Can we pretend the Indy films were just a trilogy? Because from the opening moment when the prairie dog pops his head out of the ground to the sequences with young sidekick Shia LaBeouf swinging from trees with monkeys, I found Steven Spielberg’s Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (F) stomped on everything this franchise held sacred. Harrison Ford gives a truly haggard performance opposite a poorly-accented Cate Blanchett as a Russian villain. There is also a survivable nuclear blast and a UFO visit. And surprisingly, there’s not one interestingly staged action sequence. There are cameos from past movies, and then those characters are given nothing interesting to do. This is the only film in the series in which the quest isn’t well articulated, in which the characters are lazy and cynical and in which there’s little joy or continuity from scene to scene. A 19-year hiatus between films should have yielded better than this. It’s an epic misfire.
Adding to the charm Harrison Ford brings to the heroic role, Steven Spielberg’s Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (A) layers in a flashback sequence with River Phoenix as Young Indy and introduces an inspired casting companion: Sean Connery as Indy’s dad. The two Joneses go on a quest to find the Holy Grail (before the Nazis get it, of course!). The family dynamic helps make fresh what might otherwise feel like a retread. We get exotic locales from Italy to Jordan and a highly sentimental set of sequences as father-son bonding and bickering become a major part of the equation. Since Indiana Jones was always Spielberg’s James Bond type franchise, the pairing of Indy with the original 007 is a great casting excavation. It’s a triumphant send-off for a trilogy of outstanding action films; I’ll try to forget that one more misguided sequel happens many years later.
Related link: One of my jobs in the 1990’s was developing the in-store magazine and Website for a video rental chain called MOOVIES. Here’s one of the few remaining sidebars: A run-down of Sean Connery’s movies: Link here.
Steven Spielberg’s Raiders of the Lost Ark (A+) is a rollercoaster ride through history as archeologist protagonist Indiana Jones races against time to find the Ark of the Covenant before the Nazis do. It is said to have powers that will protect an army; in the wrong hands, it could help evil forces conquer the world. Spielberg gives his grizzled hero simple tools (a bullwhip, an occasional map), a spunky girlfriend (Karen Allen) and a globetrotting trip from Peru to Egypt and beyond as he chases antiquities. Harrison Ford is at his very best in this role; and the effects and stunts are epic. This is one of the great modern adventures, told with wide-eyed wit and wisdom.