Indiana Jones is back in ‘Kingdom of the Crystal Skull’ |

Indiana Jones is back in ‘Kingdom of the Crystal Skull’

Howie Nave

(David James / Paramount Pictures)Harrison Ford stars in "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull."

What? No Nazis? Not this time. It’s been 19 years since we last saw Indiana Jones, riding off into the sunset with his dear old dad, Henry Jones Sr.

“Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” is set in 1957 and, wouldn’t you know it, the film starts off in Southern Nevada. It’s the era of the Cold War, Communism, The Atomic Café and some things not of this world.

In short, he’s back – and man, what a treat, too. Harrison Ford returns as everybody’s favorite Saturday afternoon matinee idol, and, yes, he’s a little older but none the worse for wear. Kind of refreshing to see a hero from 27 years ago, whom we grew up with, back to show some of these young whippersnappers in today’s movies how things get done.

With his trademark fedora, bullwhip and that recognizable musical score that makes you want to stand up and cheer, the fourth installment of the “Indiana Jones” saga once again will be the reason that students consider archaeology as a major in college.

Right from its high-octane intro, “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” is one exciting, cliffhanging joyride after another. You know that director Steven Spielberg (along with his longtime collaborator, writer/producer George Lucas) had a lot to live up to when going into this project, and that critics and audience members alike were going to make all sorts of comparisons with the other three and nitpick the latest adventure with a fine-toothed comb, but who cares? Judge this movie on its own merit and stack it up with some of the current action flicks out there, and you’ll find yourself rejoicing to be back in the theater again. While “Raiders of the Lost Ark” still is my favorite (followed by “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade”), “Crystal Skull” proves that Indiana Jones is as timeless as his adventures. It’s the political climate that seems to always be changing.

You would think that after taking on the Nazis at the outbreak of the Second World War and recovering stolen artifacts for the good guys, the United States would heap nothing but praise on our hero. Think again. It’s the Cold War, and Indiana is not above suspicion from his own government, which believes spies exist on our shores. The Soviet Union is our latest enemy now, and with it come some pretty seedy characters bent, once again, on harnessing powers from another plane to be used against their enemies, which means America.

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Because of the Red Scare, though, Indiana is forced to suspend his professorship at the university and, just as he’s about to leave America, a rebel with a cause riding in on a Harley changes which direction Indy will go. Looking like a cross between a young Marlon Brando and James Dean, Mutt (Shia LaBeouf) starts Indiana on his quest for the stolen Crystal Skull. But the Russians already are on their tail, and the worst of the lot, Irina Spalko (played almost too convincingly by Oscar winner Cate Blanchett), will stop at nothing to find the skull promising unlimited mind-controlling powers to whoever shall possess it.

Like a well-worn leather coat, Indiana not only jokes throughout the movie about his age, but gets an earful from his young protégé as well. When Mutt first meets Indy, he comments, “What are you, like, 80?” but later (when his life is saved by Indy), he asks, “Are you sure you’re a teacher?” and Indy responds, “Part time.”

The two form a kinship that sets us up for a mind-blowing surprise. The movie hints that the franchise could continue with LaBeouf as the new Indiana, but there’s more to him that you’ll discover, which also makes the movie a fun adventure.

Another treat, too, was the reintroduction of Indiana’s old flame, Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen). We haven’t seen her since “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” which launched the series back in 1981. She’s still as feisty as ever, and the chemistry between them still is intact after 27 years. Also still intact is Indiana’s skepticism about things not from this world, which science can’t always explain, but he may change his mind when things of a science-fiction nature take off.

There are some cool surprises of a personal nature that balance out the action sequences. Bottom line: “Crystal Skull” is everything you’d expect from a summer blockbuster movie.

— Howie Nave is host/manager of The Improv comedy club inside Harveys and reviews films for seven radio stations throughout Northern California and Nevada, including Sirius Radio. He hosts “Howie’s Morning Rush” on Tahoe’s KRLT radio, and you can see his film reviews on RSN. For past reviews, blogs and audio clips, visit