By Dave Campbell | July 12, 2008
Director: Steven Spielberg
Writer(s): David Koepp, George Lucas, Jeff Nathanson
Staring: Harrison Ford, Shia LaBeouf, Cate Blanchett, Karen Allen, John Hurt
In the more “modern” setting of 1957 and the height of the Cold War era, we are jumped into the southwest (New Mexico) where Soviet agents/soldiers have kidnapped our hero Indy to use his knowledge to acquire a metallic reacting artifact from a Top Secret U.S. military base warehouse. In pure Indy form our hero escapes as the Red Starred Hammer and Sickle gang flee to use the relic to gain an unknown power.
After retuning to Marshall College Professor Jones learns that due to the recent events he is under suspicion by the U.S. government. Because of the Red Scare, the school is put under pressure to have Dr. Jones take a leave. On his way out of town Indy is tracked down by a comb flicking, switchblade playing, rebel with a cause named Mutt Williams. Enter vintage Harley Davidson product placement and chase scene. Our new Grease Monkey friend has a proposition for Dr. Jones that entails an adventure of historical and personal discovery.
The mystery and legend of the Crystal Skull of Akator leads our new friends to forgotten corners of Peru where it is revealed what Stalin’s Stormtroopers have been up to all along. Adventure, surprises, and Easter eggs ensue.
Our friend has gotten a bit older but he still has the Midas touch. Harrison Ford delivers a brawn and snappy performance in step with the character we all know as Indiana Jones. The film delivers overall in being a fun popcorn adventure you expect in the summer block. Sure it has some flaws but they don’t ruin the nostalgia and tone that takes you back to the good whip cracking days of old. I’m going to go ahead and say it; I like the new golden boy Shia LaBeouf. He brought added chemistry to the existing characters and helped the plot thicken. I like his dynamic with Harrison and think he has natural timing in the comedic and dramatic elements required for the Jones franchise. Marion’s (Karen Allen—who my wife will kill me if I don’t mention is also an accomplished knitter) reprise is good for the storyline but I can’t help but notice that her part seems to have less presence than it did in Raiders. Cate Blanchett & John Hurt were nice additions to the cast, they both produce strong supporting roles and only strengthened their resumes of solid character acting.
There were a few times throughout the film in which a fear tingled up my spine. No, it wasn’t Indy in trouble, it was me worried that a blundering Lucas error was about to rear its ugly head like we saw several times throughout the Star Wars prequels. Thankfully they were kept to a minimum as Spielberg took his place once again as Beard Numero Uno. He seemed to reign in the elements and brought it all back home when things were getting a bit too *Jar Jarred. They kind of pushed the Prairie Dog thing two scenes too many for my taste, the Mutt & Monkey Gang swing-a-thon was also pushing it, and some of the CG in the military vehicle jungle/cliff chase seemed a bit “Cable TV” in comparison to what I’ve seen in recent films from both Spielberg & Lucas.
At the end of the day I’d say that Indy 4 was just ok. It was not the epic return I was really holding out for, but somewhat worthy of the title that it bares. I’ll take it over a Mummy or National Treasure sequel any day of the week. I guess all-in-all I expected more from the 20 years they have been developing the story and throwing around scripts between the Beards & the Scar (Beards = Spielberg & Lucas, Scar = Ford) . However, the charm, excitement, and side smirk wit are all back on the table and I feel like I got my money’s worth.
P.S. Yes I know Stalin died in 1953.
* I coined the term Jar Jarred so be sure to tell your friends. Definition – to have a harshly disagreeable or disconcerting effect like Jar Jar in the Phantom Menace