Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Shia LaBeouf, Harrison Ford, and Karen Allen in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Courtesy of Lucasfilm/Paramount.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, the long-awaited fourth film, takes the iconic hero well into the Cold War years.

The film moves forward almost in real time after an 18-year layoff.  It’s 1957 and given the Cold War at hand, the KGB also replaces Nazis as the villains.  Leading this particular group of villains is Soviet agent Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett).  Spalko kidnaps Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) and George “Mac”” Micale (Ray Winstone) from their Mexican excavation.  The spy immediately has Jones find a corpse from the Roswell incident some ten years earlier.  What follows is a chase scene and some spectacular visual effects during an atomic bomb test.

Sadly, Indy is forced to leave his post at Marshall College.  A thing to note here: Dean Charles Stanforth (Jim Broadbent) is really a stand-in for Marcus Brody.  Denholm Elliott passed away in 1992.  However, the filmmaking team pays tribute to both him and Sean Connery.  The latter was enjoying retirement too much and only appears by way of a picture on Indy’s desk.  There is one former friend who makes an appearance: Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen).  This time around, Marion also has a son, Mutt Williams (Shia LaBeouf).  She sends him to Indy in order to let him know Harold Oxley (John Hurt) was kidnapped.

At Hangar 51, some props make cameo appearances.  Some are blink and you miss it.  Moses’ staff is one of them–a replica based off of Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments (1956).  Another is the Ark of the Covenant–straight out of the Lucasfilm Archives from Raiders.  What this film does is establish the hangar scene at the end of Raiders as Hangar 51.  Or what we commonly know as Area 51.

Visually speaking, the fourth film takes advantage of the era’s CGI technology.  Obviously, they use practical effects when necessary.  Given most of the visual effects, there’s no way that this film could be made in the early 1990s.  No, they needed Jurassic Park for CGI to move forward.  Anyway, both Steven Spielberg and Michael Kahn work with film over digital.  It’s necessary in order to keep Crystal Skull consistent with the franchise.  Tonally speak, it fits in even with nearly two decades passing.

What John Williams manages to do with the score this time is give it more of a sci-fi film.  He pays homage to those 1950s sci-fi films given the plot this time around.  Oh, he brings back all the familiar themes, too, including the love theme between Indiana Jones and Marion Ravenwood.

While Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is intended to pass the torch to a new generation, it remains to be seen what will happen.  No one and I mean NO ONE can replace Harrison Ford in the iconic role!

DIRECTOR:  Steven Spielberg
SCREENWRITER:  David Koepp
CAST:  Harrison Ford, Cate Blanchett, Karen Allen, Ray Winstone, John Hurt, Jim Broadbent, and Shia LaBeouf

Paramount Pictures opened Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull in theaters on May 22, 2008. Grade: 4.5/5

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.