Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull — A Movie Review

With the crack of the indomitable Dr. Jones’ whip, my hopes for a fun, memorable romp in another one of his adventures was dashed. Seriously, inalterably dashed. Oh, there is much to like about this latest installment brought to us by the seemingly invincible pair of George Lucas, Executive Producer, and Steven Spielberg, Director. With extremely high value production values, the film looks good, really good. The use of light, shadow and darkness as an interplay with character interaction within the broader cinematic perspective was quite stunning. Broad sweeping vistas steal the show, as do intricate minutiae. Harrison Ford is surprisingly energetic and on point. Once he dons his trademark hat and whip, he looks every bit the part which made him famous, until he cracks the whip and the narrative begins.

According to Fandango.com, “Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) races the Soviets — led by agent Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett) — to a lost city called Akakor in the Peruvian forest, in pursuit of a mystical crystal skull. Along for the adventure are old flame Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen), long-time friend and competitor Mac (Ray Winstone) and new sidekick Mutt Williams (Shia LeBeouf).”

Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is a cartoonish, even buffoonish, attempt to trade a flurry of action peril for any hope of including plausible story elements. The result is a breathless series of escalating scenes of peril and doom, but no real sense that our hero is truly in danger. It is kind of like Star Trek, where only the people in red shirts die. In Crystal Skull, only the bad guys (Soviet soldiers and KGB) and the indigenous tribal warriors die.

Without giving away the details of the plot, I would rather simply give my rating to the beginning, middle and end.

Beginning: Hopeful at first, with fun 50’s music and a car of high school kids wanting to race an army vehicle in a caravan. But then it became weak and cartoonish. Soviet agent Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett) comes across as a severe, cartoonish caricature lacking any subtlety. Totally unbelievable. An archetype of evil. In fact something you might have expected to see in a movie made during the cold war. Perhaps that was the point, although it didn’t work at all for me.

Middle: Good and bad. Interesting cinematography. However, the story as a whole flounders throughout. There is an attempt to recapture the fun interplay which occurred in the Last Crusade between Jones and his father, but it falls short, though not entirely. A new character is introduced, Mutt Williams (Shia LeBeouf), and very quickly the two are thrown together as unlikely counterparts, much like Jones and his now deceased father. The kid shows promise. Perhaps they intend him to be the next incarnation of the Jones legacy?

Denouement : Deplorable. Simply deplorable. I won’t spoil it for those of you who intend to watch it. However, I must say this was a dreadful and disappointing end to a terrible story. It felt like I was watching a dreadful UFO watchers type film.

My parting thoughts

I am not sure to what audience Lucas and Spielberg are trying to appeal in this film. It is rated PG-13, and rightly so, for the most part. In fact, at points it runs close to earning an R rating due to disturbing scenes of gross violent death. This movie is NOT appropriate for children under ANY circumstances. I caution adults as well, especially those susceptible to nightmares. There are funny moments in the film. There are some great action moments. But a good film is predicated on an engaging story and for this reason I give Crystal Skull an enthusiastic two thumbs and two big toes down, along with the rolling of my eyes and a lament that I will never have my wasted two hours returned to me, not to mention the price of admission. Hint: Do yourselves a favor. Stay home and watch the DVD of the Last Crusade, the predecessor to Crystal Skull.

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10 thoughts on “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull — A Movie Review

  1. Glenn,
    My wife and I saw it last weekend. It was a let down for us too. I really wanted it to be good, and coudn’t admit that it wasn’t until the very end.

    Then on the way home, we were wishing that “The Last Crusade” had ended the series.

  2. Wow, Glen, don’t mince words…tell us how you really feel!
    My wife returns from a two and a half week trip to Hawaii. Our plan was to see Indy when she got back. Now,thanks to you (and Steve Tanner and a dozen others) my reunion date night is ruined…ruined…ruined (sob).
    Just kidding…thanks for the heads up!

  3. Oh, Timothy, go see it with your wife. It was two hours of fun. Nonsense, but fun. Stupid, but fun. Pointless, but fun. I’m glad they made it even if it did fall 19 years short of the last one… it WAS better than Temple of Doom, now THAT was a terrible movie! ;)

  4. Timothy,

    There is fun to be had at the movie. I will compromise with Karl, but only a little. I still think the movie was dreadful in terms of its plot points. But if you must, go view the movie at the matinee showing and then it won’t be a total loss. And bring bug spray. Lots of it, lest some of them thar creepy crawlies excape the screen and make their way in the dark through the theater to you…. bwahahahaha. ;)

  5. It was a fun romp with tie-ins to characters and cinematic styles we’ve loved in the previous Indy movies. The style hearkened back 40 years or so when it came out – and now a few decades later the movie audience and expectations are different, but I think Spielberg captured the fun of the originals well – and gave new depth to the character by showing the role reversal you mentioned Glen. certainly far better than when Lucas went back after decades to film more Star Wars movies.

  6. Hey, Glenn,
    I finally saw Indiana Jones this weekend. I enjoyed it (although the UFO element was unfortunate). It tied in both the movies and the television series quite nicely. Was it “Gone With the Wind?” No. But it was a far cry from, say, Robin Williams Popeye.

  7. glad you enjoyed it Timothy:) I was not aware there was a tv series. Guess I missed that memo:)

  8. The tv series was The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, which featured a 90-something “Old Indy” recounting his exploits as a young boy and as a teen/early 20’s.

    In “Crystal Skull”, Indy mentions a time he rode with Pancho Villa. That was an episode of Young Indiana Jones Chronicles.

    (and of course, this will only fuel what one of my co-workers says: “Tim, you and my husband are a couple of dorks!”)

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