Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
by Laura Tucker
Film Monthly Home
Short Takes (Archived)
Small Screen Monthly
Behind the Scenes
New on DVD
Books on Film
What's Hot at the Movies This Week
After a very long wait, we finally have the fourth installment in the Indiana Jones series. At this point, Indiana Jones is getting a little long in the tooth, but looking at him onscreen in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, he was looking pretty buff for a guy of his age, and I figured it had to be the reason Calista Flockhart is hanging around. The storyline advances to 1957, and the nifty thing about this is that it includes big concerns of that age, such as fears of Russians and aliens, although it does get a little far-fetched in the end.
From the opening moments, we know we’re headed for a typical Indiana Jones adventure as we see his solitary hat tossed on the ground, followed by the heroic orchestral theme music playing in the background. He’s still able to outwit and eventually outrun the bad guys, who in this case are the KGB, led by Cate Blanchett in a very chilling portrayal. Joining forces against him is his old war buddy, Mac (Ray Winstone).
In order to escape, Indy has to help the Russians find mummified remains. He uses some great Indy tricks, such as using the metal of the gun powder of his enemies to act as a magnet. After fulfilling their request for last words with the phrase, “I like Ike,” he makes his great escape, only to find the college is not going to accept one of their instructors getting involved with the Russians. He loses his tenured position.
Indy meets up with a young greaser, Mutt (Shia LaBeouf). After dipping his comb in the Coke of a guy sitting at a nearby table so he can fix his D.A., Mutt explains he needs Indy’s help in finding none other than the greatest love of Indiana’s life, Marion Ravenwood, last seen in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Karen Allen, by the way, is looking a little long in the tooth. I give her credit for staying true to the character here and not using makeup to cover up those effects of time.
Marion has disappeared along with yet another old friend, Professor John Oxley (John Hurt). He had been searching for the Crystal Skull when he originally disappeared. Just when we’re beginning to get to the bottom of this story, Indy again pulls out a great trick, as he begins a fight in the soda shop, the bobby soxers against the greasers, allowing him and Mutt to escape the KGB on their tail.
Mutt and Indy begin their search for Marion and Oxley in Nazca, Peru, and discover that the Crystal Skull bears a striking resemblance to the head of an alien, with the elongated nature of it along with the large hollow eye sockets. Of course, Indy points out that many years ago this culture in Peru used to bind the heads of people purposely to elongate the skull, but it’s too late, we already see the alien connection and kind of see where it’s going.
With a big production such as this one, we knew the storylines of the Russians, Matt, Marion, and Oxley would intersect at some point, didn’t we? In addition, there was much speculation before Crystal Skull was released that perhaps Mutt was Indy and Marion’s love child, Henry, Jr. As adept as Mutt is at taking matters into his own hands to get things done, it certainly doesn’t ease any of that speculation at all.
Along with the Russians, Indy and Mutt also fend off “big, damn ants” instead of rats, and, of course, there is at least one big snake to really give Indy a thrill. Much of this plays out as you would expect an Indiana Jones story to, and normally in an adventure story, you expect the bad guys to be done, but they always come back for one last hurrah. In Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, they keep coming back for more again and again. In the end, we expect the archaeological mind to expose those myths that were propagated in the late 50s, but instead Indy turns them into fact.
And, in a sure sign of the times, the entire time I sat watching this film, running through my mind repeatedly was how great of a theme park ride The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull could be.
Got a problem? E-mail us at email@example.com