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indiana jones and the kingdom of the crystal skull

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
Steven Spielberg
Cast: Harrison Ford, Shia LeBeouf, Cate Blanchett, Karen Allen, John Hurt

Ricardo Barberini

June 23, 2008


A few weeks ago, we had the opportunity to see the first Star Wars movie on TV for the hundredth time.  We saw the towering figure of the young virile Harrison Ford, cocky and yet compassionate.   It is interesting to note that he is still the only real survivor of the original cast of the series.  The others are either dead like Alec Guinness and Peter Cushing or deservedly forgotten like Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill. 

In this latest Indiana Jones franchise, Harrison Ford, reprises his old role of the timid professor with a stupid bow tie who at the same time is an action hero both intertwined in a way that only Harrison Ford could pull through.

The story is rather dull and, as any cinemagoer knows, has been repeated hundreds of times before.  The very nerdy and predictable plot is similar to the last three Indiana Jones series.  This time, the Russians, not the Nazis are the villains.   Cate Blanchett is  Dr. Irina Spalko, a cold blooded Russian Communist colonel who is dead-set on finding a crystal skull which could give the holder great magical powers to rule the world.  Sounds familiar?

For those of you who have seen the original Indiana Jones series, the plots are quite similar.  Someone discovers an object of antiquity that has magical powers, such as the Arc of Covenant or the Holy Grail.  The evil powers, i.e, the Nazis are out to get the object.  Then, Indiana Jones comes to the rescue and after many encounters with death and the villains he wins the day, only to  lose the treasure to some government entity as in the first Indiana Jones movie or have it destroyed by forces of nature such as in the third one.

The story is the same here.  Evil characters versus Indiana Jones and his new-found son Mutt played by Shia LaBeouf.   This time a crystal skull of the aliens, who had landed in Latin America hundreds of years ago, is the object of desire.  So, Indy has to battle the Amazon, the fire ants and the cannibal Indians and team up with a nutty professor called Oxley (John Hurt) to get to the chamber of the 13 aliens.  At the last minute, he is betrayed by his associate Ray Winstone (George McHale.)  The mad Russian Colonel Spalko and her gang grab the skull.  Spalko tries to use it to learn and utilize its legendary powers.  The malevolent and ungrateful aliens explode her head with laser beams of knowledge and take off with their giant flying saucer. Indy and his friends manage to escape by the skin of their teeth.

Eventually, Indy goes back to schools as a professor and marries his first love Marion (Karen Allen.)  So ends the story.  And, in all seriousness, I want to tell you this. People actually got paid for writing and directing all this twaddle. Not only the story is a rehash of the other Indiana Jones stories but it lacks the freshness of the original.  At least, in the first Indiana Jones, the story had a modicum of believability in it.  The pyramids are still around and there are some people who believe in the Arc of Covenant and its magical powers and are still searching for the illusive object.  In this movie, we enter the realm of cookie science fiction and have aliens and flying saucers and fruitcakes (John Hurt’s character) thrown at us.

We expected more form Steven Spielberg and his studio.  We have seen and heard him exalting his own work and how he made it through the gates of Universal City Studios and how he successfully directed his first movie without any prior experience.    But, he has lost his compass point, we guess he is no Robert Altman; making money is his primary objective.   

As for acting, it is heartbreaking to see John Hurt who played Caligula so realistically that it touched a raw nerve in people who watched it reduced to playing a moron.  For the record, Jay Robinson, with his evil sounding crispy voice and his mean look in The Robe and Demetrius and the Gladiators remains the best ever Caligula. Jay Robinson did not need special effects or histrionics to portray the mad and depraved emperor.  But only us, the movie reviewers and maybe some movie buffs will have ever seen those movies.  Karen Allen should better stick to her needle work and Yoga classes.  She was long forgotten by Hollywood, and for good reason, before Steven Spielberg called her for this role.  Shia LaBeouf was actually good in the first half when he played a punk.  And, we do not know how this Australian actress, pretending to be English, Cate Blanchett ever got nominated for the Oscars.  But Hollywood is fickle.  Many deserving actors have never been nominated for the Academy Awards and many mediocre actors and movies have won the coveted award.  Go figure!

We give this movie starstar  Despite its lack of originality, its overpaid and underperforming actors and weak direction it is good entertainment.  For that you should thank the special effects department. Go see it or rent it for fun. The kids will enjoy it.

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