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Originally published May 21, 2008 at 12:00 AM | Page modified May 21, 2008 at 10:55 AM


Movie review

"Indiana Jones" sequel has that old, familiar feeling — fun

You'd have to be a filthy commie not to love Indiana Jones, but who seriously thought dusting him off, and bringing him back at this late date — when Harrison Ford is 65 — was a good idea? But "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" is still a lot of fun anyway.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Movie review 2.5 stars

"Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull," with Harrison Ford, Cate Blanchett, Karen Allen, Shia LaBeouf, Ray Winstone and John Hurt. Directed by Steven Spielberg from a screenplay by David Koepp. 124 minutes. Rated PG-13 for adventure violence and scary images. Several theaters.

On the subject of unearthing relics:

You'd have to be a filthy commie not to love Indiana Jones, but who seriously thought dusting him off and bringing him back at this late date — 19 years after the third in the series, when Harrison Ford is 65 — was a good idea?

Turns out it's kind of a dumb, rehashed idea — the most ridiculously cartoonish of the four flicks — but "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" is still a lot of fun anyway.

The year is 1957, the height of the Cold War, and it's filthy commies who actually are the villains. Indy has been allowed to age in real time since "The Last Crusade," and a few jokes address the issue. "What are you, like, 80?" asks young Mutt Williams (Shia LaBeouf), a ducktailed dropout armed with a comb and a switchblade, and an apparent jones for Marlon Brando in "The Wild One." Call me ageist, but the filmmakers (director Steven Spielberg, producer/creator George Lucas, screenwriter David Koepp) want it both ways. Despite the age cracks, they make Indy more of an indestructible superhero than he ever was 27 years ago in "Raiders of the Lost Ark," leaping onto moving cars to wallop three or four Reds at once, getting socked repeatedly without so much as hollering "I've fallen, and I can't get up!" At least back in "Raiders," he had Marion (Karen Allen) tend to his boo-boos.

If it's cartoony, Cate Blanchett is gloriously at home as Russky agent Irina Spalko, an apparent relation to Boris and Natasha with a black bob, shades, sword and a delectable accent. She and her henchmen bring a rumpled Indy and his sidekick Mac (Ray Winstone) to a warehouse in the notorious Area 51 to help find an extremely magnetic alien artifact that promises great power ... eh, you know.

In no time, fists, bullets and a whip are flying, and after a very clever bit involving an A-bomb and a refrigerator, Indy finds himself drummed out of the university where he teaches archaeology, under FBI suspicions of being a pinko. So much for tenure.

About the first third of the movie is a hoot that erases most skepticism about the venture, particularly a wild cycle chase through the university. But as the Crystal McGuffin takes everyone to South American jungles, no amount of loud, breakneck chases or "X-Files" flavoring can block the sense of been there, shot that.

Everyone also consists of Mutt and Mac; Indy's old professor "Ox" (John Hurt), who's wacked out from crystal-skull exposure; the pursuing Reds; and Marion! She had the most character of Indy's women, and it's even a little moving to see her again. But her perfunctory bickering with him and revelation about Mutt are so leaden and poorly executed that I got pangs of empathy embarrassment for the people who were inflicting this on me.

Increasingly, the action seems courtesy of either Warner Bros. or a video game. Hey, it's not like these movies were ever documentaries, but after they go down three gigantic waterfalls and even old Ox isn't scratched, or when Marion drives them off a huge cliff only to land on a tree that gently lowers them to (brief) safety, there's no way to invest any concern in these characters.

And yet, there I was cackling like an idiot hyena when Mutt and Spalko were sword-fighting on the hoods of two cars speeding through the jungle, and all sorts of other set-pieces I won't spoil for you. The incredible production design. The John Williams music. Indy's rueful wisecracks. The hat. Even bad sex is still sex, and even dumb, overblown, rote fun is still fun. They're both worth the money when you need them. Ah, but now I've said too much.

Except that the big climax is at once really familiar and incomprehensible. And the denouement — which tips a hat toward Sequelville — looks like a "Murder, She Wrote" reunion. Admit it, though: You and I would still file in to sit through "Indiana Jones and the Wal-Mart Greeter."

Mark Rahner: 206-464-8259 or

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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