My father told me that he and his three brothers spent every Saturday afternoon in the 1940’s watching double features at the local cinema, usually Westerns and war films. His mother never had to check in her local Catholic paper to make certain that the films would not steal her sons’ innocence or bash the Church. As a mother who is also a film critic, I have two reasons to envy my grandmother’s ability to trust Hollywood. This time you can relax moms, if you have nothing against bashing Commies, ugly corpses that pop out at you, and really BIG explosions, you can let your older children see the revival of Harrison Ford’s incomparable Indiana Jones’ character in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
This film is set in 1957, in the desert compound of the nuclear tests of the Cold War, and the bad guys are the Communists who want US military secrets, with a few PC swipes at McCarthyists and FBI agents. Indy’s reputation at the University is destroyed by the duplicity of a double agent war buddy, and, as he leaves town utterly dejected, we are left to wonder where the adventure will begin. We are not disappointed, Spielberg hasn’t lost his touch for suspense and rollicking adventure. He even ties in a bit of 1970’s space flick into the plot. Did anyone else out there see Chariots of the Gods? You’ll be putting your knowledge to good use in this film.
When the Indiana Jones films came out, they sparked a wave of historical adventure films, the most recent of which are the National Treasure series, which have more interesting story lines and fast moving plot twists than Crystal Skull. But they don’t have Indy. The revival of the college professor turned treasure hunter is still our good friend Indiana Jones, with a couple of references to his age notwithstanding, he still gets his archeological clues, defeats the bad guys, all the while keeping track of that weathered fedora. I have always preferred Indy to James Bond, he’s just as adventurous, he gets beat up and dirty yet still keeps his looks, and he doesn’t use women. They use him, or at least clobber him once or twice.
My favorite two Indiana Jones films involve religious artifacts: the Ark of the Covenant, and the Holy Grail. Stephen Spielberg spun wonder and awe at the power of God into those films, especially when juxtaposed against the diabolical Nazis, and the theme of this film lacked that punch, in the same way which Temple of Doom did. Perhaps, we can suggest a theme where the Shroud of Turin is lost to gangs of anti-Christian thugs?
It was gratifying to watch Cate Blanchett’s playfully overdone Dr. Irina Spalko, Soviet scientist, ruthless and drunk with her own power. Shia LeBoef, Indy’s new sidekick Mutt is not yet worthy of picking up the fedora, he lacks the personality of his mentor, and yes, even the looks. Indy at 65 may look worse for wear, yet can still wrestle bad guys on moving vehicles, spit out his defiance of his enemies when surrounded, and escape impossible situations with a crack of his bullwhip.
If you’re looking for a nostalgic return to the adventure of Indian Jones, with the added bonus of the return of a blast from his past, and are not in the market for an involved plot, this is the fun, scary, escapist fantasy for you. A throwback to the B-movie serials of the 1940’s with awesome special effects.
No nudity, no coarse language, fleeting references to crotch injury, and the only kissing was perfectly appropriate. (Imagine that!) Due to frightening scenes, though, this flick is for older children and up.