Everyone's favorite whip-cracking archaeologist is back, and I found myself trying to keep a very even keel as the lights went down for Indiana Jones' latest series of exploits: On one hand I didn't want to be "too nice" to the movie (nostalgia power does strange things to people), but I was more than willing to fall in love with the flick, too. Sometimes it's tough be a hardcore fan and an objective analyst at the same time. Fortunately, all that preparation was a waste of time, because while it's hardly the best of the series (not that we were expecting it to be), Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull delivers an irresistible infusion of matinee-style mayhem that, really, we don't get enough of these days. If the movie suffers from a few slow spots, some action bits that really strain credibility, and a semi-clunky plot that simply goes from A to B to C, those gripes can be forgiven in the face of a total package that's this exciting, amusing, and just plain old welcome.
For those who choose to remain spoiler-free, I'll keep the synopsis sketchy: Basically, it's 1957 and good ol' Indiana Jones has fallen on rough times. He's been exploited by the KGB, berated by the U.S. government, fired from his university job, and left with little recourse but to head into the wild and get lost. But just as Dr. Jones is about to vanish, up pops a teenager who needs his help: An old ally of Jones' has been abducted while searching for a secret Incan temple -- and this assignment is all our hero needs to feel a bit better. There's a LOT more to the plot, but it's more fun to discover the secrets along with the characters. Suffice to say that most of Crystal Skull consists of Jones and his new sidekick Mutt (Shia LaBeouf) getting into all sorts of crazy scrapes with a tacky treasure hunter (Ray Winstone), a raving lunatic (John Hurt), a psychic villain (Cate Blanchett), and old girlfriend Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen). Oh, and a giant crystal skull that just about everyone wants for themselves.