Reviews

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

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Spielberg goes through the motions but Ford’s still got the moves...

“We were all gonna move on and mature into other aspects of filmmaking and I’d never see Indy again,” muses Steven Spielberg on featurette The Return Of A Legend. “Which was fine with me, but not other people… I was the hold-out; I was the one done with this series…”

The ’Berg may not do commentaries, but he’ll give you candour. More than all the anecdotes, animatics and alien doodles that cram this two-discer, his remarks offer the juiciest clues to Crystal Skull’s scuffed lustre.

So the idea was to do this one the old-fashioned way, the reunited gang reverting to the pre-9/11, matinee-serial spirit and style of the original trilogy.

But nostalgia ain’t what it used to be; as it wears on, Indy IV’s throwback charm curdles into a cosiness this close to complacency. “I wasn’t trying to reinvent the wheel… I wasn’t trying for bigger or better,” says Spielberg, sounding dispiritingly like a director-forhire. Still, even on Lost World auto-pilot he delivers a ride (the opening close shave, campus chase and jungle race: all happy distractions).

Meanwhile, David Koepp’s script takes viewers for a ride, with its vague villainess (Cate Blanchett reduced to accent, bob and boiler suit), tiresome sidekick (biggest waste of Ray Winstone ever) and jeopardy-lite anti-climax - a lump of imitation-Indy that botches its extra-terrestrial epiphany.

Why should we care about these big-bonced spacemen? And WTF is “the space between spaces”? So, an ambivalent director and woolly writer; but at least our leading man doesn’t creak.

Back in the hat to stop Soviets mining the mind-control powers of the titular quartz cranium, Harrison Ford still rocks the bullwhip, rolls with the punches and makes
stuffy funny (his quicksand lecture is pitch-perfect comic pedantry).

Lean and keen, he hasn’t been this engaging - and engaged - for years. He gets a sweet romantic pay-off too, capped by hints of who will inherit the old man’s mantle… But we don’t need another hero; nor another rehash - however harmlessly fun - of our still-crisp ’80s-movie memories.

Matthew Leyland

Verdict:

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