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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 brianorndorf

"Hold on to your potato"
5 stars

The last time Indiana Jones was in action, he was riding off into the sunset, with a final quest behind him. It took 19 years to coax him back to the screen, but the archeology O.G. is back, and “Kingdom of Crystal Skull” doesn’t disappoint in the least. This is the high-flyin’, fingernail-chewing, stand-up-and-cheer summer experience as anticipated, yet it’s not exactly the same Dr. Jones as you might remember.

The year is 1957, and Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) has settled into a life alone, mourning the loss of his father, Henry Sr., and colleague Marcus Brody. Rustling him out of his routine are vicious Russian soldiers, led by psychic Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett, a sublime heavy), who want Indy to uncover the location of a mysterious crystal skull, using clues left behind by his old friend, Oxley (John Hurt). Helping Indy out is Mutt Williams (Shia LaBeouf), a tough young greaser who needs Indy to save his mother, Marion (Karen Allen). Traveling to South America to find the lost Temple of Akator, Indy fights to slip out of Spalko’s tight grip while trying to uncover the skull’s purpose before the Russians can claim their ultimate, world-dominating prize.

The familiar fingerprints of Indiana Jones are smudged all over “Kingdom:” director Steven Spielberg and producer George Lucas even dust off the old Paramount Pictures logo to help match the mood that was left hanging in 1989. It’s a commendable effort, keeping the audience comfy with what they’re seeing in 2008, but it’s a little misleading. “Kingdom” is an old-fashioned, no-frills Indy adventure, but it also shakes up the franchise wherever it can. No matter what the Beards tell the press, “Kingdom” is Indy 2.0, but in a very rewarding way. It steps forward, not back, approaching the character’s epic life from a fresh perspective.

It’s a new world for Indiana Jones, who comes to “Kingdom” after his war-hero days in WWII, still feeling the sting of loved ones who have passed on. He’s older, wiser, and fully entrenched in his stuffy professorial ways; committed to education now more than ever, but still able and willing to throw a punch when needed. Of course, Ford plays the aging symphony like a maestro, never pushing too hard on the bitter old man routine, instead nicely sinking into Indy’s ripened ways. Sure, the screenplay by David Koepp likes to poke fun at Indy’s years with some clever gags, but Spielberg seems more enchanted with the character’s maturation into a team player, not using the age for a cheap punchline.

In reality, the post-war mood is a delightful way to refresh Indy iconography, taking the audience into a darker world where targeting absolute evil is a more complicated process and American might is being swallowed by communist paranoia. The original films (1981’s “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” 1984’s “Temple of Doom,” and 1989’s “The Last Crusade”) all played into the gleeful 1930’s Saturday-matinee-serial mentality, marked by pristine colors (courtesy of ace cinematographer Douglas Slocombe), heavy detail, and sparkling outdoorsy escapades. The Cold War environment of “Kingdom” is more claustrophobic and agitated; Spielberg and his shooter Janusz Kaminski replicate the massively layered compositions of the earlier installments, but ease in a new color palette and enclosed sensation through the substantial usage of sets.

That’s not to say the film is dreary; it’s anything but that, yet subtle changes are felt throughout the picture, emphasizing the polished technology Spielberg is working with now, not to mention his own growth behind the camera, after years of trying to strip away his “Mr. Blockbuster” reputation. “Kingdom” snuggles into the Indy goods easily, but it’s best to acknowledge that “Kingdom” is somewhat aesthetically different than the previous adventures, and that’s an outstanding achievement.

While Spielberg is wrestling with vast sound stage spaces and easing into a CGI-led cinematic world, “Kingdom” doesn’t hesitate to reawaken the breakneck velocity the franchise is known for. The film opens with a literal bang, as Indy battles Spalko around the infinite warehouse location glimpsed at the end of “Raiders,” swinging around the joint with his trusty bullwhip and barely dodging Russian bullets. Right from the starter pistol, Ford reclaims the character’s bruiser physicality and Spielberg dusts off his old crack timing, bestowing audiences with a skillful opening reel that feels just like a visit from an old friend; at the same time, Spielberg updates the proceedings with a handsome 1950’s mood, using the sounds of Elvis and haunting atomic bomb testing ground locations to get viewers up to speed with the new era.

It’s chase scenes galore from there, including a crackerjack motorcycle ride through Indy’s college campus with Mutt (hunted by Russian agents) and the film’s centerpiece: a gymnastic jungle chase sequence that mirrors the classic marathon desert brawl of “Raiders.” Here, the CG glaze is most readily apparent, but it never bothered me. With Spielberg staging the action in sweeping, dazzling widescreen movements (seemingly allergic to heavy editing), I’ll take the Lucas-mandated artificiality with a degree of patience. They don’t make movies quite like they used to in the ‘80s, but “Kingdom” shimmies awfully close to the mall-multiplex ecstasy of observing characters leaping around the frame with abandon, pummeling each other while the John Williams score blasts away triumphantly. When “Kingdom” rears back and delivers the goods, the result will reduce the average Indy fan to pudding. The film should offer a new pair of pants with every ticket.

Surprisingly, the titular MacGuffin is far more critical to the story than previous installments have dictated. There’s no fortune and glory lust about the crystal skull for Indy, and he takes possession of the spooky magnetized item early on in the film, leaving the rest of the action in protection mode rather than retrieval. To keep within the ‘50’s vibe, there are sci-fi overtones to the story, using the 1947 events in Roswell and the skull’s football-like shape to introduce otherworldly mystery to “Kingdom” in place of religious or supernatural focal points. The whole film is a good-natured homage to this era of filmmaking, with giant ant rampages, Soviet domination, and Mutt in full Brando, “Wild One” mode as a switchblade-carrying, leather-jacket-wearing, Harley-riding delinquent.

Keeping that mindset of ‘50’s sci-fi will help to digest the conclusion of “Kingdom,” where Lucas’s fingers can be felt again in the film’s second generous helping of CG embellishment.

Even if today’s filmmaking technology creeps up in “Kingdom,” the heart belongs to Ford. It’s a blissful performance that mixes Indy’s punch-drunk bewilderment with haggard acknowledgement of limitation, showing age not through fatigue but through a welcomed sense of family and educational responsibility. Ford plays the brief tributes to Sean Connery and Denholm Elliot with marvelous grace and dives into all the bloodied beatings, but the real energy of “Kingdom” comes from his encounters with LaBeouf and Allen, which crackle with traditional Indy magic and bring the absolute best out of the actor.

Spielberg deserves a medal the way he suppresses LaBeouf’s annoying performance habits, turning the young star into a credible greaser and an unexpectedly vulnerable sidekick. LaBeouf is a revelation here and doesn’t stick out in the Indiana Jones world as much as expected. He supports Ford wonderfully, but once Allen shows up at the midway point, some old “Raiders” chemistry is rekindled to steal the movie away. Marion and Indy don’t receive the luxurious screen time they deserve in “Kingdom,” but the actors make the most of it, creating needed romantic sparks at the center of all the mayhem, lovingly comedic with their reunion and the unexpected revelations that come with it. It’s just a delight to see Ford and Allen back in character.

“Kingdom” satisfies in a massive way, handing the faithful towering servings of action and archeological surprise, while inching the series into new artistic and visual directions that could conceivably open the door to further, and wholeheartedly welcome, adventures. There’s still plenty of fire in Indy’s belly to explore. It took nearly two decades to get the character back on the screen, but it was worth the wait: “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” is an exquisitely crafted, lightning-paced thrill ride; a barnstorming blockbuster effort from Steven Spielberg, and a return to iconic action hero fortunes for Harrison Ford. It’s an absolute treat for fans of all ages.

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originally posted: 05/23/08 05:46:35
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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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