Revisiting Indiana Jones & The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull

Feature Simon Brew 17 Mar 2014 - 06:01

Simon takes a look back at the much-maligned Indiana Jones & The Kingdom Of The Crystall Skull...

A few weeks' back on this site, I wrote a couple of pieces exploring rewatching Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom and Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade with my ten year old son. Since then, he's been asking about watching Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull, and for one or two reasons, I've been a bit reluctant.

This past weekend, however, I bit the bullet, and sat down to watch it with him.

Now, a couple of things. Firstly, my own position on the film is that I've seen it twice. I saw it when it came out at the cinema, and had what I call Phantom Menace Syndrome (PM... oh, hang on, that won't work). This is where the sheer novelty of seeing a long-dormant franchise that you cared about back on the big screen was enough to get you through the first viewing of the film. It's only on second viewing that you become very, very conscious of the things that have gone wrong.

So, cards on the table, I quite enjoyed Crystal Skull the very first time, at least until the last 20 minutes. The second time? It was painful. Really painful. I'm not sure whether it says more about me or the film that I became aware just how massively problematic the movie was second time around rather than first, but either way, the list of things that had gone wrong was not small.

My son had asked me what I thought about the film beforehand, and I'd admitted, using carefully chosen language, that I wasn't a fan. However, I've always tried to impress on him the idea that if he likes something, he shouldn't let anyone else convince him otherwise. That it's up to him what he enjoys, not a grumpy balding man who happens to take ownership of the remote control. This has been tested a few times - Batman Forever for instance - but he's sticking to his guns now when he sees something he likes.

So we sat down to watch Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull on that basis. I'd been reluctant to do so, incidentally, because the internet is hardly short of articles shooting down Indy 4, and I'm well aware that many quite like it. But I thought trying to see the film through his eyes as much as mine would be a worthwhile exercise.

And So It Begins...

Putting aside the bizarre CG gopher at the start, which still looks fake and computerised (Caddyshack's critter still looks far more realistic), we were quickly into the opening sequence. And I'd forgotten how quietly impressive this was. That director Steven Spielberg opens with a desert road, beautiful scenery, and some 1950s music to set the mood. It works, too. It's less fun than the opening of the other films, but right from the off, there's a sense that at least they're on the right track.

There's a very obvious acknowledgement, and a playful one, that Indy has been off the screen for so long in the reveal of the character (although it's not ideal that they basically get him out of the boot of the car in which he's been held captive), and when his shadow precedes his appearance, my son almost jumped out of his seat in excitement. He only reserves that sort of joy for Batman popping up in The LEGO Movie, and to see that the character mattered so much to him was really quite lovely.

The sequence that followed was fun too. Tying back to the end of Raiders Of The Lost Ark and the filing away of the Ark of the Covenant in a massive warehouse, we arrive at said place: Hangar 51. Here, we meet Cate Blanchett's antagonist, and Ray Winstone's double/triple/lost count crossing Mac. An effective action sequence follows (one that gets across Indy is an older man this time around without it becoming a problem), and whilst I was sat there thinking how selective the laws of magnetism appeared to be, my son was clearly enjoyed himself.

Nuke Time!

Then the fridge happened.

My son is ten, and has a very positive, uncynical view of the world. It took him until he was eight to find a film he didn't like - Tooth Fairy, in case you're wondering - and it's rare for him to come out against something. Watching a film remains a real treat for him. But when Indy got into the fridge, and the bomb went off? A pertinent question: "isn't that a bit silly, dad?".

Yes, son. Yes it is.

Notwithstanding the issue of lead lined fridges in the midst of huge nuclear explosions, Indy's survival also requires that he doesn't move around in said fridge as it's flung many miles into the air (which you can just about buy), but also that the organs in his body remain static too, rather than being bashed around his insides (which you can't). As Indy stumbles out of the fridge, Crystal Skull begins its descent - which it occasionally arrests - but also it began to lose the love of my son. A sad moment.

In its defence though, even after the fridge, there are moments where the film tries really, really hard to endear itself. There's are two solid chase sequences that hold out an olive branch for a start, and whilst neither, on reflection, feels like Spielberg at his action directing best (the best action sequence he's directed in a long time, I'd argue, is in his Tintin movie), it's here where the film feels very Indy.

Furthermore, the pause for reflection as we see the pictures of Marcus and Henry Jones Sr on Indy's desk is a nice touch, albeit a reminder of how much more fun the last film was. Sean Connery's absence takes away a lot of comedy bite, that Crystal Skull doesn't even try to replace.

And then you get moments like when Indy meets Mutt for the first time in the cafe.

This, for me, is a worse moment than the fridge, for a couple of reasons. Firstly, there's exposition dump, and it's not very well done. Secondly, it's the weakest part of Shia LaBeouf's performance, in a film that he does few favours for anyway. Appreciating it seems to be internet sport to knock LaBeouf at the moment (and I'm not blind - he really doesn't help himself) there's little getting away from the fact that his inclusion in Crystal Skull is a misfire.

There's a bit in that original cafe scene where he has to stand up in a huff that still stands out. Yet he does it in a way that feels like he's just walked out of the school play. "Shut up, that's my mother you're talking about" he says in mock rage, shooting to his feet as if he's trying to break the world record for doing so. The scene, sadly, just doesn't work. It feels forced. It should be sowing the seeds for the father/son reveal later in the film, but instead it leaves you wondering who the pillock in the leather jacket is.

LaBeouf has had some good moments in front of the camera. He was solid in Lawless, and the film Disturbia wouldn't work at all if he wasn't capable of turning in a decent performance. But here, his character just doesn't work. Had Harrison Ford actually let him end the film with the infamous hat on his head, then it would have been as swift a kick to the metaphorical testicles as cinema had ever generated.

This all went over my son's head. As did the moment when Ford uttered the line "nice try kid, but I think you just bought a knife to a gunfight". He's a bit young for The Untouchables, though. We'll wait until he's at least 12 for that, as part of the upcoming Costner 101 course I have planned for him.

As the film progresses anyway, so does the exposition. Indy has always done a fair amount of storytelling through dialogue, but with the previous films, I could ask my son what he thought was going on, and he'd tell me. The balance of showing and telling was pretty much on the money.

It's way off-kilter here though, with lots of conversations as things are explained. He lost the story as a consequence, occasionally buoyed by hints that we were going to see the mysterious cities of gold (we've done the TV series, natch). And whereas the previous films have had him jolting in his seat, he was pretty still for the bulk of this one. Puzzled, at times.

There were exceptions. The point where Indy and Mutt find themselves under attack from people waving poison darts get him interested, and this is one of the few sequences in the film that feels very much like the work of Steven Spielberg. It's no secret that the Indiana Jones films are a union of Spielberg and George Lucas, that requires both of them to sign off. Spielberg has said in the past that he yields to Lucas, who came up with the character, but there are clear moments in Crystal Skull that feel owned by Spielberg. And that's one on them.

There are clear moments that feel owned by Lucas though, and you know where this is heading. So, let's do the ending.

Aliens had been discussed as a possibility for Indy before, and - even though this isn't a popular view - there's no reason in theory they couldn't work in an Indiana Jones movie. The key proviso being that they're not shit.

Raiders Of The Lost Ark, after all, ends with supernatural elements, and we don't question it. It feels logical, it feels like part of the world, and so when the movie asks you to go with it, it doesn't jar at all. The same too for the ending of Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade, which is arguably just as far fetched to some as the whole alien ending here.

Where Crystal Skull slips up is in not convincingly gluing its aliens to something you have any chance of believing. Had the crumbs leading up to the moment where the film pretty much collapses been more carefully laid, then Indiana Jones And The Crystal Skull could have got away with its interdimensional beings claptrap. But this time, it's a leap of faith that just doesn't work, and instead, feels utterly, utterly ridiculous. My son turned to me and asked what was going on, and I was at a loss to give him an answer he could do anything with. I just got him another Capri Sun instead.

On reflection, John Hurt's character, Ox, is supposed to sell the idea of these aliens to us. But he turns up quite late, is given mumbly rubbish to say, and there's not much the great actor can do. Conversely, the three tests at the end of Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade were sold to us by Sean Connery and his grail diary, set against the backdrop of his life being in danger. It meant even if you weren't buying the leap of faith, you could see why Indy was - he wanted to save his dad. We get nothing relatively close to that here.

Even on that first viewing of Crystal Skull, when novelty and nostalgia was pumping around like cinematic adrenaline, the ending stood out as desperately bad. Time has not been kind to it. This time, my son just looked at me, disappointed. It was almost heartbreaking to see.

For me, though, there's something worse than the ending, although this isn't something that my son picked up on: when did Marion Ravenswood become so two-dimensional? When did this strong, three dimensional woman become someone who would drop everything when a man who left her behind decided to walk back into her life? She's gone from the feist of Raiders to damsel in distress here, and both Marion and actress Karen Allen deserve a lot, lot better.

That said, there are other things that I minded that my son didn't. The ravenous creep of CG in a series that had been defined by so much practical stunt and effects work and the lack of a good antagonist (sorry Cate) weren't things that he blinked an eyelid at. Conversely, when I laughed when, mid-motorbike chase, Indy stops to dispense some tutorial advice to one of his students, he didn't. We've been roughly in union on the things we liked and didn't like about the earlier films. Not so much here.


When the credits eventually rolled on Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull, I asked my son what he thought, and it seemed to me that he didn't quite know how to express his general disappointment. After sitting and thinking for a minute or two, he simply turned around and said "it's not as good as the other three, is it?".

And whilst this article really hasn't been intended as a kicking of the corpse of Indy 4 (and I hope it hasn't been), the disappointment of a 10-year old seems an oddly appropriate place to leave it. Because, ultimately, how can you argue with it?

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I'm a big believer in the right of everybody to their opinion and that we shouldn't insult or abuse anybody on an internet forum just because they happen to dislike something we love, or enjoyed something we didn't. If we do disagree, well we can have a healthy discussion without resorting to that level ... Crystal Skull is the one movie where I really struggle to hold the line, I simply can't concieve anybody liking it, and if I see people writing positive comments about it I just want to rage at them ... So, I'm glad your son didn't like it, otherwise I may have been banned from DOG for innapropriate bile directed at a minor.

One huge pile of disappointment...great conclusion.

Some of it is good fun, some of it is silly. I felt the character of Mutt dragged it down somewhat but its overall not that bad

I though you did look backs of films. When did you start looking back at really bad fan-fic meets 3year olds cosplay?

Im sure someone else asked but how old is your kid? contemplating Raiders with eldest (almost 5)... I recall I saw it and Doom as double bill at old flea pit when I was about 6 or 7. Face melting and heart ripping aside I don't recall full fear...

The same too for the ending of Indiana Jones And The Raiders Of The Lost Ark, revisionist title, which is arguably just as far fetched to some as the whole alien ending here and the ending in Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade.

"He's a bit young for The Untouchables, though. We'll wait until he's at least 12 for that, as part of the upcoming Costner 101 course I have planned for him."

... you're not going to make him watch Waterworld are you? That's just irresponsible parenting.

Damn right I am! I like Waterworld! (plus it's useful for when he comes to sit the Mad Max exam)

I know Crystal Skull has faults (primarily Shia and the overuse of CGI) but I still find the film quite enjoyable. A big part of it probably comes with only ever seeing the original films on TV, because there was something magical about watching Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones in cinemas with that iconic theme playing.
I don't try and hold it up too Raiders and compare them, because that would be an impossible standard for almost any film, I just enjoy it as a bit of an action romp tribute to the B-movies of the 50's.

PMS ............. you mean the hugely explosive reaction of rage and disappointment in the one you love when they do not do the right things or deliver on the promise that they were supposed to even though you didn't define exactly what you wanted from them (and, honestly, you'd think they would have got figured that out already)?
Sounds like a very apt use of PMS to me.

Are you going to include associated lessons? Escape From New York perhaps?
And are extra points awarded for Planet of the Apes?

No Apes, no A*...

Unless it's the Burton remake of course.

Hahaha, loving this conversation thread XD

Crystal Skull is more like a parody of an Indiana Jones movie. All the elements are there, but the tone is wrong. From the opening dissolve of the Paramount logo into a gopher mound to the "I hate snakes" in the quicksand, Lucas and Spielberg are sending the character up. It's not that the previous films are without humour, it's just the comedy in Crystal Skulls is just so clunky and childish. It's pit droids bumping into each other, Jar Jar Binks and Jawas falling off banthas.
I'm not going to start on the whole aliens things, my ranting is over for the day.

Ha, nice article.

Notable omissions critique wise, granted there's a lot of ground to cover so you're forgiven Simon, imho are these 2 suckers.

The whole knife love/glamorization thing is plain bad taste and out of touch, you know Mutt's butterfly knife. At the time knife crime was all over the press (granted in the UK I'm saying, but anyway that's not the point), and there are young people getting hurt, killed and terrorised by knife culture before this film was made (the glamorization would have still felt entirely inappropriate in the 1980s), when this film was being made of course and right now too. I'm so far from a Daily Mail type, maybe a bit 'right on' but when watching the film I was like, wtf!?...

On a less important note, the 2nd omission critique wise was the freakin theatricality of capoeira zombie guards. Oh my word, there's other bits in the film that hit me like a big wet smelly fish too, but on a recent 2nd viewing I physically cringed at this scene. How these guys played out just jarred me, the whole novelty capoeira thing... eugh

My two-penneth regards a summary of the film's woes is this... I would bet my life, well... not quite, but I'd bet my little finger that I know what the films problem was! And I'm no Sherlock Holmes, but I've got it sussed. It's as follows... George Lucas. All the bad bits in the film reek of contemporary Lucas, a film maker of the weakest weakest calibre. All the good bits in the film reek of Spielberg. If this film got made after Lucas had retired, no matter what strengths or weaknesses it may have had, it would have been far superior to what we got.

Good article.

Like you I've only ever seen this film twice. Once in the cinema (I came out of the film thinking "WTF?") and once on DVD - and it didn't get any better on a second viewing. In fact, it speaks volumes for the film when I bought the Blu-ray box set and still haven't watched it on Blu-ray.

To me, it isn't an Indiana Jones movie. It's a movie that happens to have Indiana Jones in it. And if there's anything positive about it you could argue that it acted as a conduit to get a whole new (and younger) generation of kids to watch the brilliant first 3.

It really isn't a good film. It's only saving graces are based on nostalgia for the older better movies in the franchise. If this had been the first Indy film there wouldn't have been another 3.
Much like that awful race in the Phantom Menace the entire jungle scene is just boring-CGI at it's worst, removing the audience completely from the tension and action.

The Crystal Skulls is like that awful moment when your parents come back from a terrible school report and instead of getting angry, they're just disappointed. That's when you know you've really let them down.

What's the highest mark I can get without watching Waterworld? And how many grades do I drop for missing The Bodyguard? I think I may just settle for a pass at this rate...

I disliked the many. many shoe-horned in references to the original films. It was too self-reverential and made me wish that I was watching those films instead of this travesty

No Waterworld, no graduation. It's only fair.

i loved Crystal Skull, really don't go with the complaints, or unfavourable comparisons to the other ones. find Mutt annoying? at least he didn't say 'okey dokey doctor Jones', not even once. Hate the gophers and monkeys? at least they weren't nazi double agents. hate the CGI? at least they weren't huge black outlines and badly painted back drops. Hate the fridge nuke scene/ at least Indy didn't use his feet as brakes on a mining cart, hold his breath for two days or get dragged on his balls behind a truck. Hate the aliens ? at least the bad guys weren't melted by god, burned by shiva or disintegrated by Christs coffee mug. Plus we finally got back to the warehouse, catch up with Marion and saw the biggest, most impressive finale since Raiders.

That was an idiotic comment, jackass.

No, this movie sucks. He's right.

He already said his son's age in the article.

Glad to see i am not the only dad to rais ehis son like that. An example my lad wanted to watch Predators. I said NO , only if you watch all the preceeding ones and if you want to watch AVP you have to watch Aliens. Now my son is mid teens so there is nothing in those films that will mentally scar him in todays age so he finally agreed and he loved them all.

He appreciated knowing the back story of them all and enjoyed Predators alot better for knowing that.

I was the same with several other films. Infact Indy 4 was a prime example and he said the same thing at the end not as good as the others.

Having said that we have spent many a happy moment at home or cinema watching the long llist of series films, pirates of caribbean, Die Hard, Batman, Marvel etc etc and we have a fairly similar view on films.

Well played Simon and I hope your son enjoys his grounding in films so that he enjoys them more in future.

PS Agree about Waterworld.

The skull was ludacrusly big (the real ones are alot smaller) and they shouldnt have done aliens in my mind, the previous films did relgion, they should have made them gods, it would have fit better for the franchise in my mind

I've never quite understood the hate people have for this film. For me it's probably third in the series slotting in between Raiders and Temple. Actually it's the complaints that people have that confuse me when you compare to previous films.

Is surviving a nuke in a fridge ridiculous? Absolutely! But in the first film don't we see Indy hitch a ride on a U-boat for several hours? In temple our intrepid heroes survive falling out of an airplane thanks to a raft and the third movie has Indy retrieving the cross of Coronado from an exploding ship in the middle of a storm without any problems at all. These sorts of larger than life moments are a staple of the Indy films and I can't help but feel the only thing that's really different between Skull and the rest is we live in a different time with the older movies protected from cynicism by nostalgia.

Same thing with the ending. Sure you can argue that it wasn't delivered as well but I've never worked out why aliens is a step too far in a series that has a cup capable of granting eternal life. I guess what I'm getting at is that while I can certainly see the story criticisms and there's some performances that don't work as well as they could the big sticking points just don't seem to make sense to me. Ah well, to each their own.

I totally agree with this review. I re-watched it about 6 months ago and there are parts I think are fine, especially for where Ford is at these days, and show me that Spielberg and Lucas are still totally capable. The opening sequence is good, for example, as is the motorbike chase at the university. But there are some bits that are just so mindbogglingly stupid, even in the context of the Indiana Jones universe, they left me with my mouth agape, as if the same filmmakers could barely be responsible for it.

I was working in a cinema on the opening night of Crystal Skull. I have never seen so many people in the same place go from giddy glee and optimism to deflated half-life and barely restrained despair like that.

And I'm a St Johnstone fan.

This is a great article - well played!
For me, all of the other faults in the film are eclipsed by Ray Winstone's character. I've never felt so outraged at how blatantly a character has been altered just to drive the plot (such as it is) along. In the end, I didn't give a toss which side he was on, I was just glad he was gone.

You sir, win the internet!

Oh at least we can discount The Bodyguard surely? No man should ever have to go through that ............... I still wake up in a cold sweat thinking about that .... movie.

oooh, far too picky Mr. B, far too picky. But fair enough. My only tangible problem with it is the deus ex machina ending. In the extras on the Blade DVD (the original), they talk about the original ending of being a gigantic, swirling CGI Blood god monster, which they abandoned for the far superior mana-a-mano fight between Dorf and Snipes, because in testing people complained that they lost contact with the characters, that the ending lost the 'human' element. And that's a lesson Crystal Skull really should have heeded.

I have to confess two things before commenting on this:
1) I am not a huge Indy fan. I mean, I enjoy the movies a lot, and I've watched them a couple of times, but it is not something I've grown up with or fell totally in love later (as ST TOS, for example).
2) I absolutely love stupid action moments.

So, for me, the fridge is a guilty pleasure, because it makes no sense at all but it is so stupid it is just hilarious in a nice way.

But the aliens were IMHO terrible because they didn't... fit. I don't know how it explain it. It is not the aliens itself, it is just the way they are introduced and how... old-fashioned they are? As if coming out from an older movie, too retro for this one, too new for the other Indy movies. They just weren't done right. It is not the idea I resent, but the way in which it was delivered.

It does seem a bit stupid to criticise Crystal Skull for drifting from reality in light of the entire series so far...

And at least the fridge was explained in that it was lead lined, in "The Last Crusade" he's on the tank as it goes off the cliff, but somehow he appears 30ft to the right of where the tank went off, pulling himself up on a root in the side of the cliff. Also, I think you're right when you say that people let nostalgia blind them to the flaws of the previous movies.

George Lucas takes all the flack for Crystal Skull's flaws. Watching the DVD extras it's pretty clear that this was far from a passion project for Steven Spielberg too... but it's the script that's too blame.

From Indy's opening "wubble you" gag on, it's off tone all the way through. Ray Winstone's characterisation is defined by the punctuation at the end of his dialogue. EG "JOOOOONESY!" (angry) or "JOOOOONESY?" (surprised).

The worst crime of all is that Marion Ravenwood has none of the spark and fire that made her so appealing and such a strong presence in Raiders.

That said, Crystal Skull isn't the worst film ever made. Compare this with Phantom Menace and Batman & Robin and you'll realise how bad it could have been.

The fridge nuke didn't bother me, nor did the CG gopher. Shia and Harrison seem to have a likeable chemistry when they're actually allowed to act together... the ant mound fight is classic Indy fisticuffs action.

Great reassessment from Simon Brew. Bravo!

Good point re: The U Boat.

I actually really liked this film right up until Shia started swinging with the monkeys. It seemed to be the point it all went t*ts up.

I didn't mind the nuke fridge, or the idea of Aliens. I mean, there a lot more unrealistic things in Temple of Doom were there not? The fact that Indy was put under some sort of spell, and another guy could rip your heart out without you dying? 3 glowing stones that kept a town safe... really?

Also the ghosts in Raiders...? The quick aging of the Nazi... all a bit silly, but fun!

It's an indy film, its meant to be like that. But 'Crystal Skull' was just a BAD film in general.

I could understand several of the problems the reviewer has with this film. But after reading the post he wrote about Temple of Doom, where the biggest (and almost only) complaint he has for that film is that it was "too dark", I definitely think that the biggest problem people has with Crystal Skull is nostalgia: nostalgia that makes them regard the three original films as almost-perfect, although they suffered many of the same "problems" the fourth one has: implausible moments (the raft? Short Round doing some ridiculous kung fu against two-meters-tall warriors?), deus ex machina and the supernatural element (Raiders of the Lost Ark: the film which would have ended exactly the same way if Indy hadn't been in the story, because, you know, God solved the thing), annoying kids (Short Round)...

For me, definitely, Crystal Skull, while not the best in the franchise, falls in the third place, with a good margin over Temple.

I think people slagging off the fridge scene and the aliens distracts from the real point (as there are other scenes in the series just as silly). It is not a very good film. It's sort of an alright yarn with a few truly dreadful moments. I think the level of hatred aimed at it comes from the fact it's the 4th film in a well loved series and there is a massive gap between 3 and 4.
If you wait that long to do something it better be bloody good or else why bother;sure as hell nobody involved needed the money. You leave a gap that long and the disappointment of failure increases exponentially. Like Star Wars Episodes I-III and Die Hard 4 and 5 I was just left wishing they hadn't bothered.

I have never really understood the internet bile directed at the "nuke the fridge" moment. As you say, the other films were equally guilty of silly moments, and that was always part of their charm as homages to the similarly silly escapes found in early movie serials. What ruined KoCS for me was the fact that it just felt so very tired, there was very little chemistry between the characters and, worse still, the way that (contrary to what SS had promised in interviews in the run-up to making the film) they ditched practical effects in favour of CGI. Now all this may not have been fatal, and some may still enjoy the film in spite of that, but to me that's why I'd rather watch The Mummy (and, if I'm feeling generous, The Mummy Returns) that this one - if I'm to watch a wannabe Indy film, I'd rather watch one that makes me laugh, features characters that actually interest me and CGI that was necessary (awful Scorpion King aside).

Don't know how many millions around the world felt that same crushing blow after they first watched the film.

The bit of the film that really did it for me in the disappointment stakes was the chase through the jungle. In the trailers you see this huge Russian tree cutting machine, the merchandising showed this machine with the heroes on it. The point of that machine was obvious to me prior to watching the film. Each Indy movie has a crazy chase scene on some kind of Vehicle:

Lost Ark: Nazis truck
Temple of Doom: Mine cart
Last Crusade: Boats, motorbike side-car and Tank

To me the jungle cutting machine was going to be utilised the same way, Indy and his son plus Marion fighting all over it dodging the spinning blades with much fun to be had!

What happens in the film? We see the machine and a few seconds later Indy blows it up with a rocket. What do we get instead? A CGI chase with a jeep with an impossible sword fight and Shia La Talentless swinging between the trees with CGI monkeys! An unbelievable wasted opportunity...

The Bodyguard is a 15. My son is excused for now...

Only for now?!?!?!
You're a cruel teacher Brew ............. a cruel and demanding teacher!

I have defended Costner many times on this website and it was with glee i saw your Costner 101 comment....Big Kev to meis one of the last true filmmakers in Hollywood(the other to me is Mel Gibson but that is a rant for another day)..Costner at his best has to be Open Range,13 Days & DWW...It has been a while since i watched WW but don't hate the film..i even like the Bodyguard due to the fact it was written for McQueen.

Oh well, I'll just have to transfer to the Stath course. If I can get in, I gather it's very popular at DoG University.

And nobody has even mentioned the henchman eating ants!!

PM Syndrome.. I like that! I had the same exact reaction to PM, although I had way less patience for Indiana Jones, even though my expectations were rock bottom. The Monkey Jungle Chase scene had me really wanting to walk right out of the theater and demand my money back.

Demand for that one is indeed high.

He made me watch Batman Forever again. Quid pro quo...

Now that I think about it I know what you mean but think I might be able to offer an explanation for it (albeit possibly not a coherent explanation).

All four movies have a clear and explicit debt to the classic adventure serials from the earlier days of cinema. The first three films are based in the 30's and 40's and while there's obviously mystic elements involved they mostly act to move the plot along and motivate characters. The style of those movies could perhaps be described as history seen through the prism of those classic adventure movies. So you get swords, pistols, tanks, horse riding and so on. Effectively a modern (well, 1980's) take on the 1940's style of cinema.

Now the 4th film takes place in the 1950's (I want to say 57?) and I think adopts the same approach. The difference is now we're into the 50's and the action adventure genre was joined by a raft of sci-fi. Titles like The War of the Worlds, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Them!, and The Day the Earth Stood Still for example. Think of that style of film making and compare to Crystal Skull and it's not a million miles away.

The problem with that approach is that, as you say, it doesn't quite fit. Entire generations have grown up on the descendents of those classic action adventure flicks and while the technology and visuals have improved the basics are largely the same. Sci-fi, on the other hand, has changed massively over the years and the classics used for inspiration here can feel very old fashioned and out of touch. Not yet old enough to be appreciated as classics in their own right but not new enough to be relevant to the current generation.

I didn't really mind the concept of 'Indy meets aliens' either. Aliens are quite a 1950s-ish trope and no less daft than ghosts or (borderline racist) Indian cults. It wasn't the MacGuffin that ruined this film, it was the dull plodding plot, uninteresting supporting characters and lacklustre storytelling.

Hmmmm could be worse, could've made you watch Batmand and Robin. But that would just inhumaine!

He did that too.

IJATKOTCS (!) is the closest I've ever come to walking out of a film, and I sat through Blues Brothers 2000!

Beautifully expressed.
The plot was not well introduced (I think we all agree on that, it could have been introduced in a better way...) and then the aesthetics (the huge UFO, the old-fashioned pale aliens with massive heads) felt out of place.
I see where they come from, not in such a great detail as you do because I am pretty young (23) and not that savvy on the matter, but I still think it didn't turn out very well.

There's also the matter that I remember reading that they had rejected a few scripts before choosing this one and I felt a bit disappointed. I just couldn't believe this was the best script they had in their hands...

*gasp* the evil blighter!! You sure his name isn't Damien?

I agree with you Simon, Waterworld was great fun to sit down and watch with my dad. Watching alone, though, I feel would be a lot less fun.

The knife "glamorization" is out of touch ? C'mon, what about all the guns and other freaking horrible weapons glamorization we see in nearly ALL today's movies ?
I, by far, prefer knife to gun…

I have to disagree with the reviewer's positive comments about the warehouse scenes in Area 51, where the arc is stored. In Raiders, this area is shown as a magnificent, mysterious scene of dark wonder and intrigue. In Crystal Skull, this impression is completely obliterated - it just becomes some generic, uninteresting warehouse. Where is that sense of mood and scale from the first film? This scene at the end of Raiders should never have been referenced. Not only is Crystal Skull crap, but you are then damaging your legacy and memories of the original trilogy.

Well, if nothing else, the movie gave us a new phrase:

Oh no. Some nobody on the internet called me a jackass! What will I do????

Mark Kermode said it best for me when he said that everything in the film was a massive bother, because there was nothing engaging going on with the fourth film that the other three films had. The last three films had problems, but did we care? No, because we were engaged in the story and characters.

Kingdom of the Crystal Skull made of Gold in the Temple of the Lost Saucer Men (long title) was just interesting in how uninteresting it really was. It was sterile and you just felt through the film like this is something Steven Spielberg DIDN'T want to make. I get very bored talking about this film let alone bored watching it.

Big Indy fan and I put of watching Crystal Skull for years after all the bad press. Perhaps my expectations had just been managed, but I enjoyed it.

"Not as good as the other three" for sure but not a stinker by any means.

A good friend of ours was CEO of a local cinema chain, and tragically died of cancer at a young age. The NZ premier of 'Crystal Skull' was put on by his company as a charity memorial for him and his friends and family were all there for it, you could feel the excitement being sucke dout of the air as the filmed unfolded. I remember thinking that tragic though his death was it did at least mean he didn't have to see this garbage. Biggest cinematic diappointment EVER.

Hold his breath for 2 days? U Boats ran on the surface except when attacking. This is not a secret.

Hurt was a massive problem. We had no connection to the old coot, and Hurt, good as he is, can't make us care. Had it been Henry Jones or Marcus (as I heard it was originally going to be), fine. But in the end we're in a race to save a character we don't care about. Would have been better to make it Marion and write Ox out.

Also a mistake keeping Mutt and his relation to Indy a secret, as well as the lame "Mary" obfuscation. Better to have Mutt say its Marion from the start - we all know (thanks to the ads) that it's her, so we're miles ahead of Indy, which we shouldn't be- which would get him and us involved fast, and immediately raise questions of Mutt's parentage.

As for exposition, most of the Indy films are good at giving you exposition at a few early moments - Raiders gets it all laid out at the university. Everything you need to know beginning to end over a dusty text book and then we're off to the races. Crystal Skull is so muddied it repeatedly has to stop for a new info dump.

There are moments I like in the film, but on the whole it is uneven mess. The worst part is at the very opening, as Indy and Two-Face discuss their time in the war, and I realize just how much I would love to see those stories.

Another problem (though I didn't really take issue with the aliens) is that the SF films of the 50s really weren't the same sort of films as the Indy films. It was a roguish hero running through jungles in War of the Worlds or the Day the Earth Stood Still. Those films were entirely different in structure and tone from the adventure serials. So while I get the homaging, it feels off because they are trying to homage one thing within the homage of another. I still don't take issue with it because to me, Ancient Aliens fits legends and mythology as well as Jewish, Hindu and Christian tales, and I think the disconnect (as the author points out) comes from the execution, not the concept.

I have written an Indy 5 script..which knocks the memory of KOTCS out of the ball park..full of action, fun and adventure..just wish it was easier to get it to the right people..I guarantee Indy fans would love it..and every 10 year old would see the magic return!

I don't have a problem with the aliens, since they've already delved into other pseudoarchaeology in the series, BUT i have to admit the problem could be that the 'ancient aliens' element is really a 20th century invention (first appearing in the 70s, as i understand). So in that respect, it is quite different to the other myths and legends.
For those who don't know, Lucas was talking about Chariots of the Gods by von Daniken etc way back in the original Raiders story conferences, so it's always been lurking in the background, threatening to make its way into Indy films...

I liked that part. Tied in well with the stuff about the Red Menace.

That's the first I've heard of Henry or Marcus in place of Oxley. They asked Connery to be in the film simply for one scene, I believe, at Indy's house (he features in the Darabont draft). Marcus was never in any of the drafts, since Elliott died such a long time ago.

People were quite rightly disappointed by this film, but I sometimes think they blame the wrong things. IMHO, it isn't the aliens, the fridge or even the abundance of CGI that's to blame - it's the script. Whether it's the flip-flopping of Winstone's character, Marion being a shadow of her former self, the rushed finale or Indy's lack of agency during the climax, it's the writing that lets it down.
Having read Darabont's City of the Gods script, I'm mystified as to why Lucas had a problem with it (when Spielberg was good to go.) Mr Brew, I humbly submit that you give that a read and then share with us your opinion! :-)

My bad on communication - I had heard Marcus, not Henry - that was just my suggestion (if Connery would be willing to return). As for Marcus, I hadn't realized he had died so long ago, so clearly that was either a false rumor or false memory. The point though still stands - too much other stuff going on to care about a brand new character with a unearned backstory.

I'm probably one of the few who actually really likes Crystal Skull. Apart from Shia Labeouf, i think it's a great movie. Funny, action packed, just as an Indy movie should be. I think we have a tendency to over think films these days - can't we just accept some movies for what they are supposed to be: entertainment? Personally, i think Temple of Doom is the weakest installment. Last Crusade is my favourite.

I saw that happen in Episode 1... after 20 minutes, the only people with any signs of enjoyment were 7 yrs old and under...

i havent watched raiders since last summer but im pretty sure that the uboat is clearly preparing to dive and all the crew getting below decks at the point where indy shows up on the deck, desperately looking to get below somehow.. i remember this bit always jarring with me when watching an otherwise legendary film.. how the hell does he survive that trip to the island?? no matter how ridiculous it is ( lets say indy finds an aqualung and ties himself onto a railing ) we need to be shown something?? you cant just leave out a chunk of the story?? for me this was one of the most glaring errors in the franchise and its in the first and best film.. forget the fridge nuke!! i mean,, the railcart scene in temple of doom?? fraught with errors... high speed gap jumping to land on two rails?? that vat of water they overturn turns into someone pulling the plug at the bottom of the atlantic.. did you see the cavernous areas in the tunnel and the sheer amount of water that would be required to cause the effect shown when they emerge at the end?? and thats just the tip of the iceberg with this series.. but thats what these films are all about.. but like i say, the uboat scene for me was a bad error.. ps. i thought indy 4 was awful.. in fact raiders was amazing, the rest declined steadily..

Best Indy 'film' I've seen is the Uncharted series, great script, action, it's funny, sassy, interesting characters and a clear homage to what made Indy great in its day. Crystal Skull on the other hand was none of these. Pity.

Going underwater would mean using up the batteries. If they're heading back to base and not expecting trouble it would make more sense to run on diesel instead.

As the guy who owns the gun store from Falling Down would say;
"Think about it....Think about it" Here is ten reasons it sucks....
1) No Indiana Jones theme to start the movie? Are you crazy? Honestly?
The most famous theme behind JAWS and STAR WARS
2) No transfer between the Paramount Logo and a worthy start for the story.
A CGI Gopher mound.....Are you ****ing serious?
3) Pointless murder of the US Soldiers.......So in 360 seconds we have gone
from a CGI Gopher to Murder. Yeah thanks Steve and George that's just great.
4) Ray Winstone should have got John Hurts part. I like Ray as much as the next man
but who cast him in this? I never wanted to hear Indy called 'mate' by anyone
5) Too much CGI instead of praticle effects
6) John Hurt - Criminally Wasted when he could have inherited Denohlm Elliot's
role in the series.
7) No Sean Connerry. He wanted $4,000.000 they offerred $2,000,000....Go figure
8) The maguffin works better when it's related to the Bible in some way.
9) Throwing Indiana Jones a snake in the quicksand.....really?
10) The Watefall Sequence, So bad they gave it to us three times!

You're trolling right?

'C'mon, what about all the guns and other freaking horrible weapons glamorization we see in nearly ALL today's movies ?'

it's a young man carrying a butterfly knife and playing with it in a family film....

...and it's not seen as a bad thing

The fridge scene isn't a problem. Indy's silhouette with the blast in the background is pretty iconic. Now, if only it meant anything...

Labeouf isn't the problem either. The bike chase scene actually retains some of the physicality and humor seen in the first films. For a moment there I thought a good movie was on its way, after a disappointing intro.

But then, it just gets worse and worse. I blame it on a poor story, and a CGI overdose. It simply doesn't capture the electricity between Indy and Marion. And plot becomes as nonsensical as it goes, and unfolds like a video game, from level to level. And I love video games, but this is simply bad.

But the CGI... The chase in the jungle, the waterfall scene, and the dreadful ending... there is a dematerialization of the action, nothing feels real. The waterfall is the nail in the coffin for me, breaking all suspension of disbelief. When nothing can happen to the main characters, when they become super-heroes, why bother?

The finale, a CGI roller-coaster of epic proportions. Final verdict: Indiana Jones is still a trilogy.

"Conventionally Magnetic Skull" is the worst. If the magnetism was only a plot device in one scene (how they find it in warehouse also grenades don't have gunpowder) and a plot HOLE for the rest of the movie, then a good script would remove the magnetism and change how it was found. But they just didn't care.

Ok. Westerns are family movies, right ? And yet, you surely can't deny that guns, rifles and other firearms are glamorized. Do you complain like you do here with the knife, though ?
And to develop your argument furthermore, swords are idealized and pictured as beautiful and noble weapons in a lot of "family movies", yet an awful lot of people were killed by blade in history.
So, nah, I don't see why it's out of touch in this film in particular. I don't like weapons in general, this film isn't worse than others, far from it !

(very sorry for any eventual grammar mistake, I'm doing my best to show my point but it's not my native language)

It's an ok movie.
It's just got a sort of bland story that never really gets that exciting or unique at any point and we never seem to properly connect to any of it, it all just sort of moves on before any of the scenes sink in.
It feels like a photocopy of a movie, like there is no depth to anything somehow.

The CGI makes it a bit less likable, but in general it's that it never rises above "filler" scenes, rather than truly memorable scenes.
In fact I'd say the one scene that gets close to being an iconic scene is the fridge scene, funnily enough.

The problem with this film is David Koepp, who Spielberg keeps going back to to write his films. Koepp can write drama(Panic Room, Carlito's Way), but sucks at these tent-pole blockbusters(WOTW,KOTCS, Jurassic Park).

Also, what was with the weird dis-respect of Denholm Elliot? When they cut off the head of the statue that was made in his character's honor, then used it as comic relief in the chase scene at the college, I felt embarrassed for everyone involved.

I think Mac is a character much under-appreciated. Sure we never saw Mac & Indy in WW2/spy action that they referred to, but they did well to establish a shared background.

I just wished they would have done a closeup on Mac's face as he warns the Russians not to underestimate Indy: "You don't know him! YOU DON'T KNOW HIM!!!"

I worked at an Odeon back then, and I saw the exact same thing. Sheer excitement to total disappointment in two hours. The faces I saw go in had smiles, and the faces that came out were something entirely different.

I saw it the night before it came out at a staff screening. I had a big grin when it started, and it gradually inverted itself until the last act. There was nothing it could do to redeem itself. Friends and co-workers turned in their seat to see what I thought about it, and I mostly just told them to f.uck off. I wasn't in a good mood.

I've watched it about 3 or 4 times since then, and it hasn't held up well at all. I can now appreciate the few decent scenes that there are, but it's a very frustrating film to watch, and I don't think I'll be visiting it again, with potential future children or without.

The Mummy is beyond fantastic. Such a great great great great film. I would love a 'Revisiting The Mummy' piece.

But you see the U Boat going underwater?

Frank Darabont's Indy IV script is masterful and nails the tone and characters AND manages to keep the 'aliens' (or whatever) angle without it seeming stupid or out of place. It's gritty and felt more to me like a real Indy flick than the one we got, just from reading the damn screenplay.

George Lucas said no to it.

Let's just plan a way to get to him and make him watch Teletubbies 24/7 for a year.

he's supposed to be a a 50s greaser. They come with knives. just like barbarians come with swords, toy soldiers come with guns, jedis with laser swords, superheroes with fists(among other things), ninjas with throwing stars. just like the fun police come with hand-wringing.

Could be worse. It could have been Indie letting a plane propeller mince a bad guy. Or were we able to withstand that corruption when we were little?

young man playing with and pulling a butterfly knife in a family film is worse than say if indie got shot up like murphy in robocop... ok well i'm joking there, but what i mean is it's all about the context in the movie and how it relates to our world now. Nothing to do with the level of violence or menace, which in Raiders I loved as a kid, it was really tough!... sorry... I'm repeating myself, my point is that this family film features a young man, one of the heroes, playing with and pulling a butterfly knife

oh I remember... I remember...
also remember walking across the multiplex car park afterwards in shock, a kind of denial as to what I'd just watched

imho Raiders is on a completely different level to any of its sequels. It's one of the best films ever made. The others all pale for me. So even though I think that Crystal Skull is wretched, i'm not much of a fan of Temple or Crusade either

interesting, shame huh?... I'll go google it now

do it, it's well worth a read. Any future Indy marathons will involve me watching the three films then reading Darabont's Indy IV script rather than watch the mess they ended up with.

Yeah, I get that you are very fixated on butterfly knives (which near as i can tell fell out of fashion sometime around when Beat It was on the charts). I just don't see how it relates to our culture today? Certainly not how it relates to our culture in some more dangerous, reprehensible or unsettling way? Do you know someone who was slashed or stabbed? I could see that effecting perception. But otherwise, it does seem a peculiar preoccupation with an innocuous piece of visual shorthand in creating a time and character (he's a grown up insecure thug, he's not gonna have a slingshot(far more dangerous since kids do not necessarily glom to the idea that they are weapons and can hurt people), again, especially in a family feature filled overflowing with violence. There is a glee to the punch ups in Indy movies which if one were inclined, could be worrisome as a glorification. There is a plethora of creative and graphic deaths, including eaten by bugs, melted by ghosts, heart ripped out, shot, poisoned, etc. There is torture, attacks on women, ethnic stereotype lackeys.

Remember, the entire franchise is a love letter to cliffhanger serials and was devised a few years before we became obsessed that watching things in the movies was the reason their is violence and strife in society. Society is full of enormous grievous issues, some of which erupt into violence. They are complex and involve many push pull pressures. I feel confident that LeBoeuf's character with his clickety clack knife is something we needn't lose sleep over.

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