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Movie Review: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull – Better Than Temple, Worse Than Crusade

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Expectations for the latest installment of the Indiana Jones franchise probably range from Phantom Menace to Last Crusade (I'm not sure anybody really expects it to match the quality of Raiders). As it happens, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull hits neither of these extremes. Instead, it simply fulfills the promise of your garden-variety action blockbuster.

I won't say much about the plot except to note that the fretted-over genre-mixing hinted at in recent trailers does not detract. It's more that the overall plot seems a little less thought out than in Raiders or Crusade. It's as if, at certain points, the filmmakers just decided, "And then some stuff happens," or "And then he gets attacked by some guys. It's not important who, or why. Um, moving on…"

Other than that, the screenplay, by Spider-Man (and, to be fair, Lost World) scribe David Koepp, keeps the plot moving and works well on a scene-by-scene basis with banter that almost lives up to the sharp dialogue of Jeffery Boam's Crusade script. The robust chemistry between the leads helps.

The action sequences themselves are good, but not great. The set pieces of the first three rank among the best ever committed to film, and while Crystal Skull's are no slouch, they lack that extra burst of creativity and intensity that put their predecessors over the top.

The movie's biggest drawback (and the biggest drawback of most of the franchise's installments, frankly) is the villain. Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett) comes off as cartoony even in the crazy-no-way world of Indiana Jones caricatures. Irina's spoiler-riffic talent never really gets used in any interesting way.

All of this may seem like I'm slamming the film, when I'm really just trying to temper expectations. It's actually a very fun, highly recommended ride, but it's almost impossible to not measure it against its forerunners. On that count, I'd rank it somewhere between Last Crusade and Temple of Doom, but much closer to Last Crusade.

I have no qualms about calling Raiders of the Lost Ark and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade classics of the action genre. I can't really make that claim for Crystal Skull, but that doesn't mean it's not a solid adventure flick. Enjoy.

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About David Dylan Thomas

  • http://www.kogmedia.com patrick

    it seems like the recipe of a good Indiana Jones film would be 1 part Nazis and 1 part biblical artifact… the Soviet army does a pretty good job of replacing the Nazis, but the other ingredient…