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Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of thye Crystal Skull
on 3 September 2008
Resurrections, comebacks, revivals, call them what you want, they can all be dangerous events. There are the good - the return of Doctor Who to Saturday nights brought families back together (all be it behind the couch); Take That getting back together fulfilled the dreams of millions of fans; and for the more religious, the resurrection of Jesus must have been pretty cool. But for every hit, there is a fair share of misses - the new Star Wars trilogy had fans salivating, but turned out to be a damp squib; the Spice Girls still couldn't sing; and the new Gladiators is pants. So what fate has befallen much loved action-hero-cum-archaeologist Dr Henry `Indiana' Jones?
We rejoin the action 19 years after Indy's last adventure. Since then, World War Two has changed the world order, with the Soviets replacing the Nazis as the worlds' bullies. Back teaching at Marshall College - after the adrenaline rush of the opening scene of course - Indy is approached by teenage rebel Mutt Williams (Shia LaBeouf), whose mother has been kidnapped. He tells Indy about a map and a crystal skull which may lead to the ancient lost city of El Dorado.
Whenever talk used to surface about the possibility of Indy IV, Ford, Spielberg, Lucas, and all others concerned maintained that the chances of it happening depended on the story. Having decided on the setting and outline of the film way back in early 1990s, it was just a matter of finding a suitable script. So why they passed on a script by Frank Darabont in favour of George Lucas' mess is beyond explanation. The `McGuffin' at the centre of the previous three films had always required a stretch of the imagination, but they were partly based on historical fact and myth, whereas the crystal skulls at the centre of this film are purely based on the fantasies of Lucas' mind.
The previous films, despite being made during the 1980s, always managed to maintain the feel of the 1930s in which they were set. But the latest instalment has a more polished feel to it, and despite markers pointing towards the 1950s - the nuclear explosion which kicks off the film and the vintage 1950s diner - it feels like a film set in 2008 rather than 1956. The increased use of CGI also detracts slightly from the magic of the first three, and again is slightly more polished than the B-movie feel which Spielberg was aiming for.
At 65, Harrison Ford is battling with Sly Stallone for the title of oldest action star, and does well to keep up with the pace of the film. The comic timing is slightly off this time round, but this is a more seasoned Indiana, and this is reflected in Ford's performance, as an Indy who is still loves what he does, but acknowledges that yes, he is getting on a bit.
The strong supporting cast are probably slightly too strong for their own good. By the climax of the film, there is Indy, Mutt, old flame Marion (Karen Allen), friends Mac and Harold Oxley (Ray Winstone and John Hurt respectively) and villain Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett) all fighting for screen time and lines. One or even two of these characters could have been easily dropped to give the others more breathing space.
Cate Blanchett is especially underused, with her character having much more potential than was explored. She is instead pushed aside in favour of Shia LaBeouf's Mutt, with the studio obviously having one eye on a possible spin-off - God help us all. However, he does bring a certain zest and youthful streak to the film, which could easily have been labelled `Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of Heaven' due to the advancing years of most of the main cast.
Although it doesn't hold the same magic and warmth of the previous three films, and the story leaves a lot to be desired, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull brings with it thrills and spills, and the return of a much loved movie character.