Thursday, May 22, 2008

Indiana Jones No Classic, But It Has Moments

One of the summer’s expected blockbuster movies, “Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull” opened at 12:01 this morning.

For movie fans of a certain age, those of us who first saw now-65-year-old Harrison Ford in the initial Indiana Jones, “Raiders Of The Lost Ark,” back in 1981, the nostalgia of seeing the swashbuckling leading man is perhaps enough to justify the two hours its takes to watch the movie.

“For an old man you ain’t bad in a fight. What are you, about 80?” says Indiana Jones’ new protégé, Mutt Williams, played by Shia LaBeouf (an actor to watch).

Even the villains make one nostalgic. In this Jones installment, the fourth, set in 1957 at the height of the Cold War, it is the old Soviets who are Jones’ enemies, and in the end, of course, his foils. To be sure, the Soviets had us on the brink of nuclear war, of mutually assured self-destruction, and at 38 I’m old enough to remember the bomb drills in school, but with the more elusive, unpredictable Islamic terrorists as real-life contemporary foes, the Russians just don’t inspire the same fear they did back in the 1980s.

To get back into a fear-the-KGB mode is a stretch for a modern audience. But A-list actress Cate Blanchett does an effective job as Irina Spalko, a steely KGB agent sent to find the crystal skulls, which are supposed to unlock an ancient civilization with a link to aliens.

At times the script moves along with about as much logic as the old Dungeons & Dragons games I used to “dungeon-master” in as a geeked-out, Dr. Peppered-up junior high kid. But this is the movie’s target audience, and the wildly veering mix of ancient and supernatural is what Indy is all about.

The movie starts with Jones in New Mexico, in the area the government used to test nuclear weapons. Not only does he escape the Russians but Indiana Jones perhaps performs his coolest feat to date: he survives a nuclear bomb detonation, although it strains credulity that he’s standing close enough to see the mushroom cloud. But hey, school’s out in Carroll, the popcorn’s popping and this is the movies.

There’s a rollicking motorcycle chase through a college campus.

And, of course, there is a signature fight scene like the legendary one in “Raiders” where Jones casually watches a bad guy show off his martial arts skills, and just shoots him.

The one in “Skull” is not as classic but it has some cool elements.

Which is a fair way to sum up the full movie.

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