The king reclaims his throne

By Stephanie Holland

(Paramount pictures)

By Stephanie Holland

Before “The Mummy” or “National Treasure,” there was Indy. Before “The Legend of Zelda” or “World of Warcraft” there was Indy.

In a moment nearly 20 years in the making, that familiar music blasts into the theater and everyone’s favorite reluctant hero reappears into our lives.

Nineteen years after his last crusade and ready to crack wise with his whip and his dialogue, Harrison Ford reprises his most famous alter ego in “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.”

Returning for this fourth outing are director Steven Spielberg, producer George Lucas and actress Karen Allen.

These “Indiana Jones” vets are joined by teen heartthrob Shia LaBeouf.

Audiences are first re-introduced to Indy’s shadow as he puts on his iconic hat. This scene is accompanied by the soft strains of his signature theme, and we are instantly transported back into the world of Indiana Jones.

“Crystal Skull” is the story of Indy’s battle against Russian agents at the height of the cold war.

Academy Award winner Cate Blanchett plays KGB agent Irina Spalko. She chases Indy across the globe as they both try to solve the mystery of the crystal skull. Blanchett is such a good actress that she could read the phone book and make it sound like Shakespeare.

She is best known for her work in serious period pieces, but here she shines as the over the top, fun villain. She adds a rich texture to her character that gives Spalko rooting value.

Karen Allen returns as Marion Ravenwood and she is the same strong, feisty woman audiences admired in “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” Allen, who has aged beautifully, effortlessly slips back into character picking up where she left off.

Shia LaBeouf plays Marion’s son Mutt and he is portrayed as exactly the type of smart, impetuous kid you expect Marion to have. Mutt has a lot of interaction with Indy as they search for the crystal skull and the similarities between the two are recognizable from their first meeting.

Labeouf leaves behind his usual confused nerd persona and actually acts. This is his most high profile role to date and he handles it well.

While the movie is packed with great performances, the real star is Harrison Ford. Ford so easily becomes Indy again that it feels as though he never left.

Early in the film we find out that since we last saw him, Indy has served in WWII and has continued with his various adventures in archeology.

Ford immediately jumps back into action, using his whip to swing through buildings and fighting the bad guys while speeding through the jungle. The truly great part about “Indiana Jones” is that Ford is able to once again show off his comedic talents.

Since he has not made a quality comedy in ten years, it is easy to forget how funny Harrison Ford is. However, when he inevitably comes into contact with Indy’s greatest fear, snakes, his reaction is priceless, and the audience erupts into laughter.

The movie also features several acclaimed actors in supporting roles. These include Ray Winstone as Indy’s partner Mac, Jim Broadbent as Dean Charles Stanforth and John Hurt as Harold Oxley.

The casting of such noted actors in smaller parts is part of what makes “Indiana Jones” work so well. Every detail is important and that translates to moviegoers.

The “Indiana Jones” franchise is known for its action, and “Crystal Skull” doesn’t disappoint. A prolonged action sequence in the jungle features rocket launchers, swordfights and thousands of bloodthirsty ants.

At 66, Ford may seem too old for Indy’s usual antics, however he uses his age as the catalyst for many of the film’s funniest jokes.

Spielberg reminds audiences of his brilliance when a classic Indy chase scene takes place a the college campus as Indy and Mutt are chased by the Russians.

The sequence is spectacularly shot and is the most authentic “Indiana Jones” moment in the film.

This latest adventure takes place in 1957 and the filmmakers have made this film a love letter to that classic era. The first music we hear is Elvis Presley, Shia LaBeouf’s first appearance on screen is an exact replica of Marlon Brando from “The Wild One” and the fear and intimidation of the McCarthy era is used prominently in the storyline.

The use of the era’s anti-communist sentiments and the government’s red scare tactics adds a level of authenticity that envelops viewers.

“Indiana Jones” has always required moviegoers to leave logic at the theater door. However, at times “Crystal Skull” forces fans to abandon it completely.

While the movie stays true to its roots, it is far from perfect. The obvious influence of George Lucas is felt in the film’s science fiction plotline. These elements feel forced and out of place with the rest of the film’s action and comedy.

Steven Spielberg’s direction saves the movie from becoming unfocused. His style is so effortless that the film is paced perfectly, with only two scenes that felt out of place.

The respect that the cast and crew have for preserving the legacy of the series comes across in every frame and the audience is rewarded for their loyalty.

“Indiana Jones” is considered an American icon and has become a part of film history. The idea of bringing back the franchise after so many years could have easily resulted in disaster. However, the legacy has been preserved beautifully for the next generation of fans who are discovering the intrepid hero for the first time.