On The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

It’s hard to believe it’s been nineteen years since Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

Nineteen!  Years!

I was a junior in high school.  The summer hadn’t started yet.  And opening weekend, I went to see it with my younger brother at the movie theater in Bridgeport, West Virginia.  A few weeks later, with some friends from the National Honor Society at my high school, we went to see it again at a rinkydink little theater in Elkins.

Takes me back.

Nineteen years.  It really feels like, if not yesterday, then maybe a week or two ago.

Last night I went out to see the movie Indiana Jones fans have been waiting nineteen years for — Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

Twenty years have passed for Marshall College professor Henry Jones, Jr. since his fateful encounter with the Holy Grail.  The era of the Nazi search for ancient relics to conquer the world — the real story of which can be read here — has ended, but there are new players on the field, the Soviet Union.  And they’re in search of the fabled Crystal Skulls of South America, to use the mental powers the skulls confer to conquer the world.

I enjoyed The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

I was also annoyed with The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

Ironically, for pretty much the same reasons.

Everything you expect from an Indiana Jones movie is here.  The set pieces.  The harrowing escapes.  The encounter with the outre.  The witty repartee.  The extraordinary conclusion.

And that’s very much the problem with the film.  It felt like a pastiche of an Indiana Jones film.  And references to The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles felt awkward.

Also, I didn’t really like Mutt a whole lot.  Mutt being Indy’s sidekick in the film.  There were other ways of getting Indiana Jones on the trail of the Crystal Skulls.

But really, the biggest problem I had with the film was how shallow it all seemed.  The characters weren’t well developed.  The Soviet threat, when you stop and think about it, wasn’t much of a threat at all.  And the ending made very little sense; it was big and noisy and even cosmic, but there’s no logic to it.  (And, frankly, aping lines from Star Wars and The Last Crusade at various points in the ending was like being smacked across the face with a cold fish.)

The story could have used a rethink, possibly several rethinks.  But given that the final script was a compromise between Harrison Ford, Steven Spielberg, and George Lucas, it was either this or nothing.  And at the end of the day, I’d rather not have nothing.

It feels wrong to criticize The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull because it’s Indiana frickin’ Jones.  Harrison Ford was in fine form, and it’s obvious that this was the role he was always meant to play.  Spielberg’s direction was always sharp.  And I did enjoy myself.  In fact, I’d even call the film “good, but not great.”

Still, it’s disappointing in the sense that, barring a fifth Indiana Jones film, this is where the series will end, with a whimper and not a bang.

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4 Replies to “On The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull”

  1. Oh, if you think they’re going down without a fight, you’re dead wrong.

    Lucas wants to continue the films, shifting the focus to Mutt — developing LeBouff’s character more, and putting Ford in the same role that Connery had in Last Crusade.

    Good idea?  Probably not, but I’m willing to give it a shot as long as they don’t name a move that isn’t about Indy after him… I think I could handle Shia LeBouff and the Crazy Artifact, at least as way to keep the action and style of the Indy films alive for the young-uns.

    What I’m looking forward to right now, though: Get Smart.  That’s gonna be great no matter how bad it is…

  2. Yeah, I heard what Lucas said at Cannes about his plans for a fifth film.

    The question is whether or not Ford and Spielberg would go for that.  Lucas wasn’t crazy about The Last Crusade, Ford and Spielberg weren’t happy about the aliens in Crystal Skull.  The series has been a series of compromises, and the question is whether or not Harrison Ford would compromise and take a backseat in his own series.  Call me doubtful.

    Another thing to consider with the possibility of a fifth film is the financials.  Crystal Skull was made on a budget of 185 million, and rather than upfront fees Lucas, Spielberg, and Ford agreed to a gross percentage if the film reaches 400 million worldwide.  (It will, there’s no doubt of that.  Of the original trilogy, only Last Crusade broke 400 million worldwide, but that’s 1989 dollars.  Crystal Skull is already over 100 million in its first weekend.  I think it will hit at least 250 million domestic, and then another 200 internationally.) I don’t see a fifth film being done for less than Crystal Skull.  Would Paramount be willing to finance that?  I don’t know.

    Take all that into consideration, and while I won’t say it’s impossible, I just don’t find it likely.  I have no doubt that Lucas could put together a “Mutt Jones and the Eye of Argon” movie and have it theaters by 2011, but I question if it would feature the involvement of either Spielberg or Ford.

    As for Get Smart, I have no particular affection for the Don Adams television series (or its various revivals, including the one starring Andy Dick), but everything I’ve seen for this film has been solidly amusing.  Also, Anne Hathaway looks monstrously attractive.  I’m on the fence about seeing Get Smart — ten dollars a ticket at the local theater will make one think twice — so I think it’s going to depend more on reviews and word-of-mouth.  I probably wouldn’t go see it blind.

    We shall see.

  3. Well, given the outrageous ticket prices you face when you visit your local theater, I would wait before seeing any movie.

    Unlike you, I was a huge fan of the original Get Smart — when I was younger, my mother was a bit overbearing about what I was allowed to watch on TV, so I was usually tuned in to either TV Land or Cartoon Network.  Sometimes Nick, because they aired some pretty entertaining shows, but The Angry Beavers didn’t stick, and once that show died out after a bitter fight, I lost faith in the network.

    But anyway, my first episode of Get Smart hooked me, and I recall tuning in until about halfway through high school, when journalism started to eat up my time.  Can’t call myself a true fan, though, since I had no idea that there ever was a remake, much less that Andy Dick was in it.  Huh.

    Anyway, too much ranting for one day.  Back to… whatever it is I’m doing.

  4. It was a sequel, rather than a remake.  On FOX in the mid-90s.  Andy Dick was the son of Maxwell Smart and Agent 99.  You could think of it as “Get Smart: The Next Generation,” I suppose.

    The Angry Beavers?  I had to check what that was on Wikipedia, and… missed it completely, I did.  (To be fair, though, I can’t say that I sat around watching cartoons at that time in my life.  Unless it was Superman: The Animated Series.  Or Bobby’s World.)

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