General Release 2008
122 minutes approx
Indiana Jones -
Marion Williams -
Irina Spalko -
Dean Stanforth -
Directed by -
Written by -
It's 1957 and a gang of Russian soldiers have taken Indiana Jones hostage. Their aim is a single box held in a secure storage in Area 51. In that box is a body that has some significance to them. Indy's involvment with the Russians sees him fired, but it doesn't matter because a young man called Mutt arrives with word of an old friend called Oxley who has been kidnapped, along with the boy's mother somewhere in South America. The kidnappings have been masterminded by russian scientist Irina Spalko who wants not only a fabled crystal skull with psychic powers, but a roadmap to the fabled city of El Dorado and its fabled treasure.
At the beginning of the first Indiana Jones sequel INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM the first thing that producer George Lucas and director Steven Spielberg did was put Indy in a dinner jacket and a stage a full blown dance number as a bold statement that the film wasn't going to be just a rerun of the original RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK. At the start of this latest sequel, Lucas and Spielberg throw their hero into a new era full of science and technology. The scene where the getaway truck roars out of Area 51 leaving a shattered box holding the lost ark of the covenant unregarded on the floor makes the point that this is going to be a film about the material and physical rather than the mystical.
And that is probably the key to your reaction to this delayed sequel. If you are after a virtual rerun of the other films with a new mystical doodad to chase and nazis to defeat then this will disappoint. If, however, you can take the Von Danikenesque storyline in your stride then you'll find that the most important elements are all present and correct. Harrison Ford's put on a few years since he last put on the Fedora, but it's not the years honey it's the mileage. Whilst there are a number of jokes about Indy's increased age, he can still punch up a storm with the best of them and proves to be just as adept with the comic quips and timing. For support, he's given the current hot property Shia LeBoeuf (TRANSFORMERS) as a wannabe Marlon Brando who can stand by and ask all the stupid questions so that the hero can explain the plot, but also provide an extra hand in the action sequences. Karen Allen makes a welcome return to the franchise in the shape of Indy's ex-love Marion and Cate Blanchett gets really into the spirit of the thing as the dodgily accented Irina Spalko, a villainess any cliffhanger saturday morning matinee series would have been proud of.
When it comes to the action stuff, that is when Indy 4 really soars. Sure, we've seen a lot of this stuff before, but nobody is better at cutting together an action sequence than Steven Spielberg. The opening sequence involving Area 51 and a nuclear blast is bravura and bold. A motorcycle chase through the corridors of academia contrasts the tried and tested hero with the new brash pretender. It is the extended jungle chase that really stands out as both sides constantly gain and lose hold of the crystal skull as they race through the jungle on military vehicles, get attacked by swarms of soldier ants and plunge over waterfalls. Yes, it has been all been done before, but it's still enjoyable when done so well.
What's less well done is the actual script. The plot is pretty busy and tries to weave so many strands together that it requires long explanatory passages to make sure everyone is keeping up. It takes in Conquistadors, El Dorado, the giant Nazca lines (huge drawings that can only be appreciated from the air) mad professors and the crystal skull itself. Where the previous plots were streamlined (learn of mystic object, search for mystic object, tangle with more numerous enemy also after mystic object) this throws in too many 'refinements' such as duplicitous colleagues (the wasted Ray Winstone) and mad, ranting professors (the wasted John Hurt).
Also missing for large chunks of the time is the sharp wit of the originals, with the notable exception of Indy being trapped in dry quicksand and finding his salvation is something that he'd rather not grab hold of.
And then there's the finale. If you haven't guessed long before you get there that mystical forces have been replaced by aliens then you haven't been watching. This has been at the core of some of the criticisms of the film, but is it really any more ridiculous than boxes full of vengeful aliens, stones that bring fortune and glory or cups that can heal the sick and bring eternal life? I don't think so.
INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL is the least of the franchise's entries, but it is still full of fast action, remarkable stunts and, most important of all, the man in the hat is back. Overlook the more obvious faults and it is still one hell of a rollercoaster ride.Top
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