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

Rating: C

Dir: Steven Spielberg
Star: Harrison Ford, Shia LaBeouf, Cate Blanchett, Ray Winstone

Harrison Ford is 64. That kept ringing round my head, especially during the opening action, when the back of the stuntman’s head got as much camera-time as Ford’s face. It’s been nineteen years since the last entry in the series; Lucas and Spielberg opt to throw as much as they can of post-war pop-culture in there, from the Cold War through Roswell and on to nuclear tests, UFOs and the famed crystal skulls of South America. The main thrust is one of the last-named, which is being sought by Soviet agent Irina Spalko (Blanchett), as she believes it will enhance her work in psychic research.

It’s up to Jones (Ford) and the son (LaBeouf) of his former friend to make sure the artifact doesn’t fall into the pesky Russkies hands, a task that will take them from the ivy league confines of New England, all the way to the depths of the Peruvian rainforest. In other words, chases, traps, puzzles and snakes: much as we’ve seen before, with the irritating and unwelcome addition of LeBeouf as a sidekick, in place of, and not an improvement on, Short Round. You’d better have your disbelief removed before viewing this, not least for the sequence in which a household appliance proves entirely resistant to nuclear weapons: and, to think, we spent all that money on bunkers, when we could just have called up Frigidaire.

It may seem churlish to complain about such things in an Indiana Jones film, but the early entries previously seemed at least marginally grounded in reality; no such fears here. Maybe it’s that I was a good deal younger (and less cynical?) when the first couple of entries came out. Blanchett joins the list of Oscar-winners slumming it in brainless action flicks, and isn’t bad, demonstrating a surprisingly hands-on approach to the action. The film does perk up in the second-half with a rousing Jeep chase through the forest, but then descends into a thoroughly implausible climax, even by the standards of the series. If it’s nineteen years until the next one – with an 83-year old Ford – I won’t mind too much.