Rating: * * *
Second Last hurrah for Indiana Jones not as good as his first goodbye.
As it turns out, it's not whether Harrison Ford is too old to be cracking the whip.
Playing the movies' greatest archaeologist-adventurer 19 years after his supposed "Last" Crusade, Ford might be ancient. But he's hardly a ruin. Sure his timing on the occasional punchline might be off but the hat still fits.
No, the risk to Indy 4 is whether the story is too young.
The best two of the three previous Indy movies all set in the 1930s managed to generate an audience suspension of disbelief with a winning combo of biblical artefacts generating much ooee-ooee-oo against a backdrop of scheming Nazis and screaming Arabs. Hey, they worked in its rollicking reinvention of the world of 1950s adventure serials.
This one, though, is actually set in the late 50s and heads from Nevada to a lost city in the jungles of Peru while replacing the Nazis with Soviets led by Cate Blanchett. Rather than things biblical, it makes a leap into a different realm. It's one - let's not spell it out too hard at risk of spoiling the ending - which director Spielberg is very familiar with. So too are long-term fans of the X-Files and anyone who read the works of Erich von Däniken.
Story man George Lucas obviously brushed up on the latter before screenwriter David Koepp delivered a script that Ford, Spielberg and Lucas could finally agree on.
But boy, the end result makes you wonder if they should have kept arguing a little longer.
It sure feels like an uneasy compromise between attempting to modernise its mumbo jumbo while giving the beloved character a(nother) fitting send-off which ties up some loose ends from previous instalments.
While its beginning neatly sets up the rollercoaster, it comes with a long slow patch the middle. And there you start to notice just how overcrowded and how talky it all is.
Indy has almost as many sidekicks here - Karen Allen returning as Marion Ravenwood, Shia LaBeouf as her greaser son "Mutt", Ray Winstone as George "Mac" MacHale and John Hurt as Professor "Ox" Oxley - as he managed in the three previous films put together.
In one scene, all five go over a waterfall in an amphibious car. That Indy is in the backseat is but one sign that he's getting crowded out of his own vehicle. And while yes it's nice that Marion from the first film has turned up you can't help but think their reunion is about one film and 19 years too late and there's little nostalgic charm to their bickering.
Despite turning up wearing Marlon Brando's Wild One get-up to convince as a biker rebel, LaBeouf fares well in his role as Mutt who is, of course ... well you can guess.
And one might wonder this would be better had the movie had been left to just Indiana and Mutt - well fancy that, they're both named after dogs - like Last Crusade's father and son double act with Sean Connery.
But the movie that's finally arrived is something of a disappointment, and not helped by an elongated ending which caps its predecessors for cosmic silliness and an overload of underdone special effects.
But throughout, Ford holds up well, whether his creaky Indy is being nuked to within an inch of his life, suffering another of Blanchett's Ruskie-accented interrogations, or chased by flesh-eating ants. He's able to generate the old Indy spirit, even if the confused film around him does its best to stifle it.
Harrison Ford, Cate Blanchett Shia LaBeouf, Winstone, Karen
Allen, John Hurt
SkyCity, Hoyts, Berkeley cinemas