Steven Spielberg Retrospective: Part 25-Review of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of Crystal Skull


Article By: Dan Clark

After years of rumors and suspicions of an Indiana Jones return to the silver screen fans finally got their wish in 2008 when Steven Spielberg and Harrison Ford finally teamed up once more for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of Crystal Skull. When you have a franchise that has left such an indelible mark on pop culture like this one the pressure could not be any higher to live up to fan’s expectations. Perhaps that pressure was too great of a feat to overcome, because what we are left with is an installment that pales in comparison to what came before. The core of what made these films so memorable is replaced with overdone computer effects, a haphazard plot full of ludicrousness, and action scenes that go beyond any form of plausibility. After Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade  Spielberg leaves you wanting more. After Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of Crystal Skull  Spielberg leaves you wanting your money back.

Both Jones and Ford are not quite the same men they were when we last saw them together in the Last Crusade. The gruff is more pronounced and the gray hairs a little thicker, but that ineffable charm is still ever present.  To Ford’s credit even with his adIndiana Jonesvanced age he is still able to pull off many of the action scenes, and the right hook sounds as crisp as ever. Obviously for the more complex stunts it is very evident he is getting an assist from a stunt double. It is reminiscent of Sean Connery’s last few films as Bond where they seemingly embrace the irony of the obvious student double. Overall Indy is a fraction of his former self, yet a fraction of Indy is still better than most.

The film rightfully recognizes the time change as it takes place 19 years after the events of The Last Crusade.  As much as things change they remain the same. The Nazi threat has long been defeated, but the threat of the Soviet Union is as strong as ever. A group of Soviets led by Irina Spalko  (Cate Blanchett) have captured Indy and plans to use him to obtain a power artifact from a secret US military base. Though Indy is eventually able to break free from his captive state, they are able to obtain their sought after prized possession. Knowing the potential power this crystal skull holds Indy embarks on a mission to retrieve it before too much damage can be done. As the story progresses the plot becomes more and more elaborate. Indy travels to far off lands and gets into an endless amount of trouble, but the adventure is always muted. There is little sense of awe or wonder, which is largely due to a lack of mystery. The crystal skull mystery is so bluntly obvious it’s hard to get lost in the wonderment it attempts to create.

One aspect this franchise is known for is the ability to come out of the gate strong. The opening of Raiders of the Lost Ark  is one of the most iconic moments in movie history, and the proceeding films have followed suit. Here we do start with might be the overall best action sequence, but it’s mostly due to the ineffectiveness of what follows.  The tone and the atmosphere start off on the right foot. It has the combination of mystery, intrigue, and creativity that have made these films great. Watching Indy come up with a clever way to find this magnetic skull was very reminiscent of the character many of us have grown to love. The action scene that follows is also full of chaotic fun that has been so prevalent in past films. It was able to make a seemingly boring looking warehouse into quite the playpen of adventure.

However, most of the action that follows quickly loses its charm. This franchise has consistently been able to design over the top action sequences that still maintain a credible amount of believabilCyrstal Skullity. While Temple of Doom  was guilty of pushing the envelope too far, Crystal Skull  pushes the envelope inside a refrigerator and blows it up with a nuke. Obliviously this installment has a number of moments that have become iconic for the wrong reasons. ‘Nuking the Fridge’ has subsequently become the movie mantra version of ‘jumping the shark’.  Besides the more notorious moments the action in general misses the mark. There are flashes that are certainly remarkable, and the intricacy involved in the complex choreography is impressive.   The issue is these sequences never ring true. They become these cartoonish parades of crazy antics.  What could have been a fun ride turn into a frenzied mess.

One of the biggest disconnects this film suffers from is a failure to create quality characters. When your title character is a shadow of his former self you need to surround him with other intriguing characters. Teaming him up with Shia LaBeouf is not a way to accomplish that goal. LaBeouf has skills as an actor, but his role in this just doesn’t suit his talents. His character Mutt Williams is clearly designed to be the new kid on the block. His bravado and physicality always feel false. He feels less like a character and more like a movie studio’s attempt to skew younger. On a positive note Karen Allen does reprise her role as Marion Ravenwood and she feels like her old rambunctious self. Her relationship with Indy is not quite what it used to be. Their chemistry has clearly waned through the years. It doesn’t help matters that very little time is spent on rekindling that flame. The one character that did stand above the rest was Cate Blanchett as Irina Spalko. She went all in with the craziness. Her portrayal would fit perfectly into the classic serials these films emulate.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of Crystal Skull  is proof that sometimes it is better to leave people wanting more. Trying to rehash past greatness will almost always lead to disappointment. Crystal Skull  does nearly everything possible to tarnish what came before. These actors are not the same people they once were, and Spielberg is clearly not the same director. He ostensibly has lost sight of what made this franchise so great in the first place.

Final Rating:


Show More

Dan Clark

A fan of all things comics, movies, books, and whatever else I can find that pass the time. Twitter: @DXO_Dan Instagram: Comic_concierge


  1. “Your grandfather would’ve been proud” or whatever the hell the last line was in the film homaging Sean Connerys role in Last Crusade was the only enjoyable thing for me in this film. It’s not just the TF Films that prove Shia LeBitch is a horrid actor it’s this too.

    1. I don’t think Shia is a bad actor by any means. He’s one of the few things I enjoy about the Transformers movies (though he can get annoying). The failures of this movie and Transformers has nothing to do with him.

      1. he’s still a shitty actor because he’s given the shittiest of all shitty roles. The only time I ever enjoyed him was when he was on Disney Channel as Ren’s annoying brother Louis Stevens in Even Stevens…. when he went big screen his acting shit the bed. Looking at his filmography the only film I enjoy him in is I, Robot…. and that was just a cameo that he was in.

        1. Are you talking about his roles or his performances, because
          those are two very different things? If you want to blame someone for his roles in Transformers and this movie blame the writers and director. If anything he did decently well for what he was given.

          His range as an actor is limited for sure, but he was fine in Lawless, Distrubia, and a few other films. He is more personality than performance, but to call him a bad actor is clearly just fanboy fodder due to his role in the Transformers movies. If you don’t like him as a person or his personality fine, but that doesn’t make him bad actor.

          1. This is why I can’t wait til we get to the GCR ep all about entertainment becoming actual news. I don’t give a crap about Shia’s personal life. For what I’ve seen him in he is by far the worst actor in the last 7 years. I watch the TF films for the giant robots.

            He could have actually attempted to make the character of Sam not sound as douchey as he is. With this film Crystal Skull I saw no chemistry at all between him and Indy…. because they dance around the fact that they are father and son…. ugh!

          2. He’s not choosing the lines he is reading, and the chemistry
            thing is as much on Ford as it is him. Not to mention the casting director that chose him for the role based on their chemistry. Again all the issues you seem to have are based on the role and not on the performance. Could he have done more with the role? Perhaps, but there wasn’t much there to begin with.

            I wasn’t talking about his personal life either. I was talking about his personality. He can be abrasive so I can understand how he can get annoying, but that doesn’t make him a bad actor. Again, your hatred for him is clearly due to his role in the Transformers movie, because he took away screen time from the giant robots. Again his character was a poor choice, but that’s more on the script and director. Plus how can you say he is the worst actor in the last 7 years when his costars Megan Fox and whoever the girl was
            in the last one are a trillion times

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Back to top button
%d bloggers like this: