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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 28.57%
Average: 17.39%
Pretty Bad: 7.45%
Total Crap: 14.29%

9 reviews, 107 user ratings

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Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
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by Erik Childress

"A School Of Cinema Worth Its Wait In Gold"
5 stars

Nineteen years. That’s longer than we waited for the next Star Wars picture. Most of us have grown up from grade school into a career. Some might even have kids waiting to be schooled in the ways of one of the (if not THE) greatest adventure series ever created. The difference between the George Lucas-inspired franchises though is that this looks to be it. At least in its present incarnation. We have no guarantee of two more films over six years. No promises of animated television shows to make the eventual leap to the big screen. It’s graduation day for Indiana Jones and he’s going out in style with the great action we’ve come to expect and a more thematically interesting spectacle than we’re used to in our traditional Memorial Day blockbusters. So to all of the wannabes, imposters and posers out there – it’s time to go back to school and learn how a real adventure picture is made.

In both our time and Jones time it’s been 19 years since the events of The Last Crusade. It’s now 1957 and the world has moved on from Nazis to “Russians”, as Indiana (Harrison Ford) announces in his first line in nearly two decades. He’s been captured by some invading comrades along with partner, Mac (Ray Winstone), whom Indy has been working with on behalf of the U.S. government. If the numbers on the side of the building they’ve dispatched them to don’t ring any bells, then certainly your sense of nostalgia will go into overdrive when you see the interior full of wooden crates. Lenin’s raven-haired right-hand gal, Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett), is after one particular box; one containing a secret from 1947 New Mexico. Escape is not what it used to be for Indiana Jones who comes out the other end in an even more spectacular fashion than first imagined, but has a shadow cast upon him by the suspicious times he’s now a part of.

After his university offices are ransacked by government officials, he is tracked down by Mutt Williams (Shia LaBeouf), a “greaser” with vital information about another old colleague of Indiana’s. Seems one Professor Oxley (John Hurt) went missing while attempting to track down a legendary Crystal Skull (is there any other kind?), inherently responsible for entire civilizations, most notably the lost gold city of El Dorado. With any race for treasure and power though, there are competitors and Spalko’s Russkies are also on the hunt to complete the package they sought early on. To Peru and down along the Amazon go Indy and Mutt to an evitable rendezvous with the Professor, now seemingly a catatonic nutcase, and the person who told Mutt to find Indy in the first place. Like Indy, you may know a lot of Marions, but there’s only one Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen) and her return is as welcome as the titular character himself.

Indy’s reaction to Marion’s re-introduction is not only a priceless bit of acting on Ford’s part but representative of the giddy (and somewhat nervewracking) anticipation fans will have as the familiar Paramount logo morphs into the very mountain Spielberg and Lucas have to climb to appease them. Jokingly beginning with more of a mole hill than the Everest all of the buzz has created, they have not approached the fourth film so lightly as to be accused of just a desperate cash grab. Spielberg may have felt an obligation to produce a sequel after Jurassic Park broke all those records in 1993 (resulting in the occasionally rousing, but maybe the most slapdash film of his career in The Lost World), but you can tell from scene one the admiration he has for this character and this series.

A lot of period films get created out of a simplistic sense of necessity, matching the details out of an exterior shot here and there or making obvious references to the timeframe in the dialogue. It’s been a while since we’ve seen what should easily be a throwaway bit of art direction turned into an absolute lovefest for the details of a culture. Beginning with Elvis blaring on the soundtrack and a literal race between the era’s hipsters and the armed forces, Spielberg immediately ushers in the new age that will become an intrical part of the film’s underlying thematic elements. When it comes time for Indiana Jones to go face-to-face with the nuclear age, it’s precisely the sort of perfect Life Magazine cover image that you would want framed on your wall for all to see.

Placing thematics on hold for a bit, don’t worry fans, The Crystal Skull has precisely the kind of first-class action you expect from the director who perfected the modern set piece. While directors are making things bigger and louder, it’s impossible to believe that there are enough storyboards (if any) to keep up with their vision of what an action sequence should look like. CGI’ing to death is one thing (and can be effectively used in the right hands) but overediting and offering extreme close-ups of everything does not excitement make. Nothing can beat old-fashioned stuntwork and planning and seeing shots like Indiana running across the warehouse crates and swinging off of them in one fluent, unedited motion is a rollercoaster ride in and of itself. A single shot. Combine that with seeing Harrison Ford trailing a motorbike on his feet (in a great chase around the college campus) or the flawless choreography of a extended jungle chase that will rank, without argument, alongside the truck and airplane scenes from Raiders and the minecar rally from Temple of Doom as one of the best action sequences ever constructed. If we’re counting set pieces (as I did prior to the screening) than you can equate the previous three films to have no less than six (if you stick with elaborate action and nail-biting finales.) The Crystal Skull can probably be stretched out to match, although one or two scenes involving native guardians (especially one in a burial ground) will have audiences clamoring for a bit more. (And just how long were they waiting in their little perches hoping for an eventual break-in?)

As underwhelming as Crystal Skull’s finale might be for some (as it owes a bit too much to the original Raiders) it’s here where those underlying elements that have been peeking its head to the surface - much like the furry critters it opens and closes it’s “new age” introduction with – explode into it’s fine point. Not to take things too seriously and suggest Spielberg is continuing his post-9/11 trilogy (The Terminal, War of the Worlds, Munich) but The Crystal Skull is the symbol of unexplored knowledge suppressed by those in power and potentially exploited by those who seek it. “Stay in school” is too simple a message for Spielberg; albeit one liberally sprinkled throughout the film. Indiana Jones has been a character who has embraced the preservation of history, occasionally losing his faith and put on a path to rediscover it along the way through the temptations of “fortune and glory.” But unlike those doomed to repeat it, Indiana has continued to teach, continued to embark on new adventures, continued to seek out knowledge and explore its value in an evolving landscape. Whether it be the ‘30s, the ‘50s, the ‘80s or the 21st century, what greater hero can we have for our times, for our children and for us?

Laying off the potential for a string of “old man” jokes that pre-buzz hinted at, Spielberg and Ford haven’t aged a day in the eyes of this series. Neither has apparently Karen Allen who is just as spunky and joyful as she was 27 years ago. You will not see another actor this year having as much fun being on screen as Allen here. All the speculation that Shia LaBeouf might be getting groomed for the next generation of Indy adventures has its merit, although getting a nice “not yet” wink by the end. What’s great is that LaBeouf hasn’t just been brought in to jazz up an aged series for a younger audience. He’s quite good as Mutt (a nice in-joke for fans paying attention) and there’s real life to this character and his feelings for the mentor missing in his life. As that mentor, Spielberg must have had fun casting John Hurt as a character on a mission to return the item that’s been eating at him for all these years (or, at least, since 1979.) Ray Winstone, saddled with what could have been the most complex of all the characters, is unfortunately reduced to more of an underwritten cartoon than the sort of McCarthy-esque figure he’s representing. Just the opposite is Cate Blanchett, who may be recalling a cartoon with her Natasha Fatale accent, but is a pure example of an actor generating depth by mere presence alone. She is such a relish to watch that the thought which kept seeping into my head during the jungle chase is “please don’t kill her yet.”

It will be interesting to see how not only new viewers will take to Indiana’s adventures but how the fans that grew up with him embrace this final mission. Will they flock together as a collective consciousness with their knives sharpened, measuring it by the standard which cannot be topped in the perfect adventure that is Raiders of the Lost Ark? Or will they think as individuals and see what’s waiting for them on the other side of all the magnificent action and homages to the entire series (including John Williams bringing back themes from all three films.) Sean Connery might not be on board, but the tributes he receives (in both visual form and in the dialogue) is indicative of the series’ heart and respect for the ethereal qualities represented in Indiana’s and Spielberg’s cinematic adventures. It’s only natural for the two most common threads of Spielberg’s popcorn excursions to finally cross paths, uniting at a time that may be the end for one road but is just the beginning for another adventure if we choose to seek it.

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originally posted: 05/20/08 02:11:22
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User Comments

1/29/19 brian Better than I was expecting, but not up to I & III. 4 stars
9/13/17 morris campbell a good entry in the series forget the haters 4 stars
9/04/16 TonyK Very good. Absurd, OTT, swashbuckling fun with some great camera work and homages. 4 stars
3/30/16 Aj wales Should have stuck to 3. Ford is just to old to take serious. He should put his feet up. 3 stars
3/14/16 Charles Tatum Yikes, this should have been MUCH better. 3 stars
3/25/15 Joey B A great homage to 50's Sci-fi and Cold War B - movies, with stunning visuals. 5 stars
11/10/14 Lisa C Not as good as Raiders or Crusade but much better than the Temple of Crap. 4 stars
12/11/12 Lisa A great movie, so incredibly underrated. 5 stars
9/05/12 Samuel This film basically sucked bad. 1 stars
11/28/11 The Big D More about Indy and his family than any kind of adventure; the series is winding down. 3 stars
5/02/11 Silkworm Indiana Jones and the crock of shit ! 1 stars
2/16/11 Reality Of Films Hey, come on! It's still fun! 5 stars
12/11/10 R.W. Welch Effort to recapture the old magic doesn't quite work but has some moments. C+ 3 stars
6/11/10 Flathead King This film was not worth the wait. 1 stars
3/05/10 Ionicera after 20 years this is the best they could do? 2 stars
1/30/10 Jack The best in the series! 5 stars
1/08/10 Reality Of Films This film is good, and full of action and humor. Don't listen to anyone who says it's bad. 5 stars
7/24/09 alice Really ridiculous and unrealistic, but entertaining nonetheless. 3 stars
5/14/09 Colin M So unfortunate that they ruined a franchise in the effort to make a (lot of) buck(s). 1 stars
3/30/09 Adventure author It's wonderful to see Indy again, win loose or draw. 3 stars
3/16/09 Sam unrealistic.. not that entertaining .. 2 stars
2/28/09 Piz The Mummy starring Harrison Ford instead of Brendan Fraser 2 stars
1/17/09 Aesop Working title: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of WTF?!? 1 stars
1/13/09 Anonymous. this isn't going to be as easy as it use to be! :P 4 stars
12/30/08 Justin Makes you wish Indy had drank out of the wrong cup at the end of the Last Crusade. 1 stars
12/26/08 Grace Boring. I swear they recycled most of the dialogue from the older Indiana Jones films. 3 stars
12/20/08 orpy sucks!!! 1 stars
12/06/08 Shaun Wallner Friiggin Awesome!! 5 stars
11/30/08 Johnnyfaye B movie extravaganza 4 stars
11/10/08 blah blah leave your brain at the door and you will have a good time 4 stars
11/03/08 your worst goddamn nightmare Y'know, it was good; a bit rusty, after all these years, but it was entertaining! 4 stars
10/31/08 Moop Has it's moments and interesting quasi-historical aspects, but felt too clunky 3 stars
10/19/08 Johnnyfaye Hahaha I love it...welcome back Jones! 5 stars
10/18/08 AshleyRockO Great, Fun movie. Indy still has it after all these years. 5 stars
10/16/08 The Anti-Douche In this order: 1, 4, 2 and 3. Last Crusade was lacklustre. 4 stars
10/11/08 Unicorn on the cob Could've done without return of (un-)Karen Allen, and ending is just too over the top. 3 stars
9/17/08 Oiman Not quite as good as Raiders, but I actually thought the aliens were cool! 4 stars
8/29/08 Keithers It's a good movie, people are bashing it cause they want they child hood mvie... 4 stars
8/06/08 E K Zimmerman Pure Kentucky Fried Crap. I wept! 1 stars
7/30/08 the dork knight Doesn't even seem like an Indy movie.... 3 stars
7/23/08 David I expected better from Indy. 3 stars
7/19/08 Susan Lee was expecting much better from spielberg and the cast.. the aliens were cheesy, predictable 3 stars
7/16/08 zenny embarassing for all involved. greatly disappointing. 1 stars
7/14/08 Karen Loved this movie! 5 stars
7/10/08 Bill OReely very entertaining fantasy 4 stars
7/05/08 Samantha Pruitt entertaining, yet REALLY far-fetched, doesn't really fit in wth the other IJ movies. 4 stars
6/24/08 Indrid Cold The worst of the series, but still great. Make another one before Ford gets too old! 4 stars
6/23/08 mr.mike I just wasn't that into it. 3 stars
6/22/08 AnnieG Not as bad as I feared, not as good as I hoped. Rates 3rd in the series. 3 stars
6/17/08 Kirk You are a serious tard. 1 stars
6/14/08 Johnnyfaye People say it's flawed but...Raiders was totally flawed...the bad stuff are what make indy. 4 stars
6/11/08 TommyV Flawed, at times ridiculous- but still totally indiana jones 4 stars
6/10/08 Indy fanatic If you don't like this....than you forgotten why you liked indy so many years ago. 4 stars
6/07/08 Ry expecting little... got even less. 1 stars
6/06/08 Ming K I want more....Great actions the reunion with karen allen.... 5 stars
6/05/08 Jayson Bored down to my crystal skull. 2 stars
6/05/08 katmagick This flick was way overdue! Keep 'em coming. 5 stars
6/04/08 Dana The best Indiana Jones I have seen 5 stars
6/01/08 Quigley A worthy predecessor to one of cinema's greatest franchises 5 stars
5/31/08 gerry It was truly great. Not as good as Raiders, but fits nicely alongside the other two. 5 stars
5/30/08 Illusion Loved it. If you didn't, u must be old (LOL) 5 stars
5/30/08 BrizzyMo WELL worth the wait-any1 that disagrees misses the entire point of the franchise. Die. 5 stars
5/30/08 Indy fanatic If you didn't like it you probably over hyped yourselves. Indy is a B movie series remember 4 stars
5/29/08 luke Fukk all the one stars 5 stars
5/28/08 d halberg frickin aliens!!!!! 2 stars
5/28/08 David Horrible movie... 1 stars
5/28/08 NoRefill Not a bad movie, but not an Indian Jones movie. 3 stars
5/28/08 KingNeutron Too many unbelievable sequences - Shia is NOT the way to carry on the franchise 3 stars
5/28/08 Rick One of the worst movies in a while. Indiana Jones meets E.T. on the set of the Ruins 1 stars
5/28/08 Doubler Could'nt wait for it to end, bring, dull, plain ol' crap! 1 stars
5/27/08 J Webster Good...not as good as Raiders but an enjoyable ride and better than The Mummy films.. 4 stars
5/27/08 g awesome 5 stars
5/27/08 I-K Too cartoonish in places, unoriginal ending... might've called it "The mummy returns again" 2 stars
5/27/08 johhnyfog George Lucas and his cute critters stike again!! 3 stars
5/27/08 C Vega good to see indy back...ending was crap tho (ET LOL)...worst of the lot but still good tho 4 stars
5/26/08 Tim Eimiller I had a total blast watching this movie. Loved every ridiculous minute of it. 5 stars
5/26/08 david horribe, if you like this, you must be drunk 1 stars
5/26/08 Will Not Bad. What the hell was up with the monkey sequence? 3 stars
5/26/08 Lord Jiggy Never hit its stride...just off in pacing, humor, and minimal coherence. Even Ford was off 3 stars
5/26/08 Darkstar Um... it was good. Not great. Better than 2, not as good as 1 & 3. 4 stars
5/26/08 AJ Muller Not better than Raiders, but nothing (not even the other 2) is. Great, asskicking fun. 5 stars
5/26/08 George Barksdale Good action, kid did good job, but hate movies with alien implications 4 stars
5/26/08 Koitus Ugh... On par with the 2nd one in the series. I'd recommend waiting to rent it, even. 2 stars
5/25/08 debdahlin Alot of action - but something was missing 4 stars
5/25/08 bob jones this is what lucas and spielberg compromised on? 3 stars
5/25/08 powerloader Utter rubbish. 1 stars
5/24/08 Jim Nowhere near as good as the original three movies. 2 stars
5/24/08 Jeb Springfield This movie was awful. This was like Jar Jar Binks and the Crystal Skull 2 stars
5/24/08 Nick Absolute CRAP 1 stars
5/24/08 Hank Enjoyed it immensely, it despite its flaws 4 stars
5/24/08 Aimee I don't think we saw the same movie. Lucas and Spielberg totally screwed up. 2 stars
5/24/08 lemosley01 I feel as just like I did after Matrix 3 or Episode 2 - abused 2 stars
5/24/08 Brian F What a great time it was seeing this movie. They don't look that old 5 stars
5/24/08 CC Classic status of originals aside, this film is at par with the others. 2nd best in series. 4 stars
5/24/08 JoeJoe Gonsalves - You're in serious denial, if you believe what you wrote here. The movie sucked 2 stars
5/24/08 jackson Indiana Jones... and aliens 1 stars
5/24/08 bullit16 Should have been called "Indiana Jones and the Phantom Mencace." 3 stars
5/24/08 Indy Fan Slower paced than the previous 3, I think Harrison overplayed his age. Still, I enjoyed it! 4 stars
5/23/08 Will Wanted to love it.......but it was just half ass trash 1 stars
5/23/08 Joel The tarzan scene...........what the f..... 1 stars
5/23/08 Eric's Soul Come back Eric, come back. The movie is complete and total crap. 1 stars
5/23/08 dieter It's Indy, with a few "wmah" moments 4 stars
5/23/08 Melindissa I love Indy and the girl, but these CG stunts sucked. spoilt illusion 4 stars
5/23/08 Jackk Silly story, forced acting, poor CGI effects. 1 stars
5/23/08 ahnold Horrible. And I can't say more than that. 1 stars
5/22/08 fhdh cool 5 stars
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  22-May-2008 (PG-13)
  DVD: 14-Oct-2008


  DVD: 14-Oct-2008

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