Best Movies of All Time + Steven Spielberg



"How much of human life is lost in waiting?"

-- Professor 'Ox' Oxley
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is a 2008 action-adventure film directed by Steven Spielberg that serves as the fourth installment in the Indiana Jones franchise. Released nineteen years after The Last Crusade, this new adventure with Indiana Jones took a very different turn than its predecessors. The film opens on the 1950s, where an aged Indiana (Harrison Ford) has been taken captive by a group of Russian KGB operatives led by a Dr. Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett). At gunpoint, Indiana helps the Russians steal a classified box from a secret warehouse, but he does not know exactly what the box's contents contain. After being returned home, he thinks himself done with the situation until a young man named Mutt (Shia LaBeouf) seeks him out to tell him that a mutual friend named Professor 'Ox' Oxley (John Hurt) has been captured by the same Russians in connection with the box they stole. The two make their way to South America to find Ox, and it is there that they learn that their friend had found himself caught in a plot to find a legendary city called Akator by using an equally legendary artifact known as the crystal skull. Indiana and Mutt start to piece together the puzzle that Ox has left for them, but the Russians are soon on their tail once again, eager to find Akator first.

I would like to start this post by telling you a story. I was a sophomore in college in Santa Cruz when Kingdom of the Crystal Skull hit theaters, and like most other Indy fans, I was rather excited to see it. So excited, in fact, that I made the trek down to the local theater for the midnight screening on opening night. The theater was sold out, and fans were lined up around the block to see Ford don the fedora for the fourth time, so you can imagine our audience's anticipation as we sat impatiently waiting for the opening credits to roll.

Fast forward to a little over two hours later, and you would have found me walking out of the theater talking nothing but trash about this film. After that first go-around, I hated it. I despised it. I though that Spielberg had found a way to destroy one of my childhood cinematic heroes. And for that, I was rightfully angry. It took me a few days, but after I thought about the film for a while, I started to come around and think that maybe it wasn't as horrendous as I had originally thought. I soon came home for the summer, and I had the chance to view the film again per my father's request, and seeing Kingdom of the Crystal Skull actually helped to open my eyes to its concepts and themes a little bit more.

I always hear quite a bit of opposition towards this film when I talk about it amongst my friends and my readers, and I can somewhat see their point. I am in now way going to spend hours here trying to convince you of why this film fits into the Indiana Jones canon - although I may save that project for a later date - but I think that I should at least tell you why I happen to enjoy the film. Because so many people did not like Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, many actually forget that it managed to secure relatively positive reviews amongst the critical community. On, the film holds a seventy-seven percent approval rating and holds the following critical consensus:

Though the plot elements are certainly familiar, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull still delivers the thrills, and Harrison Ford's return to the title role is more than welcome.
Even more indicating of the critical response is the film's score of sixty-five on, which correlates to "generally favorable reviews." Still, so many of the fans have yet to come around, and I'm sure I know why.

Ultimately, it all boils down to the fact that Kingdom of the Crystal Skull does not measure up to its predecessors. Because those films set such a lofty bar, it would have been nearly impossible to reach that particular goal. Still, fans were deservedly spoiled by the first three installments, so why shouldn't they expect something the same, right? But enough of this vagueness. Let's talk about why I like this film.

For starters, I like the story. I think it's an original tale of something that an over-the-top archaeologist like Indiana Jones might actually find himself looking for. Sure, there are some snags here and there, but to be fair, none of the Indiana Jones flicks are perfect. They all have flaws here and there, and Kingdom just has a few more that it couldn't quite work out. But the storyline works well and flows incredibly well, and it manages to keep you wondering where it might actually be going. Let's be honest - did any of us really expect those climactic scenes in Akator? I think not, and I think that's why so many people have spoken out against it. But the story itself works and proves to be entertaining.

I also thought the cast proved to be effective as well. Ford does a fine job reprising his role from nearly twenty years earlier, and he plays the part to a tee considering how much he's aged. I also think that Blanchett was a good addition to the cast list, and her star power alone makes this one worth a gander. Some of my readers will know that I'm not much of a Shia LaBeouf fan, but after re-watching this today, I have to say that I'm not entirely turned off by his performance. It works well with the context of the story, and he's really not as central as I had remembered. John Hurt gives a fine performance in a supporting role, but it's so out there that I think most people overlooked it. Also be on the watch for decent supporting roles from the likes of Ray Winstone, Jim Broadbent and Karen Allen, who returns as Marion Ravenwood.

At the end of the day, there's no way that Kingdom of the Crystal Skull can ever be compared to the rest of the Indiana Jones franchise. However, that does not make it a terrible film. I think it's a movie that polarized a lot of viewers at the time of its release, but by giving it another chance now, I think many of them might be able to see past their original insecurities. Ultimately, it's an entertaining romp through the Indy universe, and for that, I think we should all be glad.

Movie Review SummaryGrade: BShould You Watch It? Yes

2008, action, adventure, Cate Blanchett, Harrison Ford, Indiana Jones, Jim Broadbent, John Hurt, Karen Allen, Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, movie review, Ray Winstone, scifi, Shia LaBeouf, and more: