And so, 19 years after the now not-as-aptly-titled Last Crusade, Henry Jones Jnr is back, but not necessarily due to popular demand. From the get-go, there has been fan-boy negativity, with constantly updated reports of what the plot involved, including Shia LaBeouf possibly being taken on as a sidekick/son and eventual successor to Ford. And then there was all this talk of aliens, Area 51 and other such sci-fi nonsense. But what people need to remember is that Indy has previously been chasing The Ark Of The Covenant, magical Voodoo Sankara Stones, and last, but by no means least, The Holy Grail itself. Following Indy on his perilous travels has always required a strong suspension of disbelief, and with his latest outing, your enjoyment of the movie will really depend of how strong that suspension really is.
Starting off at a breakneck pace and only pausing for breath during the obligatory visit to his college, its 1957, and Indy has been kidnapped by Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett, giving the accent all she’s got), and brought to Nevada, where Spalko has found “Area 51”, which is in fact that massive warehouse from the end of Raiders, and somewhere inside here is something that she wants very badly. There is very little that can be said about the actual plot-points without giving pretty much everything away. Needless to say, Jones escapes from the clutches of Spalko, only to be brought back in when Mutt gives him a letter from his mother, Marian Ravenwood (Karen Allen) which in itself was written by Professor Oxley (John Hurt), a fellow archaeologist and surrogate father to Mutt, who’s own father wasn’t around (ahem).
And so from there Jones and sidekick Mutt follow the clues left by Oxley to find the mystical Crystal Skulls, a plot device that suffers similarly to the Sankara Stones due to the relative lack of knowledge of their existence by general Joe Public. But they do suit the gear shift from the late 30’s of the original trilogy, to the mid 50’s that this is set in. Spielberg does a good job setting the tone; all Elvis songs, massive pastel dresses and fights between townies and greasers, not to mention one of the most iconic images of the entire franchise being that of Indy standing against the backdrop of a massive nuclear mushroom cloud.
Nobody does huge, epic and yet specific set-pieces like Spielberg, but even given the backdrop to the story, alot of the last 45 minutes of the movie will test your patience. While it is a non-stop breathless action set-piece followed by action set-piece, alot of what occurs will most likely take you right out of the thick of it, due to your own sniggering at the ridiculous-ness of it all.
Any worries anyone might have about the now 65 year old Ford being too old for this shit needn’t bother fretting, he’s still as sarky, snarky and gruff as he ever was, if not even more so. The chemistry he once had with Ravenwood is no longer as sparky, but he does get to bounce some good lines of LaBeouf (who isn’t nearly as irritating as his first scene in the movie makes him out to be) and Blanchett, who seems to relish not playing someone in a corset. However, some other actors seem entirely out of place here. Ray Winstone’s entire character arc will be obvious to everyone within 5 seconds of his screentime, John Hurt gets to do nothing but look distracted and slightly crazed, and poor Jim Broadbent barely gets a look in.
So, in total, this is basically the Die Hard 4.0 of the Indy series; everything that made the originals great is still in place, but the situation that they find themselves has pushed the envelope so far to please the modern day “everything bigger is better” audience that it buggers belief, taking something that could’ve been awful, and making it good, when it could’ve been great.
Lucas has already stated that for Indy 5, LaBeouf will take centre stage with Ford playing Connery’s role from The Last Crusade. Don’t know about you, but the idea of following the adventures of Mutt Jones just doesn’t seem as appealing…..
Six Point Five Out Of Ten