Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)
Release Date: May 22nd, 2008 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: Steven Spielberg Actors: Harrison Ford, Cate Blanchett, Karen Allen, Shia LaBeouf, John Hurt, Ray Winstone, Jim Broadbent, Igor Jijikine
here’s no easy way to say it; “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” is quite a disappointment. It’s unfulfilling to a level of embarrassment for George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, who have taken a character of extreme popularity and a trilogy of great admiration and added an additional chapter of unnecessary absurdity. During an early scene, our capable hero survives a nuclear blast by hiding in a refrigerator, which is catapulted from the blast zone with deadly force. This momentarily excessive lack of realism is forgivable because he’s Indiana Jones. But the rest of the film becomes even more ridiculously farfetched – and increasingly impossible to so easily brush aside. Indiana Jones is no longer a man of reason, a slightly larger-than-life archeologist who could be traversing the world right now hunting for lost treasures. He is complete fiction.
It is 1957, and Professor Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) is once again in the midst of peril, this time at the hands of Russian radicals, led by Stalin’s Austrian psychic scientist Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett). After being forced to lead them to magnetized remains of some obscure creature in a government warehouse, Indy manages to escape to the safe-haven of an atomic blast testing zone. Shortly thereafter, he is returned to the comfort of his classroom, to teach the seemingly boring topic of archeology.
Mutt Williams (Shia LeBeouf) catches up with the legendary adventurer to inform him that a colleague, professor Oxley (John Hurt), has been captured by Spalko, and is being pressured to lead the Soviets to the location of El Dorado – the city of gold, where a crystal skull has been stolen. Ancient lore places the city in the Amazon, and claims to grant the retriever of the artifact unimaginable powers. Soon enough, Jones travels across the globe to South America to play a vital role in fulfilling the legend – and makes sure to encounter every danger and every misadventure imaginable along the way.
The fittingly titled “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” makes countless references and pays nonstop homage to the original trilogy, even going so far as to bring back recognizable characters – such as “Raiders of the Lost Ark” femme fatale Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen). Indiana can still take a beating (actually, more so than in any of the previous films); creepy-crawling bugs frequently inhabit his locales; tons of comedy relief pepper the nonstop action sequences; and riddles, puzzles, and buried treasure abound. Yet for all of its attempts to make this fourth outing a faithful addition to the already resolute Indy saga, too much of it is incompatible. Though Indy is older and noticeably more weathered, it’s his ability to continually conduct more and more outrageous feats that feels most inconsistent. While most of the action scenes are standard, high-speed pursuits, his endeavors to brave raging waterfalls, nuclear explosions, and armies of ants (plus an even more unbelievable conclusion), just don’t feel like the flesh and blood trials of the Indy formerly defined in the classic ‘80s series.
Everyone’s favorite archeological daredevil has tackled everything from the Nazis and their steel beasts to booby-trap-filled temples of doom and lost arks of unimaginable power. So what’s left for him to do? Unfortunately, the creative minds behind Dr. Jones’ cinematic escapades seem to have run out of ideas, reverting unimaginatively (or too wildly) back to concepts extremely alien to Indy’s regiment of religious history (resembling the weaker chapter of “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom,” which followed occult ideologies more than biblical happenings). The Russians have replaced the Nazis, the outlandish have replaced the reasonable, and the extraterrestrials have replaced Jesus.
– The Massie Twins