Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (12A)

Indiana Jones and the tangled plot: The updated version of the bullet-proof hero is back, looking a little weary but now resistant to nuclear attack

It has been 19 years since Harrison Ford starred in the third Indiana Jones film, and an incredible 27 years since he was first seen searching for legendary ancient relics in Raiders of the Lost Ark.

It would be unkind to imply that Ford is now an ancient relic himself, but the Indiana Jones franchise is almost legendary, which makes it quite a risk – critically if not commercially – for Steven Spielberg and George Lucas to revive it now, especially considering that the last time Lucas brought back a revered film series after such a long sabbatical, it was with the woeful Star Wars prequels. Rest assured, the exhaustingly titled Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is nowhere near as dire as The Phantom Menace. It's just not as good as we all wanted it to be.

It's set in 1957. Indy is still a university lecturer, but now, instead of thumping Nazis on his days off, he thumps Commies. At the beginning of the film – which starts, as ever, at the tail end of a previous adventure – he and his trusty sidekick, Ray Winstone, have been captured by a team of Soviet spies led by Cate Blanchett, a sword-wielding Ukrainian psychic with a black bob and a grey jumpsuit. She demands that they help her locate a mysterious Mayan artefact, but, of course, Indy is only a whip-crack away from escape – at least until the next scene.

For the first 20 minutes or so of IJATKOTCS Spielberg gets everything right, keeping to the pulpy sensibility of Raiders while updating it with rock'n'roll, nuclear energy, red menace paranoia and alien invasion movies. But, true to the other Indiana Jones films, the opening roller-coaster ride is the best bit.

Ford is now 65, and neither the role nor his trousers fit quite as well as they did two decades ago. To bring down the average age, there's another sidekick, Shia LaBeouf, dressed as Marlon Brando in The Wild One. He asks for Indy's aid in rescuing two people who have been caught up in the Soviets' dastardly schemes. One is an old classmate of Indy's, played by a shaggy John Hurt, and the other is Karen Allen, the ballsy love interest from Raiders of the Lost Ark.

The adventure that unfolds is spirited, fun and glowing with affection for the original films. It certainly beats Tomb Raider, National Treasure and all the other franchises that have stolen everything from Indiana Jones except the fedora. But it's busier and more confused than Raiders, with too many characters and too much exposition interrupting the excessively farcical action.

It might seem to be an odd criticism of a character we last saw chatting to the immortal guardian of the Holy Grail, but sometimes, frankly, Indy is just silly. Like Bruce Willis in last year's Die Hard 4.0, he hasn't weakened with age but grown superhumanly resilient. The audience is denied the thrill of trying to guess how he's going to cheat death, time after time, because he does so with all the ease of the Road Runner dodging Wile E Coyote. It's not that I mind Indy being bulletproof, or being able to tumble unscathed down a cliff and three successive waterfalls. The deal-breaker is when he walks away from a direct hit by an atom bomb. After that, it's awfully difficult to get excited about the danger of Blanchett swishing her sword at him.

Need to know

Following the runaway success of Steven Spielberg's 'Jaws' and George Lucas's 'Star Wars', the two friends collaborated, as director and producer respectively, on 'Raiders of the Lost Ark', their all-action homage to James Bond, Tintin, and Saturday matinée adventure serials. When Tom Selleck couldn't fit shooting into his schedule, the globe-trotting archaeologist role went to Harrison Ford. The trio followed up 1981's 'Raiders' with 'Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom' (1984), and 'Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade' (1989).

Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Hewer is to leave The Apprentice after 10 years

TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice

Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
    The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

    The 12 ways of Christmas

    We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
    Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

    The male exhibits strange behaviour

    A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
    Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

    Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

    Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

    The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
    Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

    Marian Keyes

    The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

    Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

    Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
    Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

    Rodgers fights for his reputation

    Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
    Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

    Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

    'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
    Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick