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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (review)

The Movie: Part II

To me, Raiders of the Lost Ark will always be The Movie. The ultimate movie, the movie that is synonymous with the word movie. Even more so than Star Wars, this is the movie that made me sit up and take notice and realize, Oh my god, I love movies. Oh my god, I wanna do something with my life that is all about movies.
So, you know, it was with a particular kind of dread that I approached Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. I was afraid it would be like going to your high-school reunion and finding out that that cool guy you were madly in love with in ninth grade was now an accountant with a passionate interest in golf. Or like going to see Star Wars Episode I and discovering it was about an annoying little kid and a Rastafarian reptile.

But it isn’t. It’s… Indiana Jones. Even as off-the-track as Harrison Ford (Hollywood Homicide, What Lies Beneath) has been for the last decade and a half — really, he hasn’t had a decent role since 1993’s The Fugitive — he’s suddenly Indiana Jones again. A little older, a little rougher, a little more mileage, honey, but… yeah. It’s kinda like you scratched that golf-loving accountant and discovered that, hey, maybe he’s still got it after all.

All I know is this: I sat through two hours of Crystal Skull and when it was over, my jaw was aching, because I hadn’t stopped grinning like a little kid the whole time. I love this movie. I love it.

Look: Steven Spielberg and George Lucas are not attempting to break new cinematic ground here, like could be arguably said about Raiders, in that it was its own kind of accidental metacommentary on movie history — if nothing else, Raiders certainly had just the right impact at just the right time to influence an entire generation’s taste in pop culture. That’s not gonna happen with Crystal Skull — we’re just revisiting an old friend. Raiders was the asteroid crashing into the old entertainment world, making room for the fantasy action movie (as distinct from the sci-fi blockbuster, even if the two subgenres have since meshed). Crystal Skull couldn’t hope to have that same kind of impact… no pun intended. I can’t imagine why anyone would have imagined it would.

So, yes, there’s a lot of little nods to all sorts of things we remember dearly from Raiders and Last Crusade (though not so much that middle movie that is probably better left alone), things that are here purely for nostalgia’s sake, because it’s a secret language we all speak, as dear old friends do. The movie opens with the old Paramount logo, the one that melted into the mountain in the opening of Raiders, and here it melts into, well, something else, and it’s very funny. The movie is set in 1957 amidst the Cold War and Red scares and all things Soviet, and though Indy never once says, “Russians: I hate these guys,” even though they keep showing up at inconvenient moments, you know he’s thinking it. You know that the screenwriters (David Koepp and Jeff Nathanson and George Lucas) and director Spielberg (War of the Worlds, Catch Me If You Can) left a little dead air hanging there in one scene so that we all in the audience could fill it in. And I love that.

When someone here yells, “Those darts are poison!” you can’t help but go, Well, of course they are. This is where we are, in Indy’s world. And yet the situations Indy finds himself in here have moved with their times, too: it wasn’t just Reds we were afraid of in the 1950s, but flying saucers, too, and government conspiracies covering them up. So how cool is it that Indy finds himself at Area 51 as the movie opens, kidnapped by Soviet dominatrix-scientist Irina Spalko (the always awesome Cate Blanchett: Elizabeth: The Golden Age, I’m Not There), who smacks Indy around some and yells at him in that intimidating accent until he agrees to help them find something very special and unique in a big secret government warehouse? (Yes, it’s that big secret government warehouse where the Ark of the Covenant got tucked away. Not that the Soviets know that.) If Raiders was a 1930 adventure serial, then Crystal Skull is a 1950s sci-fi movie. Of course it is. What else would it be?

Oh, and there’s this: You thought a big rock rolling out a cave constitutes peril? Oh man, just wait till you see Crystal Skull’s big-rock-rolling-out-of-the-cave. It’s, well… there was something else we were all terrified of in the 1950s, too, and Indy gets it right in the face.

There seems to be a bit of a nudging toward a new movie series here with Indy’s hanger-on and reluctant assistant, Mutt Williams, who all but picks up Indy’s hat by the end of the film. But it might be best if Spielberg and Lucas left that alone. Shia LaBeouf (Transformers, Disturbia) is unquestionably adorable and very funny as Mutt, but while it’s awfully nice to visit Indy’s world again, we don’t want to get tired of it. Better if we parted ways after this, while we all still have pleasant memories of our time together.

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MPAA: rated PG-13 for adventure violence and scary images

viewed at a semipublic screening with an audience of critics and ordinary moviegoers

official site | IMDb
  • JSW

    How can they make a new series about a guy named “Mutt Williams”? I mean, that’s the kind of name you’d give to a do–


  • Thank you for this — and for always sharing insight, grace, and intelligence.

    Much of what passes for criticism in movies [and in my own avocation, theatre] seems predicated on “I hate it; I’m above it all, if I’m not sneering I’m not doing my job”.

    Even when you don’t care for a film, you are still trying to find good in it — and you have more class than to pander to that “general herd” tone in what you write.

    It’s always such a joy to read whatever you have to say.

    Thanks much!

    Seeing this tonight, and your review contributes to my anticipation even more! {To wit: “when FlickPhilosopher likes it, it’s gonna be good!”}


  • Thanks MaryAnn — I’m bursting at the seams to see this now, and regretting the chance I passed up this afternoon to do just that.

  • Avrithor

    Thanks for this review MaryAnn. I think a lot of people had the same fear, that it would feel more like a high school reunion or a comeback tour than a genuine Indy film, or simply a fear that this would be “the Phantom Menace of the Indy series”. Totally legitimate concerns of course, but I think the movie puts them soundly to rest. Obviously it’s not perfect, it doesn’t match Raiders, but then what can? To me it rests very comfortably alongside Temple of Doom and Last Crusade, which is just exactly where it belongs.

    Really the only part of the movie that put me off – trying to stay spoiler-free here – was Indy’s way of surviving an early threat in the film (alluded to in the review), with Indy and the object he uses to get out of his predicament being apparently invincible. I just didn’t buy it. But that’s hardly enough to drag the film down, and at least the payoff shot when it’s over is spectacular.

    Going off-topic for just a moment, one of the fun points about the midnight show I attended here in Anchorage last night was that the audience went just as wild with squealing and applause for the Dark Knight trailer as they did for any part of Indy 4 itself. Can’t wait for *that* midnight show. :)

  • Nate B.

    I just saw the film tonight and having just read your review I agree with everything you said and also that analogy with Crystal Skull being a nod to 50’s sci fi movies makes so much sense to me. I had these complaints with the film but after reading your review they well just went away. Totally agree with you 100%.

    PS When I saw the film I walked in with my Indiana Jones fedora and I felt so proud haha.

  • MaryAnn

    with Indy and the object he uses to get out of his predicament being apparently invincible.

    But it’s hilarious!

    I just came back from seeing the movie again, and one of my gang of geeks said something similar. And I said to him, You mean, you’re okay with the, ahem, whole big shebang of an ending and what it says about the crystal skull people and how their story ends, but you’re bothered by a little convenient escape from doom?

  • Avrithor

    I suppose so. It’s a small thing though in my eyes. Certainly didn’t stop me from grinning like a big dork throughout most of the rest of the film. ;)

  • JSW

    Doesn’t it make sense that Indy would be invincible? I mean, he did drink from the Holy Grail after all.

  • Mel

    Lucas has said in interviews that it was an intentional nod to 50s SF movies (or he’d pack up his toys and go home), which, in a meta-commentary way is neat, but I have trepidation about mixing Indy and flying saucers. Nervous excitement is part for Lucas projects these days. Oh well, I will see. I’m relieved others like it.

  • JSW, drinking from the Grail would maybe extend your life or possibly make you immortal, as in, you will never grow old. But it wouldn’t make you invincible or indestructible.

  • I love seeing an older Indy, *and* the movie updated from the ’30s serial era to ’50s “Atomic Horror” (cf. http://www.sjgames.com/gurps/books/atomichorror/ ).

    It’s the sort of thing I try to do myself with my silly little Ashley Porter series of movies (see link on my name if you’re curious), and it’s fun to see Spielberg and Lucas doing that too!

  • Shipon

    I can see that MaryAnne is a kindred spirit for whom movies are a drug, for ecapism & for highs that are not chemically induced.

    We are all growing weary of the pompous,
    unimaginative reviewers that demand realism & try to impose a movie-making blueprint that must be cast in stone. If they want something believable, they should sit on a park bench & watch ordinary people walk past for two hours whilst real film fans enjoy ‘Crystal Skull’ again & again.

    Thanks for the refreshing review. X X X

  • pedro

    ok..i’m going into this one with lowered expectations. i’ve seen the trailer and read the reviews, and i still can’t decide if it’s good or bad.

    but i’m going to go see it on one account: shia lebeouf. this kid is AWESOME. his two lines and ten seconds of screen time on charlie’s angels 2 were by far the best thing about that mess (“i’m fifteen and a half..” is THE line of the movie). then i saw holes and i was like…WOW. so i’m expecting big things from Shia – maybe, just maybe, he’ll steal the movie away from an aging harrison ford.

    please don’t disappoint me, kid. i’m counting on you.

  • JSW and Clayj, he did drink from the Grail, but then crossed the seal, so none of its effects mattered any more… I still can’t get over how sad that Grail knight looks at the end *sniff*

  • PaulW

    For those of you griping about Indy vs. the Saucer Men plotline, that it’s a bit… out there? Please.

    1) The first movie dealt with an Ark that contained the AWESOME POWER OF ALMIGHTY DOG!
    2) The second movie dealt with eating monkey brains. The less said the better.
    3) The third movie dealt with Knights who say Ni! and Castle Anthrax and… wait, wrong Grail movie. The third movie dealt with Indy’s dad being a retired Bond.

    Every movie, Indy’s dealing with the supernatural, things and powers that don’t exist in the real world (not to where there’s any reliable surviving witnesses). So how can interdimensional beings (not from outer space, but hyperspatial realities like the 5th dimension and beyond) be any less believable?

    My biggest problem? In Part III he tells us most archaeology is done from the library. In Part IV he’s telling us to get out of the library. Make up your mind, dude!

  • Brook

    At the risk of being called pompous I’ll voice a dissenting opinion. I was 13 when I saw Raiders in the theater and it blew me away. I had Indiana Jones posters on my bedroom wall. I had an official Indiana Jones hat which I lost throwing it off the top of the pyramid at Chichen Itza whilst getting my Anthropology degree working on a dig in Belize. I *Love* that film.

    The biggest problem I have with Indy4 is that they changed the character. Sure, Harrison Ford can still get it done, but the writing is off. We loved Indy because he’s a screwup – we can identify with him. He’s always getting into real trouble and either getting lucky or doing something really smart or ballsy to get out of it. He’s never really in trouble in this film, certainly never because he screwed up in some way. He always has the situation pretty much in hand. He goes toe to toe with the 7 foot Russian guy, trading punches! He is never clever. The writers lazily try to pass off reams of textbooky dialog as smarts, but he doesn’t do a single smart thing in this movie.

    And MaryAnn, I am kinda surprised you didn’t have anything to say about what they did to the Marion character. She was tough and independent; drinking guys under the table and holding her own in a bar room brawl. Now? All she can do is make doe eyes at Indy?

    Another thing I loved about the previous films was the sense of place. I loved going to the Middle East, to China, to Germany – it was all interesting. Most of this movie takes place in generic CG jungle.

    And why did they make him a war hero? It’s not dissimilar to making Greedo shoot first. Indy was a scoundrel. If I’d written that scene and the CIA goons were demanding “What did do in the war, what did you ever do against the Germans?”, I’d have simply gotten a sly knowing grin out of Indy and we’d all have shared a laugh. He was always outside of the military.

    I’ve gone on too long. John Hurt and Jim Broadbent are fantastic actors, underused. The acting in general was good. I liked the Nevada sequence (except for the gophers). The ending felt like one long FX shot leading into another – I found it very tedious. It also seemed like the Indy theme didn’t happen very much.


    Finally a question: Why did the alien become evil? Why come here, teach us irrigation and whatnot and then become angry when someone returns your head? I just didn’t understand what was going on there.

  • Ide Cyan

    Brook: I read somewhere that this was the first Indiana Jones movie entirely shot within the United States, which would account for the generic CGI jungles — they’ve replaced the actual foreign locations. (And animals. Oy, the animals.)

  • The alien didn’t “become evil,” it was just pissed off at the Commies, who (and since it can presumably read minds, it *knows* this) were just after Power, not knowledge and enlightenment.

  • Grant


    Actually, Indy wasn’t “always outside of the military”. That scene was a wonderful recap of everything we’ve missed in the last 19 years. Of course Indy fought the Nazi’s in WWII. He was, after all, an intelligence officer of the Belgian army in WWI! And if you want to say, “That was the show, not the movies” (and why on earth would you do that?!), as soon as Indy mentions riding with a certain Mexican outlaw as a kid, it all gets tied together.

  • MaryAnn

    And MaryAnn, I am kinda surprised you didn’t have anything to say about what they did to the Marion character. She was tough and independent; drinking guys under the table and holding her own in a bar room brawl. Now? All she can do is make doe eyes at Indy?

    How can you say that’s all she does?! Did you not notice that *amazing* bit of driving she does in the jungle? Marion still kicks plenty ass.


    Why did the alien become evil?

    Yeah, who said the alien was evil? Didn’t it give Irina what she asked for? :->

    The aliens were like Indy. They came to Earth, looked around at all the cool stuff we made, and said to themselves, “Hey, this stuff belongs in a museum.” (Of course, all that stuff got destroyed in the end…)

  • Mark

    Are you kidding me? This movie was terrible! Easily the biggest movie let down since SW Episodes 1-3. George Lucas needs to find a better way to make money than by corrupting great movies and stories that do not need retelling OR follow ups. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull? More like Minnesota Smith and the House of Jar-Jar Binks. TERRIBLE!

  • Ed

    C’mon people this movie was so far off target.

    not to mention the whole alien thing.

    They missed the opportunity to showcase all the deep arqueological findings and history in Mexico and Nazca, Peru…

    The originial crystal skulls are not shaped that way (which gives away the whole movie, in the shape of an Alien-movie copy).

    moreover, one of biggest problems in Latin America is the unchecked looting of sites…countless jewels that belong in museums, not in the hands of the elite…

    This was the original message of the Indy movies…

  • Ryan

    Minnesota Smith…that’s actually sort of an awesome character name, heh. Of course it helps that Minnesota is the coolest state in the Union…literally and figuratively.

    (And I’ll thank you never to use it in the same sentence with Jar Jar Binks again.)

  • Ide Cyan

    Regarding the jungles again: apparently the non-CGI portions were filmed in Hawaii, which may account for their seeming so generic, because we’re all so used to Hawaii’s jungles after several seasons of Lost.

  • Brook

    MaryAnn – I can accept liking this film, but when you say Marian “still kicks plenty ass” you have descended into blinders-wearing fanboydom. Even if I suspend my disbelief to the point that she could have predicted the behaviour of the tree, that’s one drop in a bucket of cloying. Her character is thin. They all are.

    On a semi-related note – your review of Hitch a while back changed my opinion of the movie. I came out of it thinking it was a harmless bit of poorly-made fluff, but you made a very convincing argument that it was much worse than that.

    Ebert is famous for never changing his opinion on movies. Have you ever done that? (Not that I’m asking for that in this case).

  • Brook


    Touche. I’m not up on my Young Indy canon. I keep meaning to buy those DVDs (I remember quite liking the show when I managed to catch it on tv). Was he an intelligence officer for more than a day? He seemed to stumble in and out of roles rather quickly.

    I would have preferred he not be in the military. In fact that whole recap was just too easy (and helped take him from everyman to superhero which is my main complaint). Of course he fought the Nazis – he hates those guys! We’ve already seen him do it. He was on board for fighting the Nazis well before the American government was. I wish he’d done it on his own terms.

  • MaryAnn

    They missed the opportunity to showcase all the deep arqueological findings and history in Mexico and Nazca, Peru…

    You mean, precisely how the original films missed all the many opportunities they might conceivably have had to showcase all the deep archaeological findings and history in South America, China, India, the Middle East, and the Western United States?

    Come on: these movies are fantasy. They are not meant to be scientifically accurate.

    The originial crystal skulls are not shaped that way

    True. And the Ark of Covenant doesn’t shoot Force lightning into the heads of villains. And the Holy Grail doesn’t make you immortal.

    when you say Marian “still kicks plenty ass” you have descended into blinders-wearing fanboydom.

    In what way?

    Even if I suspend my disbelief to the point that she could have predicted the behaviour of the tree,

    The point isn’t that she predicted how the tree would behave, but that she took a chance on flying off the cliff in the first place. How does that make her less than tough? And how does the life she clearly has lived in the meantime make her less than independent?

    that’s one drop in a bucket of cloying. Her character is thin. They all are.

    I didn’t find her cloying at all. And if you think she’s as thin as the rest of them, then clearly the movie didn’t treat her any differently than it treated the other characters, and wouldn’t have merited special mention anyway.

    Ebert is famous for never changing his opinion on movies. Have you ever done that? (Not that I’m asking for that in this case).

    Not in any major way. I’m a little easier on *Starship Troopers* than I was initially. But I generally don’t have time to rewatch a lot of movies… certainly not ones that I didn’t like in the first place. And rewatching is essential if you’re going to change your opinion.

  • John

    Hey Maryann,

    Saw this yesterday and while I loved the first half, I was floored by the offensiveness, but racial and cinematic, by the second half of the film. Now, I know ‘cinematic’ offensiveness, when applied to Tarzan antics, aliens, and ‘ant fights’ is totally subjective and it looks like enough people have already mentioned that.

    What I find sad from the critical community is that no one has mentioned the offensiveness of a plot point that’s all too familar as of late…


    …that the technologies of a mysterious, non-white society are so advanced that they can only be explained by the presence of extraterrestials. That indigenous people weren’t smart enough to have made such things on their own, they needed E.T. to show them how to build their temples, build their tools, invent language, etc.

    You probably remember the dialogue better than I do, but is there not a piece of dialogue that basically says “There’s no way these people could made this technology on their own.”?

    I had a similar problem with Alien Vs. Predator, where the plot twist is that the ancient indigenous civilizations build their pyramids to appease Predators having their coming of age ritual. No, Crystal Skull wasn’t THAT bad, but it basically recycles the same lame plot point. That if white people didn’t make it and it can’t be fully explained, it musta been aliens.

    I’m sure a lot of people will cry “IT’S ONLY A MOVIE, AN INDY MOVIE AT THAT!”, but I wonder how those people would feel if say, Stonehenge, the Renaissance, or any great benchmark of Western Civilization were written off in a film as the result of alien involvement… if it wouldn’t feel like a cheap and lazy plot twist.

    That all being said, I don’t think Lucas, Spielberg, and co. are out and out racists. I just think, like happened with Temple of Doom, they overestimated the limits of saying “oh, it’s just a movie.”

    Enjoy reading your column, would love to know what you think of “How the Garcia Girls Spent Their Summer”.

  • Ebert is famous for never changing his opinion on movies.

    He changed his opinion 180 degrees on Blade Runner.

    I appreciate that so many of you have enjoyed the movie. I still think it was unnecessary and that the series should have ended with Indy and Sallah and Marcus and Dr. Jones riding off into the sunset.

  • MBI

    “I’m sure a lot of people will cry “IT’S ONLY A MOVIE, AN INDY MOVIE AT THAT!”, but I wonder how those people would feel if say, Stonehenge, the Renaissance, or any great benchmark of Western Civilization were written off in a film as the result of alien involvement… ”

    Um, well, Stonehenge is already the subject of its own alien conspiracy theories, and I don’t particularly find them offensive. But then I’m Irish, not English. Also, isn’t the line about the ancient Peruvians not having that technology about the crystal skull, which Indy then immediately notes is also true of modern-day technology?

    God, some people are just terminally offended. That’s no way to go through life.

  • Antonio0

    A heretical remark drinking from the holy grail did’nt seem to help Jesus:)The movie was chessey in a good way . I am sure Cate can do a russian accent which isn’t “must get squirel and moose” thick. Im liked the parrells between red scare and terror scare. I watchedthe orignals when I was a lad and had too see this. There aren’t a lot of surprises, yet it is entertaining

  • Jigsy Q.

    I have an Indy question–why is Temple of Doom so reviled? I’ve heard the phrase “it wasn’t as bad as Temple of Doom” a few times now about this movie, and it’s starting to annoy me. Granted TOD certainly upped the goofiness quotient, but it was still a great ride. I wish people would stop talking about it in hushed, shameful tones as if it were Arthur 2: On The Rocks.

    Show Dick some respect!

  • Jigsy, I quite enjoy Temple of Doom also, though once Last Crusade came out it certainly became the odd one out in many people’s minds.

    A friend of mine has an appreciation of it here:

  • MaryAnn

    Also, isn’t the line about the ancient Peruvians not having that technology about the crystal skull, which Indy then immediately notes is also true of modern-day technology?

    Yes indeed, Indy does make that observation.

    why is Temple of Doom so reviled?

    Two words: Willie Scott.

  • Mr Frost

    How the hell can you say this was a good flick in the least bit? I bet you think that the newer star wars flicks were good too huh? Listen i am a huge fan of the indy flicks but after watching the first three before having seen the new flick on opening day i found myself sad inside that another childhood memory was soiled by lucas.

  • Jigsy Q.

    I like the way your friend thinks Stuart!

    I liked the first half of Crystal Skull. Especially the nuke bit. Then it got all Lucasy. Meaning too much “humor” and a needlessly convoluted plot (I’m still not 100% clear on what anyone was after or why. Seriously George, you can’t write. Stop it.)

  • E

    What’s interesting is just how the timing of movies work. I hear all the time that the Last Crusade was the odd one out, but being only 24, it was the first one I saw, and continues to be my favorite.

    I can’t agree with the praise for the new one, and it makes me sad to do so. It just didn’t work for me, I kind of have to agree that it feels Lucasy. He should stick to management/tech and basic story generating, then hand the reins to someone else. It’s like he gets fidgety and tweaks too much, and he’s George Lucas, so who’s going to call him on it.

  • pedro

    C’mon guys! It’s Indy! Where’s your suspension of disbelief!? This is the same Indy that dangled from rope bridges and slid out from under rolling rocks! Of course the fridge scene is preposterous, but it’s SUPPOSED to be silly!

    I admit I didn’t much like the movie at first, but after about halfway it got much better!

    For those of you who say Marion has no character, I disagree. She’s clearly spunky and independent, often disregarding opinions other than her own, as evidenced by the driving-a-jeep-off-a-cliff scene. Her rapport and dialogue with Indy is simply hilarious!

    Shia is also very good, just as I was expecting. A little shy at first, but he really comes into his own later on.

    And Cate Blanchett is acting up a storm, as usual, even though her villain is a little too Boris-and-Natasha cartoony. Sure, Indy villains are always cartoony, but she takes it to the extreme. She’s like those strict German or Russian babysitters in children’s cartoons.

    I also have to express my displeasure with the criminal underusage the movie makes of John Hurt.

    Other than that, a thumbs-up for me!

    A rival site called this Lucas’ biggest act of lunacy since Phantom Menace. No way. Not even close. In the Indy hierarchy, it sits waaaaaay below Raiders, but on a clear par with Crusade. And it’s 1’000 times better than that piece of crap, Temple of Doom. You wanna talk about a bad Indy movie…

  • David

    Crystal Skull was a lousy parody of the Indy movies. Not only did it fail to strike the balance between wild fancy and gritty suspense (it didn’t even come close, in fact), it centered on a story that was so inherently nonsensical and vapid, and dialog so witless and tone-deaf, that the entire mess was genuinely sad. And you can see George Lucas’ blundering thumbprints all over the damn thing. Someone needs to tell him, seriously, that he has no idea how to tell a story, or to view the world outside of the little box of an immature kid who has no sense of humor.

    I can suspend disbelief with the best of them. And the Indy series, in the three original films, actually did a wonderful job of leading you to the place where it didn’t matter if some of it was just damn silly or over-the-top, or if the snake pit was filled with harmless rat snakes. But they didn’t ask to leave all of your expectations, common sense, and reason at the door. This one does. In spades. It’s all silly and stupid, and that just doesn’t cut it.

  • pedro

    Mutt: “What happened to do whatever you want and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise?”

    Indy: “That was BEFORE I was your father!!”

    Pedro: LOLOLOLOL

  • David

    David: Groan.

  • Mathias

    Mathias: Gag.

    This movie was a severe disappointment.
    As bad as Phantom Menace and Spidey-3.

    Which i might note MJ recommended both.

  • [drags out the dead horse and prepares to beat it again]

    George Lucas is done. Finished. Over. He might still keep making movies, but like M. Night Shyamalan, his well of original ideas and good storytelling has run dry.

    They should have called this one Indiana Jones and the Search for More Money. (Apologies to Mel Brooks.)

  • David


  • MaryAnn

    Which i might note MJ recommended both.

    With clear caveats.

  • David

    One might forgive on Spider-Man 3, but The Phantom Menace?!

  • Rob


    I loved the first three films, even Temple of Doom (it was the first one I saw, so I guess that probably influences my opinion a little). Don’t get me wrong, I thought Crystal Skull was…okay. My biggest issue with it is that there is no mystery left at the end of the film (well, no mystery that isn’t a plot hole, anyway).

    In the first three films the artifacts were powerful, mysterious, magical things that could not be fully explained. Even the holy grail left you wondering – did Jesus really drink from that? Is God real?

    Crystal Skull just leaves you thinking…yes, God is real, and he’s an alien. Why is the crystal skull so powerful, mysterious and magical? Well, because it’s an alien skull. That’s just what they’re like. Aliens have super powers and that’s awesome!

    For me, the film would have been much more powerful if they’d just cut the alien shots and the massive spacecraft out and kept the rest relatively untouched. Then we could at least have wondered who these strange beings were and connected the alien dots ourselves.

    I do understand that this should just be a ‘fun’ film, and I should view it as nothing more than a pulp adventure…but it certainly doesn’t stand up when compared to the first three. It felt kind of cheap for Lucas and Spielberg to slot aliens into the Indy franchise, especially considering that they’ve each previously covered the whole ‘alien’ angle to much greater effect.

    So in closing:-

    Indy 1-3 – the world is mysterious, and it contains magical forces – is this God?
    Indy 4 – the world contains aliens. Aliens are defintely real. Yup. No mystery left. Anything weird is probably aliens.

  • MaryAnn

    But Indy 1 suggests that God is real, too. I prefer to see all the movies as fantasy.

  • gyro

    OK, this thread may be a little stale by today (thu) after IJ&CS opened in my town last wknd but ‘c’mon, it’s the mileage not the days, right? It’s possible that I’ve missed my window to comment on this topic as a fan of the fedora franchise.

    I only decided to take myself and a mildly interested friend to see the late show last Saturday nite, pretty much exclusively on the basis of MaryAnn’s review, and I have to say that I, for one, am satisfied. Can Crystal Skull even begin to touch Raiders? No way. But then again, there’s nothing else in my cinematic lifetime that even comes close to the high bar set by the Raiders truck chase scene. “Truck? What truck?” I’m glad you asked. I don’t know how long it lasts, mere minutes maybe, but the time between Indy riding down on horseback upon the truck and the final swerve off the road into Sallah’s camouflage garage is the ultimate thrill in all movie-making, period. Ripped off from The Road Warrior, you say? I say Indy stole and shamelessly improved the truck –based action stunt, where even James Bond in Casino Royale came close, but didn’t really supersede the classic.

    There’s no way that anything could stack up to Raiders in a sequel, so forgiveness is necessary. Since we are not going back to 1981, we have to settle now for what we can get. I think we got the action we wanted, so I vote this one as a must see

  • MaryAnn

    Actually, the truck stunt in *Raiders* was ripped off from a far older movie — can’t remember the name of it, but it was a Western from the 1950s, I think (the hero moved under a fast-moving stagecoach). Which Spielberg made no secret: he was totally upfront about the fact that *Raiders* was lovingly ripped off from *lots* of old movies.

  • “But Indy 1 suggests that God is real, too. I prefer to see all the movies as fantasy.”

    I’d go farther than that and say that RotLA says that God is real, and that you better not mess with His stuff or He will punish you. I believe the ending of the flick, in which the Ark is safely ensconced in a huge warehouse, isn’t intended to demonstrate that the US Army intends to carry the Ark before it, but that they just don’t want anyone else to have it: We’re not invincible, but neither is anyone else… and as long as we don’t actually try to use the Ark, it won’t do anything to hurt us. It just wants to be hidden away.

  • Grant

    Dang, Clayj beat me too it, thoough I was going to say that God won’t just punish you, he’ll melt your face if you touch his stuff.

  • I like Ike.
    –Harrison Ford, Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull

    Indy is a Republican.

    You know, I always figured as much…

  • MaryAnn

    Or Indy is just spouting a recognizably American slogan to annoy the Russians…

  • Or Indy is just spouting a recognizably American slogan to annoy the Russians…
    –MaryAnn Johanson

    I like my theory better.

    Ripped off from The Road Warrior, you say?

    Actually The Road Warrior was released in the US in the summer of 1982. Raiders, of course, came out in the summer of 1981. True, The Road Warrior was released in Australia in December of 1981, but that still makes it unlikely that Spielberg ripped off George Miller. Unless, of oourse, he owned a time machine….

  • squeekie

    I sort of agree with Brook that having Indy be less of a screw-up takes some of the fun away. He’s more of a father-figure in this one, less stumbling into trouble maybe. But then, for a 60-something-year-old guy, he cleans up pretty damn well. Would’ve been nicer to see him as a bit of a stumblebum maybe, but perhaps they thought that would interfere with his apparent virility.

    The La Bouf guy: I don’t get it about him at all. To me he seems utterly without charm; his presence on the screen creates a vacuum. He is visibly “acting”. They can’t possibly use him in the next installment.

    The biggest negative about this movie is:
    shortly after all the stuff happens with the aliens in the cave, Indy and company exit cave and make their way to a hilltop, presumably passing through the scene of horror and carnage where a large number of indigenous pepole were just massacred. Indy and company are light-hearted, joking around. The indigenous people are treated like nonhuman things in a video game that can be slaughtered, and I find this offensive. How can one not?? Spielberg is the director; isn’t he Jewish? You would think he’d sense that there’s something “off” about this spectacle.

  • squeekie

    Indy MAY be a Republican. But don’t forget, that would have been before the Republican party was turned into the sorry, sordid, authoritarian lapdog of corporate interests that it is today. ;-)

  • David

    Actually, you’ve described both political parties. So, maybe he wouldn’t have had a party affiliation at all.

  • tinderblast

    I’m generally in line with squeekie, not on the exact details but in principle. I did enjoy most of the movie, but once the local Akatorians/El Doradans got involved – or rather, FAILED to get involved … ew, ew, ew ew ew. First they are a stereotypical threat, no more than another stunt-trap for Indy & co. to get past. Then they are slaughtered like sheep by the Russians. Then the alien(s) depart, and while I doubt Indy and the others necessarily saw any bodies, given that they go out a back pipe or something, the ENTIRE city of El Dorado is obliterated. Any surviving El Doradans lucky enough to not be in the valley will come back to a heap of rubble – but the filmmakers don’t want us to think about their plight. They didn’t make characters of the El Doradans at all. Nope, it’s all about the four white people!

    Gosh knows the Indy series isn’t a hotbed for the promotion of anti-racist theories, but sheesh, even in Temple of Doom Short Round got to kick some butt.

    I don’t think Spielberg and Lucas were being intentionally racist, but jeez louise.

  • squeekie

    Yeh, Tinderblast, the entertainment value of racist, video game-type massacre doesn’t appeal to me generally, but here it just seemed like a big, jarring, rancid example of how our society is going to hell in a handbucket.

    There now, I’ve outed myself as a flaming curmudgeon. But check back with me in about a hundred years and see if you still think I’m exaggerating.

  • squeekie

    Handbasket, I meant.

  • Dan Duquette

    To Squeekie:

    Awww, I liked “Handbucket” thats a cute word. [

  • Robert

    This long after it opened, is it still necessary to add a spoilers alert?

    Yeah, pretty much the same formula as previous IJ flicks. Treachery, greed, villains with cheesy accents, hair-raising escapes that depend on cartoon physics, vehicles that withstand stresses 100x the limits of reality – until they don’t, concocted science & history, etc.

    Mostly fun, though I thought the fight among the ants was contrived and dragged down the pace. Star Wars-esque chase/fight scenes through the forest are getting to be a tired cliche to me.

    So we now know the secret of area 51 – they captured the Jupiter II. Danger Will Robinson!

    Pet peeve – Henry Jones the “tenured professor” says “new-cue-ler” AAaaarrrggghhh!! What the hell is it with all these people in Hollywood, news, talk shows, our current president. Why can’t they correctly pronounce nuclear?

  • D.S.

    I realize this comes way, way, waa-aay after the fact, but having just revisited this film on DVD, I have to say I thought this review in particular really got it right. A lot of terrific films arrived in theaters in 2008, with many of them designed to be blockbusters(as opposed to most years when independent films have the market on quality). We had “Iron Man”, “Kung Fu Panda”, “Wall-E”, “The Dark Knight” and this film. Now for sheer quality, I’d give to to Wall-E as the year’s best, but for sheer entertainment, Indy stole the show. I exited the theater with a wide grin on my face and the rewatch value for KotCS is higher than it is with most films. I grew up with this character (I was ten when “Raiders” hit) and for the life of me, I cannot understand why so many people complained about this movie. It’s smart, funny and true to the spirit of the series. Good call, Mary Ann.

  • I was ten when “Raiders” hit…

    I was about twenty when the original first came out. Apparently that makes a difference.

    I kept wanting to like it as much as MaryAnn did–especially since my mother and my sister said they liked it–but too many scenes just didn’t work for me. It wasn’t all that smart, it wasn’t all that funny and not every scene was all that true to the series.

    It was good to see Karen Allen again. And, of course, John Hurt’s appearance made for an excellent in-joke.


    SPOILERS for the few people who haven’t seen it yet…

    The Indy Jr. subplot was silly. The alien subplot seemed contrived even by b-film standards, and the double agent subplot was stupid. (I can imagine Indy getting fooled once but twice? That’s the type of stuff that MaryAnn complains about when it occurs in Heroes.)

    It wasn’t as bad as I feared but it wasn’t the instant classic that every other critic seemed to think it was either.

    For what it’s worth, I did like Wall-E, Iron Man and that Dark Knight movie. So it’s not like I hated everything that came out last summer…

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