The Red Right Hand

The Hat Is Back

Steven Spielberg

Harrison Ford
Cate Blanchett
Shia LaBeouf
Karen Allen
Ray Winstone

Indy, Russians and Aliens; oh my. Yes, nineteen years on and the Lucas/Spielberg mind-tank have decreed that Harrison Ford is still more than fit to portray the archaeology professor cum tomb raider. Without giving too much away, the plot starts by introducing the audience to 1950's New Mexico - you can tell it's the 50's because the kids are listening to rock music and drag racing. A small contingent of Russians proceed to break into a very familiar looking military base with two captives, British archaeologist, George 'Mac' McHale [Winstone] and Indiana Jones. From there we take the standard Indy trail of going back to the University to teach some punk kids, pack for a journey, find an artefact, lose said artefact, unlock some amazing secret before leaving no trace that anything ever happened. I must confess, despite this being an Indiana Jones film, directed by Steven Spielberg, written by George Lucas, starring Harrison Ford (the classic combo) I was convinced it would be fairly mundane and grossly overrated. Luckily, the cast were top-rate, the story interesting and the action sequences pitch perfect for the series.

First, a few words about the supporting characters. I always have my reservations if I see Shia LaBeouf's name listed on a cast bill but then dutifully retract my concerned statements by lavishly warbling his praise; this time is no different. LaBeouf plays the curiously named 'Mutt,' hot-headed greaser sidekick to Indy and son of Marion Ravenwood (a welcome return made by the sparky Karen Allen). The main villain of the piece, Irina Spalko, is a psychic Russian agent played rather well by the extremely versatile Cate Blanchett. John Hurt's character feels a little out of place, simply because he appears for one third of the film as a raving lunatic, affected by the awesome power of the crystal skull… or something. Happily, Ford has returned to the lead role and does a job worthy of his efforts decades ago. Granted, he is older now and his movements aren't as quick but the character is still as entertaining as in Raiders - this could have something to do with the fact that Harrison Ford only seems to play that Han Solo/Indiana Jones character but whatever.

With regards to the concept that some poor deranged soul may wish to see this instalment before its predecessors, this film is fairly open to newcomers, briefly explaining the return of certain faces and what Indy got up to during World War II (apparently, he pretty much won the war, surprise, surprise). Having said that, Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull is absolutely littered with nods to the previous parts, with mention of events that took place during the Young Indiana Jones saga and various bits and pieces taken from the core trilogy; my favourite being Ford's aging grumble, "This is intolerable", one of his Father's key phrases in Last Crusade.

**This paragraph may contain what some would consider a spoiler. I don't personally think it is but I don't want to be held accountable just in case you do. Clear? Good.**
There was, however, one point which really niggled me, something that considerably grated on me and it can be summed up with one word; aliens. My problem is that I don't even know if I have a problem. Sorry, that's a little confused, allow me to clarify. One of the key elements to any good Indiana Jones film isn't just the whip-cracking adventure element but the paranormal/supernatural side too and despite what sceptics may say, there are still those who hold the belief that certain ancient civilisations were assisted by extraterrestrial beings. The question is, is the concept of the Mayans worshipping aliens any stranger than the Ark of the Covenant being loaded with spirits, or the glowing Shankara stones bringing life to a village or the Holy Grail healing bullet wounds…? Well, yes, obviously but that's beside the point. In the end, you simply have to suspend disbelief and enjoy this film for what it is on the surface because, if you were to break it down and complain about certain elements, you would be taking a stab at the previous films and the entire adventure serial genre. The only other point of frustration was the fact that Indy survived a nuclear blast by hiding in a lead-lined fridge (perfectly true, it could withstand the blast but the distance it travelled, he would be liquefied inside). Oh! And the monkeys! I hated the monkeys and the CGI gophers! Stupid, stupid Lucas element! The film, as a whole, is everything an Indiana Jones action adventure flick should be; thrills, spills, fun for the whole family - that kind of thing. If I had to place this feature in an order of preference with the others (as this will no doubt be the main question behind every piece of review feedback I receive), the list would be as follows:
Raiders Of The Lost Ark
Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade
Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom
Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull
Adventures Of Young Indiana Jones

Release Date:
22nd May 2008

The Scene To Look Out For:
Of all the scenes in all the Indy flicks, I am probably the only person who mostly enjoys watching Professor Jones skulk around a university. I know it may sound ridiculous but I find the concept of a lecturer running around jungles highly amusing. So, for me, the scenes to really look out for are at the start of the film, in-and-around the campus. The FBI pushing the dean to fire Indy, Jones' first meeting with Mutt, the bike chase that ensues, etc; solid stuff.

Notable Characters:
As stated above, I enjoyed the work of almost everyone involved and isolating one character in particular would be fairly stupid because it has to be Ford. No matter how well any of the cast performed, this whole film could have fallen neatly on its own arse if Indiana was in any way lacking or unbelievable (by unbelievable I simply mean in comparison to his previous outings).

Highlighted Quote:
"You know, for an old man you ain't bad in a fight. What are you, like 80?"

In A Few Words:
"A very solid and worthy addition to the Jones series but I'm quietly confident it may receive somewhat mixed reviews from others. If you ask me, this is a fine example of adventure film making"

Total Score:

Matthew Stogdon