Why Did It Have to Be Aliens? (Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,2008)
Or…Indy Gets Old. Lucas envisioned a new Indiana Jones trilogy, with one change. Where the first three films focused on religious and supernatural artifacts, the new films would focus on science fiction themed artifacts. Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is set in the 1950’s for this reason, and instead of Nazis, the villains are Russians.
The film opens with Indy and his friend Mac as prisoners of the Russians. They are taken to Area 51 to locate a potential weapon. Jones mounts an escape that leads to one of those narrow escapes that got a lot of ridicule…hiding in a fridge to avoid a nuclear explosion. I am not sure this is really any more outrageous than his other exploits in other films. Is it crazier than jumping from a plane in an inflatable raft? Indy returns to his college job, only to find himself pursued by the CIA and the Russians.
He runs into a kid named Mutt…Mutt wants his help to save his mom…Marion Ravenwood. What follows is an adventure involving the Crystal Skull. The real Crystal Skulls are carved human skulls. People believed they were ancient creations, but all the skulls studied have revealed to have been made in the 19th century and there does not seem to be any mythology that corroborates the claims of being Mesoamerican or even Native American.
The film ignores this and posits that there is a hidden city in the Amazon jungles. And the skull is not human, but rather an elongated alien skull. The film indulges aliens and psychic powers. But a lot of the action harkens back to the earlier films.
At the same time, there is little room for anything resembling an emotional resonance…this is because the film relies heavily on goofy moments. The action is full of it. During an overly long chase (where the Crystal Skull keeps leaping between Indy’s crew and the Russians) Mutt gets caught in a tree. He ends up swinging Tarzan style through the trees surrounded by monkeys.
The film also never really surprises. From the moment Mutt appears, you can see where his storyline is leading. Mutt is also kind of annoying. I mean, he is less annoying than Sam Witwicky in the Transformer films…but he gets irritating none the less.
On the other hand, it is really great to see Marion back on the screen. And she gets some real good moments within the action scenes. She is not just there to be saved, but does the saving. And the cast is a high point. You have Cate Blanchett as the lead Russian, John Hurt as an old mentor of Indiana Jones, and Jim Broadbent in a small role as Indy’s boss.
And John Williams provides the score. John Williams has created many iconic themes from Star Wars to Superman. And his soundtrack in all the Indiana Jones films is top notch. As the main Indy theme plays in every movie, it makes you anticipate excitement.
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is a disappointing return for a cinematic hero.