Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)
February 6, 2023 12:18 PM - Subscribe

It's the height of the Cold War, and famous archaeologist Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford), returning from his latest adventure, finds out his job at Marshall College is in jeopardy. He meets Mutt (Shia La Beouf), a young man who wants Indy to help him find the legendary Crystal Skull of Akator, and the pair set out for Peru. However, deadly agent Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett) is searching for the powerful artifact, too, because the Soviets believe it can help them conquer the world.

Also starring Karen Allen, Shia LaBeouf, Ray Winstone, John Hurt, Jim Broadbent, Igor Jijikine, Dimitri Diatchenko, Ilia Volok, Emmanuel Todorov, Pasha D. Lychnikoff, Andrew Divoff, Venya Manzyuk, Alan Dale, Joel Stoffer, Neil Flynn, V.J. Foster, Chet Hanks.

Directed by Steven Spielberg. Screenplay by David Koepp. Story by George Lucas, Jeff Nathanson. Based on characters by George Lucas, Philip Kaufman. Produced by Frank Marshall. Cinematography by Janusz Kamiński. Edited by Michael Kahn. Music by John Williams.

78% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.

Currently streaming in the US on Amazon Prime and Paramount Plus. JustWatch listing.
posted by DirtyOldTown (35 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Such a lovely cast with many actors we love dearly. And so nice to have Karen Allen back!

Even so...

[wet fart noise]
posted by DirtyOldTown at 12:19 PM on February 6 [14 favorites]

Lol, last month I texted one of my oldest friends: "hey, remember when we paid money to watch the last Indiana Jones film in the theater? what the fuck were we thinking"
posted by Kitteh at 12:58 PM on February 6

It's hard to understand how this got made the way it did. Who thought these were good ideas? You'd think at least the effects would be good, but they were not.
posted by rikschell at 1:05 PM on February 6 [2 favorites]

This movie doesn't actually exist. Sorry to disappoint you all!
posted by that's candlepin at 1:23 PM on February 6 [20 favorites]

I loved the callback to the monster warehouse with the Ark in it and seeing an amphibious jeep (Seep!)

And Karen Allen!

The bomb proof fridge was a good joke, but everything else... meh.
posted by Marky at 1:28 PM on February 6 [2 favorites]

Reposting a comment of mine from another Indiana Jones thread, re: Bad News = could have had more Mutt Williams; Good News = we were spared more Shia LeBeouf

I still say there's an alternate universe where the 4th one was a passing of the torch.

Instead of the 30s and 40s, the 50's and 60's. Instead of the whip and the hat, the switchblade and the greasy comb. Instead of relics and artifacts, cryptids and 'monsters'.

Mutt Williams and the Vampire's Castle
(Feds: "We're sending you behind the Iron Curtain. Stalin wants to dig up Dracula and live forever.")
Mutt Williams and the Mountain of the Yeti (Lhasa Uprising?)
Mutt Williams and the Werewolves of London (Carnaby Street cultists)
Mutt Williams and the Dragon of Kowloon Bay (what really sunk the RMS Queen Elizabeth)

Unfortunately, that ends up with a lot of Shia LaBeouf, and a lot of red star wearing "Commies. I hate these guys." trying to get there first.

posted by bartleby at 1:28 PM on February 6 [4 favorites]

My wife and I saw a pre-release show of this at Lucasfilm. It was really awkward being in the same room with some of the people that had made this sucky, sucky movie.
posted by kirkaracha at 2:09 PM on February 6 [4 favorites]

Indiana Jones and the Crystal Poop.

Those 'alien' skull props were kaka.
posted by Faintdreams at 2:33 PM on February 6

Probably my most controversial film opinion is that this movie really isn't that bad. Not great but not bad.
posted by dweingart at 2:39 PM on February 6 [5 favorites]

I went to visit my friend in Vegas and we had a spa day at Red Rocks Casino where we swam in a nice pool, soaked in a nice hot tub, had luxurious facials. We came out feeling so very relaxed and looking years younger.

And then we went and saw this movie.

I won't say the effects of the spa day were reversed... but it was definitely a bummer way to end the day. I honestly don't remember what we did after the movie. Dinner? Who knows?! I only remember not enjoying this movie.
posted by mrphancy at 3:27 PM on February 6 [1 favorite]

My ex-wife paid money to watch this for school, having never seen any of the films in the series before, and it was a good decade before I could convince her that Last Crusade was worthwhile. And that's with her loving the ride at Disneyland!
posted by infinitewindow at 3:35 PM on February 6

Really taking me back to a different era of Hollywood when they decided to refresh the franchise with a new young bankable star who would surely be able to bear the weight of the fedora, by the name of Shia LaBoeuf ...

Naturally Rifftrax did a good job with this movie. "Here we go now, really slow / Nearly limping, 'cause he's old old old --"
posted by Countess Elena at 4:21 PM on February 6

In the original Back to the Future script, the time travel was facilitated by Marty hiding inside a refrigerator while a nuclear test was happening. No idea whether that link between these two Spielberg-produced films was intentional, but it's basically the only interesting thing I remember about this.

It's the kind of uncanny Indiana Jones film that is made all the stranger for coming from the series actual creators. Soviets just feeling like "wrong kind" of Nazis. Aliens just feeling like the "wrong kind" of supernatural.
posted by dumbland at 4:38 PM on February 6 [2 favorites]

My spouse and I got hit by a drunk driver after this movie. We still argue over which was the worse experience.
posted by Etrigan at 7:17 AM on February 7 [12 favorites]

Ok, but hear me out.......Cate Blanchett was pretty funny here.
posted by grandiloquiet at 9:56 AM on February 7 [1 favorite]

I'm with dweingart here - the movie isn't bad... it's just meh, which is, in the case of Indiana Jones, a crime. (Although I put this on par with Temple).

I think the biggest problem was the impact of sequelitis - it's just too stuffed with stuff and the stuff in it isn't executed with the same snappiness as Raiders (which has a ton of setpieces, but they move lickety-split)
posted by drewbage1847 at 11:05 AM on February 7 [2 favorites]

Same here. I've seen it a couple of times, it's not painful to watch but it doesn't have the zing of Raiders or Last Crusade. People get over the top about how bad it is because of how much they loved the originals, rather than the movie being so awful in itself. Much the same way the SW prequels get treated.
posted by tavella at 11:29 AM on February 7 [4 favorites]

Probably my most controversial film opinion is that this movie really isn't that bad. Not great but not bad.

This reminds me of xkcd's unpopular positive opinion challenge. Give it a try! (Note that Crystal Skull doesn't qualify, given its Rotten Tomatoes rating.)
posted by Johnny Assay at 12:49 PM on February 7

Look DOT, I didn't believe you when you posted Shark Side of the Moon, and I'm not going to believe that there's some mythical fourth Indiana Jones movie. This was at best some 90's LucasArts point and click game you're misremembering.
posted by Molesome at 1:00 PM on February 7 [5 favorites]

Also, for the xkcd game - Equilibrium (2002)
posted by Molesome at 1:11 PM on February 7 [3 favorites]

I liked this movie. I get it if you don't like it but I don't really understand what seems to be an extreme reaction to it. It's a goofy pulp movie with a mystical treasure, action sequences that defy physics and human ability, a bunch of cartoon-ish bad guys, double crossing 'friends', and the hero winning the day against all odds. That's what all of these movies are. I think this one is better than Temple of Doom.

This movie didn't change my life or make me rethink the nature of the universe but I don't see a ton of movies and I really just want to escape for an hour or two.
posted by Clinging to the Wreckage at 1:11 PM on February 7 [4 favorites]

The chase scene was just terrible. It was by far the worst part of this mediocre movie. Not that the movie logic of hiding in a refrigerator to avoid dying from an atom bomb was great, that part was just movie logic.

The best part about the film was that it spurred AMC to do a triple feature of the first three films. That was epic and worth every cent even in the time of Blu Ray and banging home theaters.
posted by wierdo at 10:20 PM on February 7

I don't really understand what seems to be an extreme reaction to it

I think a lot of it is the time between the first 3 and this one - nearly 20 years. You've got a trilogy that was a major cultural phenomenon, and often a pretty formative movie experience for a bunch of folks, and thanks to the explosion of home video you could watch them again and again and again, and introduce them to whole new generations, and Spielberg & Co. spent those 20 years saying, "Look, we'll only do another Indiana Jones if everything comes together in a really exceptional way" and . . . yeah. Talk about build up of anticipation. Any flick less than Colossally Amazing was gonna be hated.
posted by soundguy99 at 7:35 AM on February 8 [1 favorite]

It's the alien bullshit. That's what irks me.

Blake Snyder's Save the Cat (a simultaneously hacky and clever book about successful Hollywood story formulas) proposes a rule called "No Double Mumbo Jumbo." Essentially, he suggests that you get an initial opportunity to sketch out whatever magical/sci-fi/fantasy mumbo jumbo you're going to set up and the audience will try to give you a certain amount of suspension of disbelief to make that work. BUT, if, after establishing the rules of your world, you go back in and belatedly add a second form of mumbo jumbo, you're going to lose the audience and probably piss them off.

So you can, for instance, establish early on that you're working in a world where certain purportedly magical objects from ancient civilizations really are magical, but when you casually toss in later that some of them came from UFO's and space-travelling aliens, you're going to create a Double Mumbo Jumbo situation where the audience rolls their eyes and hates you.

This isn't to say you can't have hybrid mumbo jumbo from the jump or that there aren't outlier anything-goes story worlds, but generally speaking in most stories, you get one singular opportunity to establish what your mumbo jumbo is, and you can't layer in conflicting strands after the fact. Game of Thrones can't wrap up as a story about AI. Interstellar can't have a third act about witches.

And Indiana Jones probably shouldn't have a fourth movie about UFO's and interplanetary travelers.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 9:15 AM on February 8 [13 favorites]

I swear I read that at some recent fan event, Harrison Ford was on a panel and some wise-ass asked whether Mutt was going to be in Dial of Destiny - and that Ford answered, "no, I shot him."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:13 AM on February 8 [2 favorites]

I enjoyed this film, granted, I feel it's definitely fourth on the list of Indiana Jones films I love. I appreciated that the opening act, which ends with Indy climbing out of the fridge to gaze at the mushroom cloud represented a signifier, "Indy has entered the Atomic Age." It falls within the idea that Indiana Jones is a creature of the Saturday serial. The introduction of alien remains and the Soviets (natural protagonists in the post-WW2 era), all fell in line with this perspective. The prospect that the aliens represent an unobtainable/uncontrollable power, a power that humanity should not have, falls well within line with Raiders and Last Crusade.

Mutt wasn't the best, but again, his character anchored the film in that time period. The return of Marian was a blast and the film was enjoyable.

What really was distracting to me was that it was a film made from someone looking back at the previous three films and asking, "What can we borrow from these?" Be it the refrigerator blast survival (jumping out of a plane with an inflatable raft) or the inevitable betrayal of someone you thought an ally (Elsa?! Last Crusade), and so on. It just felt somewhat formulaic where the previous films stood out a bit more independent of each other.

It's a lesser film, but one that I'm totally happy seeing as part of the franchise. I really am looking forward to the next.
posted by Atreides at 11:05 AM on February 8

Essentially, he suggests that you get an initial opportunity to sketch out whatever magical/sci-fi/fantasy mumbo jumbo you're going to set up and the audience will try to give you a certain amount of suspension of disbelief to make that work.

What I think of as "The Anne McCaffrey Rule". Dragons, Sure. Psychic Dragons? Well, I guess that's OK. Teleporting Psychic Dragons? I... What? Time-traveling, teleporting, psychic dragons? Oh, come-on now!

To be fair, all that was in the first short story, Weyr Search, so I don't know if it's truly "Double Mumbo Jumbo".
posted by mikelieman at 2:58 AM on February 9

I think McCaffrey slides by under the hybrid mumbo jumbo exemption. Those books basically establish that dragons with extensive powers exist and the other stuff mostly is palatable on those grounds.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:53 AM on February 9

It's the alien bullshit. That's what irks me.

Overall I think this movie was a heap of blegh, but I will stand by my position that introducing aliens requires notably LESS suspension of disbelief than 'the Abrahamic religious traditions are based on factual magic events and produce working mystical artifacts'. If anything, the biggest problem is the crystal skulls themselves, since it ends up hanging the entire film's MacGuffin around a very well known hoax. And of course the broader element of Ancient Aliens theories usually reducing down to the racism of 'there's no way non-European populations could figure out how to stack rocks on each other this well! musta had help from space'.

Honestly I did hate *how* aliens were involved in this film, but I don't think it was a bust simply *because* aliens were present. It was a bust because it sucked.
posted by FatherDagon at 8:20 AM on February 9 [1 favorite]

It's not a matter of which one is more believable though. It's a matter of "pick which bullshit you want us to accept" and then do not backtrack to add additional bullshit. It's a betrayal of the unspoken agreement behind suspension of disbelief.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:12 AM on February 9

the broader element of Ancient Aliens theories usually reducing down to the racism of 'there's no way non-European populations could figure out how to stack rocks on each other this well! musta had help from space'.

This is a great point though.

Taking that into account, switching to aliens on this one isn't just an overreach when it comes to the film's specific universe, but it's also a reversal of the original films' sense of wonder and amazement toward ancient cultures. Granted, the way that was handled sometimes got racist, too, but even the positive intent you could charitably ascribe to the reverence for ancient artifacts is undone when nah, they tilt toward couldn't have done that: ALIENS.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:23 AM on February 9 [1 favorite]

Granted, the way that was handled sometimes got racist, too

"It belongs in a museum!" is one of those lines that has not aged well haha
posted by FatherDagon at 5:56 AM on February 10 [3 favorites]

This was the last movie I saw in theaters before I left for Peace Corps and it made me glad to be leaving
posted by solotoro at 7:07 PM on February 10 [2 favorites]

Also, for the xkcd game - Equilibrium (2002)

Reign of Fire gives us back to back wins for Christian Bale in 2002. Reviewers twenty years ago must have been shite.
posted by biffa at 4:03 PM on February 14

I thought this was fine for what it is, the first half was definitely stronger then the second but that's more than enough to beat Temple of Doom (a good first 15 minutes then falls faster and further, alternating between annoying and offensive for much of the runtime -- yikes!).
posted by mazola at 3:01 PM on July 4

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