It’s an age-old debate in movies. When is it time to hang the hat? When is it time to finally let go of the whip and let that adventuring spirit die a slow, peaceful death? George Lucas has long been in the middle of this argument with the mixed reactions to Star Wars: Episodes I-III and his remastery of Episodes IV-VI, which many saw as meddling with classics. While it’s hard for directors to let their bests characters die (and for producers and movie studios to let the cash cow move into other pastures), sometimes they let it go and err on the side of caution and legacy. Others put the stories on life support (and herd, corral, and milk those cows) until only a undignified humiliating mess remains.

Fortunately, this isn’t quite that bad.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull begins not with our intrepid hero, but a military convoy racing teenagers in their 50’s era car. Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) appears soon, however, trademark fedora in hand. This time, his sidekick is fellow archeologist Mac (Ray Winstone). As with the other Indiana Jones movies, Indy’s first appearance involves priceless artifacts, betrayal, and a narrow escape from the likes of Dr. Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett), a Ukrainian psychic who claims to be able to read minds. Indy survives the ensuing firefight, a rocket-sled ride, and even a nuclear blast only to find out he is simultaneously being tracked by the Soviets and the FBI. Later on, after Indy has been forced to go on paid leave because of FBI interference, he meets Mutt (Shia LaBeouf), who has been told that Indiana Jones is his last chance to save his mother and Harold Oxley (John Hurt), Jones’ old university colleague. This leads our intrepid heroes on another fantastical journey that takes them to the heart of Peru and deep into the secrets of the ancient Maya – and beyond.

As is to be expected, KotCS capitalizes on nostalgia. From the token phrases (“Don’t touch anything!”) to the trademark whip work that Indy is famous for, not ancient moment is gone without. Unsurprisingly, the movie suffers a bit of schizophrenia. Does it want to have an undeniable place in the Indiana Jones saga, or does it want to be its own movie with its own legacy? Granted, it wouldn’t be a sequel without at least a few parallels, but this movie is definitely aimed to those who remembered and loved the original trilogy. Those who haven’t watched the originals might be a bit lost. Even those who have seen the originals will find themselves disappointed with the predictable twists and turns the movie makes as it tries to shock and stir the audience into surprise and delight at the old archeologist’s heroic exploits when all it does is spur a yawn and a few laughs.

As for Harrison Ford’s age, it is obvious but it doesn’t really detract from the movie. Ford does most of his own stunts (he’s 65), and that definitely makes his role impressive. On the other hand, the blast from the past that is Karen Allen as Marion Ravenwood is not nearly as satisfying as any of the other actors in the film. Her spunk from Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark is definitely lacking here, and her role serves more as a plot point than an actual character. On the flipside of the age factor, LaBeauf doesn’t disappoint as the stereotypical motorcycle-driving greaser. By far the youngest person on the cast, he shines even in the presence of the Lucas/Spielberg legend that is Ford.

It’s hard to pinpoint where exactly the movie we all waited twenty years for went wrong. It begins with the predictable plot and the disappointing lack of familiar and staple characters (John Rhys Davies and Sean Connery are still kicking, but are woefully absent). Sadly, Karen Allen’s appearance slows down the movie and fails to bring back the luster of the former movies, and Ray Winstone is certainly no Sallah or Dr. Brody (not to mention by the end of the movie, his role is a tiresome bore – though that is no fault of his own). It doesn’t help that the movie is content to use good actors for plot’s sake alone (Blanchett, Allen, and Winstone, even with their important roles, fall in this category) Ultimately, it has more to do with the premise for the movie than any other single factor. After the first twenty minutes, an astute movie-goer can put 2 and 2 together and come up with some idea of the ending. If that isn’t enough, the storyline works off and on, messing with the pacing as well as with the viewer’s mind. One can’t help but think that both Spielberg and Lucas saw this as the last chance to go above and beyond all that had come before. When they literally did it, it dissolves into an utterly silly resolution.

I have been a fan of all of the Indiana Jones movies as long as I can remember. While what I’ve said here hints that Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is less than what a fan could have desired, it still deserves a place on the summer must-see list. Towards the end of the movie, there’s a bit of a tease as to whether there will ever be another Indiana Jones. After seeing Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, you’ll come out crossing your fingers that Indy will finally go on a permanent vacation.

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