Harrison Ford, Cate Blanchett, and Shia LaBeouf in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)




(director: Steven Spielberg; screenwriter: David Koepp/from the story by George Lucas and Jeff Nathanson; cinematographer: Janusz Kaminski; editor: Michael Kahn; music: John Williams; cast: Harrison Ford (Indiana Jones), Cate Blanchett (Irina Spalko), Karen Allen (Marion Ravenwood), Ray Winstone (“Mac” George Michale), John Hurt (Professor Oxley), Jim Broadbent (Dean Charles Stanforth), Shia LaBeouf (Mutt Williams), Igor Jijikine (Dovchenko); Runtime: 124; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producer: Frank Marshall; Paramount Pictures; 2008)

“Never rocked my boat Daddy-O.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Indy 4, the first sequel since Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade (1989), sort of holds up to the other successful box office but ordinary films in the noted action series, as it’s probably decent enough to get over for the fan base of the franchise even if it’s a downgrade from the others.

But this version never rocked my boat Daddy-O, as I found it filled with too much hokum, bogus nostalgia, contrivances, lame daddy jokes, uninspired acting, a dumb story, hard to fathom senior citizen heroics (by the 65-year-old Harrison Ford) even for a popcorn escapist blockbuster, a one-note humorless villain trying too hard to be funny and the unimaginative use of CGI. That’s not to say it was a bad film, it had a few pleasant scenes, but a film that underwhelmed me (and I wasn’t expecting much). Steven Spielberg directs (“Saving Private Ryan”/”Close Encounters of the Third Kind”/ “Schindler’s List”) it in an exhausting manner, trying at all costs to keep it old-fashioned, action-packed and cutesy charming. Executive producer George Lucas and Jeff Nathanson hand in the childish big boy adventure story that’s written without distinction by David Koepp.

It opens at a desert atomic testing site in 1957, in Nevada, the infamous Area 51, where a military convoy dressed as Americans turns out to be Russian KGB operatives led by a Louise Brooks-bobbed lookalike and Garbo sounding Ninotchka military scientist, garbed in dreary gray coveralls, named Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett). When the villain gets to her military destination she dumps out of the car trunk the brown fedora wearing university archaeological professor Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) and his longtime OSS pal, Mac (Ray Winstone), and forces them to help her find one special crate in a military storehouse, filled with crates, that contains an alien made skull from the 15th century that was taken in Roswell, New Mexico, in 1947, by the Americans that she believes will help Russia win the cold war arms race. After a daring escape from the Russians, our hero must survive a nuclear blast and does so in a most unusual way.

It then moves on to red-baiting FBI agents forcing Jones to take a leave of absence from his teaching post, as the decorated war hero is amazingly suspected of being a possible Red. He then hooks up with teenage greaser Mutt Williams (Shia LaBeouf), a jive talking Brando-ish caricature from The Wild One, who is a switch-blade carrying, black-leather motorcycle clad biker sporting a DA hairstyle. The kid possesses a letter with an arcane map that’s written in an ancient tongue and his mom wants the professor to translate it. It turns out to be about the fabled lost city of El Dorado, in remote Peru, that contains the rock crystal skull of Akator, and contains a farout mysterious legend. After surviving on the kid’s motorcyle a daredevil chase from the KGB agents, in a car, through the college library, the pair bond.

At the ancient site in Peru the kid and Jones, armed with his trademark bullwhip reunites with the former lover he abandoned many years ago, Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen), the kid’s mom, and also meets a babbling old colleague Professor Oxley (John Hurt) who is touched in the head after looking too long at the crystal skull. The foursome then must combat the overwhelming presence of the Soviets, going over three waterfalls, a harrowing chase in military vehicles, millions of swarming deadly red ants, head-hunters with poison darts, quick sand, scary caves, and all kinds of other catastrophes before finding out about the crystal skull’s ancient legend. The climax leaves us with a mysterious paranormal whirlwind, that looks like the leftover set from The Ten Commandments—it was that kind of a derivative film, that failed to feel inspired or of adding anything of value to the franchise.