Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008) – Film review by Andrea Carnevali

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull ⭐ – Review by Andrea Carnevali

In 1957, Indiana Jones becomes entangled in a Soviet plot to uncover the secret behind mysterious artifacts known as the Crystal Skulls. Available to watch on Disney +

In preparing for the release of the fifth (and we are told, “last”) film, we re-watched the the first three episodes from the 1980s and enjoyed them all immensely.

With all the backlash this fourth film had (and a lot of it for good reasons… more about this later), I was sort of dreading going back to it and actually thought of skipping it altogether. But is it really that bad?

I still remember the excitement of going to see it when it was first released in 2008, at the Odeon in Leicester Square, wearing my Indiana Jones T-Shirt.

Back then, the prospect alone of Spielberg and Harrison Ford reuniting for a new adventure had my heart rate up to unbelievable levels.

The anticipation had been building up for 19 years and the expectations were high… which is probably why the disappointment was so much greater.

Watching it today, I am much more prepared to face the bad bits, which I still vividly remember, as a scar on my retina.

Some of the most infamous moments, like the fridge scene, the bad CGI (in fact surprisingly bad for a movie by Spielberg), Mutt swinging among the trees with those fake monkeys and that horrendous final act with the spaceship and those bloody aliens, have gone down in history as some of the worst moments, not just of any Indiana Jones films, but of anything made by Spielberg himself.

Watching it this time, much colder and more detached than I have ever been, I was able to notice how poor the script actually is, with its needlessly convoluted plot and the clunky exposition, boring dialogue, but also how bland, cartoony and two-dimensional the main foe is (Cate Blanchet, a great actress is completely wasted here) and how badly paced the whole film feels, dumping very long talky sections in between action set-pieces in the most stilted way.

OK, now I have now got all of that off my chest, I can talk about some positive stuff: Harrison Ford, for a start. Despite being 68 years old, he’s able to kick some serious ass!! From the moment he shows up on screen (and what an entrance that is!!) he IS Indiana Jones.

With or without fedora, the man is just incredible and oozes charisma from every pore! He’s not just great as an action man, but even in more emotional moments (I hear there’s more to come in the last instalment!) his facial expressions throughout are pitch-perfect, from the moment when he sees Marion for the first time again (that smile!) to when he’s terrified by the snake…

As for the character of Mutt, to be completely honest, I never really had much against Shia LaBeouf either, nor his relationship with Indy. People for some reason really took really against him, possibly because at that time he was (and I hear… still is) one of the most obnoxious actors in Hollywood and the fact that he was poised as a possible successor for the character of Indiana Jones (as if he could be replaced by anyone!).

The first 15 minutes of The Crystal Skull are actually pretty good: the whole scene in the warehouse is beautifully paced and choreographed (plus that nice little wink to the ark from “Raiders” that had the geek inside me scream with joy).

The moment that follows, in the reconstructed town/test-site is eerie, surprising and actually rather brilliant. And yes, that nuked-fridge scene was probably a step too far, but it did made me laugh. Indiana Jones was never one for realism (demons coming out of the ark, people jumping off planes on a dingy, a crusader still alive after hundreds of years), so let’s not complain about that.

The first problems arise when the film begins to use bad CGI to tell its story or when huge sections of dialogue are dumped on us to allow to explain what’s going on. However once the film finally gets going and the action kicks in and Indy starts exploring the various underground temples, the film is actually rather enjoyable.

My son didn’t seem too bothered by any of it and actually had a lot of fun (“This is epic!” He shouted at one point), so who am I to complain?

Clearly, this is not a very good film, especially when you compare it to any of the previous instalments and crucially they should not have gone X-Files with it.

It is mostly uneven, very uninspired, it has too many characters and generally you can tell that Spielberg’s heart was not in it, but there’s still enough stuff to entertain, plenty of tongue-in-cheek humour and even some slick old school film-making at play from time to time to remind us all of the good old days.

To recap, yes, I know… it probably deserves two stars… but it’s Indy after all, and Spielberg and Harrison Ford… so please don’t ask me to do that!

Jokes aside, I still have some hopes that the next one (which I am due to see in a few hours) can redeem this fourth episode and give us the ending we all really deserve.

Fingers crossed.