Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (124 minutes) is bound to disappoint the really hardcore fans. Screenwriter David Koepp did a commendable job in managing a workable script from the somewhat ridiculous premise. In fact, it is entirely to Koepp’s credit that he managed to find a compromise in writing that satisfied Spielberg (who insisted on the crystal skulls plot) and Harrison Ford (who didn’t like the crystal skulls). The previous three installments are powerhouse action/fantasy classics, and the concept still works nearly 20 years later. Spielberg uses a nice light touch with this material, and unlike his more emotionally manipulative work, he manages to avoid aiming for the obvious tearjerkers in the story. 
    {mosimage}The year is 1957. Colonel Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett) uses Indiana Jones and a never-before-seen partner, Mac (Ray Winstone), to infiltrate a military base in Nevada. At first, all the mysterious clues point to the reappearance of a relic from a previous adventure. Soon after, Irina is revealed as a prototypical new-ager, concerned with strange powers and mysterious energies. Following a better than expected escape sequence, Indiana finds himself barely surviving a series of harrowing encounters. 
Upon his return to his day job, we learn the fate of several characters from the previous films. Then, Indiana is waylaid by Mutt Williams (Shia LeBeouf) and agrees to assist him in rescuing his mother, Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen) and a man named Oxley (John Hurt). In classic Indy style, there are fights over ancient relics, improbably dramatic escapes and other crazy hijinks, all while Indiana Jones attempts to solve the mystery of the crystal skull.
    Despite the excitement of seeing a new Indiana Jones movie after so many years, Ford seems pretty bored with going over the same plot twists and reciting the same tired old retorts to a rather lackluster villain. Koepp made a serious error when he used the communists as the antagonists, forgetting that Indiana was always at his best when fighting larger than life evil. One wonders who talked Blanchett into playing such a one dimensional, smaller than life nuisance. 
    Overall, this is the weakest entry in the franchise. This is not due to the weakly written villains or completely unrealistic stunts or plot (Temple of Doom was at least as burdened, but still a fun movie). It was nice to see Marion Ravenwood, but the absence of many Indiana Jones regulars was glaring. Would it have killed Spielberg to insist on a part for Ke Huy Quan (better known as Short Round to Indy fans)? 
    The Good: Shia LeBeouf is growing on me like fungus, but he seems to spend an awful lot of time on the verge of tears. The Bad: The plot, but especially, that ending! I left the theater completely stunned at the complete and utter destruction of a once great mythology. The Reason to See the Film: Indiana Jones! The Fedora! The Whip! Crazy Archaeological Trap Niftiness!  You may not agree with the direction of the movie, but you will enjoy the ride.   

Contact Heather Griffiths at editor@upandcomingweeekly.com

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