Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Harrison Ford comes to life in Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. (© 2008 Lucasfilm Ltd. All rights reserved.)

Like most people my age (mid-20s), as a kid I loved—loved—the Indiana Jones trilogy. Seeing The Last Crusade in the theaters was one of my first truly sublime memories. I loved those movies so much that for years I actually thought I wanted to be an archaeologist—until I went on an archaeological dig in the Iowa countryside in 100 degree weather looking for dinosaur fingernails among pig manure. So when the news came that Spielberg, Lucas, and Ford were finally making a third installment, I was thrilled. Of course, it wouldn’t be as good as the peerless Raiders of the Lost Ark or the wonderful Last Crusade, but maybe it would be as good or better as corny, über-dark, and weirdly racist Temple of Doom. And as it turns out, I’m right. Crystal Skull is not as good as the first or the third, but it has some of the same loopy, B-movie charm of the second. Hell, there’s aliens and psychic Russians and A-bomb explosions!

The film begins with a nifty set piece harkening back to the huge warehouse of talismans and artifacts from Raiders. Jones, along with sidekick Mac (Ray Winstone), are kidnapped by Soviets and forced at gunpoint to lead them to a highly magnetized alien tomb; from there we get a jet-pack rail ride before Jones has to figure out how to survive a nuclear test bombing in an eerie fake town. This is all just a preamble to Jones’s jaunt with Mutt Williams (Shia Labeouf), a greaser complete with switchblade and motorcycle, down to the jungles of Peru.

The plot, like the previous three, is a pulp amalgam of Saturday serials and thus more of a conduit for the next action sequence than a serious narrative. Which is fine—the action is spectacular, witty, and simultaneously humorous and thrilling. It’s nice to see Harrison Ford back among the living. After more than a decade of mumbling and lurching, Ford seems vital and charismatic again.

The biggest clunker in the film is the script—it can never raise itself above being slightly creaky and strained. But nevertheless, it’s a fun ride and, in all honesty, I hope they make another one. B

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