Wednesday, June 18, 2008

"Indiana Jones" is back

**** out of ****

Everyone’s favorite globe-trotting, artifact-digging, whip-cracking, fedora-wearing professor is back in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Harrison Ford graces the silver screen again as Indiana Jones, exactly 19 years after 1989’s Last Crusade; Crystal Skull is the franchise’s 4th installment.

Not quite the Indiana Jones we know from Raiders of the Lost Ark, there is still plenty of nostalgia from start to finish, appeasing the older generation as well as today’s, bringing out the excitable kid in all of us.
The year is 1957 and Indy is once again in peril, being captured by Russian radical sword-wielding psychic scientist Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett). Spalko forces Jones to search for a mysterious magnetized artifact in a government warehouse, but just in the knick of time, Indiana escapes…temporarily.

Young greaser Mutt Williams (Shia LaBeouf) meets up with Indy for his aid in finding lost colleague, Professor Oxley (John Hurt), who was previously kidnapped by Spalko to find the legendary city of gold, El Dorado. But the gold is not at stake, rather a crystal skull. The crystal skull is a supernatural object that grants its retriever unimaginable powers.

Setting off to South America and the deep, dark dangerous jungles of Peru, Indiana Jones, with Mutt in tow, fight off creepy-crawlers, hoards of ants, ancient tribes and the Soviets with non-stop action and adventure at every turn.

Harrison Ford is back in action as the adventure-seeking, wise-cracking Indiana Jones. Even though he is well into his sixties, Ford still can crack a whip. Also aging well is Karen Allen reenacting her role as Marion Ravenwood. Indiana’s tough-girl love interest in Raiders, Allen is pleasurable in her scenes next to Ford.

For today’s youth, Shia LaBeouf, who seems to be Speilberg’s favorite actor (producing most of his films), joins the crowd as the young spelunker. Cate Blanchett dons a heavy Russian accent as our villain, but probably is one of the weakest dastardly characters in the series with a underdeveloped part.

Steven Speilberg and George Lucas team up again and still have the magic touch. Lucas, who dreamt up Star Wars, also came up with idea for Indiana Jones. However, David Koepp (wrote Speilberg’s War of the Worlds, The Lost Word: Jurassic Park) pens the fun script that at spots gets murky.

Speilberg keeps up his outstanding credentials with stupendous sequences that you must see to believe. In particular, a jungle car chase with plenty of swashbuckling and bullet flying action that will keep anyone on the edge of their seats.

With plenty of familiarity too it, one reason why this Jones feels slightly different from the others is its CGI. Still with plenty of practical special effects (reportedly only 30% of effects were CGI), the graphics in some scenes can’t help but go unnoticed, though they are of course top-notch. Also, the extraterrestrial subject matter doesn’t feel too Jones-ish.

With exactly the perfect amounts of danger, humor, adventure, romance and swashbuckling, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is nearly impossible not to enjoy.

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