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Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
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by Jay Seaver

"A different world, but the same Dr. Jones."
5 stars

I'm lucky; walk a couple miles in two different directions from my house and you'll find theaters that run "Raiders of the Lost Ark" on film, on the big screen, in front of a packed house, at least once a year, and you bet I take advantage of that. Sitting down in a sold-out theater to watch a *new* Indiana Jones movie is an altogether different experience - as it must be, nearly twenty years after the last - but one I'm quite thankful for.

We start off in familiar territory - Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford), rough-and-tumble archaeologist, finder of lost antiquities, and expert on the occult, finds himself searching for a lost treasure with bad guys breathing down his throat. This time the treasure is hidden in Area 51 and the villains are Soviets led by Colonel Doctor Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett), who more-than-hints at having actual psychic abilities to go with her intelligence and ruthlessness. Indy will, of course, escape and return to his day job as a university professor, only to be recruited on another treasure hunt - this time by greaser Mutt Williams (Shia LaBeouf), who says he is the son of one of Indy's old colleagues and was told that he needed Jones's help finding a crystal skull in South America.

The template is similar, but much has changed in the nineteen years that has passed both for Jones and the audience. Ford and Jones not only have quite a few gray hairs, but they don't move as quickly, and there's not close to the same respect paid to him. Noting that his father and a previous supporter have passed on, he and new Assistant Dean Charles Stanforth (Jim Broadbent) note that they've reached the age where the world stops giving them things and starts taking them away. Naturally, of course, he says this before Mutt enters his life to drag him on an adventure that will reunite him with Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen), the love of his life, leading to wonders that arguably make his previous quests for the Ark of the Covenant and the Holy Grail see somewhat ordinary.

The nature of that quest has leaked out, of course, although the filmmakers have done an admirable job of keeping it out of the previews aside from one teasing image. In some ways, it's a drastic shift in the franchise's tone and flavor, but on a certain level that sort of change makes a ton of sense: Not only do the characters age, but the cinema world they live in does as well. The original three movies were throwbacks to the energetic, swashbuckling adventures of the thirties, which by the fifties had ceded the matinees to paranoid science fiction where nuclear apocalypse could be right around the corner. That's the world Indiana Jones finds himself in now, and though he can handle it - he's Indiana Jones, after all! - some of the audience might not want to accept it.

It's too bad if they don't, because Steven Spielberg is quite comfortable there. He's got an occasionally-earned reputation for over-sentimentality, and that often makes people forget what a mean streak he can have. Some of the best bits in this movie are when he dives into the creep-and-gross-outs, whether it be nasty deaths by fire ants or all the creepy things to be found in a hidden crypt. Not many people can direct a chase better than Spielberg, either, and the film contains a couple of doozies, including a tour de force at the center of the movie that would destroy lesser directors: There are three vehicles trying to knock each other around, with conveniently open tops so that characters and artifacts can jump (or get knocked) between them. Spielberg makes the chase fast and clear, even as he sends characters on side-trips to make the the main fight easier to follow. Then he'll switch gears and give us whimsical little action beats.

Those come on top of the fun character beats, and nobody gets more of them than Harrison Ford. The part of Indy fits him like a glove, and his wry growl is still the right combination of cockiness and self-deprecation. To make things even better, he's got a couple of the series' best sidekicks to play off: Shia LaBeouf plays off Ford well; there's a natural chemistry between the two characters from the beginning. He also looks pretty good in the action scenes, handling one or two that might have been given to Ford ten years ago. Seeing Ford and Karen Allen together again turns out to be a joy we didn't know we'd been unfairly denied. Allen plays Marion as having maybe mellowed some since Raiders, and even when she's yelling at Indy for walking out on her twenty years earlier, the main thing that comes through is that these two are so damn happy to see each other again that the danger and craziness around them is no big deal.

There are other necessary characters, of course, though they don't grab the audience quite as well as those three. John Hurt's Professor Oxley has lost his mind from gazing into the skull, although he does a good job of making it look sad rather than ridiculous. Jim Broadbent is in the movie because Denholm Elliott can't be. Ray Winstone is there as a fellow treasure hunter, but doesn't spark off Indy the way the other characters do. Cate Blanchett, though, performs a minor miracle as Spalko; the script doesn't give her a whole lot to work with, but she somehow makes her into the series' best villain since Belloq in Raiders; by the end I was kind of hoping she would stick around to menace Indy in future installments.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull doesn't quite reach the same perfection that Raiders of the Lost Ark did - it requires a little time to get its legs under it. It's absolutely worth seeing for the plain novelty of being new Indiana Jones, but a day or two later, removed from the excited crowd, it is actually improving in my mind, when normally I might just be inclined to pick at it. And considering the story that George Lucas reportedly insisted upon, that's no mean feat - if it didn't work, we wouldn't be saying that Lucas, Ford, and Spielberg had lost their touch; we'd be saying they'd lost their minds.

Happily, that is not the case. The only disappointment is that after seeing how much fun Indy, Mutt, and Marion are in this new world... Would it be terribly greedy to want one more?

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=17211&reviewer=371
originally posted: 05/23/08 10:59:13
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User Comments

1/29/19 brian Better than I was expecting, but not up to I & III. 4 stars
9/12/17 morris campbell a good entry in the series forget the haters 4 stars
9/03/16 TonyK Very good. Absurd, OTT, swashbuckling fun with some great camera work and homages. 4 stars
3/29/16 Aj wales Should have stuck to 3. Ford is just to old to take serious. He should put his feet up. 3 stars
3/13/16 Charles Tatum Yikes, this should have been MUCH better. 3 stars
3/24/15 Joey B A great homage to 50's Sci-fi and Cold War B - movies, with stunning visuals. 5 stars
11/09/14 Lisa C Not as good as Raiders or Crusade but much better than the Temple of Crap. 4 stars
12/10/12 Lisa A great movie, so incredibly underrated. 5 stars
9/05/12 Samuel This film basically sucked bad. 1 stars
11/27/11 The Big D More about Indy and his family than any kind of adventure; the series is winding down. 3 stars
5/01/11 Silkworm Indiana Jones and the crock of shit ! 1 stars
2/15/11 Reality Of Films Hey, come on! It's still fun! 5 stars
12/10/10 R.W. Welch Effort to recapture the old magic doesn't quite work but has some moments. C+ 3 stars
6/10/10 Flathead King This film was not worth the wait. 1 stars
3/05/10 Ionicera after 20 years this is the best they could do? 2 stars
1/29/10 Jack The best in the series! 5 stars
1/07/10 Reality Of Films This film is good, and full of action and humor. Don't listen to anyone who says it's bad. 5 stars
7/23/09 alice Really ridiculous and unrealistic, but entertaining nonetheless. 3 stars
5/13/09 Colin M So unfortunate that they ruined a franchise in the effort to make a (lot of) buck(s). 1 stars
3/29/09 Adventure author It's wonderful to see Indy again, win loose or draw. 3 stars
3/15/09 Sam unrealistic.. not that entertaining .. 2 stars
2/28/09 Piz The Mummy starring Harrison Ford instead of Brendan Fraser 2 stars
1/16/09 Aesop Working title: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of WTF?!? 1 stars
1/12/09 Anonymous. this isn't going to be as easy as it use to be! :P 4 stars
12/30/08 Justin Makes you wish Indy had drank out of the wrong cup at the end of the Last Crusade. 1 stars
12/26/08 Grace Boring. I swear they recycled most of the dialogue from the older Indiana Jones films. 3 stars
12/19/08 orpy sucks!!! 1 stars
12/05/08 Shaun Wallner Friiggin Awesome!! 5 stars
11/29/08 Johnnyfaye B movie extravaganza 4 stars
11/09/08 blah blah leave your brain at the door and you will have a good time 4 stars
11/02/08 your worst goddamn nightmare Y'know, it was good; a bit rusty, after all these years, but it was entertaining! 4 stars
10/31/08 Moop Has it's moments and interesting quasi-historical aspects, but felt too clunky 3 stars
10/18/08 Johnnyfaye Hahaha I love it...welcome back Jones! 5 stars
10/17/08 AshleyRockO Great, Fun movie. Indy still has it after all these years. 5 stars
10/15/08 The Anti-Douche In this order: 1, 4, 2 and 3. Last Crusade was lacklustre. 4 stars
10/11/08 Unicorn on the cob Could've done without return of (un-)Karen Allen, and ending is just too over the top. 3 stars
9/16/08 Oiman Not quite as good as Raiders, but I actually thought the aliens were cool! 4 stars
8/29/08 Keithers It's a good movie, people are bashing it cause they want they child hood mvie... 4 stars
8/05/08 E K Zimmerman Pure Kentucky Fried Crap. I wept! 1 stars
7/29/08 the dork knight Doesn't even seem like an Indy movie.... 3 stars
7/22/08 David I expected better from Indy. 3 stars
7/18/08 Susan Lee was expecting much better from spielberg and the cast.. the aliens were cheesy, predictable 3 stars
7/15/08 zenny embarassing for all involved. greatly disappointing. 1 stars
7/14/08 Karen Loved this movie! 5 stars
7/09/08 Bill OReely very entertaining fantasy 4 stars
7/05/08 Samantha Pruitt entertaining, yet REALLY far-fetched, doesn't really fit in wth the other IJ movies. 4 stars
6/23/08 Indrid Cold The worst of the series, but still great. Make another one before Ford gets too old! 4 stars
6/22/08 mr.mike I just wasn't that into it. 3 stars
6/21/08 AnnieG Not as bad as I feared, not as good as I hoped. Rates 3rd in the series. 3 stars
6/16/08 Kirk You are a serious tard. 1 stars
6/13/08 Johnnyfaye People say it's flawed but...Raiders was totally flawed...the bad stuff are what make indy. 4 stars
6/10/08 TommyV Flawed, at times ridiculous- but still totally indiana jones 4 stars
6/09/08 Indy fanatic If you don't like this....than you forgotten why you liked indy so many years ago. 4 stars
6/06/08 Ry expecting little... got even less. 1 stars
6/05/08 Ming K I want more....Great actions ...love the reunion with karen allen.... 5 stars
6/04/08 Jayson Bored down to my crystal skull. 2 stars
6/04/08 katmagick This flick was way overdue! Keep 'em coming. 5 stars
6/03/08 Dana The best Indiana Jones I have seen 5 stars
5/31/08 Quigley A worthy predecessor to one of cinema's greatest franchises 5 stars
5/31/08 gerry It was truly great. Not as good as Raiders, but fits nicely alongside the other two. 5 stars
5/30/08 Illusion Loved it. If you didn't, u must be old (LOL) 5 stars
5/30/08 BrizzyMo WELL worth the wait-any1 that disagrees misses the entire point of the franchise. Die. 5 stars
5/29/08 Indy fanatic If you didn't like it you probably over hyped yourselves. Indy is a B movie series remember 4 stars
5/28/08 luke Fukk all the one stars 5 stars
5/27/08 d halberg frickin aliens!!!!! 2 stars
5/27/08 David Horrible movie... 1 stars
5/27/08 NoRefill Not a bad movie, but not an Indian Jones movie. 3 stars
5/27/08 KingNeutron Too many unbelievable sequences - Shia is NOT the way to carry on the franchise 3 stars
5/27/08 Rick One of the worst movies in a while. Indiana Jones meets E.T. on the set of the Ruins 1 stars
5/27/08 Doubler Could'nt wait for it to end, bring, dull, plain ol' crap! 1 stars
5/27/08 J Webster Good...not as good as Raiders but an enjoyable ride and better than The Mummy films.. 4 stars
5/27/08 g awesome 5 stars
5/26/08 I-K Too cartoonish in places, unoriginal ending... might've called it "The mummy returns again" 2 stars
5/26/08 johhnyfog George Lucas and his cute critters stike again!! 3 stars
5/26/08 C Vega good to see indy back...ending was crap tho (ET LOL)...worst of the lot but still good tho 4 stars
5/26/08 Tim Eimiller I had a total blast watching this movie. Loved every ridiculous minute of it. 5 stars
5/26/08 david horribe, if you like this, you must be drunk 1 stars
5/26/08 Will Not Bad. What the hell was up with the monkey sequence? 3 stars
5/25/08 Lord Jiggy Never hit its stride...just off in pacing, humor, and minimal coherence. Even Ford was off 3 stars
5/25/08 Darkstar Um... it was good. Not great. Better than 2, not as good as 1 & 3. 4 stars
5/25/08 AJ Muller Not better than Raiders, but nothing (not even the other 2) is. Great, asskicking fun. 5 stars
5/25/08 George Barksdale Good action, kid did good job, but hate movies with alien implications 4 stars
5/25/08 Koitus Ugh... On par with the 2nd one in the series. I'd recommend waiting to rent it, even. 2 stars
5/25/08 debdahlin Alot of action - but something was missing 4 stars
5/24/08 bob jones this is what lucas and spielberg compromised on? 3 stars
5/24/08 powerloader Utter rubbish. 1 stars
5/24/08 Jim Nowhere near as good as the original three movies. 2 stars
5/24/08 Jeb Springfield This movie was awful. This was like Jar Jar Binks and the Crystal Skull 2 stars
5/23/08 Nick Absolute CRAP 1 stars
5/23/08 Hank Enjoyed it immensely, it despite its flaws 4 stars
5/23/08 Aimee I don't think we saw the same movie. Lucas and Spielberg totally screwed up. 2 stars
5/23/08 lemosley01 I feel as just like I did after Matrix 3 or Episode 2 - abused 2 stars
5/23/08 Brian F What a great time it was seeing this movie. They don't look that old 5 stars
5/23/08 CC Classic status of originals aside, this film is at par with the others. 2nd best in series. 4 stars
5/23/08 JoeJoe Gonsalves - You're in serious denial, if you believe what you wrote here. The movie sucked 2 stars
5/23/08 jackson Indiana Jones... and aliens 1 stars
5/23/08 bullit16 Should have been called "Indiana Jones and the Phantom Mencace." 3 stars
5/23/08 Indy Fan Slower paced than the previous 3, I think Harrison overplayed his age. Still, I enjoyed it! 4 stars
5/23/08 Will Wanted to love it.......but it was just half ass trash 1 stars
5/23/08 Joel The tarzan scene...........what the f..... 1 stars
5/23/08 Eric's Soul Come back Eric, come back. The movie is complete and total crap. 1 stars
5/23/08 dieter It's Indy, with a few "wmah" moments 4 stars
5/23/08 Melindissa I love Indy and the girl, but these CG stunts sucked. spoilt illusion 4 stars
5/23/08 Jackk Silly story, forced acting, poor CGI effects. 1 stars
5/22/08 ahnold Horrible. And I can't say more than that. 1 stars
5/21/08 fhdh cool 5 stars
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  22-May-2008 (PG-13)
  DVD: 14-Oct-2008


  DVD: 14-Oct-2008

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