For goofy action and adventure, there is perhaps no better DVD release in all of this year than the pulpy and extravagant Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. I first examined this film during its theatrical release and was less than enthralled. However, things change over time and I’m not ashamed to admit that I enjoyed it much more the second time around.
Harrison Ford returns with the whip and the fedora for this fourth instalment of the rousing action-adventure serial. A throwback to the old-fashioned Sunday matinees of days gone by, the Indiana Jones series always brimmed with gobs of adventure, thrilling action sequences, a touch of the supernatural, and anything else Steven Spielberg and George Lucas could think of.
Perhaps Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull exemplifies the “kitchen sink” approach more than any of the other Indy films. Perhaps it doesn’t matter.
We meet Indiana Jones again after all these years in classic fashion, as his dusty fedora is picked up and put atop his head in a brilliant swirling shot that brings it all home. He and his sidekick, Mac McHale (Ray Winstone), have been taken by Soviets (no Nazis this time) led by the evil Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett). The Russians want Indy to snag a crate he saw there years ago that will hopefully lead them to the mysterious and powerful Crystal Skulls.
As per usual, Jones escapes from the clutches of the Soviets only to learn that Mac has betrayed him and that he’s under suspicion for being one of the Reds. Mutt Williams (Shia LaBeouf) shows up and tells Indy that an old colleague, Harold Oxley (John Hurt), has disappeared after discovering a Crystal Skull near Peru. After a ridiculously fun chase, the pair heads off to South America and discover more than they bargained for when they are captured again by the Russians. The Russians are also holding Jones’ old flame, Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen). An escape is in order, again, and the action spirals through South America to locate the Crystal Skulls, defeat the Soviet enemies, and restore order to the universe.
The plot devices in Indiana Jones films exist for one reason only: to serve as backdrops for the action sequences. And Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is no different. Each sequence works to set up another more ludicrous sequence, with Mutt Williams’ swinging through the trees with the monkeys topped only by Marion’s driving the jeep over the side of a cliff to land in a tree that works as a slingshot to dispatch the Commies.