Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull (2008)

Rating: ***
Release Date: 5/21/08
Director: Steven Spielberg
Writer: George Lucas
Music: John Williams
Cast: Harrison Ford, Ray Winstone, Shia LaBeouf, Karen Allen, Cate Blanchett, John Hurt

That's it?!? This is what we've been waiting for all of these years? Firmly in the mold of "The Last Crusade" (1989), this film is silly and boring, relying on nostalgia rather than action and originality. Much like the last two James Bond films starring Pierce Brosnan, the franchise has sadly become a parody of itself. The film opens in 1957 with Professor Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) at Area 51 in Nevada. In order to achieve military superiority, Joseph Stalin dispatches the KGB to search for alien artifacts, and Irina Spalko (delicious Cate Blanchett) forcefully enlists the aid of Dr. Jones to obtain the remains of the 1947 Roswell incident. Much silliness ensues. Under suspicion from the FBI, Indy is forced to retire and decides to move abroad to avoid any further backlash from the Red Scare. It's then that a young punk named Mutt Williams (Shia LaBeouf) asks him to help rescue Professor Oxley (John Hurt) who is being held captive in South America. Apparently Oxley found a mysterious crystal skull along with a legendary city of gold, and only Indy can help him. So with the kid in tow, Indy dons his hat and heads south for some whip-cracking, ham-fisted, gun-toting action. Much silliness ensues, leaving us with no hope for the once brilliant George Lucas.

While it's not the technical disaster that "The Last Crusade" was, the film definitely suffers from the overuse of CG visual effects. While most of the effects look quite good, they alienate the actors from the action, resulting in lifeless set pieces. There is some very good stuntwork here and there, but it's overshadowed all too quickly by other visual tomfoolery. Unfortunately, the whole film feels worn out. The actors look tired and disinterested. The action sequences feel slow and uninspired. Even John Williams' music score seems plodding and lethargic. It's definitely not the high energy, edge of your seat kind of romp that you'd expect from the series. The only glimmer of excitement in the film is Cate Blanchett, who ravenously sinks her teeth into her role with great gusto. Indy hasn't had a rival of this caliber since the original film, and she's every inch his equal. She's also the only one in the film who seems to take the material seriously, which lends her a lot of credibility over the other characters. She would have made a superb Bond villain. Much like "The Last Crusade," the characters are strapped with awful dialog and the pathetic attempts at humor fall flat. Apart from the inherent goofiness of being a sidekick, Shia LaBeouf does an admirable job with his role, which somewhat makes up for the embarrassment of Sean Connery in the last film. While it can't fully erase the awful memories of "The Last Crusade," it just replaces them with feelings of sadness, disappointment, and missed opportunities. However, unlike "The Last Crusade," the film does improve with multiple viewings.