I don’t know how the Times Online‘s John Harlow managed to see Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull “last week,” unless he put on a hat and a fake beard and snuck into an exhibitor screening. Nonetheless, he’s got a “review” up in the Sunday, 5.18 edition. However good or bad Indy 4 is, I’m not going to take Harlow’s word. His prose tells you right off he’s a relatively easy lay.
Harlow spends the first six paragraphs blah-blahing and blowing obsequious journo-farts. He finally gets down to a semblance of business in paragraph #7: “The good news for Harrison Ford fans is that Indy may be older and greyer, but there’s still a spark to his repartee,” he says, “and he still gets the girl in the end (the girl in question being Marion Ravenwood, played by Karen Allen, who was the love interest in the first Indiana movie, Raiders of the Lost Ark).
“Whether Ford’s charm will be enough to earn the film the $400 million it is estimated to need to recoup Paramount Pictures’ investment remains to be seen. However, a preview attended by The Sunday Times last week suggested that the internet gossips who have doubted the film’s drawing power may be proved wrong.
“Jones admits early on that chasing baddies is not as easy as it used to be. In one scene he escapes from a nuclear blast by hiding inside a lead-lined refrigerator. Science and probability were never among the series’ strong points.
“It rapidly becomes clear that since we last saw him saving the Holy Grail from the Nazis, Jones has become a sadder and more solitary character.
“His gloom is broken when an unlikely pair of treasure hunters — Mac, played by Britain’s Ray Winstone, and Mutt, played by Shia LaBeouf, a teen idol — warn him that the dastardly Soviet Union is after a crystal skull that, in the finest Indy tradition, offers dangerous powers to anyone who possesses it.
“Much has been made in internet chatrooms about LaBeouf’s potential impact on the film, and fears that he is merely a sop to lure teen viewers. Yet LaBeouf, who made a striking impact against computerized villains in Transformers, matches Ford quip for quip and leather jacket for leather jacket.
“The first Indiana Jones film in 1981 was Spielberg’s homage to the Saturday morning cliff-hanger serials of the 1930s. The latest film still has a pleasingly old-fashioned feel, with several long, slow shots, plastic-like foliage, tinny sound effects and a silly python.
Cate Blanchett makes an eye-catching appearance as Irina Spalko, the spooky leader of the Russain villainry; John Hurt, the veteran British actor, lurks menacingly as a rival hunter.
“The crystal skull itself was formerly the subject of obscure disagreement between Spielberg and Ford, but it’s now hard to see what the fuss was about. It might as well have been a brussels sprout for all the difference it makes to the plot.
“The real pleasure for series fans may lie not so much in the madcap action, the carnivorous bugs and the familiar perils of quicksand, but the restored romance between Ford and Allen, and the fatherly relationship that develops between Ford and LaBeouf, who is clearly the new pretender to his whip.
“Indy treats Mutt with the same sarcastic disdain that his own father, played by Sean Connery, lavished on him during the Last Crusade. You can probably guess how it all works out.
“The new film has long appeared critic-proof — audiences will flock to it whatever the critical verdict. Yet will it have the box-office legs to join its distinguished predecessors among the most popular films in Hollywood history?”
Here’s another early review from the Times Leader‘s Michael H. Price.