Age has been kind to Indiana Jones' most absurd adventure

  • Age has been kind to "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull," the much-derided 2008 film in which Shia LaBeouf joins franchise veterans Harrison Ford and Karen Allen.

    Age has been kind to "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull," the much-derided 2008 film in which Shia LaBeouf joins franchise veterans Harrison Ford and Karen Allen. Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

 
 
Updated 7/22/2021 3:44 PM

A fifth Indiana Jones movie has been filming around the U.K. the past couple of months -- even while 78-year-old Harrison Ford has been sidelined with a shoulder injury -- just as the four previous films have been released in 4K ultra high definition for the first time on disc and digital formats.

Joining Ford in the cast for this as-yet-untitled film are TV's "Hannibal," Mads Mikkelsen, and Amazon's "Fleabag," Phoebe Waller-Bridge.

 

Not on set is director Steven Spielberg, who handed the reins to "Logan" director James Mangold. Spielberg perhaps feels he's done all he can with the franchise after the unkind reaction to 2008's "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull." Fans often insist there are only three Indy movies, choosing to forget his adventure with Shia LaBeouf and interdimensional beings.

Generations of us have all but memorized those first three films. So the most interesting one to revisit now, either in 4K or streaming via Showtime, is the one we've been trying to forget.

Well guess what? Age has been kind to "Crystal Skull."

Expectations have a lot to do with it. Now, there are none. In 2008, it bore the weight of a 19-year layoff from one of cinema's most beloved franchises.

The CGI effects so prevalent in "Crystal Skull" were jarring in 2008, unwelcome reminders of co-producer and co-writer George Lucas' "Star Wars" prequels. These days, kids who grew up on the prequels are tastemakers, and they embrace those films and the "Clone Wars" animated series that sprang from it. Abundant, color-saturated CGI has become the Lucas aesthetic, for better or worse, and "Crystal Skull" is therefore more acceptable because of it.

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George Lucas, Harrison Ford and Steven Spielberg brought "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" to the Cannes Film Festival in 2008.
George Lucas, Harrison Ford and Steven Spielberg brought "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" to the Cannes Film Festival in 2008. - Associated Press

More importantly, Harrison Ford's career has continued. "Crystal Skull" brought snide remarks about his age, but that didn't stop Ford -- he gave his best Han Solo performance seven years later in "The Force Awakens," and traded blows with Ryan Gosling in "Blade Runner 2049." Watching "Crystal Skull" now, Ford doesn't look like an old man trying to recapture the (fortune and) glory of his youth -- he looks like Indiana Jones.

The biggest criticism is that "Crystal Skull" is too silly, but the first three are pretty silly, too. Maybe Spielberg was daring the audience: If you accept the life raft scene in "Temple of Doom," surely you'll accept Indy climbing into a fridge to survive a nuclear blast.

In 2021, I no longer require the fourth Indiana Jones movie to be the Best Thing Ever. I just require it to be fun, and it is. Give it another look.

• Sean Stangland is an assistant news editor who could watch the first 10 minutes of "Temple of Doom" on a loop forever.

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