"The movie opens unquietly with a desert car chase and a nuclear explosion."

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis


            To say that “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” is about a search for a lost city of gold just might be the understatement of this Hollywood year. The movie is a wonderfully garbled mess of the barriers that lie between Indy and his goal. We know, of course, that he’ll get there, but he will endure two hours of physical abuse in the process and we, the audience, will be worn down by watching him almost not make it. The movie opens unquietly with a desert car chase and a nuclear explosion.

            The characters are painted in primary colors: good, bad, and one maybe. Harrison Ford’s Indy doesn’t aim to be the dashing fellow of twenty years ago. Instead, he lets us watch age creeping over his 65 year old self by tripping and falling occasionally; but boy, can he still handle that whip. We endure his wooden delivery of lines like, “Put down that gun!” but enjoy a thought from Dean Stanforth (Jim Broadbent): “You’ve reached the age where life stops giving us things and starts taking them away.”

            Cate Blanchett has a roaring good time as Colonel Doctor Spalko, a Russian KGB officer with a doctorate in some branch of science having to do with mind control. Did I forget to say that I think this movie is set during the Cold War and the McCarthy era? After a post Cold War period when we reached to Asia for villains, the Russians are back.

            As Indy’s old girlfriend Marion Ravenwood, Karen Allen lifts the collective spirit with sarcasm, superb self-confidence, and a smile that lights the jungle that surrounds her. You will surely enjoy her life-altering conversation with Indy as they are sinking to certain death in a dry sand pit

            So what do we see? A sword fight between Blanchett and Shia La Beouf as they stand atop two jeeps that are roaring along a jungle path in the Amazon; swarms of hungry red ants; our friends running, leaping, shouting and plunging over not one, but three enormous waterfalls; a heart-thumping plunge off a cliff in Allen’s Jeep. We also see a sweet and gentle shot of Spielbergian gophers.

            We are quite literally submerged in the noise and the special effects created by George Lucas for director Steven Spielberg. Lucas and his Industrial Light and Design have built ancient cave paintings, sculptures, and ingenious hidden locking mechanisms designed by geniuses from the ancient world to guard treasure and bodies forever. We also enjoy much gold and many skeletons.

            It’s easy to see where the money went: vehicles, caves, stunt doubles, locations, and finally, the city of gold. The famous fedora plays a nice role in the transition between this movie and the next sequel. We are left with the slightly sad premonition that Harrison Ford may retire to the ranch and bequeath the hat to his new sidekick, Shia LaBeouf.

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