July 4, 2018

In defense of Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Watching the Indy marathon on the Paramount Channel, I’ve come to a realization. Kingdom of the Crystal Skull isn’t as bad of a movie as we’ve decided it was.

…first things first, I am not defending the stupid alien subplot. I will never defend any subplot that implies that the people of the Americas could not have build their cities, temples or structures with the technology and knowledge they had at hand. That is ridiculous and I will forever be mad that the rest of the movie was tainted by this.

Tainted? Oh come now, Whitney. It’s the worst of the Indiana Jones movies. There was Shia LeBeouf. Monkeys. Cate Blanchett with a sword!

And I’m going to tell you that the 50% of the movie not involving George Lucas’s alien subplot was actually pretty good.

It’s the only Indiana Jones movie that acknowledges the trail of chaos he’s left behind him his entire life. Despite a career doing the right thing, a run-in with Soviets immediately puts him in the crosshairs of the FBI, which threatens his professional career. Oxley, a man he went to school with, reaches out to Marion instead of Indy – because he’s still mad that Indy left Marion.

It’s also the only Indiana Jones movie to do right by the female lead. Sure, Marion was left by Indy. But, she married a nice man, gave birth to her son – and gave him a very good life. With a supportive father, a good education. She still had her own friends, her own circle. When they’re all in trouble, Marion’s the one who realizes that she’s driving a DUKW and can take them all into the river. Sure the Soviets captured her, but she’s hardly the damsel in distress.

But what about the refrigerator, Whitney? Look, those fake cities and bombs being dropped nearby happened. In Nevada, even. The US Military filmed propaganda movies to scare Americans into what could happen if the Communists attacked us- we already knew what these bombs could do. They built these cities and destroyed them. It was a good fakeout for Indy trying to find help with the Soviets on his tail. (The only unbelievable thing is that Indy was able to get OUT of the fridge. Those old models were notorious for having kids die from being trapped inside them) How is Indy surviving in a lead lined fridge and then undergoing a decontamination protocol less believable than in Last Crusade, Indy using a cracked ancient casket to shield himself from a fiery death while wearing gas soaked clothing? There were holes in the casket! If the fire hadn’t caught their clothes, it still would have burned up their oxygen.

Okay, but what about Mutt? I guarantee you that other than the monkeys accepting him as one of their own, any issues you have with Mutt are with Shia playing Indy’s son. They gave you a character with education, an adventurous spirit – who believed deeply in doing the right thing (c’mon, he was judging Indy for trying to take a dagger off a corpse). He tracked down Indy because his mom thought that Indy would be able to help save Oxley. He was upset because Oxley was a huge part of his life, his family, and seeing him rambling like a lunatic affected him deeply. Not all that unlike Indy – the tough guy on the outside, who’s really just a softie.

And Cate Blanchett’s Irina Spalko? There’s no romantic subplots there – she’s an arrogant villain seeking knowledge and glory for her country. She’s actually the only non-sexualized woman in the entire franchise. Up until this movie, the only role that women in an Indiana Jones film could fill was Indy’s love interest. She shares a lot of qualities with Elsa – driven by the goal and the glory, though Elsa’s was personal glory she was after. Spalko believed firmly in the Soviet Union, and what gifts she could bring to them. And if you can’t see the appeal of a woman in a well fitted jumpsuit with a sword, well, that’s your deal.

I don’t know that there’s any getting past the aliens, since that was the entire plot. But ya know – so far as character work goes? It’s a pretty solid movie.

I did have one moment that made me smile when I thought about it later on. While going to the cemetery that Oxley had mapped out in the asylum, Indy’s telling Mutt about the elongated skulls being a way to the honor God. “That’s not what God looks like,” Mutt says. And for a moment, I couldn’t figure out why Marion’s kid would be religious. Since Marion didn’t strike me as the type.

But then again… post run-in with the Ark of the Covenant? I’m pretty sure that would have changed.

Anyways, your thoughts? I know, asking you to discuss the movie without the aliens is a pretty big ask – but I’m dying to know what you think.

(PS – Temple of Doom is so much better when you watch it now. Trust me on it)

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