Never a dull moment when the dark horse of a series is better than a previous entry. Mid-2000s internet culture, for those old enough to remember it, was a place to mock the nuking of the fridge. To jump the shark, to utilise 1950s technology as a way to survive nuclear blasts. What a life. It was a time of references and easter eggs, where even Fallout: New Vegas had some heavy punches for the return of Indiana Jones. Whether Kingdom of the Crystal Skull has aged well is neither here nor there. It has not, let us set the record straight regardless. What it does provide though is a return to the roots of the series, and not a bad one at that.
Of course, Steven Spielberg bites off more than he can swallow, and Harrison Ford is not up to the task when flanked by Ray Winstone and Shia LaBeouf. Nobody would be. What they do find in this alien-clad section of hijinks and big events is a sense of tribute to the films which were long behind it. Attitudes have surely mellowed to a feature which has a breakdown of the Jones character, hidden deep within the gluttony of Mac (Winstone) and the warning shot of passing the torch to Mutt (LaBeouf). Perhaps this is the nostalgia talking, though. For a generation who boasted of their best years spent watching Jones punch Nazis and nick highly sought-after valuables, a Cold War turn and a new release for the next generation is no small fish to fry.
Kingdom of the Crystal Skull may leave a sour taste in the mouths of those who remember the first time around, but it does shake some of the magic and charm the series once held. It is better than Temple of Doom, that is for sure. Not just because Kingdom of the Crystal Skull enlists John Hurt as a missing professor and Denholm Elliot replacement but because its adaptation from Germany to Russia as enemy number one is far better handled than those of the time. James Bond had to navigate that right into the early 1990s and still came up short after thirty years of trying. Still, the performances through Kingdom of the Crystal Skull are solid, and mounting the small hurdle of plot devices and literal, crystal skulls with these strange alien folk. Still, Cate Blanchett has a decent turn and Igor Jijikine adds a nice flourish.
Hollow? A little. It wears the skin of an Indiana Jones film but does not quite hold the watertight storytelling as Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Last Crusade. Of course it does not. Few of those iconic-like features do. But what it captures is a resemblance, and sometimes that is good enough. Concede it is lesser, take it for what it is. Nicely timed bits and pieces, a decent story which settles well while the sun starts lowering itself, tucked nicely onto the horizon. Pure entertainment if the realities of each and every section can be suspended. It worked out alright for the face-melting of the first, didn’t it? Kingdom of the Crystal Skull has some semblance of heart to it. The pieces are there, they just get battered around a bit.