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Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Rating: 2.0

Rated: PG-13 for adventure action and violence.
Release Date: 2008-05-22
Starring: David Koepp, George Lucas
Film Genre:
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Finally, people will stop saying “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” was the bad one. “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” opens in the thick of the cold war, with Soviet agents forcing Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) to retrieve a mysterious artifact of great power. This early sequence and the few that follow it are when the cold war theme and anti-communist paranoia are most evident.

But shortly after, the story circles back to an extraterrestrial theme, which comes off extremely leaden here. The film briefly mentions Indy’s years of service as a colonel in World War Two, and his turn as a double agent in Berlin. I for one would have MUCH preferred to watch a movie called something like “The Treacherous Colonel Indiana Jones and the Valkyries of the Führer.” It’s not that the alien theme of this movie disappointed me, not in the least; it’s that once “Crystal Skull” sinks into that mystery, it loses the spirit of the 1950s suspense and horror movies it should be aping.

All those 50s genre movies were charged with the public’s fears: the cold war, nuclear weapons, communist subversion (or satire on the unfounded fear of that subversion), etc. Spielberg placed touches of that on the surface, but not the slightest hint of the subtext that can be explored so eloquently with that era. When only “Crystal Skull” flirts with these themes is when the Soviet Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett) describes the power of the titular skull: mind control. I was reminded of one of the classics of cold war paranoia, “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” albeit without the slightest subtlety. And aside from that description, we never again identify what exactly the skull’s power is – we never get to really see it in action. Spielberg breaks the first rule of the very adventure storytelling he perfected into an art form: show, don’t tell.

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