Movie audiences around the world are welcoming back the daring archaeologist first introduced in 1981's Raiders of the Lost Ark and not seen (in a new screen adventure) since ...The Last Crusade 19 years ago. Alan Silverman has a look at Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
The well-worn fedora hat. The weather-beaten leather jacket. The bullwhip. They all mark the long-awaited return of Indiana Jones on a new quest for a fabled artifact.
Harrison Ford is 'Indy' and speaking with reporters prior to the world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival on the French Riviera, Ford said he had no problem returning to the iconic role that helped him become one of Hollywood's top action stars.
"The pleasure of playing this character is his wit and his intelligence and the situations that the filmmakers put him in and watching him twist in the wind and then work his way out of these situations," Ford says. "The only measure of 'Indiana Jones' is what he comes up against, so the villains really provide the opportunity for him to exceed expectations."
Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is set 20 years after the previous films in the midst of the Cold War 1950's; and the villain is a coldly efficient Soviet agent played by Oscar-winner Cate Blanchett. Once again, Indy winds up mentoring a new young sidekick: Mutt, played by Shia LaBeouf.
True to form, in settings from the New England university campus where he's a professor to the wide open spaces of the American southwest and the tropical jungles of South America, Indy chases, gets chased and does a fair bit of fighting. Ford takes pride in doing much of the action himself, but he won't call it 'stunt' work.
"I've got to say what I've said for 20 years, I don't do stunts," says Ford. "Stunt guys do stunts. I do physical acting and I think it's very important that the audience be able to see expressions ...the storytelling going on during these physical events. It needs to be an emotional event like every moment on screen needs to be invested with real emotion ...or pretend emotion. You need to establish emotional continuity with the audience and that's why we are were happy to do the action sequences 'old school' (on a) human scale. It couldn't be done if I couldn't do it or if a stunt man couldn't help arrange it so that I could do it."
Star Wars creator George Lucas also dreamed up the Indiana Jones story and he returns as producer.
"We wanted to make the best Indiana Jones film we possibly could and we weren't going to have F-14's [fighter jets] flying under freeways," explains Lucas. "We were going to do it very realistically with real stunts and a real story about real people. What happens after that is the adventure falls out of the characters. We don't go and say 'we're going to make the most amazing chase that's ever been made.' We just say 'what's the story demand of this and how can we make it as entertaining, fun and exciting and suspenseful as we possibly can?'"
Steven Spielberg, director of all four films in the series, says audiences demanded this long-delayed sequel.
"The reason we made this 'Indiana Jones' was because we had so many people over the years come up to us - George and Harrison and myself - and just say 'when is another one coming out?' " Spielberg says.
But with anticipation so high, there are bound to be critics who give ...Crystal Skull negative reviews; however, star Harrison Ford contends that doesn't really matter to him.
"I work for the people who pay to get in," Ford says. "They are my customers and my focus is on providing the best experience I can for those people. This kind of film is such a celebration of the movies. I know that we made this movie to reacquaint people with the sheer joy that can happen in a dark room with a bunch of other people seeing something you haven't seen before that will just kick your butt."
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull also features English actor Ray Winstone as Indy's duplicitous partner; and Karen Allen returns to the series for the first time since Raiders of the Lost Ark, playing Marion Ravenwood, the only woman who can stand up to the hero. The heroic music is again by Oscar-winner John Williams.