody
else could have played this part the way he has. When he first
appears in the film, itís shocking how old he looks. My 8 year son,
whoís only recently seen the original trilogy, even asked me ďWhy is
he so oldĒ when he saw him on a Burger King cup a couple weeks ago.
But it all fits in nicely. Heís a bit slower than weíve seen him
before, but he can still hop around, use the whip, make his
wisecracks, and get in a ridiculously brutal punching match that
rivals his bout with the bald German dude in the first film.
Itís not one of those Lethal Weapon Danny Glover ďIím too old for
this shitĒ type performances, either. He still makes it up as he
goes along, and nothing he does seems too ridiculous. Itís over the
top, for sure, but most of the action in this movie is pretty
believable and engaging. The only truly goofy spot being a short bit
where Shia LeBoufís character, Mutt, catches up with speeding trucks
by swinging on a bunch of vines like Tarzan with a gang of angry
Shia is really good in the part. It would have been easy to play him
as over rebellious, snotty, and annoying. Letís face it, with head
shakingly bad partners like Short Round and Willie, Indy has had
some of the worst sidekicks in the history of film. Shiaís got them
beat by leaps and bounds. I donít know if heís necessarily ready to
put on the fedora and take over the franchise, but itís a lot easier
to take than to see Hayden Christensen as young Darth Vader.
And as partners go, we get his best
back with Karen Allen returning as Marion Ravenwood. The chemistry
between Allen and Ford is fantastic. Her character is as gutsy and
courageous as before, and doesnít whine one bit. Sheís got about 30
extra years on her since weíve seen her last, but damn if she still
isnít a great natural beauty that can compete for screen presence
against Indyís larger than life performance with great success.
The good old fashioned stunt work in this movie is great. A car vs.
motorcycle chase through Dr. Jonesí college campus is exciting, as
is a military vehicle sequence in the jungle.
Though the closing scene doesnít come close to matching the sheer
horror of The Lost Ark finale, thereís still plenty of spooky bits,
including a sequence with seemingly millions of carnivorous ants is
simply gorgeous. Thereís a bit where a soldier is screaming as heís
being overwhelmed and you canít help but wince as they crawl into
Thereís some other fun bits that I wonít spoil. And there's a
handful of nitpicky things on the logic front that I'll be happy to
discuss separately. Nothing stays too slow and serious for long
before something horrible happens, thatís for sure.
Iím glad they made it. Itís a worthy addition to the series, and
great fun to watch in a theater. Which is all these movies have ever
tried to be.
A SECOND OPINION REVIEW BY
Most of the hype for this movie is based on the
"will it be as good as the others?" question - which of course
presumes that you liked the others to begin with. That said, it's a
fairly solid entry in the light-hearted franchise. If you liked the
almost slapstick action and hails of bullets that never hit a good
guy before, then you'll probably like them again. If not, then
watch something else.
For outing #4, the action, the characters, and the actors have
jumped forwards almost 20 years and Nazis with bad accents have been
replaced by Russians with bad accents and equally poor
marksmanship. This might have been a cleaner transition if George
Lucas and Spielberg had gone with a plot that started when the movie
started, rather than feeling the need to delve into the intervening
years. So, the movie occasionally struggles through expository
dialog (some of which seems to contradict itself) before getting
back on track with a fight or a car chase or, of course, the third
option - a fight during a car chase.
The movie opens with what feels like an American Graffiti homage,
essentially to ensure we know we've switched decades, in which
speeding cars somehow never outpace the lumbering army trucks behind
them. There are other scenes that also feel like a nod to an
earlier work but describing them involves spoiling the plot. So
let's get back to that wacky action: At one point a convoy through
thick jungle foliage is following a sort of mulching machine truck
that somehow both clears brush and smoothes the dirt behind it.
Which is fine, except that even after it's disabled, there is
apparently still enough clear space for an extended two and three
abreast truck chase scene (with fighting of course): It's as if
they were clearing a path when there was already a nearby jungle
highway with a pleasantly landscaped median.
All of which misses the point of the movie entirely. This isn't a
franchise that either requires or even sustains much deep thought:
You're given a nutty quest based on a goofy premise, with just
enough of what sounds like history to give it some weight (take that
National Treasure!) and you roll with it. Plot inconsistencies and
concerns for the frailty of the human body should be brushed aside
like inept poison-dart-blowing tribesmen. Now pass the popcorn
before I throw you from a moving vehicle again.
Throughout all of this, Harrison Ford runs and jumps, whips and
quips, perhaps marginally slower than before - but then why should
he over-exert himself when he already has those social security
checks supplementing his meager acting income. And, following a
slightly jar-jarring introductory scene, Shia Labeouf holds his own
(quite literally in at least one scene) alongside the veteran hero.
All of which adds up to a fun Memorial Day weekend at the movies,
for children of all ages. Assuming of course you like that sort of
thing and, realistically, you should know that before you ever walk