Indiana Jonesin': How Does the Latest Chapter Measure Up?

We compare Kingdom of the Crystal Skull to Raiders, Temple of Doom, and Last Crusade

Everyone has their favorite Indiana Jones movie -- and their own thoughts on if Raiders of the Ark is better than Last Crusade. (Sorry, Temple of Doom -- there's no contest). So how does this week's long-awaited third sequel, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, measure up to its predecessors?

Popular opinion holds Indiana Jones' first on-screen appearance in Raiders of the Lost Ark as the best in the series. (It does, in fact, have the highest Tomatometer rating.) Third installment Last Crusade follows closely in second place in the hearts of most fans, with the oft-maligned second film, Temple of Doom, bringing up the rear. And despite running considerably close to one another on the Tomatometer, that order also holds true when it comes to the opinions of critics.

But where in the series will Indy's first outing in nineteen years fall? Below, we examine the critical response to Dr. Jones' latest escapade, and compare and contrast the key differences of each spectacular Indiana Jones adventure. Check out more articles in our Indiana Jonesin' countdown series here.


The Return of Dr. Jones...




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Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)
Tomatometer: 80%

Plot: Nineteen years after he last graced screens, Indiana Jones is back. This time, he's hunting for a mystical crystal skull in the Amazonian jungle -- and reuniting with a lost love. Could the skull hold the key to extraterrestrial contact?

Villain: Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett), a sword-wielding Russian agent specializing in psychic warfare

Sidekicks: Wartime buddy George 'Mac' McHale (Ray Winstone); former colleague Harold Oxley (John Hurt), out of touch with Indy for years and now missing in Peru; switchblade-wielding greaser Mutt Williams (Shia LaBeouf)

Love Interest: Mary Williams (Karen Allen) -- nee Marion Ravenwood, Indy's feisty love interest from Raiders of the Lost Ark

"Indy IV may not entirely be the grand return that everyone had hoped for, but it's still great to see a good old friend come around again." -- Peter Howell, Toronto Star



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Indy's First Three Adventures



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Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
Tomatometer: 95%

Plot: In this smashing series opener, the Nazis are on their way to uncovering the fabled Ark of the Covenant, which holds the power to make their armies indestructible. Enter Indiana Jones -- globe-trotting treasure hunter, ladies man, professor of archaeology, rogue extraordinaire -- who, along with an old flame, traverses the earth to stop the Ark from falling into the wrong hands.

Villains: Rene Belloq (Paul Freeman), French archaeologist and professional nemesis of Indiana Jones; Major Toht (Ronald Lacey), Nazi interrogator who gets a medallion scorched into his hand and his face melted off; Colonel Dietrich (Wolf Kahler), cold Nazi commander of the Tanis outpost

Sidekicks: Marcus Brody (Denholm Elliott), museum curator; portly Egyptian excavator Sallah (John Rhys-Davies)

Love Interest: Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen), feisty Nepalese barkeep and daughter of Indy's former mentor, Abner Ravenwood

"Raiders of the Lost Ark is an out-of-body experience, a movie of glorious imagination and breakneck speed that grabs you in the first shot, hurtles you through a series of incredible adventures, and deposits you back in reality two hours later -- breathless, dizzy, wrung-out, and with a silly grin on your face." -- Roger Ebert


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Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)
Tomatometer: 87%

Plot: In this prequel to Raiders, Indiana Jones finds himself fleeing Shanghai with a nightclub singer and an orphan, stumbling into an Indian palace where secret passages are lined with creepy crawlies, children are enslaved by an evil cult, and the menu features "chilled monkey brains."

Villains: Chinese gangster Lao Che (Roy Chiao); Mola Ram (Amrish Puri), leader of the Thuggee cult, human sacrifice, brainwasher, and seeker of the Sankara Stones

Sidekicks: Short Round (Jonathan Ke Quan), eleven-year-old Shanghainese taxi driver

Love Interest: Willie Scott (Kate Capshaw), spoiled American showgirl


"IF you've ever been a child or, barring that, if you've ever been around children, ages 7 to about 11, you may remember the sort of game in which each child attempts to come up with the vilest, most disgusting, most repulsive, most stomach-turning meal he can think of. It might consist of sheeps' eyes in runny aspic, live cockroaches wrapped in spider webs, juicy worms a la king and bats' brains with anchovies and chocolate sauce... This may well be the public's reaction to Steven Spielberg's exuberantly tasteless and entertaining Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom..." -- Vincent Canby, New York Times



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more info...
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
Tomatometer: 90%

Plot: Indy is sent to Venice to locate the Holy Grail -- and his own missing father (Sean Connery), with whom he's been estranged for years -- where he must contend with an ancient brotherhood, a beautiful blonde double agent, and his old enemies, the Nazis.

Villains: Walter Donovan (Julian Glover), an American businessman and Nazi conspirator; Colonel Vogel (Michael Byrne), SS officer who gets caught with "no ticket"

Sidekicks: Dr. Henry Jones, Sr. (Sean Connery), Indy's estranged father and lifelong Grail scholar

Love Interest: Elsa Schneider, Austrian art historian and femme fatale who seduces both Joneses

"To say that Paramount's Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade may be the best film ever made for 12-year-olds is not a backhanded compliment....The Harrison Ford-Sean Connery father-and-son team gives Last Crusade unexpected emotional depth, reminding us that real film magic is not in special effects." -- Joseph McBride, Variety


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The Verdict:

While some critics peg Kingdom of the Crystal Skull somewhere above Temple of Doom, but below the mark of The Last Crusade, its adjusted Tomatometer score places Indiana Jones' fourth onscreen outing after all three films in the original trilogy. Even so, Kingdom -- like Raiders of the Lost Ark, Temple of Doom, and The Last Crusade all -- has earned Certified Fresh status. Not too shabby for Indy's first adventure in nearly two decades!

For more articles in our Indiana Jonesin' series, click here.



Comments

Kleuker

Lutz Kleuker

hm. here's my take on it.

i think it depends on the order in which you first saw them in. i saw "TOD" first, when i was about eleven years old, and it was scary, funny and action packed, it had a kid in it, and i watched it over and over again.

then i saw "ROTLA" when i was about fourteen, and it didn't have any of these gory things (monkey brains, ripping a heart out, etc. ...), that to me where 'indiana jones'. plus, it had the nazis in it. i'm german, and we just had that chapter in our history class back then, so i couldn't really accept, the nazis, as just being cartoonic (cartoonish?) movie villains. that part of our history was just way too bad, i thought/i think, to just use it as a gimmick in a movie. so i didn't care too much for the first part.

"TLC" then was a real dissapointment for me. there were the nazis again :-), no gore and way too much comedy-parts. plus i always thought, that the 700 year old knight was a really stupid idea.

so, i think i'm one of the few, who still like the "temple of doom" most, and i'm sure there will be kids, liking the latest installment better than the older movies.


(PS: is there anybody but me, who thinks, that the scene, most people think is funny, when he just shoots the karate-guy in the first part, is pretty ... harsh? i mean, he kills him without a fair fight! :-) i never really thought it was funny.)

May 21 - 05:10 PM

blattman

Mike Greenblatt

Ok, you probably haven't heard the story yet. This is true. Speilberg had this great fight scene choriographed and ready to go. Harrison Ford had a stomach problem and had to go to the bathroom RIGHT NOW. So he pulled out his gun, shot him and ran off to the bathroom. Speilberg liked it and kept it in the film. The fight sequence got used in TOD with two swordsman. Nothing malicious about it.

May 21 - 06:09 PM

cacklebunny

First Last

Let's hope George Lucas doesn't have a change of heart about that fight scene and superimpose Greedo over the swordsman so he'll shoot first. :P

May 21 - 07:35 PM

Kleuker

Lutz Kleuker

(going off topic again)

@blattman: yes, i know how that scene got into the movie, but i think, it doesn't really change the way it comes across. i do understand why people think it's funny though. maybe i was just too much of a p*ssy back then ;-)

May 22 - 02:47 AM

happyicecream

Dave B

Yeah, and he improved the "I know" line from Empire, too.
The man's a genius.

May 23 - 09:10 AM

cacklebunny

First Last

I liked them all, but Raiders more than the others. When I first saw TOD in the theaters, it was quite enjoyable and left me dizzy and exhausted in the end. It was as much a roller coaster ride as any of those at your local theme park. I was a little disappointed with Last Crusade, as the action took a back seat to the emotional elements between father and son.

As for the Raiders scene in which the swordsman gets shot, I have to disagree...it was completely funny. What made it so great in the theaters was the collective tension of the audience as they anticipated a fight. That sudden release of energy became riotous laughter, making it one of the most memorable scenes.

May 21 - 07:32 PM

Samurai_Ranger

First Last

I agree that TOD is underrated. Yeah, some of the gore and darker elements are off-putting, but it has a lot of brilliant moments. I love the "He'll be back in 5 minutes!" scene, and how the Thugee seems to emerge from the mural in the wall. I don't mind the implausibility of it, because at the very beginning, the future Mrs. Spielberg sings "Anything Goes," and you're either able to roll with that or not.

I think enough time had to pass since WWII before Nazis could be used as action-movie villians. I can understand it might seem inappropriate to you.

I got a laugh at the scimitar-wielding foe being dispatched quickly, but that's an interesting reaction on your part. That same thing appears in an older movie by a director that Spielberg and Lucas worship. That is: "Seven Samurai" by Akira Kurosawa. In it, seasoned, noble Samurai (note my nick) are felled by superior weaponry, and the feeling is poignant and tragic, for the very reason you mentioned - that it's not a fair fight. Since you had that reaction, I thought I'd recommend the film if you haven't seen it already.

But I can enjoy the scene in "Raiders" on the comic-book level on which it's intended.

May 21 - 09:24 PM

ihatecarneys

Matt Lubisich

Shooting the sword guy in "Raiders" is one of the funniest improv moments ever in my opinion. The story was Indiana was supposed to fight the sword guy fairly, but Harrison had gotten some kind of food poisoning, as had most of the crew, from the food where they filmed.

So the very sick Harrison, not in the mood to go through with the all the fighting, just pulled out his gun and shot the guy. Apparently the sword guy was pissed because of how much he trained for that shot.

That was hilarious and classic Ford. The look on his face makes that scene one of the funniest of the series.

May 22 - 07:11 AM

harlowgold

Lisa Diedrich

Siebener, like you I was the same age when TOD came out, 13 or so, and I absolutely loved it. It was thrilling, scary, and just awesome to me at the time. The third one was too slapstick for my taste, I wanted more of what I loved about Temple of Doom. Still my favorite, don't care what the critics and offended mom's say (ooh, it was gross for my little kid to see!), it still kicks butt. It was violent, dark and exotic.

May 22 - 12:33 PM

Mr. RePlay

Arthur Jones

I enjoyed the Temple of Doom just as much as the rest of the Indiana Jones films and I like the darkness and violent nature of the movie. I believe you are referring to the scene in Raiders in which Indy shoots the sword-welding guy in the marketplace, right? Why would that be harsh, seeing that you enjoyed the heart-ripping scene in TOD?

May 23 - 09:54 PM

JohnnyBeGood

John G

Are you talking about the scene in ROTLA when Indy just shoots the guy with the sword? Apparently Harrison Ford had a stomache flu that day so they just had him shoot the guy instead of fighting him, lol. I guess they could have waited to film that scene, haha.

May 24 - 10:47 AM

xenagaby77

Michael Chernecky

I am always amazed that some people think TOD was "mean-spiirted." There's more campy humor in this film than all of the other ones combined. Short Round is delightful, and Kate Capshaw is quite funny as a thorn in Indy's side. The opening number of "Anything Goes" (including the action and the music) is exceptionally well done. However,the film is also scary because the cultists are extremely evil and are practicing black magic (including ritual sacrifices) as if the medieval age had never ended.
The cultists and their surrounding environment (including the masses of insects) are meant to reek of evil. TOD is underrated amd more memorable than the Last Crusade, which at times was too corny and obvious.

Jun 28 - 11:53 PM

xenagaby77

Michael Chernecky

I am always amazed that some people think TOD was "mean-spiirted." There's more campy humor in this film than all of the other ones combined. Short Round is delightful, and Kate Capshaw is quite funny as a thorn in Indy's side. The opening number of "Anything Goes" (including the action and the music) is exceptionally well done. However,the film is also scary because the cultists are extremely evil and are practicing black magic (including ritual sacrifices) as if the medieval age had never ended.
The cultists and their surrounding environment (including the masses of insects) are meant to reek of evil. TOD is underrated amd more memorable than the Last Crusade, which at times was too corny and obvious.

Jun 28 - 11:55 PM

reavus4983

Mike Saxton

Last Crusade is my favorite because of the comedy, the emotional depth, and better developed characters. The tank chase is also my favorite action scene in the whole series. Crystal Skull may be 4th on the Tomatometer, but the reviews for Temple of Doom and Last Crusade at their times supposedly were not as great as the Tomatometer shows now (as is the case with many, especially older movies). Almost any movie pre-1990 by default seems to get at least 20% on the meter. It's like people are retrospectively afraid to badly review older popular movies. So I will guess that Crystal Skull is getting almost on par reviews with Last Crusade back in 1989. Yes, I have put too much thought into this; but, I'm going at midnight tonight, so still am having anxiety.

May 21 - 05:27 PM

arendr

Arend Anton

Well said!

May 21 - 05:36 PM

arendr

Arend Anton

You guys are close on the story about the swordfighter. They had a giant fight scene planned out that would take a few days of shooting. Ford had dysentery so he asked Spielberg, "Why don't I just shoot the sucker?" Spielberg liked the idea and it stuck.

He didn't just shoot the guy ad lib.

May 21 - 06:55 PM

Damiem

Damiem Chamness

I take that grain of salt every time I pull up a review older than 10 years on RT. Critics may be cynics by definition (they're not called "praisers"), but they tend to be more fond of films from days of old. RT seems aware of this though because they "weight" movies in their superlative lists.

May 22 - 04:38 AM

arendr

Arend Anton

Well said!

May 21 - 05:36 PM

Holly Jolly

Holly Jolly

Temple of Doom is an awesome film.

May 21 - 05:46 PM

StrongArm

Alex Armstrong

I think The Last Crusade is my favorite out of the three followed closely by Raiders of the Lost Ark. I loved the chemistry that Ford and Connery had on screen.

May 21 - 05:47 PM

Bloody Mathias

Mathias N/A

Temple Of Doom may be the worst, but man does it have the best poster.

May 21 - 05:50 PM

sickofitall

b x

screw you

May 21 - 09:08 PM

blattman

Mike Greenblatt

Ok, you probably haven't heard the story yet. This is true. Speilberg had this great fight scene choriographed and ready to go. Harrison Ford had a stomach problem and had to go to the bathroom RIGHT NOW. So he pulled out his gun, shot him and ran off to the bathroom. Speilberg liked it and kept it in the film. The fight sequence got used in TOD with two swordsman. Nothing malicious about it.

May 21 - 06:09 PM

cacklebunny

First Last

Let's hope George Lucas doesn't have a change of heart about that fight scene and superimpose Greedo over the swordsman so he'll shoot first. :P

May 21 - 07:35 PM

Kleuker

Lutz Kleuker

(going off topic again)

@blattman: yes, i know how that scene got into the movie, but i think, it doesn't really change the way it comes across. i do understand why people think it's funny though. maybe i was just too much of a p*ssy back then ;-)

May 22 - 02:47 AM

happyicecream

Dave B

Yeah, and he improved the "I know" line from Empire, too.
The man's a genius.

May 23 - 09:10 AM

adkboomer

Noah Goodheart

wow, I'm almost shocked to see that nobody has stood up yet to validate Rt's (and most people's) judgement...Raiders is easily the greatest. I have just finished watching the first three (and eagerly anticipate yet am somehow anxious about 'Kingdom'), and I have to agree with the order RT has them pegged. I must say it is a testament to the pure fun of these films that the previous posters all have their own special places in their hearts for these adventures. I definately saw Raiders first as a kid, then temple, but LC was the only one I have seen in theatres. Going back to them as an adult is especially gratifying as I notice all the little comedic moments that i probably missed as a kid (Indy's stumbling his way into the dance number at Club Obi Wan in temple...its genius). Likewise for some of the more artistic touches (such as the great use of shadows and silhouette, especially in Raiders). As I write I realize my love for these movies is even greater than I thought. Have always thought of Star Wars as THE trilogy (damn you george for trying to ruin that), but I now feel there is a new king town (y'know nostalgia town).

May 21 - 06:13 PM

adkboomer

Noah Goodheart

by the way...i heard it wasn't that he had to go poo right away, but he wasn't feeling well and didn't feel like dancing around doing swordplay in the heat

May 21 - 06:15 PM

arendr

Arend Anton

You guys are close on the story about the swordfighter. They had a giant fight scene planned out that would take a few days of shooting. Ford had dysentery so he asked Spielberg, "Why don't I just shoot the sucker?" Spielberg liked the idea and it stuck.

He didn't just shoot the guy ad lib.

May 21 - 06:55 PM

sunsaz

Chris Moore

Something else to put "Skull's" rating into perspective. The first three films had 41, 47, and 44 positive reviews respectively (out of 43, 54, and 49 reviews). As of this post, "Skull" has 91 positive reviews out of 118 total. Not only has a lot changed in 19 years regarding filmmaking and special effects, but the critiquing process as a whole has dramatically changed as well.

May 21 - 07:00 PM

YesIm6ft7

Richard Stine

I haven't seen the movie yet, but I'm excited to.

However, after reading a few spoilers and several comments from critics that have seen the movie already - I *can* say I'm already disappointed with the story line and creativity department. Crystal Skulls, Aliens, and Atlantis? Sounds like someone (or maybe two people to be exact) have been watching Stargate SG-1 a little bit.

If you're a SG-1 (ran strong for 10 years straight) fan then you'll totally know what I'm talking about! Especially if you've seen the episode, "Crystal Skull" and enjoy watching the SG teams battle it out with aliens and discovering the lost city of Atlantis. I would be a little upset if I was a SG-1 writer/producer, but that's just me.

Anyways, I'm still looking forward to giving my $10 to Ford's paycheck since I'm fan.

May 21 - 07:07 PM

mightyfooda

dan drew

SG-1 is crap, so I guess I have to worry about already having heard the plot, but thank you for bringing it all up here, jerk.

May 21 - 09:59 PM

YesIm6ft7

Richard Stine

(picks up your pacifier) - Mightyfooda, stop dropping this and farting all over the blogs.

Regards,
-Impressed by how much I don't care...

May 22 - 10:12 AM

n8thesk8

Nathaniel Fitzgerald

You have to also remember LucasArts released Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, the adventure game all the way back in 1992, 5 years before SG-1 even existed! And #2, Atlantis NEVER comes into play in this movie. #3 Even Indy will tell you there are all kinds of crystal skulls around the world, but not all of them have mystical qualities, the skull in question in this movie is actually taken from true events, and mayan/aztec folklore.

May 27 - 10:07 AM

cacklebunny

First Last

I liked them all, but Raiders more than the others. When I first saw TOD in the theaters, it was quite enjoyable and left me dizzy and exhausted in the end. It was as much a roller coaster ride as any of those at your local theme park. I was a little disappointed with Last Crusade, as the action took a back seat to the emotional elements between father and son.

As for the Raiders scene in which the swordsman gets shot, I have to disagree...it was completely funny. What made it so great in the theaters was the collective tension of the audience as they anticipated a fight. That sudden release of energy became riotous laughter, making it one of the most memorable scenes.

May 21 - 07:32 PM

cacklebunny

First Last

Let's hope George Lucas doesn't have a change of heart about that fight scene and superimpose Greedo over the swordsman so he'll shoot first. :P

May 21 - 07:35 PM

sickofitall

b x

screw you

May 21 - 09:08 PM

Samurai_Ranger

First Last

I agree that TOD is underrated. Yeah, some of the gore and darker elements are off-putting, but it has a lot of brilliant moments. I love the "He'll be back in 5 minutes!" scene, and how the Thugee seems to emerge from the mural in the wall. I don't mind the implausibility of it, because at the very beginning, the future Mrs. Spielberg sings "Anything Goes," and you're either able to roll with that or not.

I think enough time had to pass since WWII before Nazis could be used as action-movie villians. I can understand it might seem inappropriate to you.

I got a laugh at the scimitar-wielding foe being dispatched quickly, but that's an interesting reaction on your part. That same thing appears in an older movie by a director that Spielberg and Lucas worship. That is: "Seven Samurai" by Akira Kurosawa. In it, seasoned, noble Samurai (note my nick) are felled by superior weaponry, and the feeling is poignant and tragic, for the very reason you mentioned - that it's not a fair fight. Since you had that reaction, I thought I'd recommend the film if you haven't seen it already.

But I can enjoy the scene in "Raiders" on the comic-book level on which it's intended.

May 21 - 09:24 PM

oyguvaltshappy

matthew ericson

Raiders is brilliant, Temple of Doom is a little too dramatic for its own good, and Last Crusade lives off Indy's popularity but does it well. I think Crystal Skull will most resemble Last Crusade, and that's good enough for me.

May 21 - 09:49 PM

mightyfooda

dan drew

SG-1 is crap, so I guess I have to worry about already having heard the plot, but thank you for bringing it all up here, jerk.

May 21 - 09:59 PM

YesIm6ft7

Richard Stine

(picks up your pacifier) - Mightyfooda, stop dropping this and farting all over the blogs.

Regards,
-Impressed by how much I don't care...

May 22 - 10:12 AM

Satenza

tony spamone

Raiders is undesputibly the best (although i've always found the last 20 minutes a bit of a drag). Last Crusade is a very loyal sequel. The tank fight is probably the second best action sequence in the trilogy. Temple of Doom is definately a far third. I don't normally have a problem with a darkening tone and gore; but the movie just feels downright mean-spirited for this series. Plus i've always found the kid and whiny chick annoying.

May 21 - 10:49 PM

jeffcooper

Jeff Cooper

See Roger Ebert's sausage theroy in his movie review of KOTCS. Makes perfect sense.

May 21 - 11:40 PM

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