Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
Directed by Steven Spielberg

Written by David Koepp, from a story by George Lucas and Jeff Nathanson

Starring Harrison Ford, Cate Blanchett, Karen Allen, Shia LeBeouf


Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

So at last we have the fourth and I hope the final Indiana Jones film - after all, Harrison Ford is in his sixties now and looks every bit of it. And what we notice right away is that the movie isn't very funny; somehow, since this is a George Lucas project (he produced it and co-wrote the story), it's all about action and not about the wit that was what we remember about his earlier ones.

It's a shame, because it starts out with a terrific moment; it's the 1950s and Indy finds himself in a Nevada atomic bomb test site, in the middle of a whole town of prop families and their homes that are about to be blown up when the bomb goes off. He saves himself by squeezing into a lead-lined refrigerator. I don't know if that would actually work, but I also don't care; it's what Indy would do.

But from there on, the film conncentrates on action rather than wit, and fades from view and memory within hours. There are Russian spies, led by Cate Blanchett, who want that crystal skull, but I'm not sure why. There is Indy's old flame from long ago, Karen Allen, who does her best to bring some life to the film; there's Indy's son - yes, it's true - by Karen, and played by the ubiquitous Shia LeBeouf. And of course there's another mad old professor (John Hurt), who carries the crystal skull around with him throughout the film.

Pretty soon, as these things go, they're all in, I believe, South America, where Indy is going to try to locate the civilization that created the skull. But now they're followed by Cate Blanchett and her gang, so there are endless chases, huge drops off of waterfalls the size of Niagara Falls, none of which do any harm to our heroes, of course, and then finally the ultimate reveal, which I will not share with you, except that it harkens back to an early Spielberg film (no names, please).

The only really live figure in the film is Karen Allen, who has a great smile and a lot of moxie. Cate Blanchett, in a Russian accent that, as Manohla Dargis said in the New York Times, keeps slipping to the south, even as far as Australia. Shia is really along for the ride, with not much to contribute except for one scene on a motorcycle where he's dressed to look like Marlon Brando. There's a lot of jungle, an endless chase where two army vehicles try to nudge each other off the jungle road - I thought I was watching "Speed Racer" again - but when "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" is over all we can do is breathe a sigh of relief.