Although going to see the fourth installment of Indiana Jones didn’t quite have the same level of anticipatory buildup that going to see the fourth installment of Star Wars did, going to see the movie was just as mandatory and similarly disappointing.
First, the good parts. Great to see Harrison Ford back underneath the hat and nice to see Karen Allen back. Shia LaBeouf was a convincing Jones the 4th (AKA Mutt) even though his character was mostly clichés. And of course, there are the action sequences which are the raison d’être for an Indy film in the first place. Highlights were the chase in the warehouse that had Indy not quite reaching the truck he had intended (shown in previews, so old news by the time it was on screen in the movie) and the DUKW trip down the river and over the waterfalls – absurd yet amusing.
But I like my Indy movies to be more than an excuse to put action clips on screen. It needs a plot to keep the thing together and Indy 4 could have benefited from one. HERE BE SPOILERS>> So the movie is ostensibly about Soviets trying get ahold of a Crystal Skull that came from aliens who supposedly will allow the one who returns them to control some form of power. But by the end, the skulls are returned so that all 13 alien skeletons have their heads, the room spins effectively collapsing the 13 skeletons into one that returns to life, makes some creepy sounds, melts Cate Blanchett, then turns into a flying saucer and takes off. I suppose the first Indy could be considered a little weird since ghosts turn to demons and melt nazis, but for some reason that seemed less stupid.
Other annoyances: Indy and Mutt dig into underground caverns that are defended by hooligans for no apparent reason; they are easily defeated. The whole gang heads into more underground caverns that are defended by a large number of natives; they are easily subdued by a sight of the crystal skull. Who are these peoples and why should they be defeated and ignored? Mutt says his mother is named Mary but we learn later it is Marion. Marion was never called Mary before – only in this case to put off the eventual reveal that it is Marion.
Curious that Indy touts the importance of education and is a college professor and he makes a point that Mutt should stay in school. However in both the first and the fourth movie, the baddies are on a quest for knowledge with the goal of achieving ultimate power that ultimately leads to their demise. So education is good and knowledge is power (Schoolhouse Rock!) – as long as you don’t have too much knowledge because then you get melted.
All told, the movie had more going for it than against it. But because I liked Indy 3 so much, I wish Lucas and Spielberg had stopped there.
Rating: 6 (out of 10)