Dr. Henry Jones (Harrison Ford) is back and with World War II over, Russian communists become the bad guys for Indy to defeat. A badly accented Cate Blanchett plays Col. Dr. Irina Spalko, who is on a quest to find the Crystal Skulls, which is said to have the power of mind control. Indy meets up with a young rebel (Shia LaBeouf), who comes complete with a switchblade, leather jacket, and motorcycle. He wants to find his father and his mother who went missing looking for the skulls. Eventually, Indy finds himself once again facing off against the forces of evil and along the way, learns a secret he may not be prepared to handle.
A lot of personal hype was riding on this movie. I don't sugarcoat the fact I'm an Indiana Jones fan. I have the box set and have seen all three films numerous times. My personal favorite is the first one. Keeping with the tradition of the Indy films, the film has great action. There is a great motorcycle chase, a chase through a mysterious jungle, and a fight scene involving killer ants. The scenes are wonderful and just fun to watch. They don't have the Michael Bay style of editing so we get to focus on the action instead of being distracted by the technical aspects of the film.
One addition that turns my heart to gold is seeing Karen Allen back as Marion Ravenwood. She is an unrecognized actress who never got her due in Hollywood. She didn't do much after the 80's, and I can't name off the top of my head anything noteworthy after Starman, but she brings back the strong will and fierceness that she gave to her character. Despite her age, she is not a helpless woman. She can hold her own against the main cast in the film. Another talent is Shia LaBeouf. This kid has a great future in movies. He will be going on to great things. He's smart, funny, and tough who plays the role of a rebel just right.
All praise aside, I for some reason feel more inclined to discuss the downsides of this film. First off, this movie doesn't look like an Indiana Jones film. It has a new cinematographer, which is the reason why. The first three were filmed by Douglas Slocombe, while this one was filmed by Janusz Kaminski, a favorite of Spielberg's. The first three films had this unique comic book look to them. I can't explain that well how this one looks, but it doesn't look like an Indiana Jones film. The film is also too long. Some scenes go on with too much yap and not enough zap. A scene with Indy talking to the dean of the college he works at in his office really was just more of a nod to the fans of the series and it should have been handled with less time consumption.
It is well noted that director Steve Spielberg has claimed this film would use little CGI. To be honest, it was producer Frank Marshall who said this: "Steven (Spielberg) is very aware of the process and we're not cheating with CG (computer graphics) at all. It keeps the B movie feel." It doesn't seem like they kept their word. The film seems to be heavily laden with computer effects from backgrounds, animals, sets, and other entities that probably could've been used with traditional effects. It's disappointing to see these effects. I am sure that some scenes had to be done with CGI, but that doesn't give the filmmakers the excuse to use it ad nauseum.
Perhaps my biggest problem is the ending. This a minor spoiler for those reading. I think Spielberg has an affinity with aliens. Aliens are his deus ex machina. It was great in Close Encounters of the Third Kind and E.T., but it gets very tiresome. Aliens did not have to be answer to this film's conclusion. It doesn't fit into the Indiana Jones arc. There have been elements of fantasy in these films, but they fit well into the films. The aliens don't. It feels very forced, as if the director said "I have to make a reference to aliens and UFOs somehow." It should be in a scifi film. Not an action-adventure-comedy.
Was the fourth installment of Indiana Jones worth it? I say yes. It's got flaws. It's a much different movie than the other three. It could've been a lot better. Maybe I'll even say the movie was not necessary to make. Indeed, Spielberg could have just re-released all three films ala Star Wars, without the updated effects of course. But I can't hide that I did enjoy the film. It's got great action and the nostalgia is just too much to turn it down.