Can you believe its been 19 years since Indiana Jones graced (used loosely) the silver screen? In this latest installment of the storied franchise, which in my point of view is 18 year overdue, archeology professor and all around bad ass, Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) is accused of treason when his friend Mac (Ray Winstone) betrays the country and helps KGB agents, including psychic Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett), into a secure American base to retrieve a priceless artifact. Indiana also learns from a young man, Mutt (Shia LaBeouf), that his friend Professor Oxley (John Hurt) has been kidnapped and may be hurt. Mutt and Indiana Jones set off to follow the clues they hope will lead to Ox, retrieve the artifact and stop the KGB from realizing their dream of ultimate power.
Director Steven Spielberg and cinematographer Janusz Kaminski had a distinctive intent for the visuals of the film. The entire movie kind of looks like a soft focused wedding picture. There is obvious attention paid to light and framing – everyone is positioned in an unnaturally perfect formation to let you see all their faces. There is a glossy sheen over most of the scenes, as if Kaminski went through thousands of gallons of Vaseline in the making of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Even though it evokes feelings of my aunts wedding, it works to create a retro feeling, to put the audience in the fifties with Dr. Jones.
Even the script is full of 50’s goodness. David Keopp, George Lucas, Jeff Nathanson, and Philip Kaufman give the characters and moments a poodle-skirted edge. Mutt spends a considerable amount of time maintaining his era appropriate looks. The old fashioned banter between our heroes was a refreshing change from the modern rhetoric heard in today’s films. Occasionally the script wanders from camp to rotten cheese but the offenses are far between and easily forgivable and forgettable. Harrison Ford once again rocks as Indiana Jones. He effortlessly slipped back into the shoes of the role that helped catapult him to the stratosphere (I feared he couldn’t do it). For a man of his age (65), Harrison Ford can still crack the whip, deliver a perfect punchline and kick bad guy ass. I wish I could kick USSR agent butt at my age, half as well as Ford does at his.
The script is also chock full of adventure and action that I’ve grown to love in this genre that Indiana Jones defined (and what is missing from the ripoff National Treasure series). It starts us right off with a warehouse fight with the Russians, then takes us on a ridiculous car chase through South American jungles and drops us off at an ancient subterranean city where more dizzying whip handling clinics are held for hapless Russians.
However, there is one character in the movie that really annoyed the hell out of me. It was that damned hat. We get it – the hat finds its way mysteriously back on Indy’s head and that he adores it. The hat is probably his safety blanket, his best friend, his lover and his mother, but it doesn’t talk and it doesn’t do anything except roll around to get dirty like a pig, so we don’t need to dedicate fully 24.44435% of the movie to the hat. How much did the hat get paid? If by screen time, the headpiece must have been the highest paid character in the movie.
No matter though, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is a fitting addition to the Indiana Jones collection of movies (Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade) . Some strict Indiana Jones puritans may find a few aspects of the movie a little annoying but I found it to be an enjoyable ride and definitely one I’d take again.