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Vol. LXII, No. 22
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
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For more movie summaries, see Kam’s Kapsules.

WHEW, THAT WAS A CLOSE CALL!: Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford, left, standing), Mutt (Shia LaBeouf, center) and Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen) are escaping from their Communist captors in a vehicle, that in spite of being damaged beyond repair by their pursurers, somehow manages to keep on going.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull: Harrison Ford Returns in Revival of Indiana Jones Series

Kam Williams

Like the Beatles’ melancholy refrain in the song “When I’m 64,” Harrison Ford was probably wondering whether his fans would welcome back an “older” and “losing my hair” Indiana (Indy) Jones after a 19 year hiatus. That’s exactly how old the veteran actor was when Steven Spielberg started filming the fourth installment in the adventure series.

The good news is that Harrison has aged gracefully and is up to the challenge of his physically demanding role. However, the overall production is lacking in generating an intangible that I’ll call movie magic. The problem may be because the film, which will be measured against the three earlier movies, pales in comparison to them.

The earlier films are associated with carefully choreographed death defying stunts that you remember long after you’ve left the theater. Although this movie does feature several escape and chase scenes, none, in this critic’s opinion, would be considered unforgettable.

Gone is that palpable sense of urgency which kept you glued to the edge of your seat, a failing perhaps due to the generation of special effects using computer-generated imagery. So, instead of seeing our hero either actually running for his life from a careening boulder, riding under a truck, or swaying on a ripped rope bridge over a swarm of hungry crocodiles as in the earlier films, he spends a lot of his time emoting in front of a blue screen. However, Indiana Jones still sports his trademark whip and fedora.

The story is set in 1957. at the height of the cold war, and unfolds in the Nevada desert where we learn that Indy has been kidnapped by Russian spies who are led by the steely Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett), an Eastern European villainess cut from the familiar mold of Austin Powers’ Frau Farbissina and From Russia with Love’s Rosa Klebb. Captured and tied up in the trunk of a car, Jones is driven to Area 51, a top secret U.S. Air Force base that is about to be commandeered by the Communists.

To this day, many people who subscribe to the UFO theories believe that Area 51 contains the corpse of an alien removed from a spaceship that is supposed to have crashed in Roswell, New Mexico in 1947. The KGB spies want Dr. Jones to lead them to the alien’s mummified remains because, according to legend, the body might have the mysterious crystal skull, an ancient artifact that is said to be capable of unleashing limitless powers, provided it is taken to El Dorado — a lost city whose buildings are made of solid gold.

Ingenious Indy spectacularly escapes from his captors (including surviving an atomic blast) and the race is on to find the priceless skull. Along the way, he teams up with Mutt (Shia LaBeouf) and Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen), an old flame he last encountered when he was looking for the lost ark.

The ensuing expedition to the jungles of Peru is less edgy and dangerous than it could be because the plot telegraphs its punches and is populated with the usual suspects, such as the maniacal henchman (Igor Jijikine), the back-stabbing double-agent (Ray Winstone), the obsessed field researcher (John Hurt), and the bureaucratic academic (Jim Broadbent).

Thankfully Harrison Ford has the charisma to reinvent one of the most beloved characters in screen history. Indiana Jones, AARP edition: too spry for a rocking chair, but too ossified for much excitement.

Very Good (3 stars). Rated PG-13 for violence and frightening images. Running time: 124 minutes. Studio: Paramount Pictures.

For more movie summaries, see Kam’s Kapsules.

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