REVIEW: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

It’s been an extremely busy seven days for me, but I finally had a chance to see Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull yesterday afternoon. Though I was certainly looking forward to it, I was not exactly hyped about this movie. I found the preview trailers to be ineffective and uninspired. I was worried the movie would play the same way.

Fortunately, the movie itself turns out to be a totally different story. First of all, director Steven Spielberg banked some major points with me early on for opening the film with an Elvis Presley song. Kingdom of the Crystal Skull takes place in 1957, so Elvis Presley’s 1956 hit “Hound Dog” fits right in.

Russian KGB agents manage to infiltrate the infamous Area 51. Within a warehouse of US government secrets and treasures, including the Ark of the Covenant, they release the captured Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) and order him to show them the location of a mummified body he assisted the US military with ten years earlier.

This is the first glimpse of the older Indy, for it has been 19 years since his last movie, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. I was in my early teens back then. I remember that Last Crusade was just a movie for my friends and I to see on a whim as the school year was winding down while waiting for Star Trek V: The Final Frontier to be released the following week.

In fact, the preview for Star Trek V that preceded Last Crusade made me so excited for that film that I had a hard time concentrating on the Indy movie at first. Eventually, of course, the film drew me into the world of Indiana Jones. By the end, I was a big fan.

And to think, Star Trek V would be even better! Well, I had chicken pox by the time Star Trek V came out and did not even see it until the following weekend and it . . . was what it was. Last Crusade became my favorite movie of 1989. This was also the summer of Tim Burton’s Batman, but I only thought that movie was so-so.

Back to the present. Harrison Ford is older now, but so am I. I’m in my early 30s. I’m married and own a home. And wouldn’t you know it, I’m still anticipating the release of another Star Trek movie. Some things never change. As for Ford, he steps easily back into the role of Indiana Jones. It’s as if he continued playing the character throughout that 19 year absence. That, for me, is the real triumph of Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Ford proves that he still has it. He can still play Indy, just as effectively as ever.

At Indy’s side through most of Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is “Mutt” Williams (Shia LaBeouf), a Marlon Brando/James Dean type. Ford and LaBeouf play well off each other and their chemistry represents the best part of this film.

Not so great is actress Cate Blanchett, who plays lead villain Irina Spalko. The Oscar winner was not up to the task of a fun, action-adventure movie like this one. Each time she was on screen delivering more than a line or two, I found myself wishing they had cast someone, anyone else.

Direction by Spielberg is top-notch as expected. Most of the look of this movie is close to the first three. There are not the shocking visual differences that exist between the original and prequel Star Wars trilogies, for instance.

Surprisingly, the special effects by Industrial Light & Magic are a mixed bag. I assume this was due to a time-crunch, as the production for this movie seemed compressed compared to your average Star Wars movie, for instance. Many sequences are great, but some of the sequences in the finale are mediocre. I expect better from ILM.

The story by George Lucas and Jeff Nathanson, scripted by David Koepp, is fun and not overly complicated. You will see each plot twist coming a mile away, including the worst-kept movie secret since that one in Superman Returns. That’s okay, though. Indiana Jones movies have never been about the destination. They are about having as much fun as possible on the journey.

Kingdom of the Crystal Skull has fun and adventure in abundance. It fits right in with the first three films and is on par with them. Spielberg, Lucas, and Ford have done the impossible yet again.

Would I be tempting fate, or just plain greedy, to ask for another Indy movie or two? So be it. More, please. If this turns out to be the last Indiana Jones movie, though, then it was a great ride that ended on a high note. As a big fan of the main trio involved, I’d like to tell them thank you.

Story: 8 (out of 10)
Performances: 9
Visual Style: 10
Effects: 8
Music: 9
Overall: 9