Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

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Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
Review (9.5/10)
(By Tak Yamashita)

Indy is back. After 19 years, one of the greatest heroes in film history returns to the theatres in the 4th instalment of the franchise, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. This time, we see Indy race from North to South America to uncover the mystery of the Crystal Skull. Along the way he teams up with friends old and new, as he battles a new adversary, the Soviets, led by a sabre wielding dominatrix Irina Spalko.

I will admit a bit of trepidation when going into this film. Indy, in my mind, has been, and always will be the greatest action hero, and I was a bit worried how the relentless march of father time would dull the crack of Indy's whip. Well let's put that to rest right off the start; while the whip may not be as sharp, Indy still retains all the determination and charm from the previous three instalments.

The key here is that Lucas and Spielberg, rather than trying to deny the passage of time, they celebrate it and use it as a driving theme in the movie. They do this by morphing Indy slightly from a swashbuckling know-it-all with a twinkle in his eyes to a more grizzled veteran who's learnt that experience is just as important as knowledge (with the twinkle still in his eyes). Numerous references are made to Indy and all that he has experienced in the years between the 3rd and 4th films, some heroic and some personally devastating, such as the death of his father. Indy has become a symbol of how it's our experiences and not just knowledge that define who we are. The film further implies that a quest for knowledge, without the experience to guide us can lead to catastrophic results. This is symbolized in the film numerous times but one in particular comes to mind when an atomic bomb is exploded, wiping out a early 50's style U.S. neighbourhood; a symbolic loss of innocence if you will. A scene where the rainforest is being cut down in the name of knowledge further brings this point home.

Also at least twice during the movie they allude to the sands of time. Once, where Indy nearly gets swallowed by it and is appropriately rescued by the right person, the other where he races against the falling sands of a massive 'hourglass' to his ultimate goal.

All this symbolism aside, don't worry Indy fans because, like the other three installments, this film is chock full of huge action set pieces delivered with incredible pace and old school charm. Frankly, it almost seemed too over-the-top at times and once or twice I caught myself thinking that certain scenes were physically impossible. But you know what, on reflection that's really how it should be. Indy has always been an updated version of the serials from the 40's which were often over the top. Spielberg basically stays true to this style, so while a sword fight on two jeeps racing through two parallel tracks in the Amazon, or swinging like Tarzan through the trees seems implausible. Who cares? Throw that logic out the window and just enjoy. It certainly felt like Ford and company did. This is one of those films where you could really tell that the participants were really enjoying themselves while making it and they will pull you along for the ride if you let them.

Spielberg also did one more move that was brilliant in hindsight. He decided to make this movie on film, despite Lucas' desire for a digital presentation. This was a great choice as the grains and textures that only a film can bring, really brought out the nostalgic feel of the movie. It really felt like I was watching a continuation of the Indy serials, something I feel that filming in digital would not have brought out quite as effectively.

Overall, this film is a true joy (especially for those who remember the 80's) that harkens back to the glory days of action adventures, delivered with a true sense of fun by the likes of Lucas, Spielberg and Ford. In the echelon of Indy films, this one ranks 2nd behind the untouchable Raiders. My only real complaint, and one that stops it from getting a perfect score, is that at times it felt like they wanted to get too much into the film - completely understandable given the franchise's absence from the screen, but noticeable nonetheless.

One final thought, as it's alluded to in one of the final sequences in the film, while the winds of change may come and even as young ones like Shia LaBeouf may reach for the crown, as pretenders like the Mummy or National Treasure will offer their take, there can only be one Indiana Jones.

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