Indiana Jones & The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull
Which is a polite way of saying that the Star Wars mastermind's story (not to mention David Koepp's screenplay) for this sequel is full of so much horseshit, I half expected to see the gun-slinging ghosts of John Wayne and Jack Palance walking through a scene at any given moment. Which, come to think of it, would actually have been slightly more believable than this half-baked hogwash about an alien artifact found in a crate in a warehouse at Area 51, which will somehow imbue its owner with knowledge of… well, everything there is to know. Nineteen years in the making and THIS is the cleverest concept they could come up with?
But that's not to say that the film is without its simple pleasures. For one, there's Harrison Ford as arguably the greatest action movie character of all time. Charmingly surly and wearing his advancing age like a comfy leather coat, Ford's return to the role of archaeologist/adventurer Jones is his most enjoyable turn in over a decade, reminding us of a time when smartass bad boys were not yet the cliché they've become today. Secondly, there's Shia LaBeouf as the James Dean/Marlon Brando-influenced rebel who enlists Dr. Jones' help to recover the titular artifact. It's hard to imagine another young actor so capable of holding his own against one of the most iconic characters of the 20th century. Then there's Karen Allen as long-lost Indy flame Marion Ravenwood, who remains as spunky a broad as the 1950s could possibly produce. And lastly, there's director Steven Spielberg, who proves he can still shoot a popcorn movie action set piece with the best of 'em.
In truth, there are a number of thrilling sequences here that rank among the best in the venerable series, but there are also a few so ridiculously impossible to believe that it will completely take you out of the movie (Monkeys? A Jeep landing in a tree? Really?!?!), even if you are willing to suspend disbelief and buy into the whole Close Encounters-meets-Raiders of the Lost Ark concept. The fact is that Kingdom of the Crystal Skull winds up being a modestly enjoyable flick in spite of its ridiculous Cold War-era storyline (replete with Cate Blanchett as a Russian baddie not even Rocky & Bullwinkle would believe), not because of it.
And if Spielberg & Co. plan on carrying this beloved franchise forward– perhaps with LaBeouf taking center stage and Ford stepping into a supporting role– they need to consider letting some fresh blood revive the franchise with a storyline that doesn't feel like it was cobbled together from elements of its creators' past successes.