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

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Indiana Jones has returned.

More than 30 years after George Lucas and Steve Spielberg created Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, the pair has joined forces once again. And they’ve brought Harrison Ford along for the ride.

Only this time, the tale isn’t of Nazis or evil cult leaders from India. This time, Indiana Jones has his hands full with the Russians, the atomic bomb, aliens from outer space, and some very nasty bugs.

Like his previous adventures, Indy stumbles through the world of the past trying to find what so many others can’t. Along the way, he blows stuff up, shoots several dozen bad guys, and locates yet another artifact for the museum.

Inspired by the old Hollywood serial films of the '30s, '40s, and '50s, Lucas and Spielberg have created more than just a whip-toting character in a fedora. Since he was introduced in the film Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones has become the world’s best known archaeologist — and, in the process, a major Hollywood icon.

Starring Harrison Ford (Star Wars, Blade Runner, American Graffiti) as Jones, Karen Allen (Animal House, The Sandlot) as Marion Ravenwood, and Shia LaBeouf (Transformers, Holes) as Mutt, the fourth installment of Indy’s adventures begins in 1957, during the Cold War.

Indy and his sidekick, Mac (well played by Ray Winstone), set the tone for the film when they escape a group of Soviet agents who have infiltrated a federal airbase. Jones beats the Soviets, avoids an atomic death (by hiding in a refrigerator), and returns home to Marshall College — where he teaches archaeology. But the government wants him unemployed.

So he decides to leave town; it’s just that his exit isn’t easy. He meets Mutt, gets in yet another fight, and winds up in Peru searching for the Crystal Skull of Akator. Of course, no adventure involving Dr. Jones is without its share of bad guys, and Kingdom of the Crystal Skull has plenty.

Lead by Soviet super-agent Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett looking glacial in lots of black leather), the Soviets are roaming the globe trying to find the Crystal Skull. Like the Nazis before them, the boys and girls from Leningrad believe the skull has certain powers which can be used to rule the world. But they have to get the skull before Dr. Jones does.

Like Indy’s other adventures, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is full of treasure, dead guys, bad soon-to-be-dead guys, evil insects, and enough other nasty stuff to make your skin crawl.

And while the 2008 version of Dr. Jones does look a little older and somewhat more worn, our hero still packs a pretty mean whip. Karen Allen remains beautiful as Jones’s love interest, Marion, and LaBeouf fits naturally into the role of Mutt.

It’s obvious Lucas and Spielberg haven’t lost their touch. From the film’s opening theme to its visual style, Indiana remains Indiana. And though the plot seems pretty far-fetched — I could deal with the Russians, but the aliens were quite a stretch — the simple fact that Indiana Jones is back makes this film worth the ticket price.

With a movie tickets now at the $10 mark, gas pushing $4 per gallon, and the cost of popcorn in the stratosphere, it’s no secret going to a film is expensive. But some movies are worth the investment.

Indy Jones’s latest adventure doesn’t address a social issue. It’s not designed to send messages, or make the viewer aware of an important global problem. Instead, it’s simply a Saturday afternoon adventure filled with skulls, bad guys, and some seriously hungry bugs.

Go see it.

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About M. Scott Carter