Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Fedora. Leather jacket. Bullwhip. These are the necessary accoutrements for Dr. Henry ‘Indiana' Jones jr. to get the job done. A professor of history and archaeology, Dr. Jones has spent his entire life in pursuit of ancient relics. He's an expert on the occult, an obtainer of rare antiquities - but above all, Indiana Jones is the essence of adventure.

An "Indiana Jones" picture is all about exotic locales, crawling through subterranean caverns seeking out golden idols and other ancient artifacts. Since his first appearance on the silver screen in 1981 with "Raiders of the Lost Ark," We've seen Indy in search of the Ark of the Covenant, navigate the crypts of the Temple of Doom, and uncover the secrets of the Holy Grail. And while those past installments were homage to the Saturday afternoon serials of the ‘30s and ‘40s, Indy's latest adventure takes us into unknown territory - the atomic age.

Set in 1957, "The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" picks up 19 years after "The Last Crusade", and Indiana Jones is well into his ‘60s. Since his last outing, World War II came and went and Indy's most-reliable enemies, those power-hungry Nazis, were vanquished.

Now America is fighting a whole new war, the Cold War, and lucky for us there are new enemies for Indy to contend with - the communists. Colonel-Doctor Irina Spalko, a despotic femme fatale played by Cate Blanchett, plans to infiltrate a top-secret U.S. government hangar in Nevada.

While we're at it, Spalko has captured Indiana Jones and intends to use his knowledge to find a particular crateful of contents. I won't tell you what it is, but the contents of this crate are ultra-magnetic, and its location is easily betrayed after Indy throws some gunpowder into the air.

After leading Spalko and her men to this mysterious crate, an inspiring action sequence breaks out full of shoot-outs and whip-cracks. Jones creates a diversion and eventually escapes into the desert. When our favorite archaeologist returns to his university, he is offered a leave of absence to avoid being fired because of an FBI investigation involving his association with communists.

As he prepares to leave, Jones runs into a greaser named Mutt Williams (Shia LaBeouf) who reveals that Indy's old colleague, Harold Oxley (John Hurt), has disappeared after searching for a crystal skull in Peru. Much like the Ark of the Covenant or the Holy Grail, The crystal skulls are mythic artifacts. These skulls are often attributed to the Aztec or Maya civilizations and are believed to contain supernatural powers.

So now that we have our quest and the principle characters all set, Indy and his sidekick Mutt must journey to Peru to piece together the puzzle left by Oxley. The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, a fabled golden city, holds the key - and now it's a race to the prize between Indy and the Soviets.

Quite simply, I loved this film as I have loved every "Indiana Jones" picture. Director Steven Spielberg and creator George Lucas have managed to surprise me with a constant salvo of spectacles and awe-inspiring action sequences.

As a Kid I was fascinated with Area 51, the Roswell incident and the Nazca lines - and now to wrap up all those childhood fascinations with the myth of the crystal skulls is quite a pleasure for me to experience. I sat like a wide-eyed child in the theater, with a huge goofy grin on my face for the duration of the film - and I will let that reflect my rating.

With an "Indiana Jones" film, what good does it do to compare one to the other? In the end they are all entertaining and to critically analyze them is to completely deprive yourself of the fun and excitement they offer. I thought long and hard about this review, and the number of balled-up sheets of notebook paper in my trash reflect the frustration I had in trying to critically review this film. I thought back to being a kid and pondered what made me love Indiana Jones to begin with. Was it the acting or the cinematography? Was it a flawless script or supreme direction? No. It was pure, unbridled fun - and that's all Indy has ever been - unashamed to be nothing more than a popcorn flick.

I for one love man-eating ants and spectacular jeep chases through the jungle. I love the pure essence of campy fun combined with vine swinging and whip cracking. Is it the best? Far from it - but it's a welcome addition to the adventures of Indiana Jones. If there's another expedition up Indy's sleeve, I'm more than willing to go with him.
Reviewed by: adam
53 Comment(s)
Paul said...
Just got home, will leave a full comment later, but I was disappointed with the numerous ridiculous scenes that were way too over the top for an Indiana Jones flick. When I closed my eyes I could see Brendan Frazier.
Adam said...
I don't really know what was SO ridiculously over-the-top about it that was any different from the previous films. The past three centered around supernatural stories. I mean, the Ark of the Covenant opening up to reveal ghosts and bolts of lightning that melt people's faces off? Or the Holy Grail guarded by a 800-year-old eternal knight?

Not to mention the mine cart chase in Temple of Doom, which if done today would be just as 'unbelievable' - the beginning of Last Crusade in which Jones blows up an entire freighter in the middle of the ocean and manages to survive via one small life preserver.

I don't know if Indy should be blamed for having to up its action sequences as a result of escalation - I mean, Temple of Doom and The Last Crusade had to do it bigger and better than Raiders, and after 19 years of films like The Mummy and National Treasure ripping Indiana Jones off completely, it was to be expected.

I didn't mind it though - I thought it was couched in the same kind of campy fun as the originals, and though I had some minor squabbles with the film - it was nothing that deterred me from having a a great time watching it.

You could tell they were having a great time making the movie, and weren't taking it too seriously - so I'm not going to over analyze it and take it more serious than they did.

The ending was a little underwhelming though - I would have liked to have seen something more dynamic. The way Spalko died was basically just the same as Belloch or Donovan.
As I say in my own review, I could push my suspension of disbelief far enough to enjoy the aliens... but it was stuff like the refrigerator, the car landing right onto the tree to lower down to the river, and then surviving all three waterfalls perfectly fine that bugged me.
Adam said...
Yeah, that's understandable Nick - but I was comparing them to other scenes as equally outlandish. I mean, the three waterfalls deal seemed a lot like the Inflatable Raft scene in Temple of Doom and Refrigerator and Jeep gags I chalked up to other campy comical sequences like the revolving fireplace and beginning of Temple of Doom where they jump out the window and go bouncing off awnins until they crash directly into short round's car.

Originally that Atomic Bomb gag was supposed to be in one of the Back to the Future movies strangely enough.
Nick said...
Adam: lol, actually, the waterfall gag made me think back to exactly the inflatable raft scene, which bugged me the exact same amount in that movie as did this :P .
Adam said...
Haha, yeah - it bugs me too. I just watch all 4 of the Indy movies over the weekend to put everything into perspective - I guess I've made my peace with being overly critical of popcorn movies.

It also occurred to me that Willie Scott is the original Jar Jar...
Nick said...
haha@Willie = Jar Jar. She was rather annoying, but I have to be honest... I wasn't overly annoyed by Jar Jar. Then again, I wasn't raised on Star Wars. I mean, I've seen them all, and way before the prequels came along (and I wanna get them on DVD), but I wasn't the hardcore superfan that a lot of people are with it. So maybe that has something to do with it. The same thing is with me and Indy Jones movies. I've seen them all, but I wasn't raised a superfan of them.

But they're all enjoyable in their own way. Indy just has a weird vibe to it... because they are, essentially, B-Movies set to blockbuster status... which is just bizarre in its own right.
Adam said...
I love the fact that this movie combined the elements of '30s serials and '50s science fiction B-movies, which I've always had a soft spot for.

I know the majority of people who frequent this site will probably have negative opinions with it, and in that way it very much seems like a Star Wars prequel.

I'm sure George will be chalked up as the destroyer of childhoods once more.

I can't wait to see it again though.
Paul said...
George Lucas destroyed my childhood...

But seriously, I didn't hate this movie by any means, it just didn't have that Indy feel throughout it. Maybe it was the CG ants, or the CG aliens, or the CG monkeys, it's tough to lay a finger on it, but it felt like one of the countless Indy ripoffs instead of the heart and soul that inspired them.

I guess it's hard to argue that the series has always been a mere popcorn movie, but it had always been more to me. Sure there were ridiculous and supernatural scenes in the previous movies, but there was heart also. I feel like it really tried, and made it on some levels, but on others I just felt like I was watching the Mummy (hello Mayans who apparently live encased in the walls of your temple).

I did really like John Hurt's character, the scenes at the school, and surprisingly Shia for the most part. But dear God, once we hit the jungle there is just scene after scene of stupid action. I'm with Nick on this point. I accepted the fact that this movie would be different, I made myself like an older Indy, and his new sidekick, and with some effort I could EVEN accept the aliens (though it was tough). Where it lost me was the Tarzan swinging, the drive of the cliff "I meant to do that" moment, the unexplained indigenous cave dwellers throughout, and the "hey look at that we found the tomb/temple/everything else" moments. It just seemed random and sloppy, and as Adam put it, a popcorn flick. If that's what you're expecting that's what you'll get, but to me the series always had a little extra to put it as one of the most beloved.

While not an awful movie, it's too forgettable for me...the sign of summer blockbuster, not an epic adventure of one of cinemas greatest adventurers.

2.5 stars
Adam said...
2.5 - wow. Right up there with Leviathan and the Ruins. That hurts.
Nick said...
This movie just seems to give people one of the following opinions:

1) This movie ruined my childhood and/or inner child.
2) I was able to just give in and enjoy it for what it was, and it was rather enjoyable.
Adam said...
Part of me thinks that when you limit something to this strict list of authoritative rules of "This is what an Indy movie MUST be" that you lose the chance for it to evolve into something else - and I think the evolution here was logical. 19 years had went by and the movie was self-aware enough to say, this is the atomic age and we're going to do a sci-fi b-movie story, which is cool because it shows that Indy isn't stuck in the past.

It's the same with Star Wars or any classic franchise that gets dusted off eventually. There's this list of assumptions and expectations that a movie must adhere to a set of guidelines, and if it falters from that it will be crucified for it.

First it was Jar-Jar and Midichlorians and truth about Boba Fett and the clones - now it's a atomic-bomb safe refrigerator.

I understand the criticisms and why people dislike it, but to me I guess I liked because it was so totally different, but at the same time gave me the same feeling the old ones did.

It's kind of like, Tim Burton made some dark Batman movies... then there were some campy ones, and now we're back to this dark, brooding Batman story with Christopher Nolan. But then there's the campy, outrageous Adam West Batman - which is just as well-loved as the dark character. At the end of the day, their both representations of Batman.
Nick said...
Adam: Agree completely.
Andy said...
Adam, maybe you should move in with Nick...
Nick said...
*opens his door with a big goofy grin*

I'm with Paul all the way, though I don't know if I'd be that generous.

It felt EXACTLY like an Indiana Jones ripoff. So stupid in so many ways. It can't possibly just be my childhood (and teenage) nostalgia tricking me into thinking the earlier installments (specifically the first) were a different breed than this dreck. In fact, I know so - Raiders was nominated for Best Picture, for chrissakes - could you possibly see this one getting nominated for anything?

I know I'm not a TON older than you guys (and I don't know how old Paul is), but I'm sure age has a lot to do with the reaction. You youngins just wait until The Matrix 4 comes out and ruins the credibility of the first three.

Oh wait...the two sequels already did that...
Paul said...
Ahh Fletch...a man after my own heart. Please tell me you thought Gladiator was overrated as well! And yes, I have a couple years on Adam and Shea (see staff page).

Adam, as I said, I could force myself to accept some changes to the series. But yes, a movie DOES need to adhere to a certain set of guidelines IF it wants to be a worthy successor. Is that to say it can't evolve? No. But this movie devolves (see Super Mario Bros, the Movie - George got his hands on the devolution gun and has been using it ever since). It carries some aspects of what made the series great, but overall it's off the deep end.
Paul said...
Andy said...
My desire to see this is becoming less and less. I think it could be fun and mindless entertainment. But I almost feel like I'll just be riding the same rollercoaster for the fourth time. It was exciting the first time, but once you can predict the drops and turns, is there really a point? And it probably does have a little to do with - I've changed and Indy hasn't.
Gladiator the boxing movie, right? ;)

Well, I don't know if it's Best Pic material, but I enjoy Gladiator. It's not nearly as deep as it thinks it is, but it's a fun ride that features some great action.

Sorry if that disappoints...
Paul said...
Nah, I'd just about agree with that. Did not think it was Best Pic at all. Crazy camera work on some battles, but some cool action sequences. No Braveheart, though it thinks it is.
Nick said...
You know what 'Best Pic' is overrated? Crash.
Paul said... bout Shakespeare in Love
Yea, but everyone knows and fully accepts that the Weinsteins "purchased" the Best Pic Oscar for Shakespeare that year.

Adam said...
I want everyone to hate this movie so I can be one of the few that is spared when George Lucas finally loses his mind and creates the real Death Star.

Just kidding, but seriously George - call me.
Nick said...
Adam: I'll be spared, too... and then we can room together in the Death Star!
And then when he calls down the lightning - We'll jump in our lead-lined refrigerator and laugh at all of you!

/mushroom cloud
Indeed! It will be glorious!

And if worse comes to worse and they still come after us, we can always Tarzan it to safety... then go down a couple waterfalls. We'll lose em then.

Just watch out for the natives hiding in the walls.
* (asterisk) ( said...
I have nothing constructive to add. I have no interest in ever seeing this. Harrison Ford is a million years old AND he's with Calista Flockhart. What can he possibly add to cinema? He's dead to me.
Shea said...
Ha... room together in the death star. You guys are too short for a stormtrooper. I am sure you guys will get the standing no rails job. Be sure not to lean too much!
Andy said...
About what I expected after hearing all of the reviews. I still held out hope for the end, but it turned out how I feared. And of course the tree...waterfalls...monkeys...aliens. But it had some good parts, but didn't seem as adventurous as the previous ones. 3 stars tops.
Adam said...
Saw it again w/ my mom and nephew. I was quite surprised as the theater was still sold out packed with a 3:30 sunday show. Good thing we go there early enough to get good seats.

I loved it just as much the second time around, I actually went through and found myself even more impessed with the whole Jungle sequence in particular. The ants look amazing, you can see the hairs on their legs - the problem is when they move in large groups, but I think the amount of work that went into that is amazing.

The monkeys, felt the same to me - I realized it's not even that long of a sequence, 10-15 seconds tops and at least one of the monkeys is real.

Waterfalls felt fine, everyone falls out of the boat every time and has to get back on, which is funny to me.

And the ending also made more sense. Indy was clearly lying to Spalko when interpreting what Ox was saying... "They want to give you... a big gift."

Again, really enjoyed it - can't wait for the DVD release with all of those wonderful documentaries and such. I'd also be interested in picking up the book which covers the making fo all 4 films just to devour all the info on "Crystal Skull's" Production
Andy said...
Oh and prairie dogs...I forgot about the prairie dogs. And Adam I am glad you are getting so much enjoyment out of it. My ony advice is....look away.
Adam said...
I just don't know why people fixate on these things and can't get past them, the prairie dogs were in the movie for a combined 5 seconds, and they weren't even that bad!
Andy said...
Because they jolt me out of the movie, I shake my head in disappointment and wonder why. I'm not fixated. I don't think it was 4 stars and those are some of the reasons why.
Troy said...
I agree with Andy. The prairie dogs and monkeys really sucked. It was a decent and entertaining movie, but why can't Georgo Lucas at least use real prairie dogs? WTF.
Paul said...
Yeah, it's not just one of those Adam. The first half of the movie I kept letting them go, but it was scene after relentless scene of ridiculous action sequences and unbelievable story. I know I know, you love it, that's cool, but to me it was not on par with the previous movies.

Also, I don't care if I can see hairs on the cg ants, they still look like a swarm of poor cg.
Adam said...
I don't know why George Lucas is getting blamed for all of this haha. I mean does anyone have any proof, interviews etc that George just had to have CG Prairie Dogs?

Poor CG? I mean - You're talking about ILM who most recently did Iron Man, not to mention Transformers and the Pirates trilogy. If they wanted better looking CG, they would have got it - it's purposeful to make it resemble '50s special effects.

I hope there is 5 seconds of The Dark Knight that is completely awful, ha. That way I can say Chris Nolan is a horrible filmmaker for putting it CG playing cards or something ridiculous.
Paul said...
Adam, I think this is where I have a problem with your defense of this movie, you take it too personally for George and Steven. I hope no one is saying that they are horrible filmmakers, but you've admitted to me as much that "I don't know why they chose to do xyz" in Indy 4.

And ILM doesn't suck, no one is saying that. But there is a HUGE difference b/w the CG in Transformers and that in this one. And for the record, where were the horrible 30s special effects in the original 3?
"it's purposeful to make it resemble '50s special effects."

Yeah - this is one of the worst justifications I've seen yet.

I think when the Star Wars prequels came out, Adam was the one telling us that "the acting was horrible on purpose to resemble the way people spoke in and around Coruscant and Naboo during that time frame."


Adam said...
The campy, questionable special effects can be seen at the end of "Raiders," all throughout "Temple of Doom" and at the end of "Last Crusade." haha.

And that's exactly what I'm saying, there is a huge difference between Transformers and Indy IV - and there's supposed to be.

I'm just saying, you're talking about the two richest filmmakers in hollywood - the most influential directors who have complete reign of ILM. If they want something, they get it - and if you read The Making of Indiana Jones it's made pretty obvious that the special effects in "Crystal Skull" were purposeful to pay homage to the films which inspired it.

And yes Fletch, I'm not bothered by "horrible acting" in the prequels when the old trilogy has just as much of it.

I just feel a little outnumbered, like I'm actually being judged instead of the movie. My rating has been reflected numerous times, and after all the movie has a 77% on RottenTomatoes - with people like Ebert giving the film an almost perfect score - I only wish there was someone who had my back here, except Nick - whom I plan to take up residence with in a refrigerator in the break room of the Death Star.

It isn't perfect and it isn't the best, it's not like I've said its flawless - but I do think there is a bit of idol worship, no pun intended, with the old Indy trilogy. Lucky for "Temple of Doom" though, there's a new whipping boy in the franchise.

Mac, Mutt and Marion said...
We've got your back, Adam! You can hang with us and Ox any time you want.
Adam said...
Whew, that was a close one. I'm so glad you guys are here. I could really use a rat snake to pull me out of this bog of quicksand that I'm currently stuck in!

But where are my friends of the jungle - the monkeys and army ants and prairie dogs?
jojo - scuttles - ba said...
Adam... I've been googling for any commentary on us and I found you! We were "principal extras" for the IJ IV... scuttles and barkie were in a couple of shots, even if they are 100% pure AI... they are my friends. I, jojo, was one of the "real" monkeys (yes, there were a couple of others). You are a champion in our organic and cyber hearts. I will also take up residence with you in the Star. You can keep my (our?) other two friends in either holographic form, or in a kodak digital image frame... you know, to stay close to us all. Let's hear it for positivity and congenial primate conditioning.

Your new friend,
^jojo, scuttles, bar said...
as an afterthought... just to clarify...



me (jojo)

Thanks again for being our friend.

I can't believe I wasted money on this. What a sad way to bring this great series back....and to bring Karen Allen back. Simply pathetic. I'd give it a mere one star and that's only because of the return of Marion Ravenwood (who had but a mere shadow of her character's former spunkiness). Depressing to think that Temple of Doom was a masterpiece when compared to this tripe. Sorry Shea, I think you were dead wrong on this one....
I can't believe I wasted money on this. What a sad way to bring this great series back....and to bring Karen Allen back. Simply pathetic. I'd give it a mere one star and that's only because of the return of Marion Ravenwood (who had but a mere shadow of her character's former spunkiness). Depressing to think that Temple of Doom was a masterpiece when compared to this tripe. Sorry Shea, I think you were dead wrong on this one....
Shea said...
Uhhhhhh... Karen... I haven't even seen this movie yet!
Ooops. Sorry, that should read "Adam". My apologies.
Shea said...
FINALLY!!! 49 Comments in and I have finally seen this movie. I guess it is only appropriate that I be number 50!

So... needless to say the film didnt measure up. I went in knowing that most people were disappointed with the movie. I went in with the mindset just to enjoy.

The first half was fun with forgiveable goofs. I loved the iconic shot of Indy rising the hill with the nuclear mushroom cloud on the horizon.

I loved the motorcycle chase sequence when Indy hops back on through the car or the slide through the library.

All is going pretty good until the unforgivable vine and moneky scene. Ugh... followed by the boat truck off the cliff... followed by the three water falls... followed by the anticlimatic jumbled ending.


I think what I missed the most in this Indy was the supernat creepiness that is found in all the others. I was never afraid of the Crystal Skulls. The Arc I respected and never understood its power until the end. Temple of Doom filled with witchcraft and mysterious evil. The cup... a labyrinth deadly tests and eternal damnation. The skulls... follow a stupified JOhn Hurt through a temple of hidden buttons.

I didnt mind Shia... I thought he did a great job. He didnt play that stuttering teenager from Transformers.

Marion was absolutely horrible although she was to me the only connection with the old movies.

Ray... his character was underrated and anticlimatic. Triple Agent?

Cate Blanchet... outside of her accent forgetable. And her death scene was lame. She was always trying to read minds but she never could... i wish we could see her just tear through someones conscious. Her character was underdeveloped and I never respected her as the villain.

I probably dont hate it as much as Paul but I definitely dont like it as much as Adam.

The First half was almost there but the second loses all sight of what is important.
Shea said...
WOW... so I am rereading some posts here after having seen this movie.

Paul... hwo could you like JOhn HUrts character. He was the core of my problems with this movie.
Shea said...
I am sorry... Paul and I have had a heart to heart... Whether by love for my friend of Jedi mind tricks I agree now.
Chris said...
I was enjoying up to the point where they were in the tomb and spent what seemed like forever trying to make you realize they had an ALIEN skull in their hands. It was all down hill from there for me. I couldn't bring myself to really enjoy the rest of the movie all that much.

The chase scenes were excelllent but they would have been better suited with a more substantial story.