Saturday, April 11, 2020

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:
Mutt Williams asks Indiana Jones to go to Peru in search of a mutual friend who found a crystal skull. While they battle the Soviets for the skull, Indy learns that Mutt is his son. They take the skull to a temple and reunite it with some other skulls, who then fly off into another dimension. 

Memorable Quote:
There were a few, but they all had the same problem.  ~Indy
Yeah? What's that?  ~Marion
They weren't you, honey.  ~Indy

I like the part at the end where Indy calls Mutt "Junior."

    The lack of any highlights.

    Most interesting piece of IMDB trivia:
    In an interview with Empire Magazine in October 2011, Steven Spielberg admitted that he never liked the MacGuffin of this movie. It was George Lucas' idea, and Spielberg only put it in the movie because of his friendship with Lucas. He said in that interview: "I am loyal to my best friend", he said. "When he writes a story he believes in, even if I don't believe in it, I'm going to shoot the movie the way George envisaged it."

    Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
    • If you're a big fan of this movie, you might want to stop reading because I'm coming in hot. 
    • We're not past the title and I already have a problem. Why not just "Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull," which has a much better ring to it? I read that George Lucas insisted on the "Kingdom" part -- this won't be the last time you hear about Lucas screwing up this movie. 
    • The first two minutes of the teens joyriding to the tune of Hound Dog is a wasted two minutes. We're in the 1950s -- we got it. 
    • The opening scene in the warehouse doesn't work at all -- we don't know what's going on or who anyone is, and the dialogue is already weak. 
    • In my Raiders post, I emphatically stated that Harrison Ford is the perfect Indiana Jones -- end of story. He's also one of my favorite all-time actors. That said, it's clear right away that he's too old for this and that they should have moved on with a different actor. It just makes for a better movie to have a younger, more optimistic, more energetic guy who is capable of doing more and can freshen up the series -- it's why they periodically bring in a new James Bond rather than having the old one working into his 80s. 
    • The nuclear test on the 1950s town doesn't have an ounce of bearing on the plot, other than to once again hammer home the point that it's the 1950s. Additionally, the fridge that he climbs into appears to travel a mile at high speed and flip a hundred times, but he's perfectly fine. Oh yeah, he also survived the nuclear blast and the fallout. If you guessed that the fridge was George Lucas's idea, you'd be right. 
    • I don't care for the backstory of Indy as an army colonel who spent the previous decade undertaking missions against the Soviets. Why couldn't he just be a professor who looks for rare antiquities? 
    • 26:11 mark -- he's got a bigger house than I would have guessed.
    • This is the only movie I've ever seen Shia LaBeouf in. He seems like a decent actor, but his character is kind of annoying. He also seems too short to be the next Indiana Jones. Anyway, it's a moot point because it's already been announced that he won't be in Indiana Jones 5.  
    • Indy tells Mutt that he rode with Pancho Villa -- it's cool that they acknowledged the canon of the Young Indiana Jones Chronicles (Spring Break Adventure).  
    • Indy takes a page out of MacGyver's playbook of fathering a child that he had no knowledge of until much later. 
    • The dialogue with Indy, Marion, and Mutt in the truck is somewhat entertaining, although it feels like a conversation between grandparents and not really what I'm looking for in an Indiana Jones movie.
    • 1:19:01 mark -- With Shia's swordfight in the jungle, we're entering the really bad CGI part of the movie. 
    • 1:22:00 -- OK, now we're at the really, really bad CGI with the edge-of-the-cliff driving scene followed by Shia vine swinging among monkeys. The monkey swinging is not only the low point of the series but also one of the low points in cinema. 
    • I understand why filmmakers use CGI (e.g. it's much cheaper, easier, and safer to use CGI ants instead of real ants), but there should be a threshold for scenes where if they look unrealistic enough, they have to be cut from the movie.
    • Let's discuss a few of the characters: 
      • Irina Spalko: bad character; underdeveloped; uninteresting; wooden; doesn't connect with Indy
      • Ox: an even worse character; pointless; rambles throughout the entire movie and it's not well explained why; also underdeveloped
      • Mack: the worst character of them all; extremely underdeveloped; motivations are unclear throughout; annoying
    • Spielberg and Ford were both against having aliens in the movie and only went along with it begrudgingly. As I discuss in my podcast with the legendary Joe Passman, it was at George Lucas's insistence that there be aliens. Sigh. 
    • "Enough! Enough!"  ~Irina getting her mind blown by the aliens.
    • "Enough! Enough!"  ~Me watching this movie. 

      Final Analysis:
      After Last Crusade, there would be a story every year about how Indiana Jones 4 was in the works, but first they were waiting for the right script. Well, it's too bad they didn't wait longer, because this was painful to watch -- my face was practically melting like Belloq's at the end of Raiders. In addition to all the criticisms I've mentioned above, it's striking that there are essentially no highlights at all and not even one scene that I'm legitimately excited about rewatching or thinking, "I can't wait for this part." Even the soundtrack isn't good.

      Well, I've been working on the Indiana Jones project for 2 years now, and it's time to put it to rest. I'm sorry we had to end it on such a somber note after the glory that was Last Crusade, but who knows, maybe Indy 5 will right this wrong. Hopefully they take the car keys away from George first. 


      1. I'm in a pickle here. I haven't seen the movie in so long that I don't remember enough details about character names and the like to give a fair review. But on the other hand familiarizing myself with the movie would require me to watch it again...and I'm not sure I can endure that much displeasure!

        While the opening sequence was in one sense unworthy of the "Indiana Jones" series, I also thought it was the most interesting portion of the movie. Surviving a nuclear blast right at ground zero by hiding inside a refrigerator was obviously preposterous, but I thought it was at least creative and the only portion of the movie I'd be able to remember without reminder.

        I disagree about the casting of Harrison Ford. That was the only part of the movie I thought they got keep Ford and set the movie in the 1950s. He still looked good in the role and the conflict with Marion and the lost son maintained some narrative continuity with the original trio. With all of that said, I don't think they should have proceeded with this movie at all given how poor the script was, regardless of the casting. And while I didn't have a direct problem with LeBeouf, his character was annoying and I never connected with him the way I did characters from previous incarnations of the franchise.

        Kind of surprising that Spielberg threw Lucas under the bus to this degree years later. I wonder if their friendship continued after that interview!

        As soon as the poison dart-shooting pygmies started showing up, I could tell the movie was gonna be a struggle. But it still didn't prepare me for swinging on the vines with monkeys in the jungle later on with CGI that made MacGyver and Charlie's blue screen boat trip down the Amazon in "Trumbo's World" look comparatively believable.

        I don't remember any of the three characters you diss late in your review...if that gives you any indication what kind of impression this movie made on me even after watching it twice. In fact, I remember being so devastated by how terrible the final 20 minutes of this movie was that I've completely repressed the memory...beyond some really bad CGI and something to do with aliens.

        It's hard to believe that even after 19 years waiting for the "perfect script" for Indiana Jones 4 that this steaming pile of manure was the best they could come up with. When I watched this the first time in 2008-2009, it had been many years since I'd seen any of the original trio of movies, and it made me wonder if the entire series had been this bad and would hold up as poorly as this movie. Thankfully the answer to that is no....but I don't trust their judgment enough at this point to give them the benefit of the doubt on anything related to an Indy 5.

        How would you rate "Crystal Skull" in comparison to the "Young Indiana Jones" series? Did you hate it more than the worst "Young Indy" episode? Have you come across anybody from the "Indiana Jones" fan world who actually likes "Crystal Skull"? And the biggest "Crystal Skull" a bigger insult to the memory of the Indiana Jones franchise heyday as the "MacGyver" reboot is to the original series?

        1. I don't like to use the word "hate", but I suppose if I was stuck on a deserted island and could only have one, I'd take Crystal Skull over the worst Young Indy episode because there's more going on and more to see by nature of it being a big budget movie.

          I'm not very in touch with Indiana Jones fandom, but I did find a few articles like "Crystal Skull isn't as bad you think" or "In defense of Crystal Skull," so it has its admirers.

          I feel like the MacGyver reboot is more damaging because it has been going on for years now and is blotting out the original with things like google searches (e.g. someone searching for MacGyver might see the reboot first) and in tarnishing the brand with mediocrity.

        2. I've heard precious few favorable comments about "Crystal Skull" over the years. My best buddy liked the beginning but thought it went significantly downhill as it progressed. That's the closest I've heard to a good thing about "Crystal Skull".

          Agreed the "MacGyver" reboot is more damaging. With "Hawaii Five-O" over now, I fear it's very likely to return for a season 5 to fill the Friday night slot with "Magnum PI" and "Blue Bloods" rounding out the schedule....assuming of course that TV production even resumes for the remainder of 2020. I bet you never could have imagined when you gave up reviewing the reboot midway through season 1 that it would still be around for a season 4 more than three years later.

          Speaking of "Five-O", what did you think of the finale? Lenkov made it sound like they didn't formally know until the filming of that episode that the show was ending, and it kind of felt like they shoehorned what was set to be a regular episode into a series finale. It was a bit emotional at the end, and I guess since the cast just found out it was over, the emotion was real. Apparently the majority of the fans hated Catherine so many if not most were upset that McGarrett ended up with her. I never disliked her and thought it was good to end the series with her return considering Steve lost everyone else important in his life and needed some degree of happy ending. As series finales go, I still thought it was pretty humdrum though.

        3. I agree with you -- I thought it was ok and didn't dislike Catherine, but it did feel shoehorned and not fitting for a show that was on for 10 years.