Rated PG-13 for adventure violence and scary images.
Directed By: Steven Spielburg
Screenplay By: David Koepp
Story By: George Lucas
Put your hands down will you, you’re embarrassing us. -Indiana Jones
Indiana Jones has returned. Nineteen years later, not as spry, but just as adventurous he has been kidnapped by a new adversary. Now that the wars have passed Indy’s enemy is: The Russians. A KGB agent is in charge and begins psychicly probing Indy for information. She is a vivacious woman that goes by the name of Irina Spalko and is searching for information Indy has involving South America and a myth surrrounding the Crystal Skull. With him are character’s old and new, familiar and not. With a new foe and an adventure at his finger tips, Indiana Jones prepares for yet another suspenseful action packed adventure.
I admit the first scene left me a bit concerned and nervous. It was a little off putting, the character’s unfamiliar, and our aged Ford seeming a little less like his normal dauntless adventurer. Also were the worries advertised by the critic naysayers that claimed it was too Sci-Fi with the alien theme. I will promise those concerns were immediately dismissed. The first three films were themed with the occult and paranormal activity and the myth of the skull and even it’s gargantuan climax was more geared toward the original three’s mysticism rather than science fiction and aliens. Rumours of that are simply fiction. Spielburg even denied Lucas’s request to put more science fictionesque stuff in the film. I assure you this film is not exactly in the same category as it’s predecessors, but it contains the same dynamics’s, feel, and heart of the original Indy’s.
Shia LaBeouf’s first scene immediately reminded me of Marlon Brando from The Wild One. It quickly gave way to a more moderized Indiana Jones. The likeness of his character from a different generation but having Indy’s certain quirks he had unknowingly attained over his own years. The leather jacket, the affection for his knife and upkeep on his hair contrasting Indy’s own leather jacket, whip, and fedora was yes obvious, but also creates a subconscious smile you didn’t even know was playing across your lips. The name of Shia’s character being “Mutt” has to be an inside joke between Spielburg, Lucas, and the screenwriters from Temple Of Doom. Indiana was actually named after a dog belonging to Lucas. Willy in Temple of Doom was named after Spielburg’s dog, and the screenwriters named Short Round after their own dog. Mutt essentially is the creator’s having even more fun with this adventure series. I, for one, love it.
The action sequences were up to par and even surpassing some of today’s stunts, but the CGI wasn’t overused, and for this I’m grateful. The magic of the original series was in it’s old school camera tricks and stunts, giving the chase scenes and a much more tangible feel. They may be over the top and to some degree absurd, but the way they are shot makes it seem possible. CGI was obviously integrated into the story, but it wasn’t an overwhelming distraction or used as a crutch as has been the case in many of Spielburg’s more recent creations. It was utilized perfectly and the scene in New Mexico was absolutely stunning.
The depth and relationships between the character’s is what really made this story feel like Indiana Jones. There was the excitement of Temple Of Doom, the family integration of Last Crusade, and the adventure of Raiders all combined together. It was undeniably a relief Harrison Ford’s aging was implemented and done with grace. There were a few comments at the beginning and from Mutt calling Indy “grandpa”, but the film was careful not to mock too much.
The switch from Nazi’s to The Reds, and the time change from the 30′s to the 50′s proved to be a much less distracting plot back round that I had expected. In fact, the idea of another film with the Nazi’s trying to spoil Indy’s glory was asking too much. It actually became a relief to post the villains face as a Russian. Besides, facing a big bad as nasty as Cate Blanchett on a bad day is pretty intimidating all on it’s own.
The pacing was relentless and pushed forward at a speed seems like it has to slow down at some point, however it never relinquishes it’s momentum. With some old Indy tricks and gags and some new ones, the entire package becomes a fans dream to soak in. Was it as good as Raiders? Or The Last Crusade? Or Temple Of Doom? I wouldn’t say it’s even fair to compare, but if an answer is required, it’s not as good as Raiders, but it’s certainly up to par with the other two.
The behind the scenes creators had their work cut out for them. With twenty years in film making technology, and new and fresh idea’s expected to flourish, high expectations were made. John Williams returns to do the score and though it varied little from the previous films, it’s familiarity was welcome and nostalgic. Michael Kahn’s fourth attendance on the adventure to edit was once again no small task. I’m sure we can all owe the amazing pacing and thrust of the films story to his contributions. The cinematography of Douglas Slocombe was greatly missed and one sore spot in the film. While Janusz Kaminksi did a stand up job of really capturing the Indy 50′s, the magnificent shots Slocombe had in the previous stories proved to be a nearly impossible standard to live up to.
The lowest point and only real annoyance was brief, but involved Mutt’s character on the tumultuous trek to the Crystal Skull’s location. The CGI and overdone escape with himself and the monkey’s was over the top and not in a funny way. The sword fight between himself and Irina Spalko was not so cleverly foreshadowed early on with the announcement that he had taken a fencing class. The insult of making that “skill” play later in is obnoxious. Besides it would have made for a much more interesting battle if he had been ill equipped to fight such a powerful adversary and even offered some comical opportunities, in the likeness that Indy always gets him in situations that are over his head, not ones he’s practiced for. Nonetheless, it was the only major issue I had with the entire film.
- Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones
- Cate Blanchett as Irina Spalko
- Karen Allen as Marion Ravenwood
- Shia LaBeouf as Mutt Williams
- Ray Winstone as “Mac” George McHale
- John Hurt as Professor John “Ox” Oxley
- Jim Broadbent as Dean Charles Stanforth
Harrison’s Ford’s return nearly twenty years later to reprise the role of Indy has had no affect on his ability to slip right back into our favorite hero’s character. Though aged but not any less clever, he has the same love and affection for artifacts, adventure, and knowledge that he ever did. The return of Karen Allen to the cast brought back a chemistry between Indy and Marion that didn’t lose any of it’s fire. Her spitfire role gave the film that much more texture and life. Shia Labeouf, the new addition, seemed an odd casting, but after the first interaction between himself and Indy, it became clear he was perfect for the role, and his unsure developing confidence puts him at an age of discovery. Cate Blanchett as our over the top maniacal villain plays out in a delightfully frightening way. She was brilliant, as she generally is, and made her character more believable and less cartoonish. There is a special treat of Neil Flynn appearing as a character as well. It’s a small role, but concerning Scrubs fans will be most appreciated, especially with his second Ford cameo.
Ratings and Suggestions
This is the first Spielburg film in a long time where I felt he had real inspiration and joy in making a movie. The affection the creater’s took in making it is evident in the character’s on screen. All the great components of the past Indy movies were here with a cast and crew that obviously indulged their enthusiasm. The jokes, the action, and the complex character’s were just as rich as they once were. If they can do it just as good as they did this time, I want more Indy. This is a movie made for it’s fans, It has all the spunk and tenacity of the others. The hardcore Indy fans will appreciate the intimacy involved in so much of the events and character’s and hopefully new comers will be able to catch on to the magic and be inspired to pick of a rental of the original series. This is a great addition to an already brilliant series. I simply loved it. With a remarkable screenplay and brilliant cast and crew to support it, The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull earns Four out of Four adventursome stars.