Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
The big question going into the fourth chapter of the Indiana Jones saga was whether Harrison Ford is too old to play an athletic action hero.
Actually, the problem with “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” isn’t the fact that the star is collecting Social Security, it is that the script is half-baked and the tone is cartoonish.
Harrison Ford reprises his role as Indiana Jones, everybody’s favorite swashbuckling archeologist. This time he teams up with a cocky youngster (Shia LaBeouf) and an old flame (Karen Allen) to hunt for a crystal skull that possesses other-worldly powers.
The story takes place in 1957, so director Steven Spielberg can’t have Jones battle Nazis again, as much as he probably would have preferred that. Taking the place of the Germans are villainous Russians, led by murderous ice queen Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett).
The first half of the film is lively and silly in a good way. It’s kind of like “Forrest Gump” in the 50s, with Indiana Jones stumbling upon various major historical events.
In one scene he accidentally finds proof that aliens landed in Roswell, New Mexico. In another scene he ambles onto ground zero of an H-bomb test in the Nevada desert. When Irina asks if he has any last words, Dr. Jones quips: “I Like Ike.” Definitely goofy, definitely cheesy, but awfully fun.
While the first half is light and upbeat, the second half is busy and ponderous.
Who is exactly is that crazy archeologist played by John Hurt? What exactly is the purpose of the British explorer who works with the Russians? These characters need to be better developed. They probably could have been edited out of the film altogether.
Some of the action scenes – like the fight with ghostly Native Americans in a graveyard and the attack of the oversized ants – are moronic and inexplicable. They’re goofy and cheesy, but NOT in a good way.
The ending of “Crystal Skull” is almost exactly the same as “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” only not as memorable – or comprehensible. The finale certainly pales in comparison to the wonderful and imaginative climax of “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.”
“Crystal Skull” would be just another lame action flick if not for the presence of Harrison Ford. For several years Ford wasted his talent playing humorless characters in forgettable films like “Patriot Games,” “Presumed Innocent,” and “K-19: The Widowmaker.”
It’s great to see the actor playing a fun character again. Indiana Jones is a macho, fearless, witty hero who will beat up a bad guy and deliver a wry one-liner with equal conviction.
Ford has the rare, Bruce Willis-esque ability to make you care about his character even when he is surrounded by ludicrous, sci-fi nonsense.
After forty years in showbiz, Harrison Ford still hasn’t worn out his welcome. It would be nice to see him in a good movie again one of these days.