Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

by David Foucher
EDGE Publisher
Friday May 23, 2008
Harrison Ford in "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull"
Harrison Ford in "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull"  (Source:Paramount Pictures)

It's likely the most anticipated film of the summer - and if you're an Indiana Jones fan, you've much to celebrate. "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" is a fun-loving romp through the 1950s for Indy and friends (old and new), with a delightful amount of historical references added for spice - from world history, from the annals of Indiana Jones, and from the directing compendium of Steven Spielberg. As an entertainment vehicle, it's the smartest film yet to grace the screens in 2008. And as a continuation of a series that's captured the hearts of two generations over the last twenty-five odd years, it rocks.

When we last left Indiana Jones, it was 1938 and he was fighting those pesky Nazis (again). Spielberg and George Lucas, hyper-sensitive about the ethnic difficulties "Temple of Doom" brought to the franchise, have fast-forwarded nineteen years, and he's now cracking his whip at the Commies - another comparatively safe target. The story centers on the legendary crystal skulls: real-life model skulls carved of quartz crystal that have been claimed to be Mesoamerican artifacts dating back to the Actecs and/or Mayans. Some have attributed paranormal powers to the skulls, and those reports springboard the plot for Indy IV. Indiana (Harrison Ford) is roped into the adventure in the traditional manner - someone close to him has disappeared while chasing the skulls. The bearer of the cry for help this time is young Mutt (Shia LeBeouf), who begs Indy to help rescue Professor Oxley (John Hurt). Along the way (I'm trying not to spoil it for you), Jones reunites with ex-lover Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen) and spars with a new nemesis, Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett). Oh, and he saves the world, too.

Ford is older, grizzlier - and unafraid to give us an aging Indy who's determined to reinvent the term "age." Allen is wonderfully charming still, her Marion a little older and wiser, but still mouthy (it's so nice to have her back). LaBeouf chins up to both the comedy and adventure bar set by his more experienced co-stars, perhaps earning the right to inherit the fedora in future chapters. Hurt is surprisingly deft in a challenging role. And Blanchett, although she chews the scenery a wee bit too much, is utterly believable as a foul-tempered Red with a penchant for running through everything in her way with a rapier sword.

Behind the camera, it's clear Spielberg can relate to Indy's determination to evolve without devolving. If you've relived the three prior films recently, no doubt you've noticed that part of their charm is the more traditional filmmaking methodologies that demand the old-fashioned ingenuity of the human brain rather than digital processing power. And despite its reliance on new-age techniques, "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" stays true to its franchise heritage. Ford, LaBeouf and the others actually do quite a number of stunts themselves, and CGI is used smartly, nearly invisibly (the exceptions are two scenes, one of which is the climax of the film). The rest of the film proves not only that Ford can still crack the whip quite well, thank you very much, but that computerized wizardry can actually provide a supporting role to a film in the 21st century, rather than overshadow a movie's human elements thanks to the obvious nature of its existence. This film has been crafted lovingly. Indy and Marion resume their banter as if no time had passed since "Raiders." High-speed chases on cars and motorcycles are set to John Williams' musical counterpoint. And the action builds to a climax as mystical as it is archaeological.

In other words, Spielberg and company set out to devise a new adventure for Indiana Jones, versus a new style for Indiana Jones movies. What we love about these swashbuckling tales - their wit, their absurdity, and their zeal for fun - is proudly present in "Skull." For Indy fans, or for anyone who simply wants to cheer along with a good old-fashioned adventure tale, this is an absolute must-see.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull


Runtime :: 122 mins
Release Date :: May 22, 2008
Language :: English
Country :: √Čtats-Unis

David Foucher is the CEO of the EDGE Media Network and Pride Labs LLC, is a member of the National Lesbian & Gay Journalist Association, and is accredited with the Online Society of Film Critics. David lives with his daughter in Dedham MA.

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