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Older eye candy can still kick butt

POSTED: August 1, 2008 5:01 a.m.
/Paramount Pictures

Harrison Ford is still chasing Cold War-era villains in the latest film in the series on the swashbuckling archaeologist, "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull."

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It's just amazing that Harrison Ford can do all those stunts while hooked up to an oxygen tank. And the walker doesn't slow him down at all.

OK, I'll be nice. After all, who wouldn't want to look like Ford when we reach our golden years? But the man turns 66 in July, and he's still swinging from that whip like Tarzan and beating up entire platoons of America's Cold War enemies. Even among fans, that's a bit hard to swallow.

Producer George Lucas and director Steven Spielberg tackle the "age issue" head on by making a joke of Indy's age (although we're still supposed to believe Ford is doing those stunts). They also youth up "Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" by adding budding action star Shia LaBeouf to the cast. I won't spoil the surprise, but the film's producers are clearly introducing LaBeouf to plan for the future, too.

In the latest episode of the Indy Jones serial saga, Indy is racing to save old friend "Ox" Oxley (John Hurt) and to find the crystal skull before a ruthless platoon of Soviets lead by Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett) recover it first. Spalko claims she rose to power in Stalin's regime through her mind-reading abilities, but she is apparently the worst psychic in the world since the whole reason she takes Indy captive is to use him for information. But, why quibble over such trivial things as logic?

Indy gets much help from his original love interest Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen) and Oxley's young protégé Mutt Williams (LaBeouf).

All the effects-laden chases, strained plot twists and clashes with indigenous peoples you have come to expect from the Indy Jones movies follow. The plot dashes along with few pauses and the final act pays off exactly as you expect.

The film suits the creators' intentions of paying tribute to the old serial adventure films that used to fill theaters on Saturday afternoons. It's full of ludicrous but entertaining action sequences and innocuous, corny jokes.

"Crystal Skull" doesn't stray one inch from the pattern of the first three Indy films. In fact, much of the humor comes from references to "Raiders of the Lost Ark."

In most ways, this is a nostalgia piece. If you liked "Raiders," you'll either hate "Crystal Skull" for its redundancy or love the way it reminds you of the original Indy adventure. This fourth entry in the franchise is rather like visiting an old friend.

Which means if you don't already like the Indy Jones movies, "Crystal Skull" will do nothing to change your mind.

However, "Crystal Skull" seems to be producing one similar effect as "Raiders," in that a whole new generation of moviegoers is falling in love with the series. And why not? These movies adhere to a formula that has worked since Douglas Fairbanks was swordfighting and smooching his way to silent movie stardom. And there's something very right about seeing parents pass on the excitement of cinematic escapism to their tweens and teens.

If you expect nothing more than a trip down the Indy memory lane, "Crystal Skull" comes highly recommended. Otherwise, the weather right now is perfect for outdoor recreation.

Jeff Marker is a media studies professor at Gainesville State College.



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