After an absence of almost two decades, globe-trotting archeologist Indiana Jones returns in an adventure that’s admittedly not quite as effective as its immediate predecessor – yet there’s ultimately no denying that the film is as thrilling and enthralling as one might’ve hoped. The storyline – which follows Harrison Ford’s Indiana Jones and Shia LaBeouf’s Mutt Williams as they attempt to uncover the mystery behind the fabled objects of the title – has been infused with far too many needless digressions and subplots, however, and it does become clear that Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is surely the most blatantly uneven of the four films (ie enough with the exposition already). This is despite Ford’s surprisingly engaging performance and the expected inclusion of several electrifying action set-pieces, though there’s little doubt that the movie is at its best during its quieter, more introspective moments (ie a superb sequence in which Indy laments the deaths of his father and mentor). And while LaBeouf acquits himself quite well and Karen Allen’s return as Marion Ravenwood is nothing short of delightful, the film suffers from an increasingly erratic pace that’s ultimately exacerbated by a finale that feels as though it’d be more at home within an episode of The X-Files. Still, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull generally remains an affable piece of work throughout its undeniably overlong running time – which ultimately does ensure that the film fares a whole lot better than such contemporary big-budget travesties as Transformers, Rush Hour 3, and the Pirates of the Caribbean series.
*** out of ****