Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
Directed by Steven Spielberg
It‘s 1957, America is deep in the Cold War and Indiana Jones is at it again in the entertaining fourth installment of the series.
Fans who enjoy the humor and unapologetically farfetched action sequences of the previous films will find a lot to like in this film, but those who want a cohesive plot and complex villains should look elsewhere.
In Crystal Skull, Indy is on a quest to keep a mysterious and suspiciously alien-shaped skull out of the hands of the Russians and restore it to its rightful place in the fabled city of El Dorado.
Silver fox Harrison Ford is as dashing as ever as the aged yet spry Dr. Jones. Judging by how often he leaps in and out of moving vehicles, gets dragged behind speeding trucks and jumps off of waterfalls, he must have had his hips replaced with titanium at some point. Karen Allen also reprises her role as Marion Ravenwood, Indiana‘s sassy leading lady in Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Otherwise, the cast is all new. Shia LaBeouf (Transformers) plays Mutt Williams, Marion‘s cocky-yet-good-at-heart greaser son. Williams enlists Indiana‘s help in rescuing his mother and mentor, Oxley, who have been kidnapped by the Russians. Cate Blanchett plays the cold and relentlessly commie Irina Spalko, who is hunting down artifacts she believes will help her fellow Soviets develop some sort of “mind-weapon.“
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull stays true to the spirit of the previous films. After all, an Indiana Jones movie without an ancient temple full of sophisticated booby traps and a bunch of bad guys who are utterly incapable of shooting a man-sized target from 50 feet away is really no Indiana Jones movie at all.
But for the most part, the film stays mercifully clear of gratuitous “fan-pleasing“ references. The action scenes are entertaining and exciting – they are definite throwbacks to the older films in tone and scale – but they are also fresh. Nobody has to run away from a giant boulder or wriggle out of a dungeon with a rapidly descending spike-covered ceiling. The villains too reflect those of the previous installments. They are one-dimensional and severely lacking in redeeming qualities, but the fact that they are Russians and not jungle savages or Nazis is a nice change of pace.
The film does have its problems, however. The plot is somewhat disjointed, especially near the beginning where there is a bizarre, albeit highly entertaining scene involving a nuclear testing site. Some of the subplots are problematic as well, including a seemingly disposable one concerning Indiana‘s old friend and fellow war veteran Mac McHale.
The film also falls short with its pacing. The great mystery of the crystal skull seems momentarily perplexing at best, as Indy seems to decipher all the dead languages and riddles he encounters with relative ease. There is little room for anyone to doubt that the characters will figure everything out in time.
That being said, the film does have some nice subtleties. While the previous Indiana Jones films certainly glamorized archaeology among the general public, they also portrayed it as little more than treasure-hunting and temple-looting. In this film, the focus has shifted to returning artifacts to their original resting places, rather than stealing them.
Overall, the film offers an enjoyable and entertaining couple of hours. Those who are willing to laugh along with a film that does not take itself too seriously will not be disappointed.
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull opened at midnight and is now playing Regal Davis Stadium 5 on G Street in Davis.