Review: Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull

Published 7 years ago by , Updated June 10th, 2008 at 1:35 am,

Short version: While it definitely had its moments and plenty of nods to the fans, there was also more ridiculousness than we’ve ever seen in an Indiana Jones film.

indiana jones review Review: Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull

Ok, I’d really like an easy movie to review for a change…

Reviewing the first Indiana Jones movie to be released in 20 years and directed by Steven Spielberg is not something I take lightly. It’s no secret that I haven’t exactly been fired up for this film or a big cheerleader for it (our writer Niall has taken that upon himself here at Screen Rant), but I truly hoped it would be great even if I didn’t think it would be.

So was it awful? Of course not. But was it great? Unfortunately, no.

What it was is pretty ridiculous in more than a couple of places – but oh, how it tried to be awesome… (BTW, I tried to keep this review as spoiler free as possible.)

From the start it seemed like they were doing things right with the opening credits matching the style of the original Raiders of the Lost Ark, and with the Paramount logo fading into a similarly styled mound of dirt. However I actually cringed when the writers credit appeared and one of the two names was George Lucas.

It opened up on a scene out in the Nevada desert that established right away the time period of the film with a bunch of 1950′s teenagers out racing their 32 Ford painted with flames. They come upon a military convoy and a bit of a race ensues that although the movie has just started, seems weirdly out of place. Shortly thereafter the tone changes to classic Indiana Jones and I’ll admit that I got a bit of a rush from seeing the scene in the trailer where Harrison first picks up his hat in its full context.

This time the villains are Communist Russians instead of Nazis, and they too are after some artifact that will give them ultimate power. We end up at a very familiar storage facility the first test of whether Harrison Ford can still pull off the role kicks off.

Can he still don the fedora, leather jacket and whip respectably? Yes, indeed.

As a matter of fact he portrays the character quite well and with more confidence than Jones displayed in the previous three films. It works because it seems he’s been “adventuring” for the entire time that has passed since we’ve last seen him.

Despite his age, the sequences are almost believable and at the end of the scene we get to see just how “buff” Ford is in the film, making it a bit easier to suspend our disbelief.

The problem with the movie however is just how FAR we have to suspend reality. The Indy films, while fantastic in their own way, have always had some sort of connection to reality both in the action sequences and the mythic basis for the stories. But here there are scenes and plot ideas that just seem way too over the top for an Indiana Jones movie. One escape by him shortly after the scenes I just described is:

A. Stupid.

B. Looks like it belongs in a superhero movie via the implausibility of his having survived.

From there however it gets pretty decent again as we meet Shia Lebouf’s “young tough” character, who seeks out Dr. Jones in order to save his mother and older family friend. Shia does a very decent job in the film and is enjoyable to watch. They were wise to not write him as a wide-eyed “Indy Jr.” in training.

One of the enjoyable things about the film are the many “hat tips” to the earlier films that real fans of the first three films will notice. I’m pretty sure that repeat viewings will expose more that the viewer may miss the first time around. In once scene we see a familiar artifact, and in another there’s a funny role reversal regarding Indy’s and “Mutt’s” (yes, that’s the name of Shia’s character) escape from some bad guys which compares to a scene between Harrison Ford and Sean Connery.

It was also great to see Karen Allen back in the familiar role. Of course she’s much older now but she still had that familiar sparkle. It’s too bad they didn’t make better use of her in the film.

There were a few moments that will charge you up, mainly due to the familiar John Williams music and the unique sound effects attached to anyone getting punched and the good old whip. But then there are other things that are laughable, and I don’t mean in a way that they intended to make you laugh. One of them involves Shia in the jungle (I won’t spoil it) and a big one is just who the mystery is about.

So in the end, will audiences like this? Yeah, I’m pretty sure they will. Should they have left well enough alone and not milked the franchise for another film? That’s a tougher question – I can see how it could have been really great and I would LOVE to know what the original screenplay for this was like. If they make another one and bring the action and story a bit more down to earth it might actually turn out even better than this one.

Our Rating:

3.5 out of 5
(Very Good)

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  1. Man, I can’t wait for it! Even if it’s a bit far fetched.

    I have no doubts that Ford rocks in this role.

    Go Indy!!!


  2. Thanks for the early review Vic.
    it combins some of my hopes and fears for the film.
    come next Saturday, I will know if I agree with you .
    I fear that I most certainly will.
    Just a feeling,
    The mystery involved here doesnt thrill me.

  3. I could have used a little warning. This is one of the movies I don’t want to see a review for, before I see it. Like Iron Man, I wanted nothing to edge my opinion. Because no matter what you say, reviews lead your view of the movie before u even see it. Like if I hear a movie sucks, then I’ll go in looking for bad and find it, when I may have enjoyed it.

    I don’t mind much its just I didn’t expect less than a 4 for this and now I have slight doubts. And a review already gosh.

  4. Surma ,
    before watching the film deactivate all logic centers of your brain.
    bask yourself in nostalgic memories of the previous indy films,
    just Raiders alone ought to do the trick!
    these things will help counteract the effect of any negative opinions.

  5. the big question is who is cooler indiana jones or jack sparrow but i can’t wait for this one

  6. Indiana Jones or Jack Sparrow?
    If you have to ask…

  7. I am SO glad you got to see this early, Vic! That way I could read your review before seeing it, lol.

    I had a feeling this one would be a little wacky after hearing some of the titles for the unused scripts, “IJ and the saucer men from Mars”, WTH?

    But I will probably ejoy the film anyway. Be back here after I see it! :-)

    praying for no son of Indiana Jones in this…..

  8. Uh oh, I expected you would at least give this one a 4. Over the top CGI, aliens? Please tell me there are no aliens (from space) in this one? Vic, you don’t have to tell me what’s going on but please, tell me 790 was kidding and there are no space aliens in this film?

  9. I remember seeing the first Indy-movie when it had its second run in our town’s cinemas (somewhere around 1983-84). Fantastic entertainment and a great yarn!

    Then came Temple of Doom and I enjoyed that one quite a lot too! Saw it even twice in the cinema. Very different in many ways but still a good sequel – much as Empire Strikes Back had been very different from the original Star Wars (and screw that “Episode”-crap, back then there was only *one* Star Wars).

    Finally, Last Crusade arrived and my mother was the first one of the family to see it! She loved it and so did I.

    And then… everyone was waiting for more sequels. The TV-series was interesting but a bit too loud if you ask me. Oh, and I never forgave them for slaughtering the Australian movie THE LIGHTHORSEMEN and “integrate” its remains into a couple of episodes.

    And then… the 80s went and the 90s came and nothing happened (except for the Indy IV-game which was great).

    And when I grew older it didn’t matter anymore. Even when Peter Jackson finally got The Lord Of The Rings (properly) together it wasn’t that important anymore.

    And now they are “restarting” (or “resurrecting”) some of the older, more succesful franchises… and ruin them.

    I remember seeing Harrison Ford in that excellent submarine-drama K-19 by Kathryn Bigelow and thinking “gosh, he’s gotten really ooold!”

    Nope, I never expected a “decent” Indiana Jones-sequel. Just a quick rehash to cash in some money. Remember the quasi-Bond movie NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN? Same thing.

    Too negative? Well, Stallone for example got it right – twice! So you better go and ask him for advice next time. ;)


  10. Awe come on Vic don’t you believe in Aliens? ;-)
    Good review btw. You kept it as spoiler free as you could, but then I allways read between the text…

    The first drafts I’ve heard were so over the top that Harrison Ford told Lucas “I’m not doing that!” And Speilberg agreed. Lol.

    Yeah KEL no bastard son!!!!
    Rejoice!!!! (Church bells)
    Ding dong ding dong ding ding ding dong. Repeat….

    This film will be huge.

  11. O boy, another Klingon that dosnt believe in Aliens.

    John, I’ve read that the reason Harrison Ford didn’t originally want to do this was because Martians were in the script.
    Since he’s doing it now I’m sure that’s been toned down a tad.
    But I’m fairly sure the Crystal Skull is Alien. I mean just look at it.

  12. All aliens are subjects of the Klingon Empire! qaplaQ!!


    Well, 790, my curiosity got the best of me and I found out by going to a spoiler site. I won’t devulge whether there are aliens or not, but I found the truth.

  13. Is it just me, or would the title of the film be better as just “Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull”? Not as long winded….


  14. Yeah I think your right, Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull, sounds better…

  15. it seems like the recipe of a good Indiana Jones film would be 1 part Nazis and 1 part biblical artifact… the Soviet army does a pretty good job of replacing the Nazis, but the other ingredient…

  16. OK, I JUST got back from the midnight showing of Indy and I absolutely LOVED it!!! Man, it was SOOO awesome to see Indy back in action!! The action, the quick one-liners and the nod to the first films got me. Were there parts that were “WTF?”, yes, there were. On the whole, though, this was a great movie. Spielberg kept the spirit of Indiana Jones alive, and I for one will be seeing this one again. I read some reviews that stated that the film got muddled in the middle. Well, IMO, those are probably the people who loved Ghandi and Chariots of Fire. This movie ROCKED and you won’t be disappointed!!!
    Hell, I might go see it again tomorrow for the matinee!!

  17. Good, honest review, man.

    As for Indy 4, it was one of the worst sequels I’ve ever seen. It shouldn’t even be included with the Indy franchise. Short Round couldn’t even save this movie.

    First half of the movie wasn’t bad. Some parts were actually kinda clever. Second half was……. ughhhh. It turned into a really bad version of the X-Files.

    Save your money. Wait till it hits DVD.

  18. Morning…er afternoon all! Just woke up and the day’s half gone. I also attended a midnight preview/premier of the new Indiana Jones movie and thought I would try to pass on my thoughts about the film while attempting a reboot by way of strong coffee and a bowl of Captain Crunch.

    I’ll start by thanking Steven and George for reviving this marvelous franchise. The most endearing quality about these films is the audience’s willingness to suspend their disbelief. Let’s face it, folks in real life don’t often escape some of the predicaments that Jones does over the course of their lives, much less over the course of the movie’s story arc.

    I think that the filmakers realize that they are pandering to the little kid in all of us that tore up mommy’s spoons digging around in our back yards looking for ( or burying) treasure, or taking that death defying swing from the tattered rope tied to the old tree in a field somewhere near our home.

    In essence folks, it’s all about adventure, and on that front, the film does deliver.

    There are indeed both pros and cons to this movie, but keep in mind that I,like many Indie fans who were around for “Raiders” (Oops…just dated myself…) will always consider the original to be the landmark film of the series. The intent of that film was to harken back to the mattinee shorts that left our hero in dire straights and made us want to return the next time to see how he/she miraculously escaped what appeared to be certain doom. As the films (and technology of filmaking) progressed, effect seemed to surpass cause, and although I enjoyed “Temple” and “Last Crusade”, they seemed to get mired in the specticle to the point where we as viewers didn’t seem to be involved as much as we were in the first edition.

    That being said, let’s get to the “Kingdom of the Crystal Skull”.


    I was refreshed that Spielberg seemed to return to the look of the first film in his use of cut sequences and lighting, using atmosphere and moments of quiet to add mystery and wonder to the story line.

    I really enjoyed the fact that they portrayed Jones as the older version we would expect to see this far along in his career, who reminded me of the line from the first installment, “It’s not the age honey, it’s the mileage…”.
    Ford was remarkably fit, yet did a great job of conveying the experience, wry wit and aplomb of one who has had more than his share of close calls, lumps, and disapointments.

    Paying homage to the other films by way of sight gags and glimpses was a master stroke. I can’t tell you how many chuckles and hushed “ah haaas”
    were the result of these little gifts, and it made me, as a fan feel like I was more connected to the history of Jones’ previous exploits.

    I was suspicious of bringing Marion back into the fold until I saw her introduced into the film. I, (like Indie) couldn’t help but smile at the sight of “The one that got away”, and delighted in the fact that the interplay between the two characters seemed as genuine and refreshing as it was in “Raiders”.

    The action sequences were pretty darned cool, and I appreciated the fact that the filmakers seemed to adopt a “less is more” attitude to keeping the focus of the shots more on the characters and less on the eye candy.

    I have to admit here, that the skull is one of the coolest movie props ever.

    Shia did a good job of not over acting, while having just enough spunk and moxey to pull off being who he eventually was revealed to be. (I’m trying to aviod spoilers here, but it’s not easy…)

    I absolutely loved the ant sequences! Very innovative and well done!


    Given that the subject matter of Nevada and extra terresrials were introduced into the story line, I would have found it much more intrigeing to make a covert American agency the bad guys. The whole Russian involvement didn’t fire my imagination at all and made the enmity between the good doctor and the villains rather trite in comparison to the Nazi threat in “Raiders”.

    Cate looked the part, but as soon as she began speaking in that awful Boris and Natasha accent, she lost me.

    John Hurt seemed to be almost superfluous to the story, and while trying to make the most of the blithering idiot role he garnered, he appeared to be nothing but annoying comic relief as things got more perilous.

    It was disapointing ( to me at least…) that the filmakers opted to go “X-Files” with the big finale instead of making the message more related to the Mayan prophecies or something (ANYTHING) more terrestrial. Let’s face it guys, the whole wow-factor of these great films is to discover (through the hero’s exploits and findings) more about our history, and how it affects us.


    All in all, a very enjoyable film. I may sound a bit picky in my observations, but hey…I’m reviewing here and these are my opinions and I’m stickin’ to em!

    Was it worth the wait? You bet! (Even for a midnight showing)

    Did it exceed my expectations? Nope. But as I admitted earlier…I’m a tad jaded after “Raiders”.

    Would I like to see another installment?
    Abso-freakin’-lutely! If nothing else, the “Indie” movies always deliver in terms of entertainment and popcorn consumption at a feverish pace.

    What grade would I give “Kingdom of the Crystal Skull”?
    B+. An enjoyable movie with some heart and fire that’s more than worth seeing on the big screen, but if your the “wait to rent it” type, I think you’ll be pleased by the result and ready to go looking for that old tree to go for a swing or two.

  19. Yeah nowhereman, good review I feel the same way pretty much. And Vic nailed it too,,, 3.5 or B+ .

    I though Blanchett was smoking hot with that hair!
    And that accent was smoking hot too, but yeah I expected to see a pictogram of Rocky and Bullwinkle at some point hidden in the background for laughs. (Watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat)

    Chase scenes were great (there’s gotta be 50 min of combined chase scenes in this film) and the Ants, oooooo the Ants. That was original and disturbing.

    But yea it would have been better to have used a rogue group of OSS, than the (comical at times) Russians.
    The security at Hanger 51 was lax and the magnetic approach was kinda a streeeeach.

    Shia was great, and overall it worked. Even with that monkey scene.

    (Scariest part)!!
    I was freaked out with the speech Blanchetts character made while Indy was staring at the skull. Sheesh it was like she was channeling Hilery Clinton at a NWO meeting.

    But overall I loved it and you just can’t beat the sets and the vfx were seemless.
    (That snake looked fake though). Lol.

    One thing that did piss me off however,was the first 20 min of the film the left side of the screen was a little out of focus. ;-).

    It will be cool to see the next adventure. !!

  20. Sorry gang, but I forgot to mention the dart in the throat scene…it deffinatly made me jump!
    If you’re a true fan, treat yourself to a night at the theater.
    Let yourselves and your imagination enjoy.

    Kudos to all that made this happen.

  21. so, I have seen this movie yesterday. And I must say, overall, it was not bad, but not that good too.

    I really much liked the first part of the film, it was just what I wanted for this film. But than the second part, with the story of those aliens?? come on, that could have been way better!

    Shia was good in his role, and it was really nice and fun to see Karen Allen again, she is just, wow :). And of course, Ford himself, he is just looking good as Indy!

    So for me, it was ok, the first part I really loved, but the second part, no! Than again, it had really fun and great moments in it.

    For the next installment, I really hope they don’t put Shia in a more bigger role. Ford should be left on his own, leading the Indiana Jones films. He IS Indiana, and Shia will never be ready for it! But as his son, he was pretty believable, and really enjoyable.


  22. Way to throw a bunch of spoilers in there Steven. Glad I saw the movie already.

  23. Loved it…

    And yes, Cate Blanchett was pretty darn hot with her black hair… there’s just something about her.

    I loved the film… it had some amazing moments, that is still very much burnt in my memory…

    That nuclear explosion was awesome. When the town got blow to Kingdom come, it was incredibly horrific to watch, but then the scene with Indy looking at the mushroom cloud was really an awesome scene. Totally unrealistic but, then it’s an adventure film…

    And then the silver disc UFO was just perfect. LOOOOOOVED it!

    Now, a few things didn’t resonate well with me… the CGI Alien was too CGI, then seeing the Janitor or Dr. Jan Itor from scrubs in the same room as INDY, didn’t work for me. But that’s cause I am a big fan of Scrubs and seeing him in ANY role now, unless dramatically different, will always remind me of him as the Janitor. But then you know why he was in it right? One word… THE FUGITIVE…. ;)

    Then the general was the mastermind behind the search for the Island… Mr. Whitmore? Hmm… took me out of the moment there for a second… but all in all… I love it…

    This was a nice dinner… I think I’ll be asking for some more…

  24. Well, I just got back from the movie and I have to say that I LOVED IT!!! But by deciding to love it, I had to block a few things from my memory. SPOILERS ARE ON THE WAY just to let you know.

    First, things I loved:

    I thought the intro and the warehouse scene was fantastic as well as the nuclear bomb scene, it was very cool and I thought a great opener to the film. One of my favorite parts!

    Indy, acts the same, looks a little older, but pulled it off without a problem. I don’t think he did anything that was out of character for a 60 year old Indy.

    The action scenes were awesome and the CGI during these points wasn’t too exaggerated, except maybe the part where Shia is standing on both cars and plants are hitting him in the crotch.

    Speaking of Shia, he did a great job and the motorcycle chase scene was also very cool. I think that was my second favorite part and the fight that leads up to it. I thought the monkey scene was fun too.

    I liked the change Speilberg made to have music like Elvis and others, playing at certain parts of the film. It was very un-Indy-like, but worked for me and the story.

    The car chase scenes and quicksand scene were funny and both were my third and fourth favorite parts.

    It was good to have Marion back and the relationship between her and Indy was rushed, but enjoyable and she could have had more screen time, but she did a great job.

    The editing, sets and other actors were great. The music and sound was fantastic and all the elements of classic Indy were present.

    I thought Cate Blanchett was pretty good looking.

    The ending was awesome and well done too.

    Now, the things I didn’t really like. The list is shorter than things I liked which is good:

    First off, what the hell is this crystal skull and who cares about it! Although it looks freaking awesome. It might have just been me, but I was so confused, the McGuffin really bothered me. So if you posses it you have control over its power which is psychic abilities? Wouldn’t the Russians have rather had that A-Bomb and dropped it in Washington DC since they were already in the US. All the McGuffins in the series have some things we don’t understand and like in Temple of Doom, nobody really cares about it, but in this installment it plays such a key spot that you can’t avoid it. If someone could explain the McGuffin to me better I could love to hear about it.

    Next point, what is the deal with taking the skull to the temple and sticking it up on that skeleton. What did we accomplish and how does that give anyone psychic powers, it looks like it just exploded and flew away to me.

    Now my number one problem with this movie, that almost ruined it for me….., I love Sci-Fi almost as much as Indy movies so I was very excited for that element to be in this film. Having said that WHY DID WE HAVE TO SEE THE ALIEN??? Lucas should have seen Signs and realized that movie was ruined for the same reason. In the other Indy films we don’t see God, Shiva or Christ. We just see their power. So why did we have to see an alien that looks so flipping fake and really pointless to the story.

    Now why exactly did the alien kill off Spalko? Was it because aliens are capitalists? I mean, she’s the one who got the skull “restored” and then the alien kills her off! Very confusing. Was it just because she was the bad gal?

    These are key points for any film, especially an Indy one that had serious issues.

    Now to end on a happy note, I am going to go see it again next week and hopefully I will understand it much better. There were many times that I could feel my pulse racing as I watched this film and it felt sooooo good to see Indiana back in action. It made me a little sad that we hadn’t seen more of him over the past 20 years.

    It was a good movie and I enjoyed almost all of it. And I would recommend it to anyone, plus the moment I walked out of the theater, I wanted to go in and see it again.

    Now to all of you…can someone better explain this skull to me and exactly what was going on at the end. I am sure that if I understood this part better I would enjoy this movie much more.
    I had a very very good time!!!


    PS: Could someone also explain what the Russians found at the warehouse. I know it was an alien corpse, but how did that help them at all? Was it just so they knew crystal skulls really existed? I might have missed that key point. Thanks

  25. Good stuff 790-

    Regarding your reference to Atlantis…

    “Some believe they were created by Aliens and others say there relics from the Atlantian age.”

    Seeing as we’re all bouncing “what ifs” around, I have always wondered why George and Steven have never figured that Atlantis would be a natural local for an Indy flick? The title even sounds amazing:

    “Indiana Jones and the Lost City of Atlantis”

    Imagine the fun they could have with that one! Say, if the Lost city mysteriuosly rose from the ocean once more. They could include elements of the zodiac, the prescession of the equinox, and one or another kind of global threat related to the event that only our hero could solve…

    Just food for thought.

    Dare to dream…

  26. Thanks Nowhereman, but do you think the Indy fans could handle it? Lol.
    Gheesh they can barely deal with an alien and a ufo…;-)
    I think to calm them down we might see Indy digging up Dinosaurs in the next film.

    They could prob do a cool Atlantis film my only concern is that it might look a lot like a Stargate episode.
    However…. I can dream of a plotline that involes the great Pyramid and Atlantis. Since (IMO) the pryamids and Atlantis are connected by Earths Lay lines. Indy could stumble on the some group trying to assemble the weapon that destroyed the City back in the day millions of years ago…….?????

    One thing I’m looking forward to is Mutt getting a real name and Indy making him take the GED test. Lol. ;-)
    Shia did a great job!!!!!

  27. Now that it’s been about 25 hours since seeing this, I can unequivocally say:

    This movie sucks, the more I think about it. Fantastic is one thing–and I expect that. Implausible is another thing.

    As opposed to, say, Speed Racer, which I appreciated more as time went on.