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
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
Arts and Entertainment
David Baddiel concedes his show takes its inspiration from the hit US series 'Modern Family'
comedyNew comedy festival out to show that there’s more to Jewish humour than rabbi jokes
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Pixie Lott will take part in Strictly Come Dancing 2014, the BBC has confirmed

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Prince and 3RDEYEGIRL are releasing Plectrum Electrum next month

music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint kiss in Doctor Who episode 'Deep Breath'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Steve Carell in the poster for new film 'Foxcatcher'
filmExclusive: First look at comic actor in first major serious role
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Kingston Road in Stockton is being filmed for the second series of Benefits Street
arts + entsFilming for Channel 4 has begun despite local complaints
Arts and Entertainment
Led Zeppelin

music
Arts and Entertainment
Radio presenter Scott Mills will be hitting the Strictly Come Dancing ballroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce performs in front of a Feminist sign at the MTV VMAs 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has taken home the prize for Video of the Year at the MTV Video Music Awards 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Paige and Scott Lowell in Queer as Folk (Season 5)
tvA batch of shows that 'wouldn't get past a US network' could give tofu sales an unexpected lift
Arts and Entertainment
books... but seller will be hoping for more
Arts and Entertainment
John Kearns winner of the Foster's Edinburgh Comedy Award with last years winners: Bridget Christie and Frank Skinner
comedyJohn Kearns becomes the first Free Fringe act to win the top prize
Arts and Entertainment
Professor Sue Vice
booksAcademic says we should not disregard books because they unexpectedly change genre
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Muscato performs as Michael Crawford in Stars in Their Eyes

TV
Arts and Entertainment
‘Game of Thrones’

TV
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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.

    Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

    Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

    Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
    Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

    Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

    The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
    America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

    America’s new apartheid

    Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
    Amazon is buying Twitch for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?

    What is the appeal of Twitch?

    Amazon is buying the video-game-themed online streaming site for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?
    Tip-tapping typewriters, ripe pongs and slides in the office: Bosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder

    How bosses are making us work harder

    As it is revealed that one newspaper office pumps out the sound of typewriters to increase productivity, Gillian Orr explores the other devices designed to motivate staff
    Manufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl records

    Hard pressed: Resurgence in vinyl records

    As the resurgence in vinyl records continues, manufacturers and their outdated machinery are struggling to keep up with the demand
    Tony Jordan: 'I turned down the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series nine times ... then I found a kindred spirit'

    A tale of two writers

    Offered the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series, Tony Jordan turned it down. Nine times. The man behind EastEnders and Life on Mars didn’t feel right for the job. Finally, he gave in - and found an unexpected kindred spirit
    Could a later start to the school day be the most useful educational reform of all?

    Should pupils get a lie in?

    Doctors want a later start to the school day so that pupils can sleep later. Not because teenagers are lazy, explains Simon Usborne - it's all down to their circadian rhythms
    Prepare for Jewish jokes – as Jewish comedians get their own festival

    Prepare for Jewish jokes...

    ... as Jewish comedians get their own festival
    SJ Watson: 'I still can't quite believe that Before I Go to Sleep started in my head'

    A dream come true for SJ Watson

    Watson was working part time in the NHS when his debut novel, Before I Go to Sleep, became a bestseller. Now it's a Hollywood movie, too. Here he recalls the whirlwind journey from children’s ward to A-list film set
    10 best cycling bags for commuters

    10 best cycling bags for commuters

    Gear up for next week’s National Cycle to Work day with one of these practical backpacks and messenger bags
    Paul Scholes: Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United

    Paul Scholes column

    Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United
    Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

    Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

    A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
    Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

    The science of herding is cracked

    Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
    Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

    This tyrant doesn’t rule

    It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?