Review: Indiana Jones & The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
Plot: Globe trotting archaeologist Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) is back! With the help of a young fifities greaser named Mutt (Shia LaBeouf), Jones must prevent a mythical set of Crystal Skulls from falling into the hands of vicious soviet agent Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett), who hopes to harness their power in a bid for world domination. Along the way, Indy must also rescue Mutt's mother, his old flame Marian Ravenwood (Karen Allen).
Review: Indy fans- why all the hate? INDIANA JONES & THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL has so far gotten a lot of not very positive reviews from fans, and after seeing the film for myself- I cannot for the life of me understand why. The film is everything anyone could want from an Indiana Jones film. It's action packed, funny, thrilling, and most importantly- it's fun! While it doesn't hold a candle to RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (which for my money is the greatest action/ adventure film ever made), I'd say that it's more or less on par with both THE TEMPLE OF DOOM & THE LAST CRUSADE.
In the nineteen years since the last Indiana Jones film, a lot has happened professionally for the men behind the franchise. Steven Spielberg has recently been focusing on more serious fare, while producer George Lucas went off and made three awful Star Wars prequels and pretty much destroyed that franchise. Meanwhile, Harrison Ford's career has been in a serious slump since the late nineties (he hasn't made a decent film since CLEAR & PRESENT DANGER- waaaaaay back in '94)- so he could definitely use a bit of the old Indy magic.
I'm happy to say that after watching this film, it's pretty obvious that the old Harrison Ford that we know and love is back. I've always felt that Ford was our generation's Gary Cooper- and nowhere is that more evident than when he's playing Indiana Jones. I think this film will totally re-energize his career, similar to what THE ROCK did for Sean Connery when he was the age Ford is now. Despite the fact that he's pushing 65, he still looks terrific and handles the numerous action scenes as well as he ever did. I also quite liked his interplay with Shia LaBeouf, who's much better than I thought he would be (although he's no Short Round). I wouldn't be surprised if his character gets his own spin-off movie in a few years. I also thought his Marlon Brando in THE WILD ONE getup was a nice touch.
I also loved the fact that Spielberg & Lucas brought back Karen Allen as Marian Ravenwood. I always though she was the only really good love interest in the series, and her chemistry with Ford is terrific. Less memorable is Cate Blanchett as the cartoon-ish Russian villain. While she looks smoking hot with a dyed black bob-cut, I never for one second thought she was a worthy adversary for Jones.
Besides the campy villains, the film also has a couple of other minor flaws. John Williams' score more or less recycles his amazing score from RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, and it would have been nice if he had managed to incorporate a strong new theme, which this film definitely deserves. I also really hate the soon to be infamous scene where Shia LaBeouf swings on jungle vines like Tarzan alongside a bunch of CGI monkeys. I have no idea why this scene was not removed.
Another aspect of the film that will likely be controversial is the cinematography by longtime Spielberg collaborator Janusz Kaminski. While I do agree with those who say the film looks nothing like the earlier installments shot by Douglas Slocombe- I don't see how that's necessarily a bad thing. Slocombe was a great cinematographer, but he's in his nineties now and hasn't shot a film since THE LAST CRUSADE. Obviously he would not be able to return. and Kaminski is a fine replacement. He tones down his usual style, but occasionally his sensibilities do creep in. That said, Kaminski is a great cinematographer in his own right, and the film still looks terrific.
I honestly do not understand why so many fans of the series are having a hard time accepting THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL. I think it's fits nicely onto the Indiana Jones saga, and I truly hope they decide to make another one in a few years. It's probably the most fun I've had at a movie this year, and at the end of the day- isn't that all that really matters?
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