Let's be honest: Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull is not a good movie. It's hackneyed, wallowing in cliche, silly and painfully predictable, and has more than a few things in common with (shudder) National Treasure: Book Of Secrets. So yeah, as I was saying, it's not the film of the year.
Not that it matters all that much. This is a film where a 61-year-old director is virtually playing with action figures on the sets of a blockbuster movie, and while certain aspects might be infantile, who are we to begrudge Steven Spielberg the chance to pretend he's 11 years old again? There is glee dripping from behind the camera, and if you suspend cynicism -- disbelief, of course, is left outside the door when you walk into a film with a name like this -- you'll lap it up, and believe. Nothing is more infectious than the laugh of a master storyteller at his own punchline, weak as it may be.
So sit tight, hum that classic theme, and indulge Sir Steven Spielberg. Heaven knows he's indulged us for a really long time now.
Sure, it's a formulaic plot. But then don't all of us who think Last Crusade was the best of the series acknowledge that it happened simply because it stuck to formula? This is Indiana Jones, for God's sake, and even if Harrison Ford is now 64, we still want to be able to call him, our friend Henry, 'Junior,' like his dad did. And this film lets that happen.
Indy's old, not hiding it, and sure that things aren't going to be as 'easy' as they used to. So yep, this is a tale of skullduggery and double-agents and evil Russians from Bond movies and young boys modelling themselves on The Fonz and man-eating ants and nuclear blasts and rocket sleds and waterfalls and aliens, and it all starts on a site in Nevada in 1957, years before it will become Area 51. (Oh, and this desert facility, we see via an unsubtle wink, is where the Ark Of The Covenant, from the first film, is stored.)
The first half hour is suprisingly leaden -- despite Cate Blanchett clearly channelling From Russia With Love's Rosa Klebb to create her Irina Spalko -- and quite a drag, and it's only when Ford meets leathery young greaser Mutt Williams (Shia LeBeouf) that Indy, finding a young whippersnapper as sparring partner, finds his quips and his charm. And Spielberg, who has until now been showing us a vague, blandish soft-light world almost as a prologue, finds something to play with.
And play he does. I'm dying to give away favourite lines as moments, but as a longtime fan of the fedora'd archaeologist, I'd really prefer those of you who bite into this film discover them on your own. Suffice it to say that the film is in that ludicrous, over-the-top Indy style, and all the stuff you need is intact: there are a couple of wistful nods to Henry Jones I (Sir Sean Connery, tragically not appearing in this film); Indiana rediscovers romance right back from the days of Raiders; John Hurt gives us a great character in Harold Oxley; LeBeouf is more than capable, but thankfully remains in the shadows; and the word 'Junior' still makes us grin.
But I must let this one bit slip, for it is a lovely aside that deserves celebration: At the very end of this film, there is a gust of wind and The Fedora -- that legendary wide-brimmed Bogey-style hat -- falls at Mutt's feet, and he, tentatively but assuredly picks it up and is about to place it on his head, crowning himself successor and spin-off boy. You gasp, in anticipation and pure dread, until, a half-second before the hat hits the head, Indy swoops in with a snatch, gives the boy a priceless smirk, and puts on his hat. Ha. Movie magic, indeed.
So yes, you could go to this film and keep tut-tutting at the predictability and the prattling, the lack of logic and the complete time-space tomfoolery, the moronic plot device or the elongated back-to-back setpieces. Sure you could, and you won't be wrong.
Then again, you could choose to tell yourself that you're watching -- after nineteen long years -- another Indiana Jones movie, let that theme tune play loud and clear in your head, and high-five uncle Steven. Or is it just Stevie?