Right from the time that you see the silhouette of the Paramount mountain becoming a beaver-hill (Trivia time: All the Indiana Jones movies have the Paramount becoming a mountain of some sort as the first frame), you know that you are in for the ride of your life. For all the middle-aged movie buffs like myself who have pretty much grown up on a staple diet of adventure movies such as Indiana Jones and James Bond, the latest instalment where Indy Jones battles the Russians for control of the famed Crystal Skull is no less entertaining or rivetting than the other 3 movies in this franchise.
When the famed shadow of Indy Jones in his favorite Brown Hat is shown on screen, I had to really control myself from jumping out of my seat and dancing in joy for having seen this all-time favorite on-screen character of mine in a theatre for the first time. Yes, it is true, I have seen the other three Indy Jones movies only on the small screen.
The plot itself deals with how in 1957, the Russians are in search of the Crystal Skull which will lead them to the famed city of Gold, El Dorado, and how the person who returns the Crystal Skull to its rightful place will be given powers and knowledge that nobody else can even possibly imagine. The Russians led by Dr Irina Spalko (played wonderfully by the ever so talented Kate Blanchett) kidnap Dr Jones and take him to the Warehouse where the US Army has kept all the artefacts and archaeological finds that Dr Jones and his ilk have brought back home from their wonderful adventures. Here Dr Jones recovers the mummified remains of a knight that he had brought back home around ten years ago, since when he has been leading a peaceful life teaching archaeology to the students of University of Chicago. How he escapes from the Russians to get back home is the backdrop of the first of the many action sequences of this movie.
Once back home, Indy is framed to be a Commie sympathizer by his friends, his employer, and how he manages to evade the Russians who are still after him, forms the setting for the introduction of Mutt Williams (Shia LaBeouf of Transformers fame) who helps Indy get away from the Russians and also tells him why they are after him. He also informs Indy that his former friend and college-mate Prof Harold Oxley “Ox” was lost somewhere in Peru, and his mother, Marion Ravenwood (first seen in Indiana Jones and the Raider of the Lost Ark) who went after Ox is also lost. This convinces Indy to undertake the arduous mission of finding Ox and Marion and ensure their return to safety.
The movie then moves to South America, where Indy Jones and Mutt Williams reconstruct each of the clues they have one by one and find Ox and Marion, and are then captured again by the Russians. The ensuing escape of Indy Jones and his friends, the chase by the Russians, the subsequent search for El Dorado, and the ever so predictable ending form the rest of this fast-paced fun movie.
Now, the best part of this movie are the subtle hints and the references to earlier movies from the franchise, like a small 5 second scene where a small portion of the Golden Ark is visible, the character of Marion from the earlier movie, the photograph of Henry Jones Sr (played by Sean Connery), famous dialogs like “to become a good archaeologist, you need to get out of the library”, and many many more. And what also works well for the movie is that it is set at least 10 years after where the previous movie ended. This ensures that although the audience is looking at a visibly older Indy Jones, they are not fooled into believing that he can pretty much do all that he used to do earlier.
Some of the scenes such as the one where Indy Jones uses his whip to try and jump into a jeep, but ends up in the truck following the jeep are hilarious, as they seem to suggest that Indy is not all that he used to be, and needs to work harder to get things done. Plus the ending sequence, where Mutt Williams (who in the course of the movie turns out to be Indy Jones’ son) tries on the famous Brown Hat seem to suggest that there might just be a sequel franchise of movies featuring his adventures.
What work for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull –
– The fact that the makers did not try to conceal the fact that Indy Jones had aged and is not quite the dashing young man he once was.
– The pacy storyline and the screenplay which is perenially in the “full speed ahead” mode right from the first frame to the ending credits.
– The adequate use of CGI to ensure that the audience believes in the unreal setting that El Dorado, the city of Gold is set in. –
The omnipresent presence of mind of Indiana Jones to get himself and his team out of danger by any means necessary.
– The throwbacks to the earlier movies in the franchise.
What doesn’t work for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull –
– I personally am tired of the entire Roswell-New Mexico aliens angle to stories. Steven Spielberg has used this in enough movies and maybe could have come up with something a little more original.
– Although Kate Blanchett does justice to her role as the evil Russina Colonel, in my mind, she still has a lot of history of having played Queen Elizabeth, Audrey Hepburn, and that in my opinion works against her. She somehow is not convincing as the evil Russian psychic scientist and maybe somebody else could have played that role a little better.
All in all, this is one must-watch movie for anybody who has had the opportunity to watch the other movies in this franchise. Thumbs up all the way.