The hat, the whip — Indy’s older, but still fun

2008-05-25 00:00

“DON’T get caught up in nostalgia,” someone warned. “We want an objective review.” The fourth instalment of Indiana Jones comes 19 years after the third and well, if this isn’t a nostalgic film-making exercise then Sylvester Stallone isn’t taking growth hormones.

Thankfully, however, Harrison Ford has got fewer varicose veins. The film-makers and Indy himself are the first to throw the “ain’t what it used to be” chirps and it’s all continuously upbeat throughout the adventure. To their credit, Ford, director Steven Spielberg and producer George Lucas don’t linger in self-deprecating humour for too long.

Indy finds himself in Nevada as the film kicks off with a dateline reading 1957 and Elvis’s Hound Dog underpinning the context. After 10 minutes, Indy is betrayed by partner Mac McHale (Ray Winstone, aka Beowulf, … but utterly personality-free here) and cornered by Russian soldiers.

The uniforms are led by Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett, sporting a Ukrainian accent) who wants Jones to help her locate a government secret to boost her telepathic powers, or something.

Jones escapes (duh) and ends up in suburbia (a long-time Spielberg obsession). Then follows the most preposterous stunt where he survives a nuclear blast by hiding in a fridge. But that’s just the beginning.

Having covered the dry and dusty sandscapes, the film moves on to its second obligatory stopover — the jungle. In this case, the Amazon, which is where the kingdom of the Crystal Skull is situated. The old-school vibe is back as the maps with the red travelling line show the audience where they’re off to. Likewise, the action sequences are kept as retro as possible, with 65-year-old Ford proving he can do more than just crack a bullwhip.

In between all the cool action stuff is a thick jungle of plot and exposition that requires attentive ears for it to be made any sense of. The dialogue is a hodgepodge of stuff that ultimately reveals that the crystal skull is an intergalactic portal. Yup — aliens.

Presumably it’s a lateral wink to the film’s producer and director who were responsible for Star Wars and E.T. — but it’s all a bit odd really.

The fourth Indiana film is sparse on characters and personalities but still big on adventure. Scriptwriter's David Koepp's minimal expansion on Lucas's storyline is in expert hands with Spielberg and Ford. Indy is still a grumpy, crazy archaeologist, but thankfully more charming. ****

Watch this interview with Harrison Ford:

Indiana Jones 4: Behind the scenes footage:

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