When your character rides off into the sunset, it is typically a satisfying way to end things and move on. It can also be tempting to bring them back as if you hold off, audiences might lose interest, actors go on to other projects and it becomes harder to return. In 2008, almost two decades after doing just that, an adventuring archaeologist, whose exploits have become legendary, dusted off the bull whip and fedora and made a return to Hollywood, in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
It is 1957, with Fascism defeated over a decade ago, Communism now threatens the American way of life. We find now part-time archaeologist Indiana Jones dealing with the deaths of Brody and his dad and has now been kidnapped by Russian operatives working on U.S. soil. Seeking some mysterious magnetic remains, Indy helped excavate ten years ago. After escaping, Indy soon discovers his former associate, Harold Oxley, has also disappeared in Peru, after discovering a mysterious crystal skull that could serve as the heart of the Soviet plot to brainwash the masses. As Jones explores ancient Peruvian temples, he encounters an old flame and potentially even a son. On an adventure that is out of this world.
Since Dr Jones rode off in 89, and in the subsequent years, society has changed, and the films have changed too to reflect this. An assortment of new characters makes an introduction, and the calibre of acting talent is top-notch. We get Jim Broadbent filling in for Denholm Elliott’s Marcus Brody, John Hurt as Oxley, who has been driven to madness after discovering the Crystal Skull’s secret. Along with an appearance from Ray Winstone, as Indy’s war-time partner and whose allegiances are more than murky. But it is the likes of Cate Blanchett as the ruthless and meticulous Irina Spalko, that helps elevate this film. The advance setting of 1957 brings with it some fresh opportunities. That mystical undercurrent that laid behind the original trilogy has been replaced with more science fiction focus. It is a logical transition, and the film takes it to some impressive places, with Indy coming face to face with the atomic age in one scene.
While some things have changed, others have stayed the same. Ford’s willingness to do stunts is impressive, even with C.G.I. helping him out. Despite the increasing utilisation C.G.I., the film has all the hallmarks of a classic Indy film: exotic locals, impressive score, and a lot of mystery and escapism. The return of Ravenwood is pleasant and is just one of the many call-backs this film has to offer to help remind audiences of a decade’s worth of escapades. We even get a return to the mysterious government warehouse from the ending of Raiders of the Lost Ark. The inclusion of Indy’s apparent son, Mutt. Stepping-in and sharing the brunt of the action, and reassuring audiences that a backup is available. Though it is debatable how willing audiences will be to go on subsequent adventures with Jones descendants and not Jones himself, though the option is there, and the character of mutt seems more than capable.
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull brings new and old into a classic caper, with its blockbusting combination appealing to all audiences. No bones about it, Harrison Ford still got it, and the new characters seem just as fitting in this universe as the previous franchise favourites. With a new Indy film on the horizon, the chance this formula will be replicated is at an all-time high. Despite bold changes, it remains a classic Indy film, and offer a chance to explore a new age with an old favourite.
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