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By Thomas Wheeler

For those who missed INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL when it was in theaters -- as far as I'm concerned, you missed one of the two best summer blockbuster movies of 2008 -- the other one being Iron Man.

The long-awaited fourth installment of the adventures of everyone's favorite archaeologist-adventurer certainly delivered on the thrills, fights, chase scenes, cliff-hangers, and occasional well-timed laughs that we have come to expect from -- well, if adventure has a name, then it's Indiana Jones.

And it was cool to have an Indiana Jones action figure line back on the shelves. Talk about long overdue. The first movie had a toy line that was very decent for the time. The second movie had a fairly short-lived toy line from LJN. The third movie had zip. Now, nineteen years later, and with all the advances that have been made in action figure production since then, the 3-3/4" Indiana Jones action figure collection has been bringing us some of the best from Kingdom of the Crystal Skull as well as the other movies. While the line's future, as of this writing, is a bit up in the air, there's still plenty out there to review. Including a particular mail order figure.

You know, it really seems that in this day of online everything -- I sort of miss mail order. Now, technically, I'm not all that fond of buying my action figures sight unseen. But remember the days, in any number of action figure lines -- Star Wars, G.I. Joe, Transformers, and others, when you would fill out a coupon, collect whatever requirements were needed, and then send it off with a bit for postage and handling and, the postal service willing, several weeks later get a cool new toy in the mail?

As it turned out, there was a mail-order offer with the Indiana Jones action figures. And just the concept of a mail-order figure itself struck me as so cool, and the way it was carried out was impressive and creative enough, and the figure itself sounded pretty impressive, that I decided to go for it.

Each Indiana Jones figure in the early assortments came with a little cardboard box, designed to look like the sort of typical wooden crate used back when Indy was plying his trade, to ship artifacts from whatever remote hole of the world they were discovered in back to whatever university of museum Indy happened to be working for. Within each of these cardboard boxes was a little plastic artifact of some sort. There was also a small sticker, representing the artifact.

The order form for the mail-order figure stated that six artifact stickers had to be applied, and then you could send off for the figure. Let's see -- I've got Indy, I've got the Russian colonel, I've got that scary Russian chick, I've got the Russian Soldier, I've got the German Soldier, and I've got the Indy from the first movie. Hey, I'm good to go!

The figure itself is -- um, okay, hold it. Those if you who have not seen the movie yet, and who plan to, probably rent it on DVD or something, and who have somehow managed to keep yourselves from finding out any significant parts of the plotline or details thereof -- THIS IS YOUR SPOILER WARNING. I will be revealing details about the fourth Indiana Jones movie from this point forward. If you don't want to know, I suggest you turn to another review on this Web Site, or perhaps go read a good book.

The mail-order figure offered in the Indiana Jones line is the CRYSTAL SKELETON with Throne. So, for those of you who may not have seen the movie, but who don't mind if you learn a few details here and there -- what the heck is a crystal skeleton, right?

Well, keep in mind that the movie is called INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL. If there's a skull, there's probably a good chance that the rest of the skeleton is around somewhere, right?

By means of a basic summary, the Crystal Skull is just that. It's a crystal skull that an old colleague of Indy puts him on the track of, through a rather roundabout way. The skull is -- not entirely human. Although the face of the skull is more or less human in appearance, the back of the skull is distinctly elongated. But is it some sort of actual skull, or just an ornate and somewhat peculiar sculpture?

That is what puts Indiana Jones, a squad of Russians led by a female soldier obsessed with the paranormal, and a few assorted allies and hangers-on, on a quest to find out just where the skull comes from, and what other mysteries, treasures, and powers, might be at hand as part of the discovery.

Ultimately, at the climax of the film, the whole lot of them find themselves in an ornate buried temple, and at the center of this amazing place is a throne room. Here we have multiple thrones, and seated upon each are huge, humanoid, but clearly inhuman skeletons. One of which, the most prominent of which, is missing its skull. Gee, guess what Indy has?

With the skull reattached to its skeleton, everything goes insane. Indy and company barely manage to get out. The female Russian, Irina, hangs around to see what develops. The skeletons all combine as one, and in the process grow musculature and skin, revealing themselves to be a single alien being, not too far removed from the ones seen in movies like "Close Encounters of the Third Kind", or similar to those reported by alien abductees. It's just a good bit taller, and it doesn't seem to be a very happy camper. Irina wants the knowledge this amazing being possesses, and the telepathic process pretty much fries her brain.

The aliens leave Earth, leaving a big hole in the ground, as Indy and his allies watch, having barely escaped in time.

So -- why aliens in an Indiana Jones movie? Lot of people asked that question. Hey, the film took place in the 1950's. By that time, we'd had the Roswell incident, the government was investigating and covering up who knows what -- it really wasn't THAT much of a stretch if you think about it.

Now, it's one thing for one of the Indiana Jones figures to actually come with a crystal skull accessory, and indeed one of them did. Heck, that's the title of the movie. But I think it would've been something else entirely -- like a huge plot-blower -- if this crystal skeleton figure had been put in with one of the figure assortments.

So making this figure a mail-order, and intentionally not showing it in any of the promotional material, was unquestionably the way to go. So, I ordered mine, and waited.

I have to give Hasbro a lot of credit for clever packaging. The figure showed up in a good-sized cardboard box, measuring about 12" x 6" x 3". The entire box was designed to look like a wooden crate. The well-known Indiana Jones logo was stamped on the sides. One of the larger sides of the box read, in stencil, "Property of Dr. Jones - 052208". The other large side had, in fairly small stencil, "CRYSTAL SKELETON WITH THRONE", and a small address label.

There was a slight risk in this, perhaps. I don't know how many toy collecting mailmen are out there. Hopefully any that exist would not stoop to stealing another person's mail-order toy. Probably get into a load of trouble for that anyway. But I definitely have to give Hasbro a lot of credit for the creative packaging.

Fortunately, the figure was well-protected just due to the size of the box. The figure is nowhere near 12" in height, although he's pretty big for a 3-3/4" scale line. Then again, these were tall aliens. However, the figure and the throne are mounted on a large plastic framework that fits the box size perfectly and afford them a decent amount of protection.

The Crystal Skeleton figure stands 5-1/2" in height, and is molded almost entirely from a translucent light blue plastic. The detail level, especially on something this slender, is absolutely amazing.

The skull is neatly detailed, right down to individual teeth, and ridges on the skull itself. The spinal column and ridge case are just incredible. Clearly this is not a human rib cage. It's almost web-like in appearance, but again, the molding process must have been pretty arduous. The arms and legs are very slender, but extremely well-detailed. The hands have individual fingers, and the big toe on each foot is separated from the others.

And -- the figure is also very well ARTICULATED. I'm almost scared to move it too much because it looks so delicate. However, the figure does fully move at the head, arms, elbows, waist, legs, and knees. In fact, the knees have a double-joint! The elbows have a swivel! I don't even want to think about what it took to assemble these skinny things.

The throne is also a very nice piece of work. Decently solid, molded from a semi-metallic gold with a very, very slight paint wash to bring out some of the details. It has a sort of non-specific Mayan-Aztec-Inca-South American-whatever look to it, with elements derived from the ancient people from that part of the planet. Overall, it's a very nicely detailed piece of work, and sits the Crystal Skeleton very admirably.

So what's my final word here? Look, I know that the movie received a semi-mixed reaction. And I think that's a shame. Because really, I thought it was an excellent movie, a worthy successor/addition to the Indiana Jones movie. Even Mutt Williams wasn't as annoying as I thought he'd be, although granted if the action figure sales are any indication, he wasn't especially popular. So be it. But the movie was really good. I enjoyed it. It combined all of the best elements and characteristics of the Indiana Jones concept, and turned out a cool film.

And Hasbro has turned out a cool toy line, that is paying tribute to ALL FOUR of the Indiana Jones movies. How long that line will last is, admittedly, as of this writing, debatable. And that's a shame, too. Because there's a lot of potential in Indiana Jones, and I wish it would get a decent chance.

But at the very least, there's this interesting CRYSTAL SKELETON figure. I don't recall offhand how long the mail order offer was good for, but if it's expired by the time you read this review, there's always the secondary market. In any case, if you're an Indiana Jones fan, and you enjoyed KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL, as I sincerely hope you did, then you should definitely add the CRYSTAL SKELETON WITH THRONE figure to your Indiana Jones collection. It definitely has my enthusiastic recommendation!