DVD Release Date:  October 14, 2008
Theatrical Release Date:  May 22, 2008
Rating:  PG-13 (for adventure violence and scary images)
Genre:  Action/Adventure
Run Time:  124 min.
Director:  Steven Spielberg
Actors:  Harrison Ford, Cate Blanchett, Karen Allen, Shia LeBeouf, Ray Winstone, John Hurt, Jim Broadbent

After sleeping his way through subpar thrillers like Hollywood Homicide and Firewall these past five years, Harrison Ford actually seems rather inspired when donning that legendary fedora and grabbing his bullwhip in his fourth turn as Indiana Jones in the much-anticipated Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

Even though it’s been 19 years (!!!) since his last crusade and Ford looks all of his 65 years, Indiana Jones is still the same brainy, wisecracking, risk-taking archaeologist we’ve all remembered. Even if chasing down the enemy isn’t as “easy as it used to be” as Indy admits early on, Ford is still in fine rugged form and seems to be thoroughly enjoying himself just as much as the audience is—now that’s Indy’s back.

The same can probably be said for director Steven Spielberg. While the story itself may be bogged down (more on that in a minute), Spielberg still has the chutzpah to pay homage to his past Indiana Jones outings in all their lo-fi glory and utilize current CGI technology without overdoing it in the process. Longtime fans will have no trouble making the connections between past and present, which is all just part of the fun.

Establishing that we’re now in the 1950s by having a car full of teenagers joyriding through the desert in a vintage ride while listening to the latest rock songs on the radio, we immediately spot Indiana Jones in the same desert. Apparently, he’s been kidnapped and transported to Area 51, the site of a rumored alien spaceship crash.

Before anyone really has a chance to wonder why Indy’s hanging out there, we’re introduced to a Russian military leader named Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett). Deliciously bad with her perfect Natasha accent straight out of a Bullwinkle cartoon, it’s fun watching Blanchett’s transformation into a not-so-serious character. Hoping the elusive Mr. Jones will lead her and her team of Russian baddies to a mysterious crystal with paranormal capabilities that she believes will help the Reds win the cold war, it doesn’t take long for Indy to realize that Spalko’s motives aren’t exactly pure.

Now, cue John Williams’ familiar sound track. 

After a daring escape, which is one of the many great, suspend-your-disbelief action scenes in the movie—complete with hand-to-hand combat, serious gunfire, and one incredible transport thanks to a nuclear explosion and one fantastic fridge—Indy embraces real life back in the classroom. Before his life becomes too comfortably routine, however, a young guy with an obvious James Dean complex, Mutt Williams (Shia LeBeouf), enters the picture. Mutt tells Indy that an old colleague, Professor Oxley (John Hurt), is in serious trouble after making a rather remarkable discovery. So Indy and Mutt, who turn out to be funny, affable sidekicks, head to Peru to track down the Crystal Skull of Akator.

Of course, The Crystal Skull isn’t as nearly as exciting—or as significant of an artifact—as movies past, considering Indy was tracking down the Lost Ark of the Covenant and The Holy Grail in previous outings. But the journey is still thrill-a-minute escapist entertainment, thanks to scenes like a truly unbelievable (yet adrenaline-boosting) motorcycle chase through a university, encounters with hostile natives who look like extras from Apocalypto, mysterious, booby-trapped catacombs and an especially wince-inducing scene for bug haters as hundreds of creepy crawlies help distinguish the good guys from the bad. But hey, situations like that are all in a day’s work for Indiana Jones. And even though he’s old enough to be eligible for the senior citizen’s discount, he makes it all look incredibly easy.

While the needlessly complicated direction the script takes doesn’t shed any meaningful light or offer significant takeaway value and drags on a little too long by film’s end (some great character development might have been a nice substitute), Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is still an enjoyable popcorn movie that admirably marks the return of an old-school hero. And as Indy’s protégé-in-training, LeBeouf proves there’s probably still plenty of life in Indiana Jones movies to keep the franchise going for many years to come.
 
CAUTIONS:

  • Drugs/Alcohol:  Cigarette smoking.  Character holds beverage and appears drunk (with slurred speech) in one scene. 
  • Language/Profanity:  A couple of crass expletives.
  • Sex/Nudity:  There are a few references to Indy’s commitment-phobic love life, which includes countless flings and affairs.
  • Violence:  There’s very little blood, but there’s a few disturbing moments that involve a group of ghoulish mummies, a swarm of bugs and Indy and Mutt reaching into carefully wrapped undead “corpses” to uncover clues for their mission. There’s also an atomic blast in the beginning of the film and some cartoonish fight scenes that are on par violence-wise with past Indiana Jones fare.