MovieMantz Review: ‘Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull’

Indy’s Still Got It!

“Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull”

Starring: Harrison Ford, Cate Blanchett, Shia LaBeouf, Karen Allen

Directed by: Steven Spielberg

As Harrison Ford’s most famous alter ego, Indiana Jones, once said, “It’s not just the years, honey, it’s the mileage.”

And if you lower your expectations, then you’re bound to get a lot of mileage out of Indy’s fourth adventure, “The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.” It’s not a masterpiece by any means, like 1981’s “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” and it falls a bit short of that blockbuster’s very entertaining sequels, 1984’s “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” and 1989’s “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.” But for a film series that supposedly came to a close 19 years ago, “Crystal Skull” is an exciting movie that lives up to the high standards set by its predecessors.

And for pessimistic skeptics who love to focus on the fact that Harrison Ford is 65 years old, get over it. The guy’s in amazing shape, and any doubts about his abilities to look good in that famous fedora, crack that whip and fight off the bad guys are quickly forgotten in the film’s spectacular opening sequence.

But Indy’s age is still very much a part of the story, which is set in 1957. The Nazis are long gone, the Cold War is in full swing, Elvis Presley is the king of rock ‘n’ roll and World War II hero Indiana Jones has just been let go from his longtime teaching duties at Marshall University. That’s when he meets Mutt Williams (Shia LaBeouf), a rebellious young greaser who makes the adventurous archaeologist an offer he can’t refuse — to find the Crystal Skull of Akator, a mysterious object that possesses highly unusual powers.

The problem is, the Soviets want it too, and their ruthless agents — led by the devastatingly beautiful Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett) — will stop at nothing to get it. That means Indy and Mutt have to stay one step ahead of the game, which takes them to the ancient tombs of Peru. But before Indiana Jones can stop the Crystal Skull from falling into the wrong hands, he must first come to terms with a shocking secret that will change his life forever.

The fact that “Crystal Skull” is actually a good movie is a huge relief, since it could have easily been a crushing disappointment. After all, the last time producer George Lucas decided to dust off a popular film series, fans saw their childhood illusions shattered by 1999’s “Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace.” In addition, a number of other archaeological adventures did just fine picking up where “The Last Crusade” left off, including “The Mummy,” “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider” and “National Treasure.”

But unlike the “Star Wars” prequels, which didn’t feature any members of the original trilogy (sorry, but Yoda doesn’t count!), the gang’s all here for Indy — Ford, Lucas, director Steven Spielberg and composer John Williams. That’s why “Crystal Skull” feels like an “Indiana Jones” movie while putting those other wannabes to shame. Yes, the screenplay by David Koepp (“Jurassic Park”) is loaded with exposition, but Spielberg keeps the mood jovial while delivering old-fashioned action scenes that are just as exciting as they always were.

Longtime fans are bound to appreciate the nods to the previous installments (particularly “Raiders” and “The Last Crusade”), while other revelations about Indy’s past may bring to mind 1982’s “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.” As a result, “Crystal Skull” fits in just as nicely with the rest of the series as it does with some of Spielberg’s other classics, especially 1977’s “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” (you’ll know why when you see it).

But if “The Last Crusade” didn’t really find its voice until the great Sean Connery entered the scene as Indy’s dad, then the same can be said about “Crystal Skull” when Indy is reunited with Marion Ravenwood, his love interest from “Raiders” (played by Karen Allen, who, at 56, looks amazing). They still have terrific chemistry, and Shia LaBeouf is a great addition to their team. Cate Blanchett seems to be having the time of her life as Indy’s nemesis, while Ray Winstone and John Hurt do what they can with slightly more underdeveloped roles.

There’s no question that “Raiders of the Lost Ark” is a masterpiece in every sense of the word. “Temple of Doom” and “The Last Crusade” don’t hold up as well under scrutiny, but we still hold them with such high regard because we see them through the rose-colored glasses of nostalgia. It’s too soon to see if that degree of nostalgia will apply to “Crystal Skull,” but in the meantime, it sure is nice having Indy back on the big screen for more fortune and glory.

And to that extent, Harrison Ford once again proves that it’s not just the years, it’s the mileage.


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