Indy is a little longer in the tooth but still kicks $%# with the best of 'em
What can be said about the latest Indiana Jones movie that hasn't already been said before? 19 years in the making. Countless scripts and countless revisions. Endless "it's happening" and "it's not happening" stories. And finally, Indiana Jones himself (Harrison Ford) stating that if it doesn't happen by 2008 they should give up. Well, after all that, here we are and Ford's deadline has been met.
Set in 1957, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is the first of the theatrical Indy adventures not to feature Nazis as the primary villains. This time it's the height of the Cold War and the obvious enemy is the Reds, the Russkies or whatever the popular term was for Russians back in the day. Jones is still teaching archaeology (part-time), still single and still taking the occasional exotic excursion to search for a priceless artifact. This time the object of choice is the mysterious Crystal Skulls and a Russian initiative that plans to utilize the skulls for their plans of world domination. The Russians are lead by the no-nonsense, bondage model-esque Spalko (Cate Blanchett). Before heading abroad, Indy is approached by a young greaser on a Harley named Mutt Williams (Shia LeBeouf) who tells Indy he is the son of a girl Indy knew long ago named Mary. Turns out the girl is Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen) who makes her first appearance in the series since 1981's Raiders of the Lost Ark. And so we're off and running...
Seeing a 65-year-old Indiana Jones for the first time is a bit of a shock. Sure, he looks the part, but even Harrison Ford ages and 19 years is a long time between movies, especially ones that require big action, stunts and fist fights. And yes, Ford does move like an older man. But thankfully once that Williams score swells and Indy places the famed hat on his head for the first time, all of that goes out the window.
Crystal Skull starts off with a bang as Spielberg and Co. waste very little time getting right down to the action. Old or not, Ford still looks pretty bad-a#$ once the fists and whips are flying and some of the action scenes Spielberg and Lucas designed for this one are amongst the most creative and elaborate of the entire series.
Ford rises to the occasion time and again. If anything, he's involved in so many hand-to-hand combat fights in this one that it might be hard to imagine anyone at any age to still be standing. But that's all part of the fun. Ford's got the smirk and wry wit going on overdrive. Although some talk has emerged of who might continue the franchise (possibly LeBeouf) it's still almost impossible to imagine anyone else filling Ford's shoes.
Admittedly, the question mark of the latest Indy adventure was definitely Shia LeBeouf. He doesn't really scream action star and, to be fair, pretty much anyone stepping into this role was bound to be questioned. But major props must go to LeBeouf, who bulked up for the role with an additional 19 pounds of muscle. His character also has his own distinctive characteristics that craft Mutt Williams into something more than just another young Indiana Jones.
Fans will of course love to see Karen Allen's return. Her and Ford haven't missed a step since they first shared the screen 27 years ago. Although it remains to be seen whether this is the last adventure for Indy, bringing Allen back does make for a nice bookend.
After the debacles that were the three Star Wars prequels, George Lucas finally finds a return to form with Crystal Skull. Of course, I'd wager a good portion of that credit probably goes to that Spielberg guy sitting in the director's chair.
Crystal Skull is by no means perfect. Spielberg lets his penchant for supernatural occurrences cheese things up at a few points. And although the filmmakers stuck to practical effects to a large to degree, the CG work is a bit overdone when it does come into play.
But hey, the main question fans will have about this one is "does it hold up to the first three?" and the answer is a resounding "yes." I saw Raiders of the Lost Ark when I was about five or six and got goose bumps seeing the trailers for Last Crusade. Twenty years and a fair bit of cynicism later, I didn't really get too caught up in the hype for Crystal Skull. Maybe it was cynicism, maybe it was Jar Jar Binks. But sitting through Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, those goose bumps returned and I felt like a kid again.