Indiana Jones & the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)

I've been hearing about the new Indiana Jones movie for months now, and it was one of the most anticipated films of the summer. First "Armchair Intern" Ian gives it our highest (and very coveted) A+ rating, without much explanation with his "preview review." On the other hand, Armchair Senior Reviewer Jim is less than enthralled and low balls it with a C-. In the meantime, our resident musical expert Scott tells me that he'd give it a solid B (and that wasn't just for the score).

Hmm. What are we to do? As Armchair Founder and Webmaster, clearly I need to settle this, and come up with a bottom line. So, I got off my DVD watching butt, paused my DVR and took my annual trek to the theater. Jim's review has already done a good job of summarizing the plot, so I'm gonna skip over that. Also, by way of background, I did want to say that I've seen all the previous Indiana Jones films, and would probably give Raiders an A-, and the other two a B+.

Without further delay, I will say that I enjoyed Indiana Jones & the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. However, after a decade hiatus, still with the input of George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, and Harrison Ford, I think it did miss the mark.

Clearly, Spielberg was going for the feel of the serial movie (like he did in the Back to the Future films that I liked very much) that he grew up with on weekends as a child. However, the other films in the series really didn't follow the formula, so it makes Crystal Skull feel like a departure, and "less Indy," at least to me. In addition, the introduction of space aliens to finish the plot, that incidentally look a lot like ET, also didn't have the right feel of Indiana Jones, where the previous films were more classical archeology based.

There were also many plot holes that simply didn't fit. Indiana surviving a nuclear blast in a refrigerator (lead lined or not) was simply implausible, and also dangerous to show children as they could try that at home with disastrous consequences. Swinging on vines to catch up with cars? Again, not gonna happen. Swashbuckling with swords when there is a machine gun mounted on the vehicle, again silly. Ants that devour everything in their path, while well animated, just isn't reality either. Handing bullets and gunpowder to a prisoner also is simply ridiculous. Let's also not forget the barrage of gunfire that Indy gets aimed at him in the warehouse, that magically never hits him, or even grazes by him.

There were at least a few parts of this film that did pay homage to the original films. While somewhat silly, it did make sense for Indy to be less than grateful when his son tries to save him with the snake from the quicksand. I also liked the more subtle cameo by the Ark of the Covenant seen in the warehouse after being side swiped by car during the chase. Finally, they do point out the Harrison Ford is "getting too old for this," as his aching bones endure too much action.

In summary, the Crystal Skull is the least favorite of the Indy films. While devout fans (you know, the ones who own the whip, and wear their fedora to the theater) may be happy to have this franchise back, it feels too much like an afterthought to the originals. While some really well done special effects, a recycled John Williams score and Ford's natural acting ability save this film from a complete disaster, I can only recommend it to others who don't expect a masterful plot, and only barely.

Overall Grade: B-

Reviewed by Jonas

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