I really, really wanted to like this movie a lot. I mean, it’s freakin’ Indiana Jones for the first time in nearly twenty years…what could be more awesome? There are very few movies I consider better than Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Last Crusade (Temple of Doom is good but not as good as those two) so I was naturally very excited to see the new Indy flick. However, time has not been kind to George Lucas and his track record in terms of reviving a franchise that made his career isn’t exactly sparkling. I’m sure we can all agree that the new “prequel” trilogy for Star Wars is far inferior to the original three and in similar fashion, The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is not up to par with Raiders of the Lost Ark.
That isn’t to say it’s as bad as Episode One and the epic fail that is Jar-Jar Binks but the latest in the Indiana Jones movies won’t be considered a classic by any stretch of the imagination.
The good news is that Lucas and Señor Steven Spielbergo don’t try to cover up the fact that is now 65 and looking every bit of it. Crystal Skull is set in 1957, so there are no Nazi’s chasing Herr Jones. Good thing they didn’t decide to set it anywhere near WWII because there damn well isn’t any way we could be convinced that it had only been a few years since the events of The Last Crusade considering how much Ford has aged. It’s now the Cold War and the Russians are coming!
The Russians are represented by Irina Spalko, played by Cate Blanchett doing her best to replicate a Russian accent. We find Doctor Jones falling out the trunk of a car as the Russian convoy approaches Area 51, which is where Spalko is convinced the US government has hidden the remains of some freaky-deaky aliens. Spalko, I should explain, is obsessed with finding supernatural means to bring victory to those sneaky Communists.
This, of course, starts a fantastic action sequence that ends with Jones escaping something infinitely dangerous by totally absurd means…like he usually does. I don’t want to give anything away but…remember this is the Cold War era and there are certain things that are more dangerous than mere firearms. The action is still quite lively throughout the film with army ants, waterfalls and a native army outside the legendary city of gold, El Dorado but honestly, the first half hour is probably the best.
I know Indiana Jones isn’t exactly historically accurate but things like the Ark of the Covenant and the Holy Grail are at least there is some evidence to suggest something like these artifacts could exist. I would much rather the artifact be something with a shred of reality in it. All the alien mumbo-jumbo surrounding the Crystal Skull, which looks like a speaker for a mid-’90s Apple computer, is confusing and not quite as interesting as the ideas behind the earlier Indy movies. In that respect, I hate to admit it but I was actually more entertained by National Treasure: Book of Secrets as that ridiculous treasure hunt seemed more rooted in archeology than science fiction.
However, there’s no doubt that Harrison Ford is a much more entertaining action hero than Nicholas Cage, despite the fact he’s getting on in years. In fact, Ford even did a lot of his own stunts and I can’t tell you how awesome it is to see a guy at retirement age jumping out the window of a car onto a speeding motorcycle…and vice versa.
The supporting cast is likable as well. Blanchett is a bloody talent actress and great to watch, even though I remain unconvinced by her accent that her character was born anywhere near the Ukraine. It’s great to see Karen Allen return as Marion Ravenwood. Even though she was missing for the second and third Indy movies, she still has great chemistry with Ford and they are quite funny during their exchanges.
Apparently Shia Leboeuf is supposed to take over the reins of the Indiana Jones series with Harrison Ford taking a Sean Connery-like role for subsequent movies but I honestly can’t see this going well. Leboeuf is a decent actor in his own right but replacing Ford as a new Indy is a big fedora to fill and I’m not sure he can. Besides, for some reason Lucas has made him a ridiculous early-Brando parody greaser unfortunately named…Mutt Williams. Can you imagine that as the title of a film? Mutt Williams and the Pancakes of Eternal Fluffiness? Just doesn’t have the same ring.
I left the movie theater rather disappointed but probably because after seeing the first three years and years ago, I’ve built the expectations for this one to an unreachable level. That being said, though, I didn’t feel like this movie went as big as it could have and the scenes that I’m sure George Lucas and his staff poured hours and hours into just weren’t as fun as I thought they should be. Given the advances in film making in the last twenty years, I expected more out of this movie than I saw.
It has its faults but if you’re an Indiana Jones fan, you’re going to go see it anyways. Just don’t expect it to blow you away. That rolling boulder is slightly smaller and less epic this time around.
Verdict: 7.0 out of 10