Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull *** (out of ****)

Director: Steven Spielberg
Writers: George Lucas, David Koepp, Jeff Nathanson, Philip Kaufman
Cast: Harrison Ford, Cate Blanchett, Karen Allen, Shia LaBeouf, John Hurt, John Rhys-Davies, Ray Winstone
Rating: PG-13 (adventure violence and scary images)
Running Time: 120 min
Release Date: 5/22/08

After 19 years Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) is back for his fourth (and perhaps last?) adventure! As the years have pasted in real life so have they for Indiana as they film is set in 1957 with the Soviets rather than the Nazis as the enemy. His first peril is to find himself kidnapped by a Soviet special forces until that shoots its way into a U.S. nuclear test range in Nevada. This unit is led by Russian psychic researcher and expert swordswoman Col. Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett) who is said to have been a favorite of Stalin. Presumably she got along well enough with Khrushchev too. Their goal has nothing to do with nuclear weapons rather they are interested in coercing Indiana to lead them to the location of a certain box stored in a warehouse on the site.

Now if you are thinking that the box contains the Ark of the Covenant from Raiders you will be mistaken. It does get a brief exposure during the ensuing action sequence. However, the objective of this raid is far closer to previous Spielberg projects such as Close Encounters of the Third Kind or the TV miniseries Taken. This opening sequence seems to have little direct relevance to the balance of the film other than to introduce the villains and get the action of with a real blast!

The above is only the prologue. Indiana finds himself on a leave of absence when he falls under suspicion of the FBI because his former friend’s (Ray Winstone) collaboration with the Soviets. He soon meets Mutt Williams (Shia LaBeouf) with news of the disappearance of his old colleague Professor Oxley (John Hurt). Mutt has a message written in an ancient language with clues to his whereabouts. Soon we are off to South America where we find Oxley, a crystal skull, and Col. Spalko and her team.

Action scene follows action scene in typical Indiana Jones fashion. We are treated with gun battles, army ants, monkeys, sword fights, and multiple dives over waterfalls. One really nice touch is his reunion with Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen), who was the romantic interest from the original movie. We are treated to great special effects and a "wow" climax.

Crystal Skull is not the best of the series but certainly not the least either. Basically we get the film that we expected. It is a great nostalgia trip back to the great action series of the 1980s. If you liked them back then you will like this one as well.


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