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Movie Reviews

Film Review: “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull”

(Paramount. Color. 2 hours, 3 minutes. Rated PG-13 for adventure violence and scary images. Directed by Steven Spielberg.) Harrison Ford (Indiana Jones), Karen Allen (Marion Ravenwood), Shia LaBeouf (Mutt Williams), Cate Blanchett (Irina Spalko), Ray Winstone ("Mac" George Michale), John Hurt (Professor Oxley), Jim Broadbent (Dean Charles Stanforth). Music by John Williams.

In 1989, Harrison Ford searched for the Holy Grail in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, after which he donated Indy’s trademark fedora, jacket, and bullwhip to the Smithsonian. Little did he know that he would have cause to go knocking on the Smithsonian’s door to get his stuff back! 19 years after what we could now call the “Next-To-Last Crusade,” a 65-year-old Ford returns for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, along with his usual collaborators, director Steven Spielberg and composer John Williams. (The moviegoing audience had some preparation for the return of aging action stars: Sylvester Stallone recently revisited both his Rocky and Rambo franchises with some success after age 60.) For Crystal Skull, the action moves forward to 1957, with America dealing with the Cold War, Elvis, Communist witch hunts, greasers, hot rods, and malt shops. Indy’s father Henry Sr. (Sean Connery) and pal Marcus Brody (Denholm Elliott) are dead, and the man himself is feeling the signs of age. He’s still teaching archaeology, but the co-eds aren’t sighing over him the way they used to! Never fear, though – he’s thrust back into action, venturing into the jungles of South America in a race against Soviet agents to find the mystical Crystal Skull and discover its secret powers. Indy’s chief nemesis is the rapier-wielding Russian agent Irina Spalko. He’s joined on his quest by the young motorcycle-riding, Brando-wannabe Mutt Williams, and reunites with lost love Marion Ravenwood. I enjoyed it, with reservations. Ford is certainly spry enough, handling the action scenes well; and it was nice to see the Indy character again, along with the still-spunky Marion. And LaBeouf does a good job in his scenes with Ford. The first half-hour or so, when Indy and Mutt are still in the U.S., is really fun. Things start to get problematic once they relocate to South America for the quest proper. And boy, do we miss Marcus and Henry Sr.! (Elliott’s passed on, and Connery’s retired, more’s the pity.) I don’t want to say any more without giving things away, but I found the ending technically impressive but somewhat flat. For the score, John Williams builds on now-familiar themes such as the “Raiders March” and “Marion’s Theme” with interesting new material. Overall, I’d call the movie good, not great; it starts out strong, then slowly peters out.