Anthony's Film Review
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)
Despite a few flaws, the fourth Indiana Jones adventure is still a very fun ride...
For most people, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull may feel different from at least one of its preceding films. However, the original formula has not gone anywhere. It is still an action-packed adventure that mixes archaeology with excitement and intertwines it all with a taste of history, politics, and the supernatural. What's even better is that Harrison Ford as the title character still has it. Indiana Jones in this movie is far from being too old and due for retirement. In fact, the movie feels as if it were released just only a couple of years after the third film, not nearly two decades later.
Of course, if Kingdom of the Crystal Skull had come out in the 1990s, the movie would still be set in the 1930s and 1940s. The seventeen-year gap from The Last Crusade to Crystal Skull is reflected in that this movie takes place in 1957. We're out of World War II with the threat of the Nazis and in the Cold War with the threat of the Soviets. Here, Jones is thrown into a plot in which Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett) is seeking an artifact called the Crystal Skull. He has an unexpected ally in Mutt Williams (Shia LaBeouf), a motorcycle-driving youth who surprisingly has an interest in archaeology. Together, they travel to South America where the mystery of the Crystal Skull lies.
The overall structure of the movie goes something like this: an action scene starting around the ten-minute mark, followed by a short action scene, then a long stretch of scenes to advance the plot that is interrupted by action near the beginning, then a long action scene that is more like two action sequences attached end to end, and finally the intriguing climax. It may feel a little uneven at times, but the amount of plot and action is just right. None of it is boring, either.
Now we get to the inevitable part of the review: comparison with Raiders of the Lost Ark. What makes it necessary to mention the first Indiana Jones adventure is that Karen Allen appeared as Marion in that one and reprises her role again in this one. Her presence is a surprisingly welcome one, because she rides along with the action instead of being a distraction from it. So don't get impatient and complain that she has no purpose in this movie.
Otherwise, I compare Crystal Skull to Raiders because I consider the latter to be the reference point for the others. Crystal Skull, to me, doesn't really try to be more clever, original, and daring than Raiders. Rather, it sticks with familiar territory. It feels somewhat like a version of Raiders of the Lost Ark with the quality taken down a notch or two. For one thing, Cate Blanchett handles her Russian accent well enough, but she is less villainous compared with the cold-looking Toht in Raiders of the Lost Ark. There is humor within and between the action but I felt some of it was a little overdone. Finally, a certain scene in the climax feel rehashed, which you can figure out if you have seen Raiders.
But these are small complaints, because the intense action makes up for them. Computerized special effects are no doubt used here, but only where it's really needed. Therefore, you don't have to worry about the fourth Indiana Jones movie being so digital compared with the first three. It still fits nicely into the series without breaking too much continuity. I still had a great time with this movie because the thrills are there. Once again, the heroic archaeologist has not worn himself out yet.
For more information about Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, visit the Internet Movie Database.