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