Hard as it is to believe, it has been 27 years since Indiana Jones first burst onto the screen in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Harrison Ford was only 39 at the time and the movie was set in the year 1936. Given the amount of time since the release of that iconic first film, there is a lot that is different in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Dr. Henry "Indiana" Jones is considerably older now. He served in World War II. His relationship with Marion Ravenwood ended years ago. Both his father and museum curator Marcus Brody are long gone. His sidekick in this movie, Mutt, was not even born when Indy faced off against the Nazis in the race to retrieve the Ark of the Covenant.
And yet in most respects for Indiana Jones things have remained the same. Nefarious bad guys (albeit Commies rather than Nazis in the movie) still want to kill Indy in the quest for ancient artefacts. Dr. Jones still finds himself in incredible adventures where young men fight with evil Russians while straddling two speeding vehicles, in which ancient temples are still rife with death traps, and in which Indiana is still deathly afraid of snakes. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is a wonderfully nostalgic bit of entertainment for more than that it is set in 1957 (the year may be significant in that it was only the year before, 1956, that the very last movie serial was released--Blazing the Overland Trail). It immediately brings to mind the thrills and chills of the first Indiana Jones movies. And that is perfectly find by me, and I suspect it is for most film goers. If Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is regarded as the worst of the Indiana Jones movies, it is because it departed so drastically from the formula.
That is not to say that Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull does not have a personality of its own. While Raiders of the Lost Ark and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade recalled the old serials of the Thirties and Forties, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull draws as much from those syndicated adventure series Ziv made in the Fifties, with a good dose of Fifties sci-fi thrown in to boot. What is more, we are constantly reminded that Indiana Jones is older. He finds much of the swashbuckling he did in his youth now comes with more difficulty. And he is much more cautious than he once was, leaving much of his brashness to his heir apparent, Mutt.
There is no shortage of great action scenes in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, but as with the best of the Indiana Jones movies, what really makes the movie enjoyable is its characters. Although older and wiser, Indy is still very quick with one liners. And the movie sees the return of Indy's best love interest, Marion Ravenwood. Although like Harrison Ford, Karen Allen is older, she still plays as independent, tough, and still possessed of an elfin charm. Marion's son is Mutt Williams. If Indiana Jones can be the archetypal film hero of the Thirties (the sort of pulp adventurer found in so many serials), then Mutt is the archetypal film hero of the Fifties--a brash young biker filled with youthful arrogance. Of course, every Indiana Jones movie needs villains and in this film it is the Commies. As the head commie, Dr. Irina Spalko, Cate Blanchett is wonderfully over the top. She plays the character with all the aloof coldness and underlying anger one would expect of someone who probably went to school with Natasha Fatale.
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull does start out a bit slow, but once the film gets going, it almost never lets up. The thrills come fast and furious in this one, with plenty of humour and great lines to boot. If you liked Raiders of the Lost Ark and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, chances are you will like Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull as well.