Indiana Jones rides into Cannes

CANNES, France Sat May 17, 2008 11:17pm BST

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CANNES, France (Reuters) - Whip-wielding archaeologist Indiana Jones rides into Cannes on Sunday, with star Harrison Ford, director Steven Spielberg and creator George Lucas hoping to avoid a critical lashing.

"Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" is the hotly anticipated follow up to the third chapter of the franchise, "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" released 19 years ago.

With a red-carpet world premiere likely to be watched by thousands of fans in the Riviera resort and hundreds of reporters and reviewers, the Cannes launch guarantees maximum media exposure as well as intense critical scrutiny.

In 2006 "The Da Vinci Code" was showcased in Cannes and received a mauling from the critics. While the cool reaction did not prevent it making an estimated $760 million (388 million pounds) at the worldwide box office, it was an uncomfortable opening for the movie.

"It's always fun to come to Cannes," Lucas told reporters on Saturday at a press event organized, unusually, before the first screening of the film.

"It's a nice place when it's not raining," he added, referring to cool and wet weather during the festival this year.

But he added that the risk of negative reviews from the festival's notoriously picky critics was "probably higher" than a launch in, say, Los Angeles, New York or London.

"TOMATOES THROWN"

Lucas also expected a backlash from the public, recalling how unpopular he was with many fans when he revived the original "Star Wars" franchise with the 1999 movie "Star Wars Episode I - The Phantom Menace".

"I explained to Steven when we sat down on this, I said ... when you do a film that's this anticipated, people have a tendency to believe it's going to be the second coming and no matter what you give them they're going to be disappointed.

"We're all going to get people throwing tomatoes at us. But it's a fun movie to make. We love it."

Ford was also confident the fourth Indiana Jones instalment would wow viewers.

"We have a degree of confidence that it will be an experience that people will enjoy," the 65-year-old said, adding that there had been no attempt to hide his age.

The story of the Crystal Skull is set in 1957, 19 years on from the plot of the third movie in a franchise which has made over $1 billion at the global box office in 1980s dollar terms.

Ford teams up again with Karen Allen as Marion Ravenwood, his love interest in the first film, "Raiders of the Lost Ark".

Shia LaBeouf also stars, and Australian actress Cate Blanchett plays Soviet agent Irina Spalko.

Asked if he, Spielberg and Ford were planning 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."

(Editing by Keith Weir)

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