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Movie Review: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

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No one can say that the Indiana Jones franchise has dealt with anything other than the fantastic. From flesh melting souls to thousand year old knights, the series staple is its absurdity and enjoyable absurd action. Kingdom of the Crystal Skull takes that to heart – a very large, overbearing heart.

This is a movie where Harrison Ford survives a nuclear bomb blast inside a refrigerator. Really.

There’s no question the film is loaded with well planned out action scenes. A jungle car chase is incredibly thrilling, filled with a jeep crossing sword battle, vine swinging moneys, and more bullets shot off than in some of the Rambo flicks. Of course Indy manages to survive all of it, and that’s acceptable.

However, this is a movie where Harrison Ford survives a nuclear bomb blast inside a refrigerator. Seriously.

It’s hard to fathom how a rather oddball storyline that brings in Cold War era fears, space – err – interdimensional aliens, and Shia LaBeouf can have anything in it that borderlines on the unacceptably absurd. Every movie has a base of logic, but here Spielberg and Lucas take the audience’s acceptance level too far and without any real reason. The bomb itself plays no role in the storyline and exists simply to put a mushroom cloud on screen.

That, and to have Harrison Ford survive a nuclear bomb blast inside a refrigerator. No joke.

Maybe focusing on that singular moment is too one-sided. It’s not particularly fair to the fine performances and humor-laden dialogue that’s as snappy as it’s ever been for this now four-film series. LaBeouf fits nicely into the sidekick role, and serves to pull Karen Allen back into her 1981 role as Marion Ravenwood.

Spielberg’s direction relies heavily on superb shots involving shadows, giving a noir-like feel to the proceedings. Excessive (and sometimes obvious) green screen effects are purposefully added to give Crystal Skull a specific, colorful tone. While the brightly enhanced shades and almost dream like focus don’t mesh with the previous three films, this is a globe trotting adventure, taking place in an entirely different era.

An era that allows Harrison Ford to survive a nuclear bomb blast inside a refrigerator. Yeah, it happened.

The Crystal Skull itself is a unique creation in that it makes for an excellent visual piece, but this causes problems with the movie’s rules of its magnetism, which seems to turn on and off with a mind of its own. It’s hard to notice little flubs such as that when you’re along for the wild action sequences, but it can become a slightly too convenient plot device.

Crystal Skull does a fine job of paying homage and respecting the films before it. Little touches are strewn about for fans to latch onto, including the Ark, the map shots showing the path of the travels, and of course a snake. Ford nearly plays the character into self parody at times for a couple of laughs, but this enhances Jones as an aging adventurer who is slowly losing a step a or two.

Thankfully, the movie wouldn’t have a scene where Harrison Ford survives a nuclear bomb blast inside a refrigerator. Oh wait, it does.

Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is undoubtedly on the lower scale of the Indy efforts, though arguably without going as far down as Temple of Doom. It sits nicely with franchise canon, yet if there’s another attempt to bring Jones back, it needs to an extremely careful step.

Oh, and it cannot, under any circumstances, have Harrison Ford surviving a nuclear bomb blast inside a refrigerator. Please.

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About Matt Paprocki

Matt Paprocki has critiqued home media and video games for 13 years and is the reviews editor for Pulp365.com. His current passion project is the technically minded DoBlu.com. You can read Matt's body of work via his personal WordPress blog, and follow him on Twitter @Matt_Paprocki.