Movie Review
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
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By Craig Younkin     Published May 23, 2008
US Release: May 22, 2008

Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Harrison Ford , Shia LaBeouf , Cate Blanchett , Karen Allen

PG-13 for adventure violence and scary images.
Running Time: 123 minutes
Domestic Box Office: $317,011,114
Spielberg tries to turn it all into the summer blockbuster weíve been waiting for but it mostly just feels unbelievable and ridiculously comical because the characters seem to shrug off these near-death experiences.
Itís been a long 20 years for Indy fans but their hero has finally come back to the big screen. Whether Harrison Ford is still able-bodied enough to crack the whip again is a question on everybodyís mind coming in, and this is by far Shia LeBeouf's most pressurized role so far considering George Lucas and Steven Spielberg are hoping to place him in the fedora for future installments. Does Harrison Ford still have what it takes? Does Shia impress the rabid fans of the series? ďIndiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal SkullĒ answers these questions and the answer to both is sadly a ďno.Ē

The 20-year difference is evident from the first scene. The Nazis and World War 2 are gone and the Russians and the Cold War have replaced them. Political correctness also rules the land with an iron fist. As Indy (Harrison Ford) returns from another adventure, he is informed by the dean of college, Charles Stanforth (Jim Broadbent), that his recent activities have made him the object of government suspicion and the university is receiving heavy pressure to fire him. Deciding to lay low for a while, he meets a young man named Mutt (Shia LeBeouf) who he shares more than one common connection with. Mutt is on a mission to find one of the most spectacular archaeological finds in history, the Crystal Skull of Akator, an endeavor Indy finds fascinating. Only as the two set out to the remote corners of Peru, they realize that Soviet agents are on their trail, led by Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett). They are looking for the skull as well, which they believe will help them dominate the world.

ďCrystal Skull," working from a script by David Koepp, is a hard one to review. The movie has upped the action-quotient, featuring some really over-the-top stuff like a chase involving a sword fight on two speeding jeeps, Indy and Co falling down three waterfalls and surviving (beat that Richard Kimble) and Indy climbing into an iron refrigerator and going for a ride after a nuclear blast at a testing site. Spielberg tries to turn it all into the summer blockbuster weíve been waiting for but it just comes off looking desperate. The CGI effects and green-screen can easily be detected all over the movie, especially in the souped up chase sequence, and most of the action is so unbelievably ridiculous that's it's hard to take it seriously as actually having any dramatic impact at all. Once a character survives one waterfall, you're pretty sure that character is going to be indestructible for the rest of the movie.

And Harrison Ford is too old for this stuff. Indy swings from chains, jumps from one moving vehicle to another, and dodges bullets all the while looking like he could use an afternoon nap. Its obvious Ford isnít doing much of this himself, but stunt-double or not, you realize early on that Indy is not the spry adventurer he once was. Ford does bring his usual class and charm to the role and you can tell heís still having fun with the character, but itís time to retire it though. Unfortunately his possible future replacement doesnít seem ready. Shia LeBeouf plays a James Dean-like hot-headed rebel. Iím not sure how this leads to him being the next Indy Jr. and the movie doesnít really explain it or give the character much of a hook. When leaving the theater, I wondered whether or not the spin-off franchise rumor was actually true. Itís not a good start, thatís for sure. Cate Blanchett tries to be evil but her Russian accent sounds just as phony as her Bob Dylan accent. Karen Allen comes back as Indyís love interest Marion. She honestly just looks surprised to be in a movie again. And I feel sorry for John Hurt, playing a professor forced to mutter like a lunatic through most of the movie.

Iíve not reviewed the plot of this movie, primarily because I was not even able to keep it straight. It has something to do with aliens and gaining knowledge and the skull works its way into that in some capacity. There is also some familial bonding going on as Marion returns and Muttís past is revealed. Itís all pretty senseless and doesnít carry much weight.

It should be known that while ďCrystal SkullĒ does look like a half-assed movie, itís not exactly a boring one. Thatís what makes it so hard to review. Ford is very likable, I usually enjoy crazy amounts of action and I also enjoy an even crazier story about aliens. Just neither Spielberg nor Lucas seem to have much interest in selling the material. Danger and suspense are absent from the action, the actors are forced to do what they can, and the story is just a complete mess, and not even an interesting mess. This is the summerís first big disappointment.
Craig's Grade: C+
Craig's Overall Grading: 340 graded movies
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