Of all the summer movies approaching this year, I am confident that none will be as spectacularly mediocre as Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. This movie, released almost two decades after Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, is neither as bad as it could have been nor as good as it should have been.

Harrison Ford is back as Indiana Jones, the rock-'em sock-'em archaeologist who spends as much time beating up bad guys as deciphering ancient clues. Ford is an action hero in his 60s -- and the movie wisely acknowledges this -- but he still has an adventurous spirit and handles both action and humor with ease.

Unfortunately, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull falls almost immediately into a repetitive pattern: Jones gets kidnapped, fights, escapes, explores some clues, travels somewhere, gets kidnapped again, fights again, etc. This time -- 1957, to be precise -- the evil, generic, we're-fine-if-they-get-killed Nazis have been replaced by the evil, generic, we're-fine-if-they-get-killed Russians. The Russian leader is femme fatale Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett), wielding a sword, sporting a Louise Brooks hairdo, and posssibly possessing psychic powers. She is in pursuit of a crystal skull which, when brought back to its place of origin, is rumored to bestow great powers. (In the meantime it frightens natives, drives some people insane, and causes ants to move away a short distance. Seriously.)

Of course, no Indiana Jones movie would be complete without sidekicks. There's Mutt Williams (Shia LaBeouf), a 1950s punk (meaning he wears a leather jacket, combs his hair a lot, and rides a motorcycle) who wants to find the skull because the Russians kidnapped his mom so Mutt would find Indiana for help. Mom turns out to be Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen, from Raiders of the Lost Ark), who's spunky and provides sexual tension with Indiana. There's also Professor "Ox" Oxley (John Hurt), whose mind was both messed up and given knowledge by staring at the crystal skull too long. And there's British adventurer "Mac" McHale (Ray Winstone), who changes sides so often I lost interest in whether he was friend or foe.

For a movie directed be Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, Indiana Jones and the Kindgom of the Crystal Skull has surprisingly little magic to it. I didn't mind them substituting science fiction for magic, but the attempt to recreate the old-style movie serials feels less adventurous than seeing Ford jump into a bunch of generic soldiers again and again and beat them all up. Little of the swashbuckling is exciting, and quite a few action scenes are just silly (notably the swordfight while straddling two speeding jeeps, and swinging with the monkeys). This movie wasn't terrible, but it isn't memorable either.

Overall Grade: C-

Reviewed by James Lynch

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