The fourth installment of the Indiana Jones mythos was adequate and entertaining, but failed to capture the charisma of earlier films.
I thought something that worked particularly really well was the pairing of Harrison Ford and Shia LaBeouf. LaBeouf takes a lot of flak from the internet community, and I’m not sure why. He’s got a charm about him that complimented and even augmented Ford’s. I was also glad to see Ford pretty loose in this film. He’s played a few of my all-time favorite characters, but he can at times come off fairly stiff on the big screen, especially in The Last Crusade. As with Sean Connery, LaBeouf helps to add another dimension to Indiana Jones that gives Ford a little something more to work with and enriches his performance.
Furthermore, I appreciated that while Indiana Jones is much older in this movie, he’s also much wiser and has a sense of confidence and aptitude about him that really resonated. Though always a professor, it wasn’t until this film that he really came across as a mentor as well, especially to Mutt Williams, LaBeouf’s character. (Very funny that both characters named themselves after some aspect of a dog. Remember, Indiana was the name of Jones’ dog when he was a boy. Mutt … well, that speaks for itself.)
The dialogue in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull also wasn’t quite as rigid as in previous films. While I loved The Last Crusade because of Connery, some of Ford’s dialogue really grated on my nerves. This film had a sense of wit and fun about it that really helped the actors with their delivery.
The addition of communists as Ford’s antagonists seemed totally appropriate. They acknowledged so much of the time period, from atomic bomb testing to the King, it really felt like a logical progression from where Indiana Jones was last film. I loved that they peppered some of what he’s been up to over the last few decades into the story as well. That was a very nice touch.
So while the acting and chemistry between LaBeouf and Ford was a positive, and the dialogue was a bit more organic, and the story had some enjoyable nuggets of times past, there were a few negatives.
First and foremost, it really bothered me how they took Karen Allen’s Marion Ravenwood, a tough, spunky character from Raiders of the Lost Ark, and basically made her into an ogling space cadet. Nearly every time they had her on screen she had a goofy grin on her face like she’d been hit on the head too many times. Marion was a character that was almost tougher than Jones, and they didn’t stick to that blueprint in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. It takes more than a flighty grin to win the heart of Indiana Jones.
Also, I can appreciate that this is a family film trying to lighten things up for a broader audience, but there were moments in this movie that had me rolling my eyes. I can handle mainstream appeal, but it had some really blatant lunacy that I couldn’t get past.
For example, Jones escaping a nuclear explosion by climbing into a lead-lined refrigerator and luckily getting blasted clear was a bit hard to swallow, but I managed. Later, though, they had LaBeouf swinging from tree vines with a troop of simians in the jungle like he was Tarzan. That … was impossible to overlook. Finally, the mystery of the crystal skulls is revealed to be a race of inter-dimensional beings that we had previously believed aliens. Now, I can handle aliens, no big whoop. But, when it comes to Indiana Jones, I like him chasing down religious artifacts or some other mystic collectibles. Seeing him face-to-face with an alien, it just didn’t completely work for me.
But even with all those issues, the overall movie was fun to watch and greatly entertained. I felt like I wouldn’t be “wowed” by it and I wasn’t, but I enjoyed the evolution of the Jones character, his world, and the dynamic of his supporting characters.
On a side note, I really hope they’ll continue on with the Indiana Jones movies, especially considering Jones’ new role. I think they’ve left the future wide open for some potentially fun movies.
So while I wouldn’t say you MUST go see this movie in the theatre, it is definitely one to rent and if you’re willing to put up with a little silliness, I think you’ll find yourself entertained.