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Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)
Rated PG13

Starring: Harrison Ford, Shia LeBeouf, and Cate Blanchett

Rating:
**1/2
out of
*****

Regardless of what I have to say about the fourth Indiana Jones film, if you're a fan of the series chances are, you've already seen it. And, if you have already seen it, why would you care what I have to say about it? After a nineteen year wait between this installment and 1989's glorious Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, the only reason to read a review would be to see if someone else was as disappointed as you were after seeing it. Right?

Well, let's get it out of the way, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is not in the same league as the first or third film in the series. The original Raiders of the Lost Ark was a loving tribute to the cliffhanger films of the 1940s. The Last Crusade's success was largely attributable to the chemistry between Sean Connery and Harrison Ford. The second film, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, was perceived as a loud, unfocused, and ultimately disappointing sequel and Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is as much of a letdown, if not more so.

Taking place in 1957, Kingdom of the Crystal Skull finds Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) tangling with the KGB for possession of a crystal skull that is said to give whoever finds it unlimited power or something equally preposterous. Indy must also deal with another, perhaps more insidious, foe: the ravages of time. Along the way, he encounters some old friends and a significant new one.

Since the series has skipped over World War II and jumped straight into the Cold War, the transition from the evil Nazis to the relative mediocrity of the Soviets is a bit of a jolt. Cate Blanchett's portrayal of a Russian scientist/soldier/dominatrix borders on the ridiculous, especially considering the talent she possesses as an actress. She's not evil; she's laughable.

The original trilogy of Indiana Jones movies were made before computer graphics became the de facto standard for making movies appear "epic" in scope. The result is that this installment, which makes full use -- some might say overuse -- of CGI, looks like a cartoon on more than one occasion. Minor spoiler to make my point: the original films might have asked their audience to believe it's possible to go over a waterfall and survive. This one asks you to believe it's possible to go over three -- in succession -- without anyone so much as getting a scratch.

Despite a long string of bad movies that might hint otherwise, Harrison Ford is still convincing as Indiana Jones. Seeing him wear the fedora and crack his whip one more time was admittedly a big thrill. Seeing him have to suffer through this half-baked, CGI-infested, absent-of-fun mess, however, was not. What ultimately saves the movie from being a complete waste of time is the fact that this is an Indiana Jones adventure. Being able to hear the theme music swell and see Indy take on the bad guys one more time may be pure nostalgia, but it's really the only thing this movie has going for it.

Trivia: Shia LaBeouf signed on for the film in April 2007, so excited about doing an Indy film that he didn't even read the script. To prepare for his role as the greaser Mutt Williams, LeBeouf repeatedly watched the previous three Indiana Jones films and gained fifteen pounds of muscle. (Source: The Internet Movie Database)

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