Crack the Whip (Indiana Jones)
Indiana Jones and the Evil Empire
The first thing we hear in Indiana Jones and the Kingdomof the Crystal Skull is Elvis Presley’s “Hound Dog” and the first thing we see is a hot rod full of carefree teenagers, zipping around a U.S. Army convoy as if daring it to a drag race. The tone is breezy and the time and place are established with smooth efficiency: It’s the 1950s and the convoy is headed for one of those Trinity, Area 51 bases hidden in the rocky no man’s land of the American West.
The first we see of the storied Indiana Jones is his famous rumpled brown hat tumbling from an official vehicle at the base. Next comes his reflection on the car door. The visual storytelling is masterful, stating the scenario without a word of explanation. Russians disguised as American troops have kidnapped Indy. They have seized the base, the very warehouse where the Lost Ark was deposited at the end of the first Indiana Jones movie, and are forcing the world’s most famous fictional archaeologist to locate a top-secret crate of special interest to the Kremlin.
Played by Harrison Ford like a man whose breakfast consists of half a lemon with no sugar, Indy is visibly nonplussed and itching for action. Within minutes, he snatches a submachine gun with the aid of his trusty bullwhip, overpowers a dozen men half his age, outruns a hailstorm of bullets along a catwalk, survives an unanticipated ride in a rocket car and, finally, escapes an atomic test with T-minus 15 seconds and counting.
By the end of the day, Indiana Jones looks as scuffed as a pair of comfortable old shoes, worn at the heels but intact and presentable. That’s pretty much how Ford embodies his character; Indy endures a steady trickle of old-age jokes, but shows the younger generation that his mind is as powerful and his brawn as potent as ever.
the producer-director team of George Lucas and Steven Spielberg took the
passage of time into account. It’s been 19 years since the last Indiana Jones
movie and Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
is set 19 years after its predecessor. The enemy this time is a different set
of antique villains with the
foe is the Soviet scientist Spalko, in search of an Incan “crystal skull” whose
powers of clairvoyance and mind control may have military applications. For
Spalko, Cate Blanchett channels Greta Garbo’s performance as the Soviet
commissar in Ninotchka; she plays
Spalko as Garbo with a gun, funny in her humorlessness. She also carries a
rapier and enjoys swordplay, putting an androgynous edge on the performance.
Several characters return from previous installments, including Mac (Ray
Winstone), who had devolved into a greedy double-dealer; and Indy’s one-time
love interest Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen). You can see it coming as plain as
a Mack truck with its headlights on bright:
on, Indy becomes a person of interest to the FBI; his office is searched and he
is forced into a paid leave of absence from the university because of
McCarthyism. The implications for the present day are clear, yet the
possibility of a more interesting plot is quickly jettisoned. When Indy and
Mutt fly to