Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Directed By: Stephen Spielberg

Story by: George Lucas and Jeff Nathanson

Distributed By:  Paramount Pictures

Reviewed by Ismael Manzano

            Hello out there, readers, watchers and lovers of all things pop culture.  I am back with another review for your amusement and education.  As I’m sure all of you have already heard, following this latest trend of decades-old characters being breathed new life with long overdue sequels—aka, Rocky and Rambo—a new chapter of the Indiana Jones saga has just been released.  So of course, being a huge Indiana Jones fan, I rushed to see Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.  In fact, I bitched and moaned for days to try to get someone to go with me because I wanted to share what was sure to be a wonderful and exciting adventure sitting in front of the magical silver screen. 

            In this latest installment—19 years in the making—famed archeologist and adventurer, Indiana (Harrison Ford) is sucked into a search for a supposedly mythical crystal skull, by an act of betrayal and a plea for help from Mutt Williams (Shia LaBeouf, Transformers, Disturbia)—the son of an old friend.  A group of KGB agents, led by Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchette; Elizabeth: the Golden Age), a self-professed psychic and sword-toting psychopath, seek the skull to unlock the fabled power that it protects and they will stop at nothing—‘cuz they wouldn’t be bad guys if they stopped for anything—to get their hands on it. 

            Irina kidnaps Mutt’s mom, Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen, Raiders of the Lost Ark) and holds her random for either the skull or the only man who has claimed to have had possession of the skull, Professor Oxley (John Hurt, Hellboy).  Indiana Jones, old friend of Professor Oxley, agrees to help and starts by retracing his friend’s steps to uncover the skull.  Of course, the Russians are close behind and with more weapons, men and vehicles than our heroes have at their disposal.  Oh and did I mention that they would stop at nothing to get what they want?  What results is a string of non-stop action sequences, one after the other, all in the search for the fabled and powerful skull that is purported impossible to have been created by human hands.  All of this leading to a classic Indiana Jones display-of-the artifact’s-true-power-ending, in which the sought after relic is turned on the antagonist to save our hero, his old girlfriend, friend and newly discovered son, Mutt, whom Marion kept from Indiana due to an unpleasant break up decades earlier.

            Well, that’s the movie in a nutshell.  Now for the fun part; the butchering critique.  For one, I’m a fan of the series, loving each one more than the last for its adventure, its witty dialogue and its theological/mythical plot lines.  The problem is this movie fell short of the delicate balance the other three managed to pull off.  What is left is a movie with one impossible action sequence after another, each more unbelievable than the last.  Example?  Well how about for starters, someone surviving an atomic blast—why is there an atomic blast in an Indiana Jones movie, I don’t know—by jumping into a fridge that was subsequently propelled by the explosion out of the blast zone without hurting the person inside.  Not satisfied with that one?  How about this one: a car driven off of a cliff, onto a horizontally overhanging tree, which then proceeds to bend—not brake—until the car reaches the bottom of the cliff safely.  Is that enough for you, ‘cause that almost did it for me. 

            Another major issue I have with the movie was the origin of the crystal skull.  While I understand that the crystal skulls are said to be a real and as of yet unexplained phenomenon—a skull created centuries ago with tools we’ve yet to determine—I believe that this was a poor off-the-track storyline for the latest installment of the series.  All of the other movies have dealt with more mythical and/or theological themes and even then, those elements were usually downplayed until the end.  This time, the ‘magic’ of the skull was prominent and displayed often, downplaying the rest of the movie in my opinion. 

            Also, Marion’s character seemed out of character.  She marveled at Indiana like a love-sick schoolgirl, not like the hard, edged character she had been in the original movie, and certainly not like a woman who had been abandoned by the father of her child twenty years earlier. 

Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t hate the movie, I just hated the plot.  And if this movie had come out one, two, three, even four years after the last one, I might have excused the deviation from the norm.  But to have waited twenty years only to receive something so far off the tradition of the series was disappointing.  The actors were all great, including—if not especially Shia LaBeouf—who managed to project various emotions without falling into the ‘overacting’ trap.  It was with the plot that my problems lay.  So I would suggest that you not see Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull unless you are one of those diehard Indiana Jones (or Harrison Ford) fans, in which case, you’ve probably already seen the movie.  If you choose to ignore my advice, I can do nothing about that—it’s after all, your money and your time to waste. 


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