Short version: While very enjoyable overall, there are some things about it that are incredibly annoying and could have been easily corrected.
I'm going to presume that you have already seen this film before you read this review. It's pretty filled with spoliers, so be warned!
I don't think that I have to talk about how much I love Indiana Jones, or how much I've been looking forward to this fourth instalment in the franchise. You all ready know, and if you don't - then why haven't you been reading Screen Rant before this?
George Lucas is a personal hero of mine, the man comes under a lot of fire from movie fans, but I have stood firmly beside the quiffed, plaid shirted wonder for years, and I can even defend the Star Wars prequels. If it's possible I've been looking forward to Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull more than the last three Star Wars movies - mainly because I didn't feel that they'd have the same magic as the originals because Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher wouldn't be on the cast list. I had no such worries with Indiana Jones - Ford would be back, and to me, that made me want to see this new movie.
When it the film was first announced, Spielberg, Lucas and Frank Marshall stated that they'd be doing this "the old fashioned way" with minimal CGI, and that Janusz Kaminski would be kept on a tight leash, and he wouldn't be using his "white-out" style of cinematography. Recently I've become more and more irked by Kaminski's work, and I was glad that he wouldn't be blasting white light towards the camera.
I was even happy with the signing of Shia LaBeouf as Indy Jr.: he bears a passing resemblance to Ford, and I knew that they'd be going for a younger audience, so I could make peace with his signing (if only Sean Connery could have come on-board for a cameo). Crystal skulls, science fiction and the 1950's didn't worry me; it was good that Ford was playing his age, and I've always been happy with the Indy stories, so it didn't worry me that it wouldn't involve religious artifacts. I was just ready for Indy.
I couldn't see Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull on it's opening few days, but I was happy enough to see it opening weekend. I sat in the cinema waiting, and then the Lucasfilm logo came on screen.
I have to say, I enjoyed the film. It wasn't mind-blowing, but it was a highly enjoyable action film - Ford was on fire, the wit, the movements, the actions - it's the best he's been in years. He even seems to have been working on his comedy.
The opening sequence brought Indy back to us after 19 years and he's still got it. During the whip-driven action sequence Harrison quips: "I thought that was closer." I was grinning from ear to ear. With the scene in the nuclear town where Indy realizes that the bomb is going to go off is just brilliant - the look of panic and tearful desperation is outstanding - some of the best 5 minutes of cinema I think I've seen.
Even when the bomb goes off - the refrigerator gag - far fetched I know, but it was still cool. Also the fact the the mushroom cloud mirrored the crystal skull - great. I was impressed that the debriefing by the F.B.I. echoed Dr.No, a nice nod to Connery. The chase through Marshall College cool, not as good as other reviews will have you believe, but still a good opening romp.
The graveyard scene with the strange tree dwellers was great, a fantastic sequence that added a nice horror dimension and when Indy and Marion meet for the first time in years - outstanding!
I also really enjoyed the quicksand sequence. I've always wanted to see Indy encounter quicksand, and I finally did. It was fun and thrilling.
Now what I didn't like..
Kaminski: If ever a man shouldn't be allowed behind a camera - it's that man. The jungle chase alone - while the weakest part of the film, was hindered even further by his light blasting through the trees.
The CGI alone was bad enough, don't tell me you're going to use minimal CGI and then stick in something that looks like a deleted scene from Star Wars Episode 1. The LaBeouf fight scene was just too much, if you can do it practical - do it. If you can't, leave it alone.
Then there were the crotch hits. George - I know that was you. Humour is good, but not in a scene like that.
Tarzan LaBeouf: This sequence is the single worst part of the movie. I thought Lucas got his Tarzan fixation out of his system with the Wookies in Episode III. The worst 30 seconds in the movie.
Overall there was just too much CGI, and to me computer effects equal no emotion.
The ending of the film, while enjoyable, was just too much like National Treasure. Don't get me wrong, I like National Treasure, but this is Indiana Jones! The Mayan tribes were under-used, and killed off way too easy by the Russians.
Another general issue that I had was there was a bit too much stage work trying to be passed off as exteriors. This was most notable in the opening Area 51. I mean how hard is it to shoot in the desert? Not very - especially when you have got $150 million to spend.
Overall, despite my nit-picks I really enjoyed Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull. It sounds like I didn't as I re-read this, but I am just being honest. As a hardcore Indy and Lucas fan, I could just gloss over these, but then I wouldn't be doing my job.
Was it was good as the originals? No way, but I didn't expect it to be. I was disappointed in the large amount of (poor) CGI, and Kaminski's camera work, but everyone did what was expected of them, and as things go, it was a four star summer film.