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Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (A Movie Review)

Updated: Jun 30, 2023

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull


Starring Harrison Ford, Shia LaBeouf, Cate Blanchett, Karen Allen, Ray Winstone, John Hurt, Jim Broadbent, Igor Jijikine, Alan Dale, Joel Stoffer, Neil Flynn, V.J. Foster and Chet Hanks.

Screenplay by David Koepp.

Directed by Steven Spielberg.

Distributed by Paramount Pictures.  126 minutes.  Rated PG-13.

Twenty-seven years after Indiana Jones first appeared in theaters, nearly twenty since his last appearance, Harrison Ford once again slips on the battered hat and whip to play America’s favorite archaeologist/adventurer.  When it came out in 1981, Raiders of the Lost Ark – Steven Spielberg and George Lucas’ tribute to the serial dramas they grew up with – was completely unique.  It was a smart, funny, exciting and even romantic saga which started off at a gallop and rarely slowed after that.

This one-off tribute quickly became three movies.  However, no matter how deified the original trilogy may be amongst film aficionados, the cold hard fact was only one of the films was worthy of the worship it received.  Only the first was a truly brilliant movie.  The prequel Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom was a huge, bloody, ridiculous disappointment.  (It is also single-handedly responsible for creating the PG-13 rating, because it was much too violent for the PG rating it was given, so it did have some positive effect on film history…)  The third installment of the saga, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade was a nice upgrade, but still pales by comparison to the original.

Of course, an archeologist knows all about the ravages of time, and there has been cautious optimism about the idea of bringing a 60-something Harrison Ford back in one of his two undeniably iconic film roles.  Nineteen years later, is there still a place in the world for Indiana Jones in a new millennium?  Can an actor who is now just a few years away from AARP membership still pull off breathless action sequences?  In a movie world when the Indy films have been copied for decades, will the original still pack a punch?

The answer to all three questions is yes – with reservations.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is another middling Indy adventure, pretty good but not a masterpiece.

Apparently, Spielberg and Lucas have been biding their time for years, refusing to make another Indiana Jones film until they found just the right screenplay.

Honestly, it is a little hard to buy that this script by David Koepp (Spider-Man, War of the Worlds, Panic Room) is the perfection that they were looking for – the story drags a bit in the middle and can occasionally be a little precious.  It is a relatively interesting story, although it is a little disheartening when the movie occasionally feels like a National Treasure rip-off.

In the late 1950s (the original films took place in the 30s and 40s) Jones must race with the evil Russians to find the mythical artifact of the title – a skull made of solid crystal with mysterious powers that could give the owner world domination.  He is joined by his son (though neither realizes it at the time), a cocky greaser beatnik named Mutt – played by Shia LaBeouf in a transparent attempt to get the young audience and maybe even launch a new generation of Jones adventures.

They follow a series of not-all-that-hard clues and riddles leading them to the jungles of South America, where they find Indy’s old love from Raiders, Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen).  Turns out she is Mutt’s mother and falls back into bickering with Indy like not a day had passed.  Also in the jungle are a formerly brilliant, but now apparently deranged mentor of Indy’s (John Hurt), an old partner of Indy’s who may not be totally trustworthy (Ray Winstone) and a whole lot of Russians.

The bad guys are typical Indy no-goodniks.  Cate Blanchett borrows the look and accent of Natasha Fatale from the old Bullwinkle cartoons.  Igor Jijikine is just evil and menace incarnate, though the rest of the Russian troops seem a bit incompetent.

All these goings on are punctuated by fights, chases and explosions – more of which work than don’t.  When you get down to it, that is the most important thing in these movies.

Was Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull worth the nineteen year wait?  Probably not.  Is it good to have the character back?  Definitely.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2008  All rights reserved.  Posted: June 3, 2008.


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