Welcome back to Nostalgiaviews as we finish off this very late Sequel Let-Down Month of a movie that was notorious for biting all the asses of manchildren and nostalgic 30 year olds everywhere. That's right, I'm talking about the 2008 release; "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull."
Admit it: at some point for all the reviews I've done since 2009, you've subconsciously thought to yourself; "Will he review Kingdom of the Crystal Skull?" Even before I did Sequel Let-Down Month, you subconsciously KNEW that I was going to review this notorious movie.
Well, wonder no longer faithful readers, today is the day.
Well, I guess it is appropriate. I've openly declared "Raiders of the Lost Ark" to be one of my all-time favorite movies. The action is exciting, the locations are grand, the music is amazing, the cast is wonderful and Spielberg's direction is perfect and solid. It's an inspirational movie for me, one that always puts me in a good mood every time I see it. It's a movie that heavily inspired the way I try to make films, I can't help myself for it, this movie is fantastic. It's so amazing, I have a poster of it sitting over my bed sitting next to a "2001: A Space Odyssey" poster.
I'm such a big fan of Indiana Jones, my family and I quote "The Last Crusade" all the time, when my dad turned 50, we threw a party for him and set up a game to find a toy ring inside a birthday case, the winner got a DVD copy of "Raiders of the Lost Ark," I went on the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland 6 times when I went there for my 16th birthday, for crying out loud, I have an Indiana Jones fedora my family got for me when I turned 16, I wear it proudly. Last year when "Raiders" was showing at the Cinemax in Bellevue, I wore the hat to the theater and called out a college buddy by yelling out "Doctor Jones!" to get his attention. Ah, happy memories.
So naturally, with such a passion for Indiana Jones, you would think I would be one of those people who feels so strongly about the 2008 sequel that pissed off many, many, MANY fans. Which was strange to me cause when I first saw, I didn't think it was that bad, silly, sure, but I've seen the TV show and played the video games, silly is almost expectant when it comes to Indiana Jones. The professional critics such as Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times), Richard Roeper (Chicago Tribune), Mark Rahner (Seattle Times), Roger Moore (Orlando Sentinel), and Todd McCarthy (Variety) collectively stated the movie was entertaining but the fans were the harshest critics, outright calling the movie a betrayal of the franchise, kinda like what they did with "Star Wars." But regardless of the criticism, the movie grossed in $317 million at the domestic box office and with the box office returns from overseas tickets, grossed $786 million, marking it as the second highest-grossing film of 2008, behind "The Dark Knight" with $1 billion. Even after all these years, there is still negative feedback to this movie, so damn, cant he movie really be THAT bad and I just accepted what I saw and I didn't see the stupidity that people are calling it out to be?
Well, I don't want to disappoint, not like I haven't done that before, but before I answer that question, here is the review you all subconsciously wanted me to review: "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull."
So the movie opens with the traditional Paramount logo before cross-fading to a dirt mound where a CGI prairie dog comes out before some kids in a 1930's Ford convertible drive over it with Elvis Presley's "Hound Dog" playing as they drive through the desert. Man, those must be some bored kids if driving over gopher mounds is the most interesting thing they can do. Aren't there some drive-in movie theaters or 50's cafes they can go to? But the most interesting they they can do is go up to an Army convoy and egg the lead driver to race them? Wait…Oh God! It's another "American Graffiti" sequel!! RUN! RUN WHILE YOU CAN! THERE WON'T BE A PLOT AND THE ONLY INTERESTING THING ABOUT THE MOVIE WILL BE THE SOUNDTRACK!!!!
By the way, if the opening song didn't already make it clear, the movie is now set in the1950's than the 1930's as Elvis would not have been recording around that time. This doesn't really bother me as this opening is actually shot very well. Special attention to this one camera angle I like where the camera points at a side mirror looking at the driver before panning right to show the kinds in their car driving up. It's a nice camera shot that demonstrates the creative mindset of Steven Spielberg and cinematographer Janusz Kaminski, who has worked with Spielberg as a director of photography since "Schindler's List" (I should also point out this guy also was a cinematographer for the Vanilla Ice movie "Cool as Ice.") Where am I going with this? For a movie that is notorious for making people angry, I don't feel angry at this opening, sure, I can't help but feel Lucas wanted to recapture his "American Graffiti" days but I don't think it's a terrible opening. It sets the location and the mood nicely and it does make me want to see the rest of the movie. I would say it seems out of place, but in the defense of the series, "Temple of Doom" opened with a Chinese Cole Porter music number, so this really isn't anything too far-fetched.
Anyways, the Army convoy stops at a checkpoint as the movie clarifies that this is Nevada 1957, ah yes, 1957, quite a year! Ingmar Bergman released "The Seventh Seal," David Lean released "The Bridge on the River Kwai," Dr. Seuss published "The Cat in the Hat," Allen Ginsberg published "Howl and Other Poems," the Civil Rights Movement started kicking off with the infamous Little Rock Crisis, "West Side Story" appeared on Broadway for the first time, Sputnik 1 was launched into space, "Leave It to Beaver" airs on Television, Elvis debuted his big hit "Jailhouse Rock," and Frank Miller, Levar Burton, Danny Antonucci, Osama Bin Laden, Spike Lee, Christopher Lambert, Daniel Day-Lewis, Scott Adams, Cameron Crowe, Stephen Fry, Hans Zimmer, Brad Bird, Ethan Coen, Bernie Mac, Dan Castellaneta, Michael Clarke Duncan, and Steve Buscemi were all born this year. Quite a year it was…yessiree…what a year it was...
Anyway, the Army convoy shoots out the checkpoint officers as they drive onto the base and pull out Indiana Jones, who is dramatically revealed via silhouette as he places his hat on and the classic theme cues him on. The army soldiers start yelling to each other in Russian, which prompts the camera to look on our hero, Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) as he states "Russians." That's it? Did you not have anymore to add to that? Like "I hate these guys?" In fact, you easily could have just said "Commies, I hate these guys." or "Friggin' Soviets…" and I think we'd get the idea.
Also, they pull another guy out of the car with him, this is Mac (Ray Winstone) and he and Indy are…friends? I guess? They talk about some instance in Lindberg where they were cornered by guys in the 30's but, when did that happen? Did it happen after "Raiders of the Lost Ark" or "The Last Crusade?" Who is this man? The movie expects us to know this guy right off the bat…then again, no sooner did I ask myself that question did I remember "Temple of Doom" also did that with introducing Short Round, but it took later in the movie for us to get to know the kid and where he came from so, shrug* I guess I'll let it slide...this time...
Another car drives up as this one brutish dude tries to beat up Indy before this female Commie- wait, what happened to the light? Not too long ago the sun was shining and now it's nearly dusk? They've only been here a few minutes and the sun was shining brightly, does the sun usually rise and fall so quickly in Nevada? I never went there so I wouldn't know. Anyway, this Russian chick is Ivanna Spankoff- I mean Idaho Spellingbee- I mean, Irina Spalko…am I saying that right?….whatever, she's played by Oscar-winner Cate Blanchett.
Indiana Jones: "You're not from around here, are you?"
Alec: "Whatever gave you that idea? It was her uniform, wasn't it?"
Strangely her English is much better than all her other Comrades as she claims she can read minds but fails to read Indy's brain. It's okay, this will come up again never so, don't' lose sleep over this. They break open this giant warehouse where a familiar music cue from "Raiders of the Lost Ark" plays looking over rows and rows of familiar crates as the door reads "51," which is meant to indicate this is supposed to be Area 51? Whatever, there was a video game called "Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine," at this point, I'm more than willing to accept weirder sh*t than this.
So they go inside and Spalkon Punch tells Indy to help them look for a box that contains a mummified hand that she claims Indy knows about as he worked on it, but I find it doubtful that, since Indy says he had never been here before, he would know where they put it. With a sword at his throat, he agrees but he demands a compass and, for some reason, none of these Soviets brought one…you'd think as soldiers, even in costume, they would have brought a compass along, after all, most military troops do so they don't get lost and can find their way. Since they don't have one, he demands they give him gunpowder, claiming "the contents of the box are highly magnetized." If that's the case, won't ANY metallic object do? Like, say a watch or a keychain? Or how about some loose change or Spielberg's Oscars? Hell, it's possible to build your own compass, just get a needle, a cork, a small bowl of water and that ought to point the way for you if the box is THAT magnetized. Then again, perhaps Indy was trying to think of a way to take away less of their ammunition. But either way, he manages to find the box as opening it causes all their crowbars and even the lamps to point towards the box. Why? Was the wood just blocking out some of the magnetism? Wouldn't their guns and teeth fillings then suddenly be magnetized? Also, where is the military? You would think if the military base was attacked, someone would hit the alarm and reinforcements would come running wouldn't you?
So the Commies open the box to find…an alien arm? What kind of alien is magnetic? That sounds like a serious flaw wouldn't you say? You'd be stuck to your own ship and you couldn't get out. Obviously they're implying this is the Roswell alien that crashed in '47 in New Mexico, how could they have done an autopsy if their metallic tools and equipment were moving towards it? How is this arm going to help the Soviets anyway? Is their plan to build a giant magnet to suck all the metal in the world to them? That sound silk a bad idea before it might suck up cars, tanks, boats and other stuff that could potentially harm Russia and it's citizens (not like Stalin cared though) but what if it magnetized an atomic bomb? You wanna talk about Mutually Assured Destruction? If the Soviets used the arm to build a giant magnet and it sucked up America's atomic bombs, the Soviets can't fire back because the magnet would then suck back their own atomic bombs and just blow them up even more. What was their plan in the first place? Did they even have a plan? I had one, it's called spreading Communist influence to other third-world countries by promising them better living conditions that democracy can't give you. I dunno, it's what I would have said back in that time.
Moving on from that rambling; Indy takes action while all the Commies are distracted to snag his whip and some guns, threatening to kill Spalkon Kick if they don't let them go. But, to Indy's surprise, Mac points a gun at him, stating "he's a capitalist" as his reason for betraying Indy. Uh, not to break the bubble but I don't think Capitalism and Communism really go hand in hand. I would explain why, but politics aren't my strong suit so I'll sum it up by saying that Communism, specially Marxism, was about combating capitalism. So to have this guy whom we do not know and have no reason to emotionally care to have him betray Indy since we barely know who he is anyway.
Now that Indy is by himself, he is ordered to drop the gun, which he does, causing a bullet to fire and hit a guy in the foot, which Mythbusters would call BS on, but it gives Indy a chance to escape, the classic John Williams music playing I should add, as Spalkothroughyourtongue drives away with the arm to do…something with it…as apparently Soviets are even worse shots than Stormtroopers cause they fire their machine guns and yet they can't hit an old man in his 60's who manages to steal the car away from SpalunkingCaves and drive through some crates, which explode, what was in those crates? Dynamite? Oh wait, no, one of them held the Ark of the Covenant, I guess those Soviets should have kept their eyes shut. Then a car drives to crash into Indy but Indy manages to grab onto a low-hanging light and swing out of danger before the cars collide. Man, lucky that thing was so low compared to all the other ones which are higher than the crates stacked upon one another.
Well, Indiana Jones tries to flee but the one brutish Commie gets to Indy, falls on some glass circle on the floor, which of course, breaks easily, and they fall onto some platform hanging on chains, what is this? What is it's purpose? Why is it here? I dunno, but Indy manages to kick this guy into some room where the brute manages to activate some controls for a giant engine on a metal sled while the two continue to fist fight each other until the rocket activates and blasts away with the two, prompting an animal reaction shot from more CGI prairie dogs and it's strangely night out, time goes by fast at Area 51, doesn't it? Well, Indy is forced to make a walk across the desert as, by morning, he finds a neat little suburban town in the middle of nowhere that doesn't have plumbing for sinks or actual people but it does have water flowing for water hoses to clean cars, sprinklers and for slip and slides…which was invented in 1961 so it should not even be here… but it does have working electricity for the television. But all of a sudden, an alarm goes off as Indy realizes he's in an atomic bomb test. The Soviets he was hiding from before flee as Indy runs back into the house and…yes people…in this, the most notorious scene from the movie where Indiana Jones climbs into a lead-lined refrigerator and manages to survive an atomic explosion, giving birth to the phrase "Nuking the Fridge."
I have no defense for this scene except "how else did you expect him to get out of this predicament?" The movie at least shows us a logo inside the fridge that shows it's lead-lined, meaning it would protect Indy from the radiation but, yes, it is silly and also a miracle that the blast didn't immediately give him a concussion or break his neck and that it managed to project him out of the house far away from the blast radius of the radiation. It's also a miracle that when the fridge landed, it wasn't embedded in the ground so he couldn't open the door. Speaking of the door, how lucky is Indy that the door didn't open up from the blast and the blast didn't burn him up?
Yes, there are so many dumb things about this scene that one would call "jumping the shark," but I ask, "isn't that what Indiana Jones is about?"
Isn't Indiana Jones about getting himself into risky and dangerous situations and finding a way to get of them? Wasn't the biggest inspiration to the Indiana Jones franchise James Bond, a fictionalized character who could get out of the most ridiculous situations when he was in trouble? The idea of creating an action hero is about creating an identifiable hero that we want to see escape from death-defying odds. Indiana Jones is like that, he's a personified action hero who searches for fortune and glory, travels to exotic locations, romances women and kicks a lot of ass. What more would an average male movie-goer want from that? But we live in an age where it's so easy to call bullsh*t and then go online and find people willing to follow the mob mentality where "if they're doing it, I guess I ought to as well." I can't help but feel that this scene is unfairly criticized just because audiences nowadays are not willing to just accept that solution to getting out of the predicament. The comments of the YouTube page I saw this on are so shockingly negative on how people constantly discuss this scene as "the scene that killed Indiana Jones." That's just silly because you can't kill Indiana Jones in a movie, only you can when you don't want the character to survive and you don't approve of the solution, it shows that you aren't willing to enjoy the movie. This scene happens 20 minutes into the movie and if you're saying "this scene killed the franchise," it's just a negative thing to say that shows you aren't willing to just buy into the absurdity of the whole idea of an action hero who escapes from an impossible situation.
"But Alec!" you then say to me, "You're criticizing the movie and all these scenes, you do it all the time." See, when I do it, I'm picking out character motivation for as to why they do impossible stunts like this to raise awareness of film-making, not for the sake of criticizing.
I do not understand the motivation of a Jedi master who engages in a bet on podraces when there were better alternatives.
I do not understand the motivation of a princess who decides to trust in some creepy blue man to find her prince.
I understand Indy's motivation to jump into a refrigerator to elude radiation and protect himself from danger.
To add to this, trust me people, this isn't the stupidest thing Indiana Jones has done to survive death-defying situations. After all, in "Raiders of the Lost Ark," the man held onto a whip while being dragged behind a truck when the Nazi driver could have stopped at any point in time, gotten out and beat up Indy. "Temple of Doom" had Indiana Jones leap out of a crashing airplane with a singer and a child on an inflatable raft, land on the snow ridge with no broken bones, slide down the ice off the edge of a cliff and into a raging river. Later on in the movie, Indiana Jones used his foot as a brake to stop a mine cart when it could have broken his shoe and seriously damaged his foot, making it impossible for him to walk. Then he cut a rope bridge and only managed to survive by wrapping his foot around one of the ropes when it could have broken from his weight and he could have fallen into the crocodiles below. In "The Last Crusade," Indiana Jones managed to survive falling off a cliff with a tank and STILL find his hat with the energy to continue on with his quest to find the Holy Grail.
So yeah, climbing into a fridge to survive an atomic blast is just one of his many feat of laughing death in the face and, even if I do find it improbable, I'm not that stupid to know it's not possible to do it and I don't expect people to actually try this themselves. But you got to suspend your disbelief and, clearly, once people figured that if the movie had a science-fiction setting, then it shouldn't be treated as seriously. All I can really say is "this scene happened, it's silly and improbable, but Indy has done way more improbable things before so this really isn't anything new." The only thing that makes this different is Indiana Jones surviving an atomic bomb, not a nuclear one as people have mis-appropriately called it.
So there, those are my thoughts on this scene and it doesn't bug me. Improbable? duh. Loathsome? Not really, I'm not bothered by it in the slightest because I've seen James Bond escape from sillier situations.
Moving on, Indiana Jones is taken to an army base where he is cleaned off of any radiation where he is questioned by some pushy FBI agents who believe Indiana Jones may be in league with the Soviets because he helped them break into a top secret military station. Yes, he helped them from the trunk of a car and with a gun to his back, he did it all willingly! Also, it turns out that whole Roswell thing Indy was involved in wasn't that big as Indy recounts being dragged onto a bus with blacked out windows and forced to look at the wreckage and he barely got an explanation what was going on. So he either KNEW what was in the box or he didn't know, yet he knew it was magnetic…yeah I'm confused too. Some army guy comes around to help clear Indy's name as Indy asks how KGB got on American soil in the first place. A most excellent question. How did those Commies even get over to the United States in the first place? Unless this is some alternative universe like "Red Dawn." So the special agent guys just so happen to have a file on the woman Indy met as they exposit she is a scientist for the "Psychic Warfare" project for the Soviet Union, and now my mind has gone to George Clooney and Jeff Bridges in "The Men Who Stare At Goats," not a good sign. The agents, however, do not trust Indy because of his companionship with Mac for the last few years…which we never saw yet it's stated Indy won some medals during World War II, which is strange but I guess Indy couldn't get enough of beating up Nazis that he now had the government backing him up but now the FBI is suspicious of his activities so they decide anything he did in WWII, which we never saw, is now suspicious…
Back at the college Indy works at, Marcus Brody's replacement, Dean Charles Stanforth (Jim Broadbent) takes Indy out from teaching his class to notify him the school board placed him on an indefinite leave of absence while Charles Stanworth, another character whom the movie introduced and expects us to care about, was forced to resign. They head to Indy's house as Indy packs to leave for another teaching position as Stanworth criticizes the American government for the whole Red Scare, which seems a little odd to me since the height of the Red Scare came during the early 50's with McCarthyism and it seemed a little less severe by the later 50's, but then again, I wasn't born in the late 40's like Lucas and Spielberg so, I wouldn't know what it would be like to live in an era where fear over foreigners made the government suspicious of who was our enemy and who wasn't…and you could tell I was making George Bush joke. Also, the movie makes the excuse that the reason Sean Connery and Denholm Elliot aren't in this movie is that they died (which is true for the case of Denholm Elliot who sadly passed away in 1992 due to AIDS but Connery, well, he's enjoying retirement so, let him enjoy what time he has left before his inevitable passing from this earth.)
Indian Jones gets on the train to possibly get out of this movie, when, from out of the steam of a train, comes- Oh God no! Sam Wikipedia?!? NOOOO!!! Damn it all! I thought I was done with "Transformers" but now he has to be here too? Oh Lord, he's not gonna start screaming, nervously stuttering "nonononononononononono" and complaining about "being important" is he?
Thankfully not, but he does have a motorcycle, which, I suppose if he had a cigarette in his mouth and a tattoo on his knuckles that say "Love" and "Hate," it would make him look a little cooler as he rides through the station and calls out for Dr. Jones, asking if he knows a guy named Oxley, telling him that his life is in danger. This results in a jump cut that ends up with the both of them at a diner as this Marlon Brando greaser is named Mutt Williams (played by Shia LaBeouf), he tells Dr. Jones that he has known Oxley as a second father when his real father died in the war, but six months ago, his mother received a letter describing Oxley heading to Peru to locate a crystal skull at a place called "Akator." At hearing the name, Indy discloses that Akator was the mythic city known to the Spaniards as "El Dorado" that was built entirely out of gold 7,000 Years ago, as was ordered by the gods. An conquistador named Francisco de Orellana supposedly stole the crystal skull and disappeared in the Amazon jungles with it, Indy also adds that legend says if the skull is returned to Akator, it's power will be given to the one who returns it. Although Mutt seems fascinated, Indy tells him to forget about it. Mutt, however, tells Indy that his mom went down to Peru to find her but found herself kidnapped and she sent a letter to Mutt telling him Dr. Jones should be able to help them find the lost skull. Although Indy is not familiar with the name, Mary Williams, Mutt hands Indy a letter written in some kind of code Oxley had written. But before Indy can take a look, he notices two tough guys wearing suits staring at them as the two of them turn out to be KGB, whose accents strangely doesn't raise suspicion from the young people in the diner.
Thankfully, through Indy's suggestion, Mutt manages to start a fight between college jocks and greasers (all to the 50's tune "Shake, Rattle and Roll" by Bill Haley and his Comets), which allows Indy and Mutt to escape on Mutt's motorcycle, which is, I have to admit, a really kickass chase scene that relies mainly on practical effects and choreographed stunt work with exciting camera-work and thrilling music by John Williams as the chase goes through the college campus, driving past an Anti-Communist Rally as Mutt manages to make the Commies crash into a statue of Marcus Brody and a moment similar to "The Last Crusade" is recreated with Mutt smirking at foiling the bad guys with Indiana Jones giving a look of disapproval. The chase continues as we get a REALLY misplaced Wilhelm Scream when Mutt swerve past a nerdy student with a huge stack full of books as this one student asks Dr. Jones a question for a book, even though I thought news of Indy's leave of absence would already be known in the school. Though it does raise the question, if Indy has tenure, shouldn't he be able to say "no" to the school board about his forced leave of absence? I dunno, but it's just what I would be asking if I was going to this school. In fact, I'd probably be the asshole who would draw all over the desk and chalkboards before the replacement teacher came in.
Back at Indy's House, which the Commies would never think to look, Dr. Jones manages to figure that the code Oxley wrote down is a long-dead ancient South American code written ages ago, when translated, Indy learns that it's a riddle.
Indiana Jones: "Follow the lines in the earth, only gods can read, which lead to Orellana's cradle, guarded by the living dead."
Alec: "The Riddler must have figured that his riddles were too easy so he used a dead language to fool Batman. That clever bastard…"
With that information, Indiana Jones and Mutt get on a plane, bringing Mutt's motorcycle along, like they would need that in the desert, as they manage to fly over the Nazca Lines, which three of them have strangely grouped up close together when they are not that close together in modern times unless the people of Peru managed to move these historical landmarks some time in-between 1957-2008. While down there, Indy learns from some locals that Oxley had been locked up after going mad, as the two make their way down there, Mutt learns that Indy learned how to speak the natives' Inca language while being held captive by Poncho Villa…I don't seem to recall that episode from the television show, so, whatever, Indiana Jones learned how to speak a language while being held captive by Poncho Villa…eh, Indy was a stuntman for John Ford and survived a gas attack in the trenches of World War I, I wouldn't be surprised to learn if he had slept with Mary Pickford or climbed Mount Everest. If nobody else is willing to suspend their disbelief, i might as well and just roll with it, Indy also learns that Mutt has quit school countless times as they mostly kept teaching him useless stuff like debate, chess and fencing but Mutt states he likes to fix motorcycles as Indy tells him "if that's what you love to do, don't let anyone tell you different."
Coming across the convent Oxley was being held where a nun tells Indiana Jones and Mutt that Oxley was taken away by men with guns. They look inside Oxley's call and find numerous sketches and drawings he made on the walls of his cell that seems to repeat "Return" with pictures of an elongated skull on the walls. Mutt deduces that Oxley was telling them to return the skull, but they do not know where it is. Looking over the riddle again, Indy realizes that "cradle" also means "grave" in Mayan and that Oxley had found Orellana's grave. Using sketches drawn in the floor, Indy and Mutt head to a gravesite where they are attacked by some dudes who either really hate visitors or they wanted to add more bodies to their graves. During this scuffle, Indy manages to directly kill one native by blowing a dart into the mouth of one of them as he just points a gun at the other guy which scares him off.
Mutt Williams: "You're a teacher?"
Indiana Jones: "Part time."
Alec: "Pff, that's nothing. When I'm not working at Safeway and doing reviews, I have a part time job of teaching toasters how to make tacos. It's a long process but I think I almost got it down, I just need to figure out where the plug goes though…"
The two continue into the graveyard, unlocking hidden doors, getting stung by CGI scorpions (which Indy just tells him is no big deal), elongated skulls and lots of cobwebs until they come across the graves of Orellana and his men, noticing fresh footprints in the dirt. They notice a grave that had already had been opened, finding Orellana himself as well as all this gold and artifacts left in it's place. Without warning, gold Indy had picked up suddenly flies towards the body, prompting Indy to make Mutt hold Orellana's body as Indy locates the titular Crystal Skull. Indy begins to question how the skull could be magnetic if crystal is not magnetic or attract gold and why Oxley took the skull but then put it back afterward. Dude, we're only an hour into the movie and if you don't know, what good am I? However, upon leaving the tombs, Indy and Mutt come across the Commies who found them with the help of Mac. Now held captive by the Soviets with the skull, Jones and Mutt are taken to a camp in Ilha Aramacá where Indy and Mac reconnect, half-heartedly I might add even though they're supposed to be long-time friends which you sure wouldn't feel while watching this movie.
I also have to warn you all in advance, if you were able to tolerate the movie's bizarre leaps in disbelief, this second half of the movie will REALLY test your limits to how far you can tolerate the absurd...
IvEgon Spalkngler, holding Indiana Jones in a chair, claims that she intends to use the skull to create a new weapon by mind warfare. She also implies that the skull could not have been made by human hands but was the actual skull of an alien that came years ago and managed to usher new technology for a civilization long before humans could be so advanced….huh?….she also states that she found aliens from crashes in Soviet Russia, both have skeletons that are made of crystal and are magnetic…what?…I mean…what? That's just…well, okay, "Temple of Doom" had some plotline involving sacred stones buried deep within the earth by Shiva- actually, that made more sense. This is just…strange.
Oh and Oxley is with them too, played by the War Doctor himself, John Hurt, who has, unfortunately, decided to not act today. Well actually, Ivan Spalgo explains that Oxley stared into the skull for too long and it caused him to lose his mind and start rambling. Hoping to get him to understand what he's saying, Indy is forced in front of the crystal skull. Indy stares into the skull but his brain patterns suddenly begin to spike as Ivantsome SpalpFiction goes on about using the skull's power to "change you from the inside" or whatever, but I still have to ask, why did you need to steal a mummified alien arm if you needed the crystal skull to do the job? Although Indy seems to hear what the skull is saying, he refuses to assist the Commies as they threaten to stab Mutt, who complains about leaving his motorbike back in Peru (which prompts me to ask why he brought it anyway) but since that clearly doesn't work, the Commies pull out a new bargaining chip: Marion Ravenwood (reprised by Karen Allen) and, to add more surprises to Indy's plate, Mutt calls out Marion as his mother, surprising Indy (well gee, I wonder who the father could possibly be? Gosh, thinking sure is hard!) as the two engage in their sarcastic arguing like good times, only with less punches to the face and more Commies. Indy eventually agrees to talk to Oxley as Oxley spews more riddles as Indy notices Ox waving his hand in a particular pattern that Ivant SpalMTV clarifies as "auto-writing," what, you never thought he was trying to indicate that before? He draws some sketches on paper as Mutt tries to talk with a brain-dead Oxley.
Indiana Jones manages to use Oxley's sketches to figure out directions on a map where the city of Akator is by following the Amazon River to a place "where the river sleeps." Seeing that Indy is taking no opportunity in trying to find an escape, Mutt steps in and manages to help the heroes escape through the jungle, however, Indy and Marion, however, step in a dry quicksand as they find themselves sinking. Mutt runs off to go get something to pull them out with as Indy tells oxeye to "go get help." What? Go get help? In the middle of the Amazon jungle?! Who in the hell could be out here to help you?! You just ran away from the Soviet soldiers and now you're stuck and you're asking the guy who lost his marbles to go get help? Where else could the man go to get rescue for you? A park ranger service? The Justice League? The fire department? Tarzan? Seriously, this is one of the dumbest moments in this movie and we're only an hour into the movie!
While sinking in the quicksand, Marion confesses to Indiana Jones what we, the audience, kinda already figured out, that Mutt's real name is Henry Jones III and he, in fact, Indy's son, even though in the TV show it was explained he had a daughter, but one contradiction at a time.
Indiana Jones: "Why the hell didn't you make him finish school?!"
Alec: "Hello? No answer? Come on Marion, we're all waiting to know, tell us why you didn't let Mutt finish school…no answer? No answer to this whatsoever? Fine, I'll come up with my own answer; Mutt didn't finish school because he slept with the wives of the principals. There, done, moving on."
Mutt comes back and pulls out his mother but when he throws the life line to Indy, it turns out the best thing Mutt found was a snake…yes, in all of Mutt's brilliant wisdom, the best he could do was find a snake to act as a rope. Of course, as we all know from the previous Indiana Jones movies, if there's one thing Indy hates more than Nazis, it's snakes. I also have to question, is it really a smart move to use a snake as a rope? I know snakes are just a series of muscles and they they should be pretty sturdy, but Indy is clearly pulling on it's head, you'd thing that would at least pull it's head off or kill the poor creature that was just minding it's own business until Mutt showed up. By the way, Oxley found help! He brought the Commies to arrive just after Mutt pulled out Indy and Marion. Good work everybody, you all earn a cup of hot chocolate!
The next morning, while riding in a convoy with a…huge-ass machine that has giant buzzsaws on the front which could never have been made by human hands or even could be brought all the way over without someone from the Airforce taking notice. Anyway, while in the back of a truck, Mutt is surprised to learn that Indiana Jones is his real father as Indy, Marion and Mutt start arguing in the truck about Indy leaving Marion at the wedding alter, forcing a soldier sitting in the back without hem to gag Marion to get her to shut up. This gives Indy and Mutt a chance to knock the guy out as Mutt slips out his pocketknife and throws it to Indy to cut the ropes around his hands which makes a ripping sound effect…what happened? Did he cut his pants? Did he accidentally cut the cloth on the side of the truck and it fell out? Seriously, why is this sound here when it leads to nothing? Was it supposed to be funny? It would have helped to see the source of the ripping sound or at least understand what ripped.
Whatever, Indy manages to free Marion and Mutt as they hijack the truck and Indy finds a bazooka, why it was there is your best guess, as Indy shoots out the huge tree-cutting thing as they drive after the car carrying Oxley and the Crystal Skull through the jungle as Indy punches out some commies, strangling Mac, learning from him that Mac is actually working for the CIA and has been playing the KGB for suckers, winning over Indy's trust despite the fact that this guy has really not shown that much positive character traits to suggest that he might even be that nice a guy. Ivrian Spalctacle gets her hands on the crystal skull as Mutt finds a sword and engages in a sword fight between the two cars to get the skull back even though there's a working machine gun on the front of the car Marion is driving, which results in nutshots to Mutt via plants as the both of them fight over ownership of the crystal skull. It's incredibly silly and impractical when you consider that the option to shoot the car Ivanna was in was available. It should also be noted that this scene gave Shia LaBeouf great injury as he had pulled his groin and his shoulder's rotator cuff muscles and the injury only grew worse during production.
While chasing after Irony Spokenpoems, Mutt finds himself pulled up into the trees by a vine where he runs into…a monkey…in this other notorious scene from the movie where Mutt goes all Tarzan and starts swinging through the jungle vines. I'd be hard-pressed to say it does sorta bother me, but not really so much for the idea of Shia LaBeouf swinging on vines but because the CGI looks terrible and that's one of my biggest complains about this movie; the CGI looks like it has finished rendering with the backgrounds. It stands out from the actual locations and actors, bringing attention to the movie's poor computer effects. Computer effects are something that take a lot of time and effort to mesh together if you are going to sell the illusion of creating a believable background and, sadly, the computer effects for this movie just don't do that. Every time the movie uses CGI, you can tell when it's using green screen or computer effects because it pops out and it clashes with the real location. The motorbike chase early in the movie worked because the filmmakers chose an actual location and chose to use practical effects to show a chase scene. Here, it's obvious the backgrounds aren't real. I know this movie is supposed to have the spirit of a B-Movie, but even B-Movies never tried to go this far into the realm of over-the-top by using special effects that make the movie seem dated. Now you might say that this is a problem with the technology as this movie was made in 2008 so CGI technology hadn't advanced so far like it did for "Avatar" or "Gravity." But if you look at the movies that came out that year that used computer effects, "Iron Man," "The Dark Knight," and "The Incredible Hulk," they look convincing. So I then made the assumption that this movie had too low a budget for the technology, but I took a look at the budgets for those movies and it turns out that "The Dark Knight" and "Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" both cost $185 million to make. So what happened here?
My only speculation is that Spielberg, who originally intended to use minimal CGI, found himself having to use more and more CGI periodically over the course of the film to finish it. It would explain why the first half of the movie has less CGI use than the later half of the movie. But oh well, guess the most I can do it just TRY to enjoy myself. Though this chase doesn't feel nearly as thrilling as the one in "Raiders" when Indy goes after the Ark, now THAT was badass.
Indiana Jones and company find themselves on the side of a cliff where Ivanoff Spadka tries to ram Indy off the edge of this cliff until Mutt arrives via an army of monkeys and saves Indy as well as recovers the Crystal Skull. However, the two cars crash into a huge ant mound where these CGI flesh-eating ants begin to amass in hordes against the intruders. The big Russian brute guy from earlier, whose name I never caught, leaps out of a truck to beat up Indy while Marion arrives to give Mac and Mutt a lift as well as cover from the Stomrtrooper Commies who can't hit for sh*t. While Indy and the Russian dude fight, Oxley manages to use the Crystal Skull to have the ants form a circle around the three of them so we can still get a one-on-one fight that we're expected to see in an Indiana Jones movie. Despite the pounding Indy takes from a much younger and stronger opponent, Indy manages to punch the guy whose name I never learned out as, in a moment of goulishness, the ants climb into his mouth and then carry him into their ant hill but they at least leave Indy alone to get his hat.
Marion manages to drive off the cliff, using a tree to catch their fall, before lading in the river where they go over three waterfalls before they eventually find a skull-like waterfall, prompting Indy to announce that he has to return it, because the skull told him to. I have my own crystal skull too, it tells me to burn everything and break the windows. That's normal right?
As they enter the cave, Mutt takes note of a torch that was freshly used, meaning these caves are not so abandoned. As they go down the cave, they find wall drawings of beings who came from the sky and taught the natives technology like farming and irrigation that hadn't even been utilized in major cultures at the time…that…is pretty absurd…as if the refrigerator and the monkeys weren't absurd enough, but at least I don't hold those accountable for being inaccurate since they could not happen in real life, but to claim that aliens were responsible for teaching humans farming and irrigation, you damn right I'm calling bullsh*t on that! This movie claims that this civilization had founded farming and irrigation long before anyone else had? I call no f*cking way. Ancient Egyptians figured that sh*t out with the Nile River flooding well before Greek culture even kicked up. Hell, it was because of this discovery of nature that Egyptian civilization flourished like it did. This isn't something you can just casually throw under the rug for your movie, you have to take things like that into account!! Read a book you f*cking dumbasses!
Indiana Jones and company go down a corridor where they are spied upon by natives hiding in the walls…why were they hiding in the walls? How long have they been hiding in the walls? Did they just happen to see someone coming and during the time it took for Indy and company to get up to the rock formation they built walls around them? Are they immortal and they have been there for thousands of years? Do they eat or drink or sleep at all? I know it seems really silly to ask this but it really demands an answer. At least the traps set up in the hidden temple in "Raiders of the Lost Ark" were traps set up and were established to still be functioning, I'm just really confused about these dudes and what they're doing here? Have they been waiting all this time for the skull to be returned or did they just stay here cut off from everybody else in the world?
In either case, the Natives give chase with bolas, cause we can't give them arrows or darts like the Hovitos, that would be too grim and bloody. But Oxley manages to make them back away with the crystal skull, well, that was easy. It's almost as if having them in the movie wouldn't have been any different than if they weren't in the movie. While that goes on, the Commies manage to make their way to the skull-shaped waterfall, finding a blinking lipstick case. Geez, I knew Karen Allen had health issues before but I didn't know she needed radioactive lipstick to stay alive.
While the Natives just…stand around…Indiana Jones and Company climb up to an obelisk where Indy deduces that Oxley must have gotten stumped at the puzzle and returned home but while sitting in his cell, figured out what he did wrong as Indy, the wise archeologist that he is, uses a rock to start breaking historical artifacts from a long-lost civilization that was thought to be extinct. Our hero.
After breaking more stone faces, to let sand pour out on the floor, this obelisk forms, opening up the floor beneath them as they fall onto some stone stairs that are on a time limit as they start to retreat back into the wall. When did this become "Tomb Raider" with it's timed puzzles? Luckily our heroes manage to at least run down and land at least a few feet into the water below, during which Mutt interrupts a tender moment between Marion and Indy as he shows his own adventurous side by pointing in the direction of a door. As our heroes go down the dark tunnel, Mac drops another radioactive lipstick case on the floor, ah man, Ray Winstone, I think you ought to get your lips check out man. You might have caught whatever Karen Allen had.
Meanwhile, Iron Spalkan and the remaining Commies shoot all the natives, who really did nothing to the plot so, really, having them in the movie was pointless as they did nothing to progress the plot or helped the characters learn anything to help them on their quest. Back with Indy and Co. the group manage across a huge room full of gold and artifacts dating to numerous ancient civilizations as Oxley comes across a door where Indy places the skull against the door and it makes it open…that's a weird way to open a door. Did the aliens just run into doors to open doors? Wouldn't that give you a concussion to run into a door every time you needed to go through? What if you were chasing a guy through a building, wouldn't you get dizzy from slamming your head into doors all the time just to open the door? I dunno, I just think if I was an advanced alien race, I'd probably have a way smarter way of opening doors, even if my bones were magnetic.
Inside the door is a large throne room with multiple thrones crystal skeletons sitting on each one, with one skeleton missing it's head. Just before Oxley can put the head back on, Mac double-crosses Indy, revealing he lied about working for the CIA, oh what a shock for this character who has had so little character development for me to not give a rat's ass. The KGB and Irunningoutof Spalkojokes enter the room as Spankitoff takes the skull and places it back on the skeleton herself. The skeleton's conscienceless speaks to them through Oxley as the skeleton states it wants to give us a gift for returning it, when Spalkinglikeabeach demands to know everything, this causes the other aliens to start making noises as Indy "has a bad feeling about this" as the temple around them begins to crumble and spin.Taking a clue, Mac flees the temple but can't help but stop and get as much of the treasure as he can get his hands on.
Mutt Williams: "What are they? Spacemen?"
Oxley: "Inter-dimensional beings as a matter of fact."
Alec: "Oh, cause that makes it so much more different than just coming from outer space."
Indiana Jones and Co. also decide to get the hell out of here when a portal opens up above them, leaving the remaining Commies to get sucked up into the portal above while Spalkingoff is infused with all of their knowledge, which causes her to explode, though not as violently as Baraq and the two Nazi dudes in "Raiders of the Lost Ark," but I guess aliens are less violent than the power of God. Indy tries to save Mac but Mac's greed gets the best of him and he is sucked up into the portal, saying "he'll be all right." Well I hope you're sure about that cause I don't know who you are and, despite an hour and 50 minutes in the movie, I still don't really care about you in the slightest. So long pointless character!
Our heroes manage to escape the CGI gears as they are suddenly flooded, however, they use the water to reach the exit and see the entire civilization in the valley below them crumble away as a huge UFO flies out of the ground, surprisingly, out heroes are never sucked up by this spinning, until the UFO takes off, leaving behind this valley to be flooded into what the movie expects us to believe becomes Iguazu Falls, which is actually closer to Argentina, south of Brazil, than where this movie claims it really is.
After all that, Mutt voices disproval to have not found any gold, but Indiana Jones tells him the Mayan word for "gold" is "Treasure" and, to the aliens, "knowledge was their treasure." Jones, Ravenwood and Williams all share a family moment with Mutt calling Indy "dad" with a confused Oxley only now catching onto all this.
Indiana Jones: "Somewhere out there, your grandpa is laughing."
Alec: (in a Sean Connery accent) "Of course I'm laughing, you fool! I've knocked up more women than you and I don't have to pay child support for any of them! Ha ha ha!"
Back at the University, it appears Charles Stanforth has his job back, I guess, I really don't know, the movie doesn't tell us, and Indiana Jones has been made an Associate Dean for the college…huh? What about his indefinite leave of absence? Was that overturned? Did the FBI find Indy in South America and they believed his story about aliens and exploding Soviets? Was that all they needed for proof that Jones was no traitor to his country and they decided to lay off him and give him his job back? Is there some deleted scene that explains what the hell happened? I mean, whose word are you gonna take to believe this ridiculous story about aliens and portals? The guy who was accused of spying for the Soviet Union? His former lover? His son? The professor who was crazy for the past few months and would have no knowledge of what Indy was doing recently or during the war?
I don't know and the movie is almost over so I won't try. Turns out Dr. Jones and Marian are finally tying the knot in a church, with a newly clean-shaven Professor Oxley in the congregation seats asking "How much of human life is lost in waiting?" and Mutt Williams, who is…now in school? I dunno, he's just not dressed up in his biker jacket anymore. But as Mutt prepares to take a photograph, the door opens and blows Indy's iconic hat towards Mutt's feet. He picks it up and tries to put it on, but Indy takes it back. Damn right Indy! He must have foreseen Shia's career after this movie. Another Transformer sequel and a Lars Von Trier movie.
Yeah, you're not worthy to get the hat bud.
And with that, the classic Raiders of the Lost Ark March plays the movie out as it rolls end credits.
So there you have it ladies and gents; "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull," one of the most despised movie sequel since "Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace;" the movie that "raped" Indiana Jones and destroyed the franchise.
Eh, I think you're over-reacting.
I've seen WAY worse movies than this and, at best, this movie is flawed. But terrible? Heavens no.
Is it as good as the original films from the 80's, not even close, but it's a tough act to follow after three movies that firmly embedded itself into the memories of fans for 19 years that even after it's release, the fans looked upon it with eyes even more critical than mine. Trust me, if the only criticism I can give this movie is it's insistence that aliens were responsible for farming and agriculture, I don't think you have anything more to worry yourselves about.
Acting is good, the locations aren't half bad and the music is still excellent even if it's not particularly memorable-
Hold it, that's the word I was looking for.
"Not particularly memorable."
It's the same words I use to describe every sequel I reviewed this month of April:
"X-Men 3: The Last Stand?" Not particularly memorable.
"Spider-Man 3?" Not particularly memorable.
"The Matrix Reloaded?" Go die in a hole.
"Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull?" Not really that memorable either.
Honestly, the problem with sequels is how can you top the last one? How could "X-Men 3: The Last Stand" top the characterization and depth established with "X-Men" and "X2?" It couldn't, it tried to go overboard with recognizable mutants from the comics, as a result, it made the movie feel cluttered and overshadowed the potentially interesting moments of the movie that could have worked had they spent more time on them.
How could "Spider-Man 3" top the personal turmoil of Peter Parker trying to balance his superhero life with this real life of "Spider-Man 2?" It didn't and it couldn't. The director wasn't allowed to try and, as a result, the fans and audiences lost out to being left bored by the movie's poor handling of trying to give characters screen time as well as make them interesting.
"The Matrix Reloaded?"…despite my own anger towards it, it had potential. It could have spent more time looking over the interesting theme of Neo's identity as a Jesus metaphor in the real world where he really has no power and his power on the inside of the dream world. It would have made a really fascinating approach that actually would have raised more interesting answers than "you're here to be a tool, not a savior."
My point? What were you really expecting from this new Indiana Jones film?
There was no possible way to top "The Last Crusade" when it was Spielberg's intended finale to the series. So, yeah, I can't hate on this movie because, well, I genuinely had a sense of fun while watching it. I was never bored watching it and the movie never felt like it was trying to deliberately insult the intelligence of the audience…unlike the Wachowskis…
Is it a terrible film? Far from it. Is it a great movie? Not really.
The best I can give this film is a solid and firm okay. If you like Indiana Jones, I would say check this out, get some popcorn and leave your expectations at the door.
So, Sequel Let-Down Month is over. Time to get back to work, I have a lot to write and I'm really behind in finishing it…