Film: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
Director: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Harrison Ford, Cate Blanchett, Karen Allen
Runtime: 124 mins
Rating: * * * *
After years of speculation, a succession of failed scripts and the hiring of a seemingly endless number of writers, our favourite whip-cracking archaeologist is back at last. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull marks the fourth outing of Harrison Ford’s iconic character, the first installment of the franchise since 1989’s much-praised Last Crusade and the most anticipated release of the summer.
Following that last mammoth hit, bringing Indy back to the big screen has often appeared a more improbable endeavour than the adventures of Dr. Jones himself. George Lucas infamously rejected scores of ‘Indy 4’ screenplays, discarding the efforts of many of Hollywood’s finest in search of a worthy script. Nevertheless, with David Koepp’s screenplay finally being green-lit back in 2006, and Harrison Ford still being alive and well at the ripe old age of 65, Indy has finally returned.
The question on the lips of every cynical viewer is, naturally: was it all worthwhile? Can ‘Indy 4’ reach the dizzying heights of earlier instalments? And does Indiana Jones have any place in amongst the plethora of sharp action flicks grounded in realism? The short answer, ye of little faith, is yes. Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is successful precisely for the reason its predecessors were: as a film it entertains like no other.
From Ford’s opening line, prior to a classic Spielberg action sequence deep in the Nevada desert, it is clear that Lucas and company have struck the right tone. Unadulterated action, adventure and comedy are their targets, and they hit them again and again throughout.
Set in 1957, in the midst of the Cold War, Kingdom of the Crystal Skull finds an older and, occasionally, comically inept Indy battling with both internal and external enemies. Shifting away, alas, from classic foes the Nazis, Lucas has opted for a horde of Soviet Russians to be the villains of this piece. Led by the steely, sword-wielding psychic Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett, relishing her opportunity for villainy), the Communists are ruthlessly seeking an enigmatic crystal skull, a trinket previously pursued by Jones’ colleague, Harold Oxley (John Hurt on fine mad-professor form).
The arrival of the fiesty Mutt Williams (Shia LaBeouf), along with the return of Indy’s first love Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen), leads our hero to commit to picking up where Oxley left off: on the trail of the Crystal Skull in Peru. Hairy moments involving snakes and the supernatural soon ensue.
The story has the pace of any previous Indy outing, while the dynamic between Ford, Allen and LaBeouf easily outstrips that between the characters in Temple of Doom. Sure it’s thoroughly over-the-top and at times utterly implausible, but then, we don’t turn to Indiana Jones for realism. We turn to these stories for adventure. So suspend your disbelief, dig out your Indy hat and enjoy his long-awaited return.