But the excitement of the new film is the presence of Karen Allen in her old role of Marion Ravenwood, at 56 just as spunky, beaming, and beguiling as she was in Raiders of the Lost Ark. In real life, Allen has been knitting, raising a son, and running a gym all this time. Here she completes Indiana Jones, and is quite his equal and partner.
The latest film takes place in 1957, 19 years after Indy and Marion last saw each other. The latest addition to the Indy "family" is Shia LaBeouf, a Disney juvenile who plays Marion's son, a 20-year-old adventurous greaser, who refuses to attend school, rides a motorcycle daringly, and models himself after Marlon Brando, Edd Byrnes, and James Dean.
The plot of Crystal Skull is as unlikely as any of the others, the fun rides are just as outrageously heart pounding, the snakes just as big, the waterfalls bigger, and the ants even more totally devouring. But the exposition is a bit livelier, thanks to Allen, cocky but articulate LaBouef, and John Hurt as a babbling, psychotic explorer, long a captive of the Peruvian Indians. Ford is the straight man, rarely speaking, and then always softly and humbly. As usual, in Indiana Jones movies, the final battle totally destroys the set and all the archeological artifacts. As everything goes up in smoke with a thunderous boom, the surviving cast sails off laughing.
Ford has a unique position in the pantheon of today's mostly cartoonish cinematic male heroes. As Indiana, he isn't omnipotent or fearless in the face of challenges, and is surely the most unaffected of movie superheroes. He does what he does without gimmicks or fancy toys like the ones Q always gave James Bond. Indy has a whip and whatever he picks up off the ground when he's attacked. He's a variant of Homo habilis, i.e., "Handy Man as Hero"—the resourceful man who can do what's required without unnecessary bravado or theatrics. Unlike any of the bigger-than-life models of masculinity, he's an example of what a guy can be if he needs to. While other superheroes of his tradition grow old and flabby—even as they pretend to endless studliness—Ford is no more than, but never less than, he ever was—which is quite enough. Although New Yorker film critic David Denby dismissed Ford as a "sexless dud," huge crowds of moviegoers of every age have gathered for this reunion of Ford and Allen.