CANNES, France (Reuters) - Indiana Jones returns 19 years after his last adventure, and early reaction suggests the majority of Cannes film festival's notoriously picky critics are happy the whip-wielding archaeologist is back.
Harrison Ford reprises his most famous role in "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull," a high-octane fantasy set in the 1950s when Jones no longer faces Nazis but a KGB agent after the ultimate Cold War weapon -- mind control.
There are plenty of jokes about 65-year-old Ford's age, and he reunites with Karen Allen, co-star in the first Indiana Jones movie "Raiders of the Lost Ark" released in 1981.
"Not as easy as it used to be," Jones mutters early on.
His young sidekick Mutt Williams, played by Shia LaBeouf, at one point bluntly asks: "What are you, like 80?," and there are strong hints he will take over the mantle from Ford.
Australian actress Cate Blanchett, with severe fringe, dark hair and over-the-top Russian accent, plays evil Soviet agent Irina Spalko who races Jones to the secret of the crystal skull.
"I apologize to the entire Russian populace for my Russian, but hopefully it will be dubbed," Blanchett, her hair back to blonde, joked at a press conference.
Warm, though not loud applause broke out as the credits rolled at the first press screening ahead of a glitzy evening red carpet event, and early online reviews were mostly positive.
"Nineteen years after their last adventure, director Steven Spielberg and star Harrison Ford have no trouble getting back into the groove with a story and style very much in keeping with what has made the series so perennially popular," wrote Todd McCarthy of trade publication Variety.
But Kirk Honeycutt of Hollywood Reporter told Reuters: "They (the audience) got a rollercoaster that didn't seem to want to stop for nearly two hours and they didn't get much story, or character, or wit or plot.
"We're all kind of bewildered about what they thought they were making."
Thousands of people, many wearing Indiana Jones-style hats handed out for free, crowded outside the Grand Theatre Lumiere cinema in a sun-kissed Cannes to get a glimpse of the stars.
The film, conceived by George Lucas, is a familiar recipe of thrilling chases, spectacular stunts, mystical symbols, ancient civilizations and jokes about Jones's fear of snakes.
But it also ventures into the realms of extra terrestrials and parallel worlds, and tackles issues including McCarthyism in the United States in the 1950s, the destructive power of nuclear weapons and even the disappearance of forests in the Amazon.
Ford told reporters he was more worried about the reaction of the public than that of the critics.
"I expect to have the whip turned on me. It's not unusual for something that is popular to be disdained by some people and I fully expect it and I'm not really worried about it.
"I work for the people who pay to get in," he added. "They are my customers and my focus is on providing the best experience I can for those people."
The first three Indiana Jones movies made over $1 billion at the global box office in 1980s dollar terms, and DVD sales have been huge since.
Asked if he, Spielberg and Ford planned a fifth Indiana Jones movie, Lucas replied: "Harrison, Steven and I haven't talked about it. We can't do it unless I can come up with a good idea, which I haven't."
(Additional reporting by James Mackenzie; editing by Ralph Boulton)
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