Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Posted on October 14, 2008 at 8:00 am

Some things are different. No more Nazis — it is now a Cold War and the guys on the other side are the Soviets. And there may be enemies at home. A harmless-looking professor could be a Red. Or maybe it is the agents of the U.S. government who are the bad guys when they see enemies who are not there. And teenagers are acting wild. Some of them speed by in jalopies and some of them slick back their hair, drop out of school, and ride motorcycles.

But some things are the same. Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford, for the fourth time) still packs a mean punch and carries a bull whip. He still has a way of getting himself into and out of trouble. He still hates snakes. And he is still a lot of fun to watch.

As always, we start right in the midst of the action. A motorcade of soldiers is approaching a “Hanger 51” Army base in Nevada that is shut down for a test of an atomic bomb. But it turns out not to be what it seems. They are Soviet spies and they want Indiana to find something in storage there (Indy fans will enjoy seeing a familiar item in one of the crates). This time, the artifact everyone wants is a crystal skull from South America that, according to legend, will grant great power to whomever returns it to its home. The Soviets are led by Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett, severe in an impeccable uniform and a ruthlessly aerodynamic bob), a specialist in the paranormal.

Instead of being congratulated for escaping from the Soviets, Indy becomes a “person of interest” to the FBI due to “this charged climate” and is suspended from his job. When he gets a message from a young man on a motorcycle who looks like he just rode in from the set of “The Wild One” that his old friend Professor Oxley (John Hurt) has been captured, Indy and the young man (“Transformers'” Shia LeBeouf) set out to rescue them.

Ford brings it. He is vitally and vibrantly present every moment on screen. He gets the a-word issue out of the way early on with a wry response to “we’ve gotten out of worse before” — “We were younger then.” He can still throw a credible punch and he has an even better and deeper sense of who he is as an actor and who Indy is as a character dealing with his own issues of aging. Moving the characters forward in time provides many opportunities for fresh and intriguing details that are instantly evocative of the past and lightly resonant for today’s circumstances as well. LeBeouf, Ford, and Karen Allen, who makes a welcome return as Marian, Indy’s best leading lady, have terrific chemistry. The stunts are thrilling and brilliantly paced, and the script, the first three-quarters of it, anyway, if not up to the level of the first Indiana Jones film, is at or better than the other two. The old-school effects are far better than the brief CGI. The unscripted real-life bug swallowed as an ad lib by Rene Belloq in the first movie was far more effective than an army of man-eating ants made from pixels in this one. John Hurt is underused as the addled Oxley as is Ray Winstone (“Beowulf”) as a fellow traveler in more than one sense of the term. And it is a little too long, but that is understandable. Ford, Allen, producer George Lucas, and director Steven Spielberg enjoy spending time with Indiana Jones and don’t want to say goodbye. We feel the same way.

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14 Replies to “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull”

  1. My son is at the film right now – the first showing (Midnight, May 22). I can’t wait to get his review. I won;t get to see it until next week – the suspense and anticipation alone are thrilling.

  2. this website soes not give you the truth. the movies wil say that it had knives, whips and swords but really all you see is the knife in case and whips are hanging out of there pockets and the swords they take out to shapen not even hurt someone!

  3. You’re not remembering accurately, Paulina. Remember the sword fight? And it would not be an Indiana Jones film without a chance to see him use his whip! Mutt’s knife also plays an important role, as does another knife. Thanks for writing, though!

  4. Movie Mom–your new website is hard to follow! We used to be able to click on the movie and get an instant rating of “a”,”b”, “c”, etc. Now we don’t see these ratings anymore; any chance you’ll change back to make it easier for us to get a quick grade on a movie??!! Thanks.

  5. As per KK’s comment, a number (but not all) of the lastest releases reviewed on this site(this one, Iron Man, Speed Racer, Prince Caspian) don’t seem to have your “demographics” visible – i.e. the chart/table with your rating, the MPAA rating, your suggested audience, etc. Is there a problem with the site or are these purposefully not included for selected movies? I hope it is just a glitch, because I find them to be really useful. Thanks!

  6. KK and JT — Yes, that is just a technical glitch and I hope by the time you check again it will be back to normal. Thanks so much for your comments and please bear with us.

  7. Another issue that comes up (and plays a major role in the film) is the idea of the single parent/step parent/absent father. It might be a good idea to bring this up with older children when discussing the film. Can’t reveal too much because it would give away part of the story, but this did seem like an important point to bring up. Did the absence of IJ during his child’s life have an effect on the child’s behavior? What is it like for a teen/early 20’s child to suddenly find out that his “real” father is someone completely different? Seems to be a pressing issue today.

  8. Nice to see your reviews. I use to see them on Yahoo, but then they were gone. Hope that this site works out for you. Thanks !

  9. There is also the issue of Indiana having fathered a child OUT OF WEDLOCK that should definitely be discussed with kids if they are going to be allowed to see it. Marriage first, babies second…seems so simple but I guess the movie industry thinks that that is now passe.

  10. Hi Movie Mom,
    First, let me say I look forward to hearing your reviews on Jeff & Jer. Second, I have to say I was a little disappointed with this film. I love the Indiana Jones movies to death. I can watch them over and over agian. This movie did not seem to fit the other 3 movies. It seemed rushed and the store seemed a little out of character for him. The crystal skull and the meaning behind it just threw me off completely and the ending was a little much. There was just something missing for me that the others movies had. I enjoyed seeing Harrison Ford play the role of Indi again and I was surprised to see Karen Allen make a return. All in all I enjoyed the movie but it defiantly did not have the same punch as the other three.
    Thank you movie mom I look forward to seeing more from you.

  11. I love this movie. Knowing some of the inside jokes makes it all the better. Indy was always a little on the outside, so an unknown son adds to the clouded mystery. I hope they write a vehicle for LeBeouf to follow in Indy’s steps. I think it was certainly as good as the third Indy (nothing can top the first simply because it was the first). I cannot wait for the DVD – I hope they sell them as a set. My VHS tapes are wearing thin.

  12. Good thorough review of the movie. I was actually a bit surprised at the entertainment value of this latest Indiana Jones installment. I am generally not a big fan of updates to series that are classics.

  13. Thanks, Movie Review Guy. I share your skepticism, well-founded in many, many bad experiences. But sometimes they surprise you. I enjoy your comment, so please return often!

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