Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull Review - Back for Another Fun Adventure!
by Alex Billington
May 20, 2008
Indiana Jones is back on the big screen for his first adventure in 19 years. Harrison Ford, Steven Spielberg, and even George Lucas are all back, joined for the first time by sidekick Shia LaBeouf. The question on everyone's mind is whether this latest installment, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, still has the magic that the first three did. One thing is certain - Kingdom of the Crystal Skull definitely has the fun, entertaining spirit of the original three, but it also has its flaws. While not perfect, it is still one of the most entertaining adventures you'll see this year.
Twenty years after discovering the Holy Grail in The Last Crusade, archaeologist/teacher Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) is roped into another adventure to uncover the mysteries of the world. This time, Indy is kidnapped by a Russian team led by Dr. Spalko (Cate Blanchett) and is forced to assist them in their search for a crystal skull. Once obtained, the villains hope to unlock the skull's powers, which can only be done if the skull is returned to the Lost Temple of Akator in the Amazonian jungle. Along the way, Indiana bumps into youngster Mutt Williams (Shia LaBeouf), who follows him to South America in search of one of Indiana's lost friends, Professor Oxley (John Hurt).
I grew up with Indiana Jones as one of my favorite cinematic heroes. Even after 20 years, he's still my hero. He can still kick ass, solve ancient mysteries, and charm women as well as he used to. Spielberg's and Ford's involvement in this guaranteed that the fourth film would keep the character true to its roots. However, the new script and story introduces a new character in LaBeouf's Mutt and ventures deep into the supernatural, which is where the problems lie. The story jumps over the top far too many times, including one scene with Mutt and monkeys, and loses steam near the end.
While I could dwell on how ridiculous some of Crystal Skull was, I instead want to commend Spielberg simply because he can still entertain as well as he did with the first three Indy films. No one makes films the way Spielberg does anymore: the action is genuine and realistic and the style reminds you of the days of old, where Luke Skywalker and Indiana Jones ruled the silver screen for many years. Spielberg's ability to create an adventurous, heroic, and above all fun film, is beyond compare. Most will be able to look past the somewhat shabby script and respect Spielberg for his true ability to create legends.
I won't spoil Crystal Skull, but with this film's ending I noticed a similar problem to Spielberg's other recent works, Munich and War of the Worlds. Kingdom of the Crystal Skull ends abruptly without any real, meaningful explanation. The film never gives the audience the chance to contemplate the finale, epic and exhilarating as it might have been, and quickly wraps up before anyone can reflect upon what they're seeing. While the original three Jones movies never had this issue, Spielberg has recently lost his ability to craft a gratifying ending.
Kingdom of the Crystal Skull far surpasses other similar blockbusters when it comes to action, adventure, characters, and entertainment value, but it is still troubled by its story. To truly enjoy it, you need to understand who Indy is and why the original three films became legendary. With that mindset, you'll leave Crystal Skull satisfied. This might even nudge out Temple of Doom in my own rankings. It's not perfect by any means, but it is fun, and with Spielberg and Ford, that's what counts the most!