Sunday, May 25, 2008

Movie review: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)

As an exercise in nostalgia and entertainment, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull works well enough, though it certainly never approaches the greatness of Raiders of the Lost Ark. There are some good things in it. The action is sometimes exciting, the stunts are excellent, and the computer graphics are mostly very good. The return of Karen Allen is a delight, for both the audience and Allen, who is clearly enjoying herself more than anyone else in the theater. Her expression shouts, "I can't believe I'm in an Indiana friggin' Jones movie again! Whoo-hoo!" and her enthusiasm is contagious. Cate Blanchett does well with her rather stereotyped KGB agent role (in the tradition of Natasha Fatale and Ninotchka), and Shia LaBeouf does a good job as the youth interest and humorous foil for Indy. And there are any number of nostalgic callbacks to the previous movies.

On the other hand, Harrison Ford is just too old for this kind of role. There's a reason why there aren't many 65-year-old action stars: they're not very believable. Ray Winstone's character doesn't work very well either. Several times, what are apparently meant to be funny lines by or about his character simply fall flat. There are cheesy animal gags that don't work at all.

I can forgive Ford's age. We all wanted to see an Indiana Jones movie, and Ford is Indiana Jones. No one else could possibly play the part now. I can forgive a minor character that doesn't work. I can forgive failed gags. What really disappointed me, though, is that I found the plot unbelievable.

I know "unbelievable" sounds like an odd thing to say about an installment in a series that has featured artifacts like the Ark of the Covenant, magical Indian stones, and the Holy Grail, with their attendant mystical properties, angels, ghosts, and so on, but those things all seemed to fit Indiana Jones's world. To avoid spoiling, I won't give any details, but this movie goes off in another direction, and it doesn't work for me. It feels wrong somehow. It doesn't fit.

After all that, why do I give it a 7/10? Because it's Indiana frickin' Jones, for crying out loud. The worst Indy Jones movie ever is still better than a lot of what's out there. It's still entertaining, though not magical like Raiders, or as intense as Temple of Doom, or as funny as Last Crusade. Watching Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is like watching your favorite band on a reunion tour. You enjoy the band not because of what they are now, but because of what they were back then. Because of what you were back then. They're not going to change the world anymore, and neither are you, and there are new bands that are much more relevant, but every now and then, for a couple of minutes at a time, they can still rip it up and really rock, and that reminds you that you still can too. And that's why I give Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull a 7/10 despite its flaws. Every now and then, for a couple of minutes at a time, the movie rips it up and really rocks.


  1. I took my son to it. We had a decent time watching it. Your review is spot on. It is, after all, Indiana Jones . . . and when the music starts rumbling under the seats I get nostalgic. Hell I was just a kid when The Raiders of the Lost Ark came out and Alan (Success Warrior) and I would run around with our hats and whips playing InBanana Jones.

  2. Crystal Skull was a delightful way to spend a Saturday evening. Yeah, Ford is a little creaky in the joints now and the plot -- plot? you expect an Indiana Jones movie to have an actual and coherent plot? -- was pretty silly, but it was Indiana Jones! It's a romp, not Merchant-Ivory or Ang Lee.

  3. I agree with mleh's comment. I actually gave my review (full of spoilers) last night.

  4. I agree too. 7/10 means I liked it. I just didn't think it was anything special, except in terms of nostalgia.


What do you think?