Despite a 78% FRESH score on the Rotten Tomatoes’ Tomatometer, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull has become one of the most lambasted sequels of all time. But why?
Aside from one particularly ridiculous moment involving Shia LaBeouf swinging on vines with monkeys in a South American jungle, the rest of the film is comparable to all previous instalments.
So why do people work themselves in to a tizzy when the Crystal Skull name is dropped? Perhaps it’s the separation by time between instalments that has created a disconnection, with the average viewer of the original trilogy now much older and less childlike.
Or is it the overall perception and inability to suspend disbelief so willingly that generates all the negativity? Whatever the case, the film deserves re-evaluation, although I am under no illusion that these words will persuade anyone.
The defence for Kingdom of the Crystal Skull goes back to the late 1970s, when a young George Lucas first conceived the story of Indiana Jones (who was Indiana Smith at the time) as a total of five instalments. His original vision had the first three chapters personifying the serial adventure magazines of the 1930s, such as Doc Savage and Darkest Africa, while the final two films would take a turn towards the science-fiction comics like Weird Fantasy and Strange Worlds. Of course, while that trajectory never came to fruition, it does shed light on those inter-dimensional travellers and their buried spaceship in Crystal Skull‘s final act.
To that point, the whole science-fiction conceit of the film seems to rub people the wrong way. And yet when compared to the Ark of the Covenant – which grants supernatural invincibility – or the Holy Grail and its reward of immortality (not to mention the mystical horrors of the Thuggee cult), then “ancient aliens” is honestly the most plausible convention of them all and should be a non-issue when it comes to credibility.
Some say that the infamous fridge scene took things to preposterous heights, with Indy riding the appliance across Nevada skies following an atomic explosion. Okay, yeah, it’s far-fetched… but so too is the giant boulder from the first film, which, if you take the time to deconstruct the scene, is equally ludicrous (how does it even stop, and why doesn’t it burst through the cave entrance following Indy’s escape?).
Others scoff at the three-tiered waterfall plunge in Crystal Skull, which again is very silly, but let’s not forget that Temple of Doom has Indy and co. falling from a plane in a rubber raft and surviving a raging river, before later careening out of control through a farcical network of mine-shafts after some poor soul has had his still-beating heart ripped out of his chest!
Needless to say, the parallels of absurdity go on and on, and when all four films are viewed with the same suspension of disbelief, then they’re very much on par.
Kingdom of the Crystal Skull maintains the adventure of previous instalments and pits them in a new post-war setting. Perhaps the biggest difference between parts 3 and 4 is the audience itself. Most kids love Crystal Skull and it’s the 30-40 year-olds who bear the biggest bones of contention. But what would their 10-year-old selves think of the movie? I suspect they would lap up every delicious morsel. It is, after all, just an adventure movie.