Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Distributed by: Paramount Pictures
Written by Nick McCann
For nearly 20 years, the Indiana Jones trilogy sat comfortably in pop culture without disturbance. But much like its brother in “Star Wars,” Steven Spielberg and company felt it was time to revisit this character one last time. Much had changed since “The Last Crusade,” from advances in film technology to the wrinkle count on the series’ lead actor. Despite a famously otherworldly premise and somewhat safe direction, the rush of enjoyment it brought audiences largely remained the same.
It’s no secret now that Indy is firmly planted in the Cold War 1950s at the height of UFO phenomena culture. Having him on the trail of an item with this much of a paranormal background does seem questionable. However, Spielberg’s direction ultimately makes this journey no much different or fantastical than anything else the character has gone after. Not to say every avenue is fully explored in the script, there are still some quirks on the level of the “Star Wars” prequels. Nothing’s being reinvented here but the energy soars all the same, with many classic staples coming through.
Harrison Ford is back completely going for it, even in his mid-60s. His swagger, toughness, and humor are in good form even with more gray on his face. He can handle himself in an action scene well, throwing punches and running around as the action choreography demands without skipping a beat. My only nitpick here is he takes maybe half as much physical abuse compared to the previous films. Regardless, he still sells how the character skirts by danger by the skin of his teeth often making it up as he goes.
The rest of the cast is a mixed bag. Karen Allen is a wonderful sight to see come back, and Shia LeBeouf is a dependable sidekick as well, playing off Ford with ease and not solely screaming at a bunch of CGI. Although there were opportunities to bolster his character in a few places. The same goes for John Hurt, who effortlessly plays a raving madman of science. Cate Blanchett does a fine job as the villain, just as overly ambitious and intensely driven as any other villain in the series. Had they leaned more into the psychic warfare angle, she would’ve stood out even further. At least she fares better than Ray Winstone, who has pitiably flat motivations.
Spielberg also hasn’t lost his touch in crafting set pieces. The action here looks quite good, captured with swift cinematography that emphasizes practical stunt work in many key areas. As expected in this day and age, CGI puts in its fair share here. Much like the “Star Wars” prequels, its worst-looking parts give away the fakeness and other times make things look a bit too clean. Yet everything is just as breakneck-paced as before and the quality holds up with a fair amount of actual locations mixed in. Even the movie’s famously ludicrous moments give way to some stellar images.
Sound design is also quite effective, with a rich audio mix that brings along many iconic sound effects of the series. The whip, the punches, and whatever else comes from Skywalker Sound is a delight to hear. Most of all, John Williams is back! As per usual, he lays down a top-notch score. Sure, it’s not instantly iconic like the trilogy, but the spirit in the music still carries this adventure with ease and excitement. Hearing the theme kick in still is the stuff of magic.
“Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” famously ruffled feathers in 2008 and is still the subject of controversy among fans. The film definitely has shortcomings with writing and testing suspension of disbelief the hardest in the franchise. But to expect instant icon status or anything as significant as the trilogy is silly thinking at this point. Returning to it now with dialed expectations, the movie is not that bad of a time! Harrison Ford still has the gusto, the action soars, and the vibe still feels distinctly like Indiana Jones. Though it’s perhaps a better ride than a destination.
“Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” Trailer