Despite the longest title possible, Indy is back. The year isn’t 1936 (Raiders of the Lost Ark), 1935 (Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom) or even 1938 (Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade), but 1957. The shift to a new decade is one of the reasons the film works, as co-creators Steven Spielberg and George Lucas do an excellent job of placing bare-knuckled Indiana so far into the next decade.

This time, the Nazis are out and the Commies are in. While it might have been easy to make the two interchangeable, or worst, draw some comparison to the current political climate, Spielberg, Lucas and screenwriter David Koepp (Jurassic Park, The Shadow, Spider-Man) nail the chilling paranoia of the 1950’s. Indiana (Harrison Ford) gets his own taste of Red Scare when he survives a close brush with eerie Soviet officer Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett) and winds up on the receiving end of FBI suspicion. Spalko delivers an unnerving speech about her plan to use the psychic power of the crystal skull to change the way America thinks. It’s a spine-tingling commentary on subtle Cold War subversion.

Of course, Indiana Jones isn’t alone in his efforts to prevent Soviet domination. His first ally is the treacherous Mac (Ray Winstone), whose loyalties shift multiple times during the movie. His more dependable sidekick is grease-monkey Mutt Williams (Shia LeBeouf), the son of Indy’s Raider flame Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen). John Hurt also plays Harold Oxley, a mutual friend of Indy and Marion who’s become a babbling wreck upon discovering the eponymous crystal skull.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is a solid expansion of the original trilogy. Everyone on the cast enjoys excellent chemistry, especially between LeBeouf and Ford. There are a few moments when Lucas and Keopp clearly wrote themselves up the creek without a paddle, like when they chose to interrupt a brilliant swordfight between Mutt and Irina with “monkey business”, or when Indiana can offer no better reason to return the crystal skull other than “it told me to.” But though the latest Indiana Jones doesn’t reach the same height as Raiders or Last Crusade, it does manage to blow the uneven Temple of Doom out of the water, all with a 64 year old star who still has what it takes to crack a bullwhip.

Follow the exploits of rockers DEMON TWEAK and the racing clan HARD DRIVING HEROES, as they battle the evil trickster Loki at http://www.classic-comic-book.com . Also read articles on your favorite classic comic book heroes written by our resident historian VIRGIL THE STORYTELLER.
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