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Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2023-02-22



Knight at the Movies: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
by Richard Knight, Jr.

This article shared 4301 times since Wed May 21, 2008
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So much of the 1980s has returned ( politically and culturally ) that it probably isn't surprising that one of the decade's most exuberant and enduring movie franchises would also come roaring back. Unlike the political conservatism, social unrest and economic crash that collided 20 years ago and are once again front and center, however, the return of Indiana Jones via the fourth installment in the series, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, is to be welcomed back with open arms. Here is one reunion you shouldn't dread attending, as Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and their iconic star, Harrison Ford, easily prove that they're still very much a trio to contend with—while Crystal Skull is a blockbuster that blows the competition out of the megaplex and shows those 'kid' directors how to make an action movie already.


Harrison Ford ( left ) and Shia LeBeouf in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

The adventure commences in the Nevada desert in 1957. A group of nasty Communist terrorists has quietly invaded America's infamous military store hold of secrets—Area 51. But even these bad boys have enough sense to step up the armed guards when unloading their kidnapped prisoner once inside the base's warehouse of hidden treasure ( the same one glimpsed at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark ) . We see Indiana's iconic hat in silhouette first, and then the man himself. 'Russians,' says Ford with disgust as Indy after taking a quick survey of his captors. 'This ain't going to be easy,' his fellow prisoner Mac ( Ray Winstone ) says. 'Not as easy as it used to be,' Indy retorts.

With that one exchange, the wry response-in-the-face-of-imminent-danger tone that Spielberg set in the three previous installments is again firmly in place. Seconds later we are introduced to this edition's villain, the evil but brilliant Russian agent Irina Spalko ( Cate Blanchett sporting a black pageboy and 'Boris and Natasha' accent ) , who wants Indy to help her track down a particular crate in the mysterious warehouse ( and, yes, we get a tantalizing glimpse of the ark of the covenant ) . Before another five minutes have passed, Spielberg, who doesn't dawdle, plunges us into the bracing, dazzling first set piece that finds Indy faced not just with outsmarting pesky Commies but also how to survive an atomic bomb test.

With composer John Williams' signature theme blaring, the chase is afoot and the globe is spinning as we follow a race between the Russians and Indy, who hooks up with Mutt ( Shia LeBeouf ) , a cross between James Dean and Marlon Brando ( complete with motorcycle, switchblade and an Elvis pompadour he's constantly combing ) on a quest to find the crystal skull of the title. Mutt is filled with bravado ( 'What are you—like 80?' he wisecracks to Indy ) but, with Indy's encouragement, quickly steps up to the plate in the stunt department ( and cutie-pie LeBeouf also makes for a nice heartthrob ) . When we discover that Mutt is the son of Marion ( Karen Allen ) , Indy's love interest from Raiders, we also get the nice bonus of Allen's return to the series. She's lost none of her spunk and holds her own as the group travels to South America. There, they discover underground catacombs, ancient pyramids, swarming fire ants, deadly natives, and plenty more while the well-balanced script even tosses in a healthy dose of spooky sci-fi fun with the action.

Ford, who doesn't exactly hand the mantle to LeBeouf but rather, gives him his due, still has plenty of audience rapport to draw on and Spielberg gives him terrific support, not just from Blanchett, Allen and Winstone but from John Hurt, Jim Broadbent and one Igor Jijikine, a striking blond hulk who plays the menacing Red Army commander Dovchenko. ( You'll know who I mean. )

Audiences and some critics may view Crystal Skull through a modern prism and find the movie, in light of the non-stop CGI effects blockbuster of today, an ancient relic itself. But this isn't a movie for cynics or tech heads—far from it. Spielberg and Lucas always meant for the Indiana Jones movies to be larger-than-life versions of the Saturday morning serials they remembered and wanted to honor from their childhood—plenty of dazzling action set pieces, a hint of mysteriousness, lots of tongue-in-cheek fun, and a moment of depth here and there—in short, great adventure stories.

The original trio of films succeeded with mixed results—the first hit a bull's-eye, the second did not quite do that ( the whining Kate Capshaw and Spielberg's childish enthusiasm for grossness spoil the fun ) and the third was a pretty good return to form ( helped enormously by the relationship between Sean Connery and Ford ) . Crystal Skull, which looks and sounds like it was shot at the same time as the others ( a wise decision on Spielberg's part, because it gives the film a timeless, not-of-th-moment look ) is a tremendously entertaining addition to the series—second only to Raiders, in fact.

After 19 years, Spielberg and company have unearthed the best treasure of all—another great Indiana Jones movie. To get the full experience, leave your cynicism at the door and bring along your wide-eyed enthusiasm ( and your kids who will love this a lot more than Prince Caspian ) . Then strap yourself in and enjoy the ride.

Check out my archived reviews at or . Readers can leave feedback at the latter Web site, where there is also ordering information on my book of collected film reviews, Knight at the Movies 2004-2006.

This article shared 4301 times since Wed May 21, 2008
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