, 122 min, 2008
Director: Steven Spielberg
Writers: David Koepp (screenplay), George Lucas (story) and Jeff Nathanson (story), George Lucas (characters) and Philip Kaufman (characters)
Stars: Harrison Ford, Cate Blanchett, Shia LaBeouf
Steven Spielberg’s Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is the (count ‘em) fourth (!) installment of his classic action franchise. This is yet another kitchen-sink-utilizing extravaganza, this time with an even bigger sojurn into science fiction.
As the film opens, Professor Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) and his sidekick Mac McHale (Ray Winstone) are in Nevada in 1957, making their way into a cavernous Army warehouse to seek out a crate that Indy may have seen there years ago. They are held at gunpoint by the Russian Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett, having loads of fun here), who demands that they fork over yet another occult artifact.
For labyrinthine reasons, the film shifts to include a senile old professor called Oxley (John Hurt), “Mutt” (Shia LaBeouf), the cantankerous young motorcycle punk who may just be Indy Jr., and his mother – Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen), a.k.a. Indy’s old flame. They seek something called the Crystal Skull, which has an intriguing reputation, and which appears to be a head the shape of…well, you have to see it to believe it.
The film has been directed by Steven Spielberg. This is a man who is as comfortable in serious, prestige-picture-quality dramas like The Color Purple (1985), Amistad (1997) and Munich (2005), as he is in action pictures both smart and ambitious (A.I. Artificial Intelligence, Minority Report) and big, dopey but fun (the Jurassic Park movies, the entireIndiana Jones franchise).
The story, developed by series co-creator George Lucas and Jeff Nathanson (The Terminal) and based on a screenplay by David Koepp (Jurassic Park, Mission: Impossible), gives Allen little to do (though it’s great to see her again), and doesn’t seem to know what to do once it’s shoehorned LaBeouf into the plot. It’s also one that is sometimes ingenious, often ludicrous and just plain goofy.
There are gun fights, sword duels conducted on the backs of moving jeeps, man-eating ants, plunges off seemingly endless waterfalls, subterraneous, golden caverns and more – much more. Look, I’m not gonna protest too much if this ain’t your cup of tea. But, if it is, you’ll have a hell of a time.