Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Harrison Ford, Cate Blanchett, Karen Allen, Shia LeBeouf, Ray Winstone,
Rated:PG-13 for adventure violence and scary images.
Parental Notes: This film is about the same as the other Indiana Jones movies, a solid PG-13. Some youngsters may find the film a bit too intense (the scary images include people being eaten alive by ants as well as chases, fights, and freaky tribesmen with spears and other weapons, not to mention corpses, skeletons, and aliens). Most preteens and older should be fine.
It’s been nearly twenty years since the last Indiana Jones movie, but George Lucas and Steven Spielberg have dusted the franchise off and brought out a new one: “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.” It’s at a distinct disadvantage: after two decades, the earlier films have ascended to a sort of sainthood with the fans, and it’s hard to live up to that (a fact you’d think Lucas would’ve learned with his Star Wars prequels). The best way to enjoy the new film is to leave your expectations at the door. Indy is back, but there are some differences and if you’re hoping for a film that lives up to your fond memories of the first three, “Kingdom” will likely be a disappointment. If all you want is a ride through exotic locales on a crazy adventure, you will have a much better time.
The film gets off to a bit of a slow start, with our hero not even appearing on screen until after a long sequence involving a bunch of teens racing an Army convoy out in the desert. We catch up with Indy (Harrison Ford), who along with his friend Mac (Ray Winstone) has been kidnapped by Soviets and brought to that warehouse full of wooden crates we’ve seen in previous films. The Soviets, led by the psychic researcher Dr. Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett) are after a particular box and since Indy worked on it some time back, they figure he can find it. They figure right, but fail to anticipate Indy fighting back. Once Indy starts the ruckus, the film finally gets onto a more familiar track, with car chases, bullwhip action, and fisticuffs. Indy even manages to survive a nuclear test blast through some quick thinking (and a bit of movie physics).
After a brief break where the FBI menaces Indy and costs him his teaching job (this is the 50s, after all, and hanging around with Soviets puts you on some serious blacklists), Indy teams up with a young biker, Mutt (Shia LeBeouf) to … well, it’s rather complex. Let’s just say that Indy and Mutt are soon in the jungle racing to rescue Professor “Ox” Oxley (John Hurt), who has gone mad while researching the titular crystal skull. Of course Dr. Spalko and her friends are also interested in the skull, for legends say that if you return the crystal skull to the ancient city it was stolen from, you will receive untold power.
So, we have Soviets instead of Nazis and the Cold War instead of World War II, but otherwise the film is pretty much a standard Indy flick, right? Well, not quite. The underpinnings of this one are pure science fiction instead of archaeological/religious. I won’t say more at the risk of spoiling the big reveal, but I will say that Indy purists may be upset by the sci-fi stuff.
The movie is a fun ride, with plenty of over-the-top action (including a rapier fight conducted on two jeeps speeding through the jungle) and supernatural shenanigans. Ford is in fine form as Indy, and if the final scene of the movie is any suggestion, he has no plans to pass his iconic hat to a successor at the moment. It’s a lot of fun to see Karen Allen as Marion again (remember her from “Raiders of the Lost Ark”?), and while the plotline which brings her back into Indy’s life is a bit predictable, complaining that an Indy film is predictable seems to defeat the purpose of going to see it in the first place.