Just Like Old Times
Grab your whip and your map. It's time for another exciting treasure hunt with the world's premier archaeologist. In this fourth big screen adventure, Indiana Jones winds up on a quest to return the mysterious Crystal Skull back to it's rightful place in the lost city of Akator. Dr. Jones finds some unexpected help in the form of a young boy named Mutt Williams and his old flame Marion Ravenwood. As if the trek to this mythical city wasn't perilous enough Indy also has to dodge the Russian Army who are also interested in Akator and the globe dominating power it may possess.
I've been a fan of the Indiana Jones series since "Raiders of the Lost Ark" so when word got out that a sequel was being prepped for 2008 I was nervous. When it was confirmed that Harrison Ford would reprise the role of Indy I was really worried. Any Indy fan will tell you that a major part of playing Dr. Jones or even being in an Indiana Jones film means a high probablity of being involved in some wild physical stuntwork. Would Mr. Ford leave the brunt of the physical stuff to younger co-star Shia LaBeouf or would he be backed up by a small army of lookalike stuntmen?
Besides the lead role there was the concern over the franchise as a whole. When George Lucas decided to ressurrect the Star Wars film series I was very excited. Then the prequels came out and I can say with utmost confidence that SW fans are still debating whether that was a good idea or not. I didn't want Indiana Jones to end up the same way. I would rather have the series end with "The Last Crusade" rather than watch some effects heavy episode with none of the magic and brilliance evident in the original movies.
I have now seen "Indy 4" myself and I have some really great news for the fans of the series. "Kingdom of The Crystal Skull" is good. No, it's excellent and it seems like the wait was worth it. First off, the story is incredible. This is no mindless blockbuster. The viewer really needs to pay attention to the acrchaeological facts and historical references to fully appreciate the story. You could opt to turn your brain off and just focus on Indiana's race to the lost city before the Russians do but it's a lot more satisfying to absorb the legends of El Dorado and Francisco de Orellana's quest. There's another aspect of the Crystal Skull that makes it more than just another old relic. I'm not going to give away the secret but the Crystal Skull takes Dr. Jones on a path that I never imagined he would walk on. At first, this "path" may seem a bit out of place or even farfetched but stick with it and you'll understand that it really does fit into what the Indiana Jones series is all about. Oh and be sure to keep your eyes peeled for little hints and nods to past Indy adventures.
The stunts and effects are a blast. I was so pleased to see that Spielberg & Lucas leaned more towards classic practical effects rather than just computer generating everything. However, when the CG is used it is finely blended with the live action shots. Honestly, the only thing I groaned at was Mutt's tribute to Tarzan in an outlandish vine swinging sequence. Other than that expect some really eye popping visuals including a harrowing motorcycle escape from KGB agents, an adrenaline pumping car chase through a jungle, and the ultra-neato entry into the city of Akator.
Now for the really big question: How was Harrison Ford? Overall, Mr. Ford exceeded my expectations and blew my worries into smithereens. I was actually comforted by the fact that the movie doesn't try to hide that Indiana Jones is an old man. His character is made even more compelling because we see this man who has spent his life seeking knowledge and discovering ancient artifacts buried beneath the sands of the past. We see him reflect on what he has gained and more importantly what he's lost. We also see him still able to throw a punch and crack a whip.
The supporting cast is just as delightful. The young leading man on the rise known as Shia LaBeouf helps Indy out as the tough greaser kid known as Mutt Williams. Though Mutt is a tad stubborn and a little too fixated on keeping his "do" intact he certainly makes for a useful sidekick. I was glad to see that LeBeouf wasn't cast to be Dr. Jones physical shadow. The two work very well together with Mutt sometimes having to keep up with Dr. Jones instead of the old man panting after the young lad.
Karen Allen returns to reprise her role as Marion, the tough as nails heroine from "Raiders of The Lost Ark". Like Ford, Allen is obviously a little older now but she is still able to rumble with the best of them. The chemistry between Ford and Allen is very much alive and well on screen. Plus, it was just great to see another familiar face from the Indy series.
Rounding out the rest of the cast are Cate Blanchett as the Russian agent Irina Spalko who leads the mission to acquire the Crystal Skull and it's secrets, Ray Winstone as Indy's shadey partner, Mac, and John Hurt as Professor Oxley who is a mutual friend of Indy and Mutt and a key player in the hunt for Akator.
"The Kingdom of The Crystal Skull" is a magnificent adventure movie full of thrills, spills and chills. It is also a very well written film that follows in the Indiana Jones tradtion of elaborate treasure hunting in exotic locales. Fans of the Indy movies will be very relieved and impressed while I'm sure new fans will be clamoring for copies of the first three movies. Spielberg and Lucas have delievered a find piece of work that will bring out the spirit of adventure in you as well as the child.
No matter what age.