Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Year Released: 2008
Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Harrison Ford, Cate Blanchett, Shia LaBeouf
Production Company: LucasArts
Review done: 7:41 AM 6/23/2008

At some point after doing the Star Wars Prequels, Lucas must have been searching in his front pocket for change and found the script to Indy 4. Hey, I’m not saying it was done horribly, I just wish it came out a little bit earlier – as in before Shia LaBeouf started to make a name for himself in movies. I’m not a huge fan of the kid, and it’s plain to see why he’s there in the first place: to gap the generations, and to pull in the younger audiences. I could have done without his false bravado, as convincing as Spielberg’s direction was, that kid simply annoys me.

Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is a throwback to the adventure serials of the 40’s and 50’s. Indiana Jones this time around has shown his age and the era has made a shift from 1940’s Nazi enemies to late 1950’s Cold War Russians. Harrison Ford as the titular character is back as the most Bad Ass bullwhip cracking, fedora wearing Archaeologist ever. For a guy in his 60’s he can still hold his own, throwing punches and doing most of his stunt work (even if it is done primarily in front of a blue screen). The storyline departs radically from the original series use of biblical and religious roots; this time around the plot point focuses on Aliens. That’s right, it sounds even a little bit harebrained to me; but you think about it- Spielberg has done ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’ and ‘E.T’, so at least he can make it look convincing. The Russians want to get their hands on a Crystal skull (yes, an Alien Skull) to make use of its powers for the U.S.S.R’s power arsenal. And it’s up to Indy and company to stop them.

“Spielberg promised this would all be blue screen!”

There’s a great deal done to keep the same feeling as the older Indy movies; the sets seem to be cut from the same cloth, the soundtrack feels the same, but the visuals are certainly different. Remember in Raiders of the Lost Ark, that part where Indy comes face to face with a cobra? In that scene you could see the reflection of the snake for a split moment. For the moment, that little imperfection, it was what made the movie for me, all the little things. These days the green and blue screen techniques used cover up all the imperfections and it looks a little layered. Believe me, you’ll notice it in the jungle scenes, especially when Shia LaBeouf is swinging through the trees Tarzan style with a bunch of CGI MONKEYS. If you think that sounded as ridiculous as it’s written, imagine my surprise that this movie spawned a catchphrase for a whole new generation.

I’m willing to forgive a lot since this is one of those adventure characters I fell in love with as a kid. That’s saying a lot, I can tolerate what’s going on between LaBeouf, a Boris and Natasha style Cate Blanchett, and a bunch of cartoony Russians in a comic book style plot. I mean, it’s still Indiana Jones; just sexed up for the 21st century with an X-Files twist. The first act, the need to find the Crystal Skull, the introduction of the main characters is worked beautifully; Spielberg has always masterfully given us characters we can care about no matter what the subject matter. The second act brings us further into this new Indy world, but by the third act, Jones doesn’t really have any motivation rather than to just get it over with. If it’s because he can get the seniors dinner discount at Applebee’s I can understand you got an obstacle to overcome buddy, but seriously: I wasn’t pulling for him in the last half hour. I think the problem was with Lucas’ script, did he really need the money? Obviously not. I’m sure he was digging around in his pocket and came out with the script treatment for Indy IV. Be that as it may, the other writers do pull their weight and at least make the dialogue somewhat plausible.

Harrison Ford shines a light on LaBeouf’s future career.

Indiana Jones is back and Harrison Ford is better than ever with his bad ass fedora. Bring some popcorn and tune out your mind for the ride. The parts where you have to suspend your belief are still fun, and heck the possibility of another Indy film keeps me coming back for more.

7.5 out of 10