FRANCHISE REWIND: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, 2008 (Harrison Ford) Paramount Pictures/Lucasfilm

“We seem to have reached the age where life stops giving us things and starts taking them away.”

This feels wrong, doesn’t it? There’s something off about a franchise; something that started at the beginning of the 1980s, and here it rests in 2008. How long is that? Lemme do my maths. That’s … twenty-twenty-seven years? Nineteen years after the release of Last Crusade. I can’t believe it. My God, I was a stupid kid. I remember thinking Raiders was a western. It became an unusual phenomenon. A big franchise that didn’t make a big deal about being a big franchise.

I pictured George Lucas and Steven Spielberg regressing back to childhood to make the first two movies. The third movie kind of stuck out for being more of a domestic drama, but then Crystal Skull emerged as a “limbo” piece, caught between two worlds: the young and the old. By 2008, the audience had already become jaded and were skeptical of a successful new Indiana Jones movie, and it didn’t seem that Harrison Ford was even interested.

At 62, he should’ve been enjoying an early retirement with all of his money, but he kept working even as his star faded some. After seeing him in so many movies, you can tell when Ford’s heart is in it, and his heart wasn’t in this, or The Force Awakens, or Blade Runner 2049. For all its faults, 2020’s The Call of the Wild is where Ford’s heart was. That was a movie that would’ve had me in tears if they had used real dogs and not this bonkers CGI. Everybody’s gotta be so flashy and clever. Sometimes, all people want is a decent story. Hey, there’s a concept!

Back to Dr. Jones. Crystal Skull takes place nearly twenty years after Last Crusade and Indy’s not worse for the wear considering his dangerous preoccupations. He’s hot on the trail of Soviet spies led by Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett, who disappears under her Mia Wallace wig) looking to break into a hangar in Nevada. They capture him and make him look for the remains of a alien corpse purported to be from the UFO that crashed in Roswell. Jones gets away and is put on leave of absence from the university where he teaches.

He comes across “insta-jerk” Mutt Williams (hell kind of a name is “Mutt”) played by Shia LaBeouf (hell kind of a name is “Shia”) who tells him his mother Marion Ravenwood is in trouble after finding the titular crystal skull. There are rumblings and rumors that the crystal skull (one of several buried all over the place) are alien in nature, so this gets Indy’s whiskers a-twitchin’. In short order, he and Mutt rescue Marion who informs him Mutt is their son. This is a mistake, story wise, because it neuters the tension and already spills the beans about what could’ve been a satisfying ending.

Remember how we all chuckled when Indy’s father (Sean Connery) revealed that his real name was Henry Jones, Jr. and that he re-named himself Indiana after the dog? Yeah. That’s what I’m talking about. Unless it’s to give Jones something to care about, but he already has Marion, so what’s the big deal? We’ve seen him care before. Anyway, it turns out there’s a temple deep in the Amazon that contains the remaining skulls, save the one Marion recovered with her friend and colleague, “Ox” Oxley (John Hurt). The good guys and bad guys arrive at the temple and, like Raiders, Indy can’t resist the temptation to find out what happens next.

Sufficed to say, the aliens are happy and Cate Blanchett bites the big one. These guys can never learn from Belloq’s lesson. I mean, his head exploded! ‘Sploded all over the place! Exploding Frenchman? Ah … nevermind. At least, Indy makes an honest woman of Marion. I don’t know how he’s ever gonna get out of the house now. Crystal Skull wasn’t as bad as you might’ve heard. My main issue was how clean everything looked. The first three movies are filthy and covered with snakes, and rats, and insects. CGI doesn’t always work. We’ve got another sequel coming next year. I sure hope it’s filthy!

For more Franchise Rewind, visit Second Union!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: