So once again we have survived.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (revisit)

tn_crystalskulllucasminusstarwarsor OUTLAW VERN AND THE ENJOYMENT OF THE FORBIDDEN SEQUEL

“What exactly am I being accused of besides surviving a nuclear blast?”

INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL is the one movie in this Lucas Minus Star Wars survey that I actually reviewed on its original theatrical release, so you can see what I wrote about it at the time. I had already picked up on everybody hating it, but didn’t realize it would become one of those movies that is only ever brought up as an example of what is wrong with George Lucas, Hollywood, America, capitalism, technology, civilization, human life, etc. When people mention it they have to spit, like Indy when he mentions Victoriano Huerta in the movie. It is a universally agreed upon milestone in the degradation of our culture and past.

Well, almost universally. I really liked it at the time, as you can see. But it’s been a few years, and I honestly can’t remember the last time I encountered someone who thought it was any good. Watching it now, maybe I could finally be one of them. One of the beautiful people.

Ah, who am I kidding? I yam what I yam. I must report that I still liked it. I even went back and re-watched most of it the next day. It plays even better after having watched a bunch of Young Indiana Jones and in close proximity to those other sequels, which by the grace of having been made pre-digital are allowed to be whatever they want without recrimination. I know it’s taboo to say, but those two also change up the tone from RAIDERS, have a more artificial look (in their case using stop motion and blue screening), goofier supporting characters and go further into the fantasy – in their case adding ancient magic and immortality instead of inter-dimensional beings. I do not subscribe to the orthodoxy that accepts the former and denounces the latter. I have no doubt that we as proud disbelief-suspenders can accept Biblical magic existing alongside ancient astronaut inspired trans-dimensional travel just as we can accept The Mighty Thor crossing a “Rainbow Bridge” to party with The Hulk at Tony Stark’s crib.

Or at least I can. But for what it’s worth Shia LaBeouf’s character Mutt Williams agrees with you guys, he doesn’t like combining God and Greys. When Indy tells him that Nazca Indians elongated their skulls to honor the gods, Mutt is real offended and says “No. No. God’s head is not like that, man.”

mp_crystalskullCRYSTAL SKULL takes place in 1957, and I guess looking at the LAST CRUSADE and Young Indy timeline Indy should only be 58, but Ford (who was about 66 at the time) is definitely playing him as older. I mean, he can still jump from things and punch people out, but he’s got a full head of grey hair, he’s introduced already beaten up and there’s alot about him missing his deceased father and friend Brody. But this is definitely the extension of the Indy we saw in the series, who was not just an archaeologist but a soldier and spy who cared about causes. This Indy talks about riding with Pancho Villa, has an old friend from MI6 that he was a double agent with, and gets feisty about insulting Russkies. He’s been through some shit, but some FBI asshole has the nerve to call him a traitor. “Do you have any idea how many medals this sonofabitch won?” his friend asks.

Like Young Indy, who experienced WWI, the jazz age and John Ford making silent westerns, this is an Indy who exists outside of a fight against Nazis. The Indiana Jones adventure for 1957 features many concerns of the time: Elvis, hot rods, the bomb, UFOs (Roswell, Area 51, big-brained alien looking guys, flying saucers), leather jackets, motorcycles, switchblades, diners, fights between greasers and socs, “I Like Ike,” a “Better Dead Than Red” rally on campus, Indy blacklisted out of school by a witch hunt. While RAIDERS played off of Hitler’s interest in the supernatural, CRYSTAL SKULL combines Cold War era paranoia and sci-fi. They said the Reds were infiltrating our culture and controlling our minds, so that’s what Cate Blanchett (CAROL)’s Colonel Dr. Irina Spalko is trying to do… but by using the powers of a skull that seems to come from an alien. The nightmares of the McCarthy-ites are combined with the saucer men of the drive-in screens.

Think about this: this story takes place only five years before AMERICAN GRAFFITI. This is basically the world those guys are desperately clinging onto as adulthood (and college, and war) beckons. The first thing we see in the movie is a speeding hot rod, and although it’s not Anakin-yellow its exposed engine is reminiscent of John Milner’s car. If motorcycle repairman Mutt ever made it out to the west coast maybe he would’ve hung out on Milner’s race track once or twice.

It’s a different time and Indy is a different age. Just as the Crystal Skull – something he’s been searching for since his college days – falls into his lap, so does a family. Soon he will discover that he’s a father and marry “Abner’s little girl,” the great love he left behind 20 years ago, but first he will find himself surrounded by graven images of the 1950s ideal of middle class familyhood, whitebread mannequins in suburban model homes, built just to be destroyed in bomb tests. This is what’s at stake, the doom cities seemed to say: the American Dream. The nice kitchen, the smiling family gathered around the TV watching Howdy Doody as the paperboy rolls up on the lawn, the neighbors washing cars, walking dogs, enjoying a Slip ‘n Slide, gathering around the Good Humor man getting popsicles.

These types of images are only ever seen used ironically in movies. This idea of suburbia is clearly a bullshit fantasy world that doesn’t exist for us or for Indy. And yet it’s one of the luxury consumer items on display in this dream house that saves his life: the lead-lined refrigerator. So maybe there’s something to the Dream after all.

This is a notorious scene. People who hated it launched a successful campaign to have the phrase “nuking the fridge” be loosely synonymous with “jumping the shark,” meaning the moment when a series has run its course and starts doing stupid shit. I guess that’s fitting since the original phrase came from an episode of Happy Days, a show obviously inspired by AMERICAN GRAFFITI. It all goes back to Lucas’s ideas.

I still don’t get the hate. I love this scene. It’s the culmination of a long, exciting chase, where Indy finds himself knocking on a door for help, then realizing he’s in a fake town, then remembering that a weapons test was supposed to be going down about now. It’s unexpected and it’s surreal and totally unpredictable the first time you see it. Of all the corners we’ve seen Indy painted into, this is the one with the most paint. His desperate improvised solution is not much less plausible than TEMPLE OF DOOM‘s jumping out of a plane in an inflatable raft, but far more clever.

After Spielberg laughed off the criticisms and took the blame for the unpopular idea, Lucas insisted to the New York Times that he’d had a team of scientists talk Spielberg into it:

In response to Spielberg’s fears, Lucas put together a whole nuking-the-fridge dossier. It was about six inches thick, he indicated with his hands. Lucas said that if the refrigerator were lead-lined, and if Indy didn’t break his neck when the fridge crashed to earth, and if he were able to get the door open, he could, in fact, survive. “The odds of surviving that refrigerator — from a lot of scientists — are about 50-50,” Lucas said.

That’s the funny thing: Indiana Jones has survived various booby traps, boulders, falls from planes and cliffs, the face-melting wrath of God, the brainwashing of heart-devouring magical cultists, the autograph session of Adolf Hitler, even Dracula if you count the TV series. There is really no reason why this latest cliffhanger has to be more than half plausible. But Lucas put a whole bunch of work into making sure it was. And nobody believed him.

I’m not sure if LaBeouf is still one of the things people hold against the movie. At the time the knock against him was that he was a clean-cut Nickelodeon-bred child star. Now it’s totally different, it’s his public persona as an apparent Hollywood asshole, weird plagiarist and pretentious performance artist that makes him easy to hate. Neither has much bearing on his performance as Mutt, a humorously arrogant meathead character who spins his switchblade in inappropriate situations and whose last request when he thinks he’s about to be executed is to have a moment to comb his hair.

Hey, people loved Short Round driving Dr. Jones around with bricks tied to his feet, what is so much worse about a teen Marlon Brando wannabe who takes after his old man in the fisticuffs and vehicle-jumping without anybody ever having to point it out? I suspect some of the rejection of the character came from reports that he was introduced as a replacement for Indy in a future sequel. Hollywood seems to have this in mind sometimes, and the people always reject it. No, we don’t want to see the adventures of John McClane Jr. or Blade’s white friends. Of course we don’t want to see The Later Adventures of Mutt Without His Dad.

Except that was never the plan! In an interview three years before the movie, while they were still working on the script, Lucas was asked about rumors that “there may be a younger person in this, poised to take over.”

Lucas: “It’s possible. Not really to take over.”

Hollywood.com: But someone to create new movies with?

Lucas: “No, it wasn’t meant to be that way. But I guess that’s a possibility. It’s really to wrap it up. Just desperately trying to put things together that work. You need characters to make the film work. It’s not just an adventure story. There’s actually got to be human relationships in it.”

Searching for later quotes on the subject I found dozens of blog posts referring to a Lucas “we’re not doing a Mutt Williams spin-off” quote as “changing his mind,” (example), but none that I could find provided a source or quote of him previously wanting to do one. If he’d cottoned to the idea since the Hollywood.com interview it must not’ve stuck for long, since the movie itself makes a joke out of the idea of a torch-passing. After the wedding of Indy and Marion, a seemingly magical gust of wind blows open the church doors and carries Indy’s iconic hat from a rack to Mutt’s feet. He picks it up, looks at it in awe, seems to contemplate the symbolism of this moment. He starts to put it on his head– but at the last second Indy swipes it from him, puts it on himself and strolls off into the sunset. Too slow, Joe.

Besides, if they had done one it would’ve just been a TV movie called THE MUTT ADVENTURE, co-starring Wilford Brimley.

still_crystalskullContent-wise this is definitely Lucas’s baby. For years he developed scripts around the idea of an Indiana Jones version of a ’50s flying saucer movie, even though Spielberg and Ford were skeptical. He had drafts by Jeb Stuart (DIE HARD), Jeffrey Boam (LAST CRUSADE), and hired M. Night Shyamalan at one point. Young Indiana Jones veteran Frank Darabont wrote a version with escaped Nazis as the bad guys. Spielberg says he liked it, but Lucas didn’t think it was right. The final script is credited to David Koepp (I COME IN PEACE), story by Lucas and Jeff Nathanson (SPEED 2, RUSH HOUR 2, CATCH ME IF YOU CAN).

In admitting to Empire that he’d never wanted to use aliens or inter-dimensional beings, Spielberg explained that the Indy series belongs to Lucas: “But I am loyal to my best friend. When he writes a story he believes in – even if I don’t believe in it – I’m going to shoot the movie the way George envisaged it. I’ll add my own touches, I’ll bring my own cast in, I’ll shoot the way I want to shoot it, but I will always defer to George as the storyteller of the Indy series. I will never fight him on that.”

Darabont was pissed that they didn’t use his script, and whatever he may know about the way better version that could’ve existed (along with his way better MARY SHELLY’S FRANKENSTEIN and his way better The Walking Dead after-half-way-through-season-2), CRYSTAL SKULL is the type of fun I want in an Indiana Jones sequel. Of course it has all the adventure shit: riddles, traps, dry sand, scorpions, killer ants, extinct languages, pictograms, blow guns, hidden tombs, lost tribes. It has cool gimmicks like throwing gun powder in the air to lead them to the magnetized skull.

And of course it has Ford. People accuse him of sleepwalking through the movie, but I like him in it. I think he has a good chemistry with LaBeouf when he’s just a friend trying to give good adult advice, and then it’s funny when he realizes he’s his dad and starts treating him way more sternly. And he has many good tough guy lines and smart ass responses.

I like the humor in this one. Things like Indy saying “Here, hold this,” referring to the decaying corpse of a legendary Conquistador, his non-idle threat to break Mac’s nose, the delighted way the previously incoherent Oxley declares “Henry Jones… Junior!” in the middle of the biggest action scene, Mutt casually dipping his comb in some jock’s water at the diner, the guy almost noticing. Even a broad joke, like the student asking Professor Jones an academic question after he crashes through the crowded library on a motorcycle, hits better to me than most of the big jokes in LAST CRUSADE. And the undisputed stupidest moment, when Mutt swings on some vines Tarzan-style and ends up leading an army of monkeys into Spalko’s vehicle, is so over-the-top absurd that I’ve come to love it.

And by the way, the total time from when he gets caught in a vine to the last shot of the monkeys is about 2 minutes, and most of that he’s not on screen for. We’re talking about less than a minute of a two hour movie spent on this goofiness. It’s going to be all right, everybody.
I also timed the animated prairie dogs, a less ridiculous detail often fixated on by people who hate the movie. They’re in 3 shots that total about 16 seconds of screen time.

Meanwhile, so much of the movie is spent on cool action sequences:

1. The warehouse chase, where Indy jumps across moving vehicles, swings from his whip, a lamp and chains, runs across rafters, falls through glass, rides on a rocket sled.

2. The weapons test. See above.

3. The KGB chase that starts with a brawl at the diner, continues with Indy riding bitch on Mutt’s motorcycle (shades of Henry Sr. in the sidecar in LAST CRUSADE), has Indy pulled into a car, punching some guys, climbing back onto the motorcycle and driving through the town and the campus.

4. When Indy is forced to help the Soviets find Akator, but gets so excited about the act of problem solving that he accidentally creates an opening for Mutt to punch a guy out, flip a table, set the camp on fire and make a run for it.

5. The family argument while tied up in the back of a truck that leads to beating up the guard and my favorite sequence, a high speed multi-vehicle jungle chase with various characters climbing from vehicle to vehicle, exchanging gunfire and punches, wrestling, firing a rocket, fencing between two vehicles… and this leads right into the “big damn ants” scene, and driving off a cliff, and going down three waterfalls.

I know #5 is unpopular for using some noticeable green screen and digital additions to the scenery. I understand preferring the more pure stuntwork of RAIDERS. Still, I feel like you gotta acknowledge the unbridled inventiveness of the sequence, the gags and escalation and sense of speed and danger and cool camera moves. In my original review I compared it to other FX-based chases in Lucasfilms like the mine cart one in TEMPLE OF DOOM or the speeder bikes in RETURN OF THE JEDI. But this one actually contains way more actual stuntwork and choreography than either of those. And I’m afraid I gotta reject the idea that movie magic is not allowed in movie making. If it was 100% animated it would still be a cool scene.

See, these are the kinds of set pieces that could only be done with all kinds of careful storyboarding, figuring out how each gag leads into the next, where everybody is in relation to each other, where they’re going, and how the camera should move between them. It’s Spielberg having fun being Spielberg, which can be said about the visuals of the movie in general. There are the BIG SCREEN! shots, a tiny Indy standing on the bottom of the frame watching a gigantic spectacle, whether it’s the destruction and erasure of the so-called El Dorado at the end, or the earlier image of the bomb test (a man-made weapon maybe more destructive than the Ark of the Covenant). But also it’s the small things. The way Oxley’s floor carving of the cemetery dissolves into the actual cemetery (a model, I’m pretty sure), the way he holds up the skull so its shadow matches the shape of a god carved into the wall, the way the ancient temple’s stone carvings open like a satellite dish… This has the energy, passion and attention to detail of the guy who had the Paramount logo dissolve into an actual mountain. That’s a type of movie Lucas would want his buddy to make, and a type of movie I would want to watch.

As I might’ve mentioned, many people do not agree. In 2010 Mutt Williams himself, Shia LaBeouf, told the L.A. Times, “I feel like I dropped the ball on the legacy that people loved and cherished… You get to monkey-swinging and things like that and you can blame it on the writer and you can blame it on Steven. But the actor’s job is to make it come alive and make it work, and I couldn’t do it. So that’s my fault. Simple.”

He also claimed that Harrison Ford was disappointed in the movie. “We had major discussions. He wasn’t happy with it either. Look, the movie could have been updated. There was a reason it wasn’t universally accepted.”

When asked about LaBeouf’s comments by Details, Ford didn’t necessarily agree, saying, “I think he was a fucking idiot. As an actor, I think it’s my obligation to support the film without making a complete ass of myself. Shia is ambitious, attentive, and talented – and he’s learning how to deal with a situation which is very unique and difficult.”

I don’t know what LaBeouf meant about wanting the movie “updated,” but he’s right that it “wasn’t universally accepted.” To give you an idea, CRYSTAL SKULL has a 54% audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes. NATIONAL TREASURE has a 76%. NATIONAL TREASURE 2 has a 67%. The fucking MUMMY RETURNS has a 63%. TRANSFORMERS 2 has a 58%. CRYSTAL SKULL was an idea Lucas had during Young Indiana Jones and nurtured for years until he thought he had it just right, yet according to this metric, ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS 3: ROAD CHIP went over slightly better with audiences. And that’s probly just the casual moviegoers. The “fans” take it way more personally. And all fingers pointed at Lucas.

I don’t know if this reaction contributed to Lucas deciding to pack up and sell the farm, but jesus. After pouring his heart into the prequels and this and then being treated like a war criminal for it one can hardly blame him for saying Fuck this. Fine. You’re right. Star Wars and Indiana Jones are yours now. You earned ’em, ’cause you had the pajamas and you read Heir To the Empire or some shit. I didn’t do that much.

But before he could leave he had a couple last passion projects to finish up.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Wednesday, February 10th, 2016 at 9:29 am and is filed under Action, Reviews, Science Fiction and Space Shit. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

134 Responses to “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (revisit)”

  1. Rotten Tomatoes tells a different story when you look at critics, who gave CRYSTAL SKULL a glowing 78% on Rotten Tomatoes. So it’s in that small category of movies like REVENGE OF THE SITH and Ang Lee’s HULK that critics liked far more than nerds, which is interesting since the usual argument is that critics don’t appreciate nerd culture enough.

    I liked CRYSTAL SKULL and have never quite understood the hate. It maybe could have used more character stuff between Indy and Marion, and it’s maybe unclear what the aliens were actually up to and why they instinctively regard Blanchett as an enemy when she seems to think she’s on their side. But pretty much everything else was fun.

  2. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I love this movie, and I have the exact same argument with people. “You bough all the zany shit that happened in the previous movies but object to the zaniness of this one? You complain about Indy surviving a nuclear blast in a refrigerator but cheered when he jumped out of a crashing airplane in an inflatable raft? Get the fuck outta here.”

  3. Alright Vern. Alright… I’ll give it another shot.

  4. I hate to be “That Guy” but The Road Chip was actually Part 4. Chipwrecked was Part 3.

  5. Also, The Road Chip has a cameo by John Waters and Alvin directly references Pink Flamingos, which gives it the edge over Crystal Skull, at least for me.

  6. I keep reading about how Lucas had this vision for the prequels or for Crystal Skull or whatever, and all I can say is that none of those things spoke to me. Star Wars spoke to me. Raiders spoke to me. I can try digging into details and say why those did yet the prequels and Crystal Skull didn’t, but ultimately, that’s just looking for intellectual reasons for a gut reaction. Yeah, I’ve rolled my eyes plenty at the fridge scene, and, yeah, you’re right that it’s not any crazier than other stuff in the franchise. But still, the dislike came first and the reasons came later.

    Speaking intellectually, I can agree that all that symbolism and stuff is pretty cool, and could have made for a good movie. But that intellectual storytelling didn’t translate to a gut thing like the older movies did.

    Not sure if I’m making any sense, really.

  7. I rewatched this recently and mostly stuck to my original opinion. I always said I liked the first half, which felt different from the other movies and really exploited the new time period, but then it fell apart when it went back to the jungle and turned into a rushed tribute band performance. I blame Lucas for signing off on a badly structured script loaded with unnecessary and redundant sidekicks, but that’s the kind of stuff a director could finesse. So I mostly blame Spielberg. This story could have worked in theory, but he dropped the ball on the execution.

    Example: The quicksand scene is easily the worst thing Spielberg has ever done. From the contrived scenario to the phony jungle set to the amateurish lighting to the hilarious rubber snake to the fact that they’re yelling their fucking heads off with the Russian Nazis LIKE RIGHT THE FUCK THERE SERIOUSLY THEY JUST WENT BEHIND THAT BUSH LIKE TWO SECONDS AGO SHUT THE FUCK UP DO YOU WANT THEM TO FIND OR SOMETHING. It’s bad. Nineties syndicated TV bad. There’s no excuse for a scene with this many resources and this much talent behind it to be this badly staged. It’s most of the movie in microcosm: rushed, broad, and perfunctory.

    While I still enjoy that first half, I see there are problems in there, too. It feels disconnected somehow. I never thought I’d say this, but I have a problem with the way Spielberg covers the action. The action itself is great, but it feels generic. Very second unit. I think it’s because there aren’t enough reaction shots. Indy throws Cate Blanchett out of a moving vehicle and it doesn’t cut to either of them. He just keeps driving and she just appears already walking and giving orders in the next shot. You don’t know how to feel about what just happened because you don’t see it affecting anybody. It’s just an event. It could have happened to anybody. It just happened to happen to a guy who looks like Indiana Jones from a distance.

    It’s doubly sad, because Ford used to be the king of the reaction shot. It was really his main skill as a leading man. Either Ford’s face doesn’t work anymore (very possible) or Spielberg forgot how to keep an audience involved during a lengthy set-piece (less likely but there are too many phoned-in beats in here to blame it all on Ford).

    I think this feeling of disconnection is what people are really complaining about. They see Indy doing stunts he never could have done before, without the editing really trying to tie Ford into the action at all, and the moment feels off-brand, even if it’s technically well executed. The plot progression feels disconnected as well. I had to rewind several times to catch how the hell they ended up in that first underground temple thing, and how they got there and where it was. (Who are those guys who attacked them, by the way? Indy doesn’t even seem at all interested in this race of monkey people who have apparently lived undisturbed in an underground temple for millennia. The same could be said for the faceless hordes who appear at the end. Say what you will about the racism of TEMPLE OF DOOM, but at least the Thuggees had a mythology and a motivation.)

    The supporting characters also feel disconnected. The movie has just barely started to develop a relationship between Indy and Mutt when he gets three more sidekicks dumped on him with some of the broadest, most inexplicable characterizations ever. How are we expected to give a shit about sentient heel turn Ray Winstone or human MacGuffin John Hurt when they enter (or reenter) the story right at the point when we’re trying to deal with all this family shit that also just got dumped on us at the two-third point? It’s too much.

    And I feel bad saying this, but Karen Allen was just terrible. A cold pail of water thrown on the movie’s suspension of disbelief. It feels like she was rusty and overeager and Spielberg left her out to dry instead of reining her in. She’s a completely different character than the one we knew in RAIDERS. Why’s she so zany? Is she senile or did all the drinking contests finally get the better of her? Coupled with Hurt’s cookie-cutter holy fool gibberish-spouter, it’s like Indy is leading a field trip from the local mental asylum, while the movie’s ostensible co-star (Mutt) flounders with absolutely nowhere for his character to go. He and Indy barely feel like they’re in the same scene together once Marion shows up and steals all the heart-to-hearts.

    These are all little things, but they add up to a movie that just doesn’t add up. It’s not the worst movie ever made (It’s certainly better than the NATIONAL TREASURES or the MUMMYs) and I’ve never hated it, but I don’t think it’s a mystery why most viewers didn’t connect to it. The things they complain about (aliens, CGI, Shia) are just easier to latch onto than the movie’s real problem, which is subtler and harder to put your finger on.

    The fridge nuking scene is still great, though.

  8. I remember thinking circa THE SQUEAKQUEL that John Waters should direct the next CHIPMUNKS film because he was clearly a fan with all the soundtrack cuts he’s included over the years. I guess we got closer than I ever could have realistically expected.

    As for CRYSTAL SKULL, I really didn’t care for it at the time, I was fine with the nuked fridge and the aliens, I just remember it being unexciting. The cliched complaint I may have agreed with was LaBeouf, who comes across as too whimpy and juvenile to play up the Brando/Dean factors they wanted for Mutt. But I do want to give it another go some time.

  9. “I DECLARE THIS CAN OF WORMS… OPEN!”

  10. I don’t like this movie but fuck the critics. The aggregate of garbage is garbage and there’s a lot of garbage critics in the world.

    This is one of the rare times where I almost completely agree with everything Vern is saying but still don’t come to the same conclusions because of my own expectations. Let’s take the truck chase. I agree with pretty much everything you said about it. It’s very clever, and blocked and shot well. But it’s also very, very, very fake-looking. It’s not “some digital effects” it’s that the entire thing looks like it takes place in a computer. And so while it’ shot by a master it never moves beyond “this is clever” and TBH I shouldn’t be thinking “this is clever” at an Indiana Jones movie during a big chase. I should be thrilled outta my mind!

    Likewise the waterfall sequence. It’s just digital fakery + a water tank. I was bored. BORED! I should not be bored by Indiana & co. falling over three huge waterfalls! But I was. And then I think about Romancing the Stone, which has that great stunt shot where they go over one waterfall and it’s genuinely thrilling.

    The “practical effects” crowd really started crowing after this film…to be clear I don’t agree with them at all, but practical stuff is a tool for getting a certain effect. A bunch of bugs and rats and snakes really sharing the frame with the actors is creepy and viscerally revolting. A bunch of obviously fake CGI ants are…scenery.

    Anyway I freely admit that this is a perfectly fine movie that was mostly sabotaged by my sky-high expectations from Indiana Jones.

  11. Also the part with the motorcycle chase rules.

  12. I like a lot of CYRSTAL SKULL, especially the crazy chase which ends with the ants, which as far as I’m concerned is one of the most genuinely exciting and rousing action sequences of the last decade. It’s definitely not worthy of the level of viritol it got, an is overall quite an enjoyable ride.

    BUT, the movie definitely has some problems, and I think it is probably fair to put the blame squarely on Lucas. This is one of those movies that you can reeaaallly tell has been re-written to the point of incoherence, with too many writers each leaving vestigial artifacts from old drafts which were relevant once but no longer serve any purpose. There’s no reason in the world to have Mutt, Marion, Oxley, Brenden Gleeson AND Cate Blanchett in there, all struggling to find reasons to exist. I’m sure there were things about the older scripts that Lucas didn’t like, but as a producer I think he got too deep into this one and lost sight of the forest for the trees. Like the prequels, CRYSTAL SKULL is simply inelegant at the story level in a way which the OT, WILLOW, and the other JONESes are not. I think Lucas has a true gift for creating original ideas, but this one hung around too long and accumulated too much clutter over the many years he sat tinkering with it.

  13. I think everyone here has covered the good and the bad, for the most part. I liked the movie overall, but I do think it has some glaring problems that really hold it back, especially in the second half. I do think it was kind of genius to update the MacGuffin to the time period. The alien complaint is like the nuke the fridge complaint: it just doesn’t make sense to me. I especially like that they took the huge gap in time between 3 and 4 to really think about what an Indiana Jones movie would look like in the 1950s.

    I hope Ford gets to make one more and that they keep the sci-fi angle. I would also love to see what Ford accomplished during WWII. I suppose they could recast him for some flashbacks or do some of that digital rejiggering.

  14. I forgot to mention that I’ve come to really enjoy the opening shot of the CGI prairie dogs. Right from the jump, Lucas and the ILM boys are like “Suck it, nerds.”

  15. I really do hope they keep the franchise going with another actor and get back to the late-30s time period. Indiana Jones movies should not be beholden to a particular actor or ongoing continuity, they work for me best as stand-alone movies set in the same world with a vaguely identifiable protagonist, just like James Bond. I mean the second movie takes place after the first, but it really doesn’t matter, they are completely separate. I see Raiders and Temple as Connery, and Crusade and Crystal Skull as Moore. They’re all Indiana Jones, but I just happen to prefer the Connery stuff. Now let’s skip Dalton and Moore and bring on Craig. I do legitimately dislike Crystal Skull, but no more so than I dislike Last Crusade, and that one seems more or less beloved by most.

  16. Upon seeing this movie, my honest initial reaction was to give it 3 out of 5 stars. I liked some of the sets and thought Indy’s fist fight with the big Russian was surprisingly brutal. And Ford’s acting was mostly fine.

    What sinks it is too many supporting characters, a silly maguffin, and villains who pale in comparison to Nazis and Thugee cultists. The abundance of CGI doesn’t help, and yes I DO hate the fake prairie dogs.

    I also believe Indy’s relationship with Mutt could have (should have) been way better. Reaching the heights of Connery/Ford may be asking too much, but it seems like they barely tried – and really, their relationship is the movie’s best chance at exploring something new. For me, there is NO QUESTION that Short Round is the better sidekick; he’s funnier, more interesting, and has a more satisfying relationship with Indy. I love Short Round.

    As for Karen Allen, she’s underused fan service and didn’t do much for me at all. I smiled when I saw her and that’s about it.

    I’m not an asshole, so this all has to mean something.

  17. I can forgive pretty much every shortcoming in this movie, from the badly aged digital compositing to the issues raised above. But that part with Mutt swinging with Monkeys in the trees and catching up to two motorized vehicles I cannot. That shit should’ve been left on the cutting room floor. Period.

  18. Crushinator Jones

    February 10th, 2016 at 3:02 pm

    I would have liked this movie a lot better if it opened with a shot of the Caddyshack gopher with a greaser pompadour.

  19. “Knowledge is their treasure. So they got that going for them. Which is nice.”

  20. I have yet to complete my re-watch, which is perhaps telling in itself. Not by way of high-fiving, but just by way of economy, I think Manlufsen, Majestyk, and Crushinator-1000 capture my own sentiments. Vern tries to make a antomized, element-by-element case for why you should like this if you like the other Indys (Indy IV has x which is like this thing from other Indy, so you should like this, too), but it’s not something that can be done in reductionist, tallying up fasion. This movie feels less substantial, weighty, and true, and feels more fluffy, Stepford Wives and synthetic-imitation. That can’t be chalked up to an individual scene or a critical mass of bad things: the individual gripes (fake looking this, pointless and excessive characters, superficiality and lack of felt stakes) are better viewed as symptoms or indicators of a systemic problem, which is that the film just feels kind of rushed and half-assed and you find it hard to really just get wrapped up in the film. Or, as my Manlufsen said: “the dislike came first and the reasons came later.”

    Majestyk, see, your deconstruction, which is civil and unsnarky, is really valuable. I don’t think a person should pile on the hate just for the sake of hating, but it’s a constructive act to dissect where the film works and where it doesn’t work and to try to understand why. So films work more than others.

    Vern, I don’t think it’s a question of who “owns” this franchise or Star Wars (“Lucas vs. his fans” narrative). I think what Lucas experienced was varying levels of and expressions of backlash (some more civil than others) that were rooted in a legitimate sense that he dropped the ball on these films–that he did a lot of individually interesting and bold things, but the movies as a whole felt synthetic and lacking the hard and general narrative/characterization/dialogue quality that makes a film captivating, memorable, and good. And it’s reasonable for him and those films to be held to extremely high expectations. The stakes for such a film are extremely high, the payoff is high, the cultural impact is high.

  21. antomized –> atomized
    hard –> hard
    typo –> typo :)

  22. hard –> heart…dangit! Gotta go.

  23. I felt much the same – it was no more ridiculous than any of the other films.

    Then again, I felt much the same when people were slagging off the Star Wars Prequels for doing the exact same shit the originals did (wooden acting, clunky lines, deliberate appeal to children’s marketing). I don’t get why people who loved the original trilogy hated this one so much. My theory has always been nostalgia; they saw the originals when they were much younger and much less cynical (or at least much less educated about filmmaking cliches and tropes). They didn’t care about the dumb shit in the original trilogy when they were kids, just the overwhelming amount of cool shit. But forward 18 years or whatever it was til the prequels, and they can’t (or more likely won’t) approach something new in the same mindset that they had when they were kids, so it ends up like they’re angry with the films for not growing up with them.

    I think the same for a lot of people with Crystal Skull – for me I was about 10 when I saw the first 3 films, and I guess about 28 when I saw Crystal Skull. I definitely noticed the corniness and ridiculousness in ways 10 year old me couldn’t, but I could enjoy it on the same level as the first free. In fact, I think I may have liked it more than Temple of Doom, though that’s more to do with that shit freaking me out when I was 10.

  24. I was a little hesitant going in to this, but after the warehouse sequence I was down for it. I was even okay with the Ark cameo, which I would usually write off as pandering. It didn’t all work. I rolled my eyes at the Tarzan bit, and the Quicksand of Relationship Drama was unnecessary and tedious, although I was impressed with how accommodating that python was to being used as a rope. Maybe he was just happy to be working with Harrison Ford. But I loved the tone and the action, so I came out smiling. It’s not in the same ballpark as RAIDERS, but none of the sequels are.

  25. I thought it was great except for the vine swinging scene.

    It’s the same kinda ending as Raiders and Last Crusade, Indy doesn’t really have to do much to win at the end. He just has to let the bad guys do their bad shit and the Ark, Grail guardian, and interdimensional beings do the killin’ for him.

    I was 6 years old when I saw Raiders, I was 31 when I watched Crystal Skull. I’m never going to be 6 again but I sure enjoyed Indiana Jones in a 1950s sci-if adventure.

    But then again, I liked a lot of the Star Wars prequels (not Jar Jar of course, but he was only mildly more annoying than Threepio in the original) and thought that The Force Awakens was cool but felt like a tribute instead of a vital part of the story, so I’m with you on these Vern. Lucas has eaten a lot of shit that I don’t think he deserves.

  26. I definitely don’t hate this movie as much as I used to, but it’s still the lesser of the Indy movies for me. I think Majestyk summed it up nicely, and feel pretty much the same.

    I really think a few tweaks could have made it a better movie. Firstly, dump they McCarthyism plot point. It just detracts from the plot more than anything and serves no significant story purpose.

    Secondly, drop Ray Winston’s character. He serves no purpose and, again, a hindernce to the plot. His only major purpose is to lead the Russians to the final scene. Which could have been done any number of ways. Why not have Cate Blanchette use her physic powers (pretty much forgotten about after they’re introduced) to find them?

    The ‘nuking the fridge’ scene is actually great, but it’s in the wrong place. The movie should have started with Indy at the college, with him remiscining, then Mutt tracks him down. Then have the motorcycle chase scene, but end it with the Russians capturing Indy.

    Then have the Area 51 scene and subsequent nuking escape. Instead the FBI doing the whole traitor thing, have it them debriefing him and him trying to convince them that the Russians are trying to get the crystal skull, and them not believing him.

    Mutt meets Indy again and they set off and pick the plot back to when they travel to the Incan temple.

    I still think the second half is where it still would flounder a bit. I hate to say that they should have probably dropped Marion as well, mainly because Allen’s performance is terrible. But I think the movie would flow a bit better

  27. You might like the scene where the student asks him a school-related question at the end of the chase a little less when you realize that student is fucking Chet Haze.

    Or you might like it more. I don’t know.

  28. First off, I can’t fucking believe it’s been almost 8 years since this movie came out, going to see it in theaters and the aftermath online and all that feels like yesterday to me, it’s just unreal to think it’s been the better part of a decade, holy shit.

    I’ll share my thoughts on the movie later.

  29. One Guy From Andromeda

    February 11th, 2016 at 4:11 am

    Ford was almost too old for the part when they did Last Crusade already. Seeing a senior citizen who has trouble walking in one shot and then an animated young action guy in wide shots never gelled for me, no matter if they put the same hat on both. Cartooney action (the falling down three waterfalls bullshit? Please) – It was just a silly movie full of half assed ideas, and most of all no feeling of being in strange and far away lands, just green screen country and fake university.

    The only parts i liked were the shot of Indy in front of the mushroom cloud and the conversation he has with Mutt in the student bar.

    Shouldnt have made another sequel after Temple of Doom.

  30. I have always liked Crystal Skull. I saw it twice in theaters and both times were great moviegoing experiences. Yeah, it’s not Raiders, but what is? I like Ike.

  31. Holy shit, I cannot believe you talked me into watching this AGAIN. I predict I wont make it more than five minutes.

    Harrison Ford just looks old as fuck in this movie. It is hard for me to buy anything that is going on with him from an action standpoint. Sure he looks great for a 66 year old. But he is still 66 years old. I am confident I can beat the crap out of any 66 year old on the planet, and I’m a slob. The only guy that age I can buy in an action movie is Clint.

    Google the video of Harrison Ford and magician David Blaine. Ford looks like George Burns. Everything in Force Awakens must be photoshopped.

  32. Bender, that’s a good idea about moving the fridge scene to later on. I love thinking about that kind of shit.

    Yes, Winton’s character is pointless. But Oxley is even worse. What I find interesting is that, at one point early in preproduction, John Hurt was listed in the credits as “Abner Ravenwood” – which I took as a HUGE SPOILER at the time, obviously. So I went in hoping the movie would be about Marion and Indy searching for her dad. I think that would’ve been a better idea.

  33. I really didn’t mind the alien stuff in this film. I had drank deeply from the literature of the 60s and 70s UFO culture as a child, and nothing in this film seems out of place considering the loopy theories that were current during the time it is set in.

    I loved seeing Indy in 50s America. In fact, everything about the first half of the film was pretty much perfect for me. Even the fridge, although the fall really should have killed Indy but he has survived worse.

    The film starts to fall apart for me once they get to the jungle. I think the biggest problem is that it starts to look really fake and the characters get more buffoonish. A lot of it is played for laughs when the stakes should be life or death at this point, and having the action happen on obvious sound stages doesn’t do anyone any favors. It is a shame, because some of it obviously was shot in a jungle but the differences between the studio work and the locations are really jarring.

    The acting is all over the place. Ford is OK but doesn’t seem to be enjoying himself. LaBeouf is actually pretty good, I think, but is miscast. He is just too Hollywood-pretty to be a convincing hoodlum. Blanchett seems to think she is the villain in a GI Joe cartoon, which doesn’t really fit in with the rest of the film.

    So a mixed bag, but not the terrible travesty that some people have declared. I agree with almost everything you say here.

  34. Vern, you seem pretty forgiving on a film that in so many aspects doesn’t strive for excellence, but rather for “that’ll do, let’s call it a day”.

    Aside from the structural weaknesses mentioned in previous comments, what really bothers me is that the production’s top priority seems to have been that Spielberg, Ford and Lucas could sleep in their own beds every night. So it’s sound stages and green screen all around. Resulting in supposed outside shots where the characters prominently throw multiple shadows – that’s just wrong. The result: “no feeling of being in strange and far away lands”, as One Guy From Andromeda (any relation to the Crytal Skull aliens?) put it. And that just pisses all over the legacy of the first three films.

    Some more of my personal gripes:
    – The digital gophers only show up mere seconds. But one of those gophers is VERY FIRST thing you see in the movie. And my subconscious immediately tells me: That critter ain’t real. And the conscious part picks up on that, saying: Nothing wrong with gophers, but they surely could’ve filmed a real gopher coming out of it’s hole. So they obviously didn’t give a shit, eh?

    – Inflatable raft jump from a plane in TEMPLE vs. nuked fridge escape in SKULL: Both are equally absurd if you think about it. The difference is in the way they are presented on screen. The raft falling looks like it has some parachute effect, slowing the descent, and when it hits the snowy mountain-top, it bumps off and cushions the impact, telling me: Hey, they got lucky, that wasn’t so bad after all. They fridge on the other side is shown crash-landing with brutal impact, tossing and turning and crashing some more, telling me: Whoa, there can only be a bloody pulp of bones and guts inside that thing now. And then a completely uninjured Indy climbs out of it.

    – Marion saying “Trust me!” and driving over a cliff without possibly knowing there’d be a branch to catch their car.

    Anyway, there are so many things wrong with SKULL that completely overshadow the good bits for me, so I can’t sit through it again. I tried to give it another shot on Blu-ray after having felt empty and disappointed in the theatre, but turned it off halfway through.

    Need to pop in RAIDERS again one of these days. Mmmmh, RAIDERS…

  35. I actually really dug the first half of this film, especially the Fridge!

    But the second half had no real stakes, which – for me, at any rate – really sets it aside from the first three. As many have pointed out, Indiana Jones could have stayed at home and the end result would have been the same.

    I mentioned Darabont’s script in another thread (the LAST CRUSADE one, I think). It wasn’t perfect, but the ending had some small, but crucial, differences that made it a great deal more emotionally satisfying. There was no Mutt in it either, which gave the Indy/Marion relationship a lot more room to breathe. I thought LeBeouf was pretty good in this one, but the Indy/Mutt/Marion/Abner/Ray Winstone characters never really meshed together.

    But as Jeff G points out, it’s been 8 years, so maybe it’s time to see it again with fresh eyes.

  36. Osch: Actually, there is an earlier moment where Marion drives up to the edge of the cliff and looks over the side. There’s a reaction shot of her noticing something down there, but we don’t know what until later, long after we’ve forgotten that shot or its significance. So her knowledge of the branch is established. It’s just not established very well.

  37. I’d say it’s established well. She looks over the edge at the branch and has a crazy smile while Mutt admonishes her about the cliff. Then as she drives toward the cliff and everyone yells at her she keeps saying “Trust me!” and smiling confidently, then has a big smile of pride after she pulls it off.

    I’m not saying that makes the Looney Tunes thing that happens any more plausible, but it’s pretty clear about her driving onto the branch on purpose.

    (I don’t mind that it’s not plausible, I love that part.)

  38. I like the actual gag, but I hate the set-up. It would have been better if she just hauled ass for the edge of the cliff in desperation and got lucky than for her to actually plan for that implausible event to occur. I’m willing to buy luck over skill on that one.

    What makes it worse is that Karen Allen plays the scene like a comical drunk driver in an eighties movie.

  39. I’d say Karen Allen plays every scene in the entire movie that way. I love Karen Allen, but man she was rusty as hell in Crystal Skull.

  40. I cant believe how many people picked up on Marion and the branch, I cant even remember that. If I was putting together a list of 100 things I dislike about that movie, the branch wouldn’t have made it.

  41. Also, sorry if this has been mentioned, but that “gag” (?) of Denholm Elliot’s statue….well, when the bad guys crash into it, and his head lands in the commie’s lap, smiling up at him, it’s an awesome beat (like, he’s not with us anymore, but he can still help us out of a jam!), but then it’s completely discarded when it cuts to Harrison Ford and he’s glumly scowling about the desecration of his friend’s statue. It’s paced like it’s going to be a classic Spielberg derpy pay-off and then it ends on a weird, uncomfortable note. It’s so fucking perplexing.

  42. You know what this one reminds me of? THE LOST WORLD. It’s (again) Spielberg doing another sequel that he openly doesn’t care about and barely wants to do… but he’s still Spielberg, so on days when he comes in and gets a good cup of coffee, he’s the best there is. Other days, he seems to just say, “Fuck it, it’s hot out. Let’s just use the rehearsal footage and get outta her early. John Williams will make it work.” The result is that there are sequences here which are among the most sublimely orchestrated mayhem he’s ever done.. and others which are bafflingly amateurish. Just like LOST WORLD, the script has fundamental structural problems, but Spielberg could have at least tried to make it work if he’d had any inclination to. Half the cast seem to be acting in different movies, and a director of Speilberg’s caliber could have easily done something about that on-set if he’d cared at all. I get the sense that a lot of these non-action scenes were shot in an afternoon, two angles, one take. Poor (editor) Michael Kahn seems to have nothing to work with in lots of these scenes, unable to recreate his brilliant rhythm from the previous three films because he’s got nothing to cut to, or, sometimes, only reaction shots which seem weird or incongruous with the action (as Justin points out, above).

  43. What’s weird about that statue gag is that it is absolutely set up as a comedic moment, but then when Mutt laughs at it, Indy scolds him–and by extension anyone else who thought it was funny–for it. The movie makes a joke and then gets on its high horse about you thinking it’s funny (not that it’s particularly funny).

    The weird thing is, my initial reaction was “Wow, what a shitty way to treat Marcus.” And apparently the movie agrees, but not enough to not play the moment for laughs in the first place. I don’t get it.

  44. Huh, I completely missed the branch setup when I first saw the movie, and in my second try I didn’t make it that far. Alright, props to Marion for always preparing in case she needs to drive off a cliff later on.

    Now that Mr. Subtlety brought in the Lost World comparison: That’s a Spielberg joint where I don’t get the hate. I enjoyed it more than the original Jurassic Park (which after all the hype at the time was just okay for me). The only groaner I remember was the Gymnastics-Fu scene, and that’s countered by plenty of great set-pieces. The overall structure and tone also worked for me. Well done, Steve!

  45. Mr. Subtlety, I think your analysis of Lost World is spot on, there are a handful of action scenes in that movie that are Spielbergs best ever, I think.
    Unfortunately, I don’t think there was but maybe one pot of coffee on the Crystal Skull set. Most if not all of the action in that movie, for me, was pretty mind numbing. I don’t think there is one scene in Skull that I would put next to the top four or five action set pieces in Lost World. The double Rex attack is really a fantastic scene.

  46. Majestyk, I always thought the end of the statue gag was a cute call back to that scene in LAST CRUSADE when Indy is smiling at some clever but destructive escape and his dad gives him the same scolding look. I think it was when they were on the motorcycle, but the details are fuzzy.

  47. I love you, Jack Burton.

    Vern, this is a profound reassessment that only enhances your initial review. I think more needs to be written about how fans evolve with a franchise or stubbornly refuse to.

    It’s like how in [REDACTED] AND ROBIN everyone suddenly forgot that they’d loved the campy shit in [REDACTED] FOREVER just two years before. Never forget.

  48. Ok, my problem with CRYSTAL SKULL is everything just has this fake, artificial sheen to it, it lacks the grit and grime of RAIDERS, TEMPLE and even LAST CRUSADE, between bad CGI, obvious sound stages and the too brightly lit Janusz Kaminski cinematography the suspension of disbelief just never comes together, which is especially problematic given how unfortunately old Ford looks, I mean literally the first thing you see are those fake CGI gophers, which may only be for a few seconds, but it still sets the tone, on top of that I’m sorry to say but I just don’t care for Shia LaBeouf as an actor, his role in this movie just feels like stunt casting because he was the flavor of the month at the time.

    It’s obvious Spielberg’s heart just wasn’t in it this time, Spielberg changed a lot after SCHINDLER’S LIST and lost some of that childlike glee, he’s been more interested in being a “serious filmmaker” ever since and returning to Indiana Jones was an awkward fit.

    It’s a real shame because the basic idea behind the movie is solid, Indy having a “Chariots of the Gods” type adventure in south America is a perfectly fine idea, it just failed in execution, the irony is that the infamous nuking the fridge scene is actually the best scene in the movie, as ridiculous as it may be it’s the only scene in the movie where the whole “Indy in the 1950’s” idea really comes together, I think it says it all that the average movie goer has probably forgotten most of CRYSTAL SKULL by now but I’m sure they remember the nuking of the fridge.

    I get why you’re so defensive of it though Vern, a lot of the reaction on the net after the movie came out was completely obnoxious and I remember feeling there was something so predictable about it at the time, like OF COURSE people were going to completely fucking hate the movie, how could nerds not hate anything with Lucas name attached after the prequels? But unfortunately that still doesn’t make CRYSTAL SKULL good however.

  49. The Original Paul

    February 11th, 2016 at 7:00 pm

    I agree with Crushinator on the action parts of CRYSTAL SKULL. They didn’t bother me at all when watching the film. The film being dull as ditchwater was what bothered me.

    I’ve just given the first part of it a rewatch, and y’know what? I’ve finally worked out why it isn’t grabbing me. It has a broad cast of characters, broad action sequences, broad portrayals of broad stereotyped characters… everything about it is so “broad”.

    The other INDIANA JONES movies weren’t like this. They started off intimate, then broadened their scope – both over individual scenes and over the entirety of the movies. So for example in TEMPLE you have, just in the opening scene, Indy in a tight-knit negotiation with treacherous smugglers while there’s a gigantic song-and-dance number going on. Then he makes his escape in a claustrophobic aeroplane before diving out over the mountain, etc. The film works this way in individual scenes and also over the entire film itself – so what starts as a deadly negotiation over a single precious jewel turns into a story about hundreds of child slaves being forced to work and then sacrificed by an evil cult. The relationships and characters, same deal – you get your intimate, character-defining moments early on, so that the stakes are raised when the deadly life-threatening stuff happens later. (Ok, TEMPLE is probably a bad example of this, since it probably does it the least effectively of the first three films. But at least it makes an attempt.)

    I don’t see any of this with CRYSTAL SKULL. The characters feel like devices to move the plot along. I have no idea what Karen Allen is doing in this film (I don’t find her performance particularly objectionable, by the way, I just get nothing from her character). I have no idea what Cate Blanchett is doing in this film. Hell, I can’t even see a reason for Shia in this film. And Winstone is just wasted. There’s a lot of running around but no stakes. These characters are not established enough to make me give a shit about them. And the tone of the film never really changes – the serious bits aren’t that serious, the emotional bits are surface-level at most, the action bits lack gravity. It doesn’t do that thing where you get the subtle intimate stuff, then all of a sudden the film jerks you out of your stupor by raising the stakes or increasing the scope. And I think it needs to.

    And this is why I think that scene in the University between the two professors is so damn important to this film. It’s the most intimate moment of the film. It changes up the tone and my expectations and makes me care about what’s going on. It’s a lovely little moment that adds some gravity to offset the hi-jinks that the latter part of the film depends on so much.

    I think all the film needed to be really good was a bit more intimacy. Give the audience some quality time with the characters to care about them, give them something to care about when shit starts going down. I think the individual scenes should’ve functioned more this way as well – start with the intimate details, then broaden the scope. Start small, go big. Would’ve worked well, but sadly that wasn’t how it was done.

  50. I still don’t get the problem with the prairie dog being a special effect. It’s a joke on the traditional Indiana Jones dissolve from the Paramount logo to a mountain. I believe the mountain in RAIDERS is a matte painting and the one in TEMPLE OF DOOM is an intentionally artificial one that turns out to be part of a set for the musical number. So what? All of them are movies about fantastical subjects, full of special effects by ILM. I’m glad it doesn’t bother me so much if one has more or less or newer or older.

    I know there’s no arguing with a gut reaction but I just think it’s sad that having a special effect near the beginning of a movie is so upsetting to so many people. Good thing they saved the face melting for the *end* of RAIDERS.

  51. I always thought the face-melting in RAIDERS looked stupid. And the invisible bridge in LAST CRUSADE.

    There, I’ve said it.

  52. Listen Verny, we demand our prairie dogs to be real, okay?

    Seriously, I never even got that there was so much hate for this movie out there. All my friends liked it just fine. But I can agree with Griff in that it looks to shiny.

  53. I will renounce my allegiance to the prairie dogs if Matthew B will admit that the facemelting is and will always be awesome.

  54. Vern, the problem is not that it’s a special effect but that it’s a horribly fake looking, unconvincing effect that takes you right out of the movie right at the very beginning, it’s not something that should get a pass even if you like the rest of the movie.

    And like I said, it sets the tone, all of the CGI in the movie is pretty damn bad, not just the prairie dogs but also the ants for example and even when something is practical, like the sound stage sets, something that should be awesome, are still shot and lit in a way that makes them look fake.

    Compare that with how dark and foreboding the interiors are in TEMPLE OF DOOM, or the snake pit in RAIDERS or even the Venice catacombs in LAST CRUSADE.

    This is all a major problem because again, Ford is undeniably an elderly dude and it all comes off as a little ridiculous when the movie can’t maintain a suspension of disbelief.

  55. I feel kinda stupid arguing about digital prairie dogs, so I’ll just throw in one more comparison from R-rated territory: CGI blood vs. good old-fashioned blood squibs. The former usually looks fake and hinders immersion, while the latter are awesome and enhance the mayhem of a shoot-out. Why go with distracting computer shit if there’s a much better, true and tested on-set solution easily available that can’t possibly be a big strain on your budget, unless you hate your audience? Real-life prairie dogs are my blood squibs, yo!

  56. The Original Paul

    February 12th, 2016 at 4:19 am

    The face-melting works because it’s another example of what I’m talking about. We go from a highly emotional scene between a completely beat-down Indiana Jones and a triumphant Belloq, to basically the entire Nazi army getting their faces melted off, all in the space of one scene. They set it up with the intimate character work, then pay it off by pulling the audience back to a broad overview and giving them a big “payoff”. When the setup is that good, you don’t care about a few ropey special effects.

    Come to think of it, most movies start with a flyover shot of wherever they take place, don’t they, then gradually move us “closer to the action”? The INDIANA JONES movies are like the exact opposite of this.

    Serious question here, for Vern and anybody else. If CRYSTAL SKULL had managed to actually engage most of its audience, do you honestly think they’d care about some ropey CGI? I’m asking that as somebody who didn’t like the movie and who barely noticed any bad special effects. To me it’s all about the lack of engagement. If I honestly cared about what was going on, I don’t think I’d be bothered just because some of the CGI is a bit “off”.

    I mean… this is a weird comparison, but hell, it’s gotta be snakes, right? Look at the finale of season 3 of BUFFY, the one in which Mayor Wilkins transforms into a gigantic CGI snake. I don’t think that many people would argue that that effect makes the CGI prairie-dog look photorealistic in comparison. It looks as though it has literally been added to each scene after it has been shot, with no consideration given to physics or shadows or making the thing look… not flat. Easily one of the worst ever CGI effects in what, again, I don’t think many people would argue is one of the best ever episodes of one of the best TV series of its time. I don’t remember anybody saying at the time: “Holy heck, that snake thing was so fake, it ruined the entire film for me!” Maybe a part of that was that the technology of the time just didn’t allow for much better effects anyway, but I just don’t remember this being an issue.

    What I’ve noticed is that when a film fails on a fundamental level that’s difficult to express, people sometimes try to explain their dislike for it by picking up on the smaller things. I think CRYSTAL SKULL’s central problem is that it doesn’t change its scope, resulting in a story, characters and overall tone feeling “flat” – both over the movie as a whole and in individual scenes – but that’s really, really hard to explain (I’ve not done a particularly good job myself). So it’s easier just to list the smaller things that bother you instead. This can result in a laundry-list of nitpicks (“The CGI wasn’t good! The nuke thing looked silly! The action scenes didn’t feel real!”) that end up being argued over because not everyone’s going to be bothered by this stuff. It’s easy for the people who liked the film to say “No, those nitpicks didn’t bother me” when in fact there’s a much deeper problem with the film that bothers the naysayers. They just have trouble expressing it.

  57. The Original Paul

    February 12th, 2016 at 4:26 am

    Talking of nitpicks… dear God, that’s some of the worst writing I’ve ever done just now. I wish there was an “edit” button.

    “We go from a highly emotional scene… all in the space of one scene.” All in the space of five minutes perhaps.
    “I don’t think I’d be bothered just because some of the CGI is a bit off”… and as I’ve already established, the CGI didn’t actually bother me at all, it was the other big problem with the film that did. Talking of which…
    “It ruined the entire film for me!” Or the entire episode. Because, y’know, a TV show is not a film.
    “I’ve not done a particularly good job myself.” No shit!

    Question still stands though. If CRYSTAL SKULL had managed to engage the majority of its audience in the same way that, say, the finale of BUFFY Season 3 did, do you think anybody would care about a few ropey special effects? Even now, when it’s become a lot more commonplace to nitpick at things like CGI failures, etc? I don’t think they’d care.

  58. Paul, you’re right. Too many CRYSTAL discussions concentrate on symptons to such an extent that we stop noticing the patient as a whole is clinically dead.

  59. “What I’ve noticed is that when a film fails on a fundamental level that’s difficult to express, people sometimes try to explain their dislike for it by picking up on the smaller things.”
    I think it’s also because when you start criticizing the plot, characters, dialogue, etc, for a movie like that (or MAN OF STEEL, or the Marvel movies, or STAR WARS), people who enjoyed it will tend to respond with a variation on “it’s not supposed to be Shakespeare”, and it can seem pretty hard to argue that a movie about magic dudes and space dudes blowing shit up doesn’t need to be THAT stupid because, well, you know, superpowers, aliens, explosions… It’s true that there’s little of that in HAMLET. So it’s easier to say “I’m upset that Superman didn’t save enough civilians” or “I’m upset that they felt the need to include a CGI animal at the beginning” or “I’m upset that midichlorian infections give you the Force” instead of “I had no problem with the fridge thing or Ultron’s mouth or Marion Cotillard’s death scene and I’m not sure I understand what people mean exactly when they use the word ‘plothole’, but still, since I never really felt engaged by the story and the characters, I thought it was pretty boring even with all that action”.

  60. “too brightly lit Janusz Kaminski cinematography”

    Can we discuss this? I think Spielberg started doing these brightly, overlit films with Schindler’s List, am I right? At times it looks good. Saving Private Ryan is a great looking film, and it worked for me in War of the Worlds. At times.

    But Holy Shit, has somebody not grabbed Spielberg by the shoulders in the last decade and said “this really doesn’t look all that great”? I mean, JJ quit with the lens flares. Would it kill ya to make an action movie that looks crisp, clean, and has actual colors other than gray and dark gray?

  61. The prairie dog thing comes down to laziness, I think. People here have said how it feels like Lucas/Ford/Spielberg just wanted to have fun and shoot comfortably. So they want this opening shot of a prairie dog and say, “just do it digital.”

    Because it’s easier. It’s not a money thing; prairie dogs are literally pests in certain parts of this country. Just fields and fields filled with hundreds of dogs all over the place. I’ve seen DVDs of Prairie Dog Blasting Action, just two straight hours of gruesome footage of little dogs being blown apart. Some sick shit. Anyway, my point is that prairie dogs are not some hard-to-find animal that are difficult to film.

    I guess the shot includes the cars driving by the dog hill, so maybe they couldn’t find a hill with dogs that was also drivable. And maybe there are laws preventing people from driving though prairie dog fields. Maybe, but I doubt it. Anyway, they could have made it work with real footage through the layering of different shots, editing, whatever. Never had trouble using real animals before.

    So they went the easy route. Not necessarily the cheap route. And it looks fake. Plus everything Original Paul just said.

  62. I’m noticing some vague consensus developing here. It seems people are OK with the first half of the movie but have more problems with the second half, as well as a general feeling of the movie looking phonier than the other Indy films, even the similarly goofy sequels.

    The complaint about all the secondary characters is interesting. I’m unsure whether the issue is that these characters weren’t given enough to do or that viewers just aren’t used to Indy having a gang. Maybe both.

    While I liked the movie, I too thought the CGI prairie dog in the opening shot was possibly not the best note to open with, especially with so many people in Lucas’ audience having a highly developed distaste for CGI. I completely got that it was supposed to be a Paramount mountain as in the other films’ opening shots. The fact that it is a special effect is perhaps not the problem so much as that it’s such an obvious and unconvincing one. Also, the fact that it is literally a mountain made from a molehill (or gopher hill) is a witty pun but perhaps also a subconscious suggestion that this movie would be a minor effort. I was only mildly bothered by it, but I can see why it would hit a bigger nerve with other viewers.

    I like how the discussion of CRYSTAL SKULL has been more constructive in this talkback thread than it was under the one for LAST CRUSADE.

  63. Prairie Dog Blasting Action?
    Vern, please review that ASAP.

  64. I’m glad Jeff G said it, because I didn’t want to be the first one – I just don’t like the way the recent Spielberg films look. It’s like one step up from Michael Mann’s digital murk, except here everything’s a weird combination of grey/desaturated colors, but also overlit like a dream/flashback sequence. It looks like vaseline is on the lens like a soap opera or Giada De Laurentiis’ cooking show. And yet everything is simultaneously also too dark and muddy, as impossible as that sounds. I don’t think I even noticed it at first because my mind still equates Spielberg’s name with excellence, but halfway through Lincoln I was like “ok, I can’t take it anymore, and I really miss Dean Cundey”. Speaking of which, that guy lensed Jurassic Park and almost all the Amblin-style hits of our youth – Back to the Future(s), Roger Rabbit, even Road House. Not to mention the amazing cinematography in Halloween. Now he’s doing straight to video stuff, Disney Kids movies and his last theatrical movie was Jack & Jill. Who did he piss off to deserve this?

    And Majestyk has it right – the most offensive thing about this movie isn’t a nuked fridge or a Tarzan joke, it’s that quicksand scene. It’s bad on so many levels – as mentioned they’re yelling like 2 steps away from the Russian camp, then they tell Ox to get help, then they seem mad that he got help from the Russians, as if they’ve established there’s other friendly people in this jungle. It reeks of rewrites coupled with “oh shit we already built the quicksand set? Well, let’s shoot it and figure out the context later”. It reimagines Indy as this weird Urkel character who talks about the viscosity of quicksand in this nerd voice while he’s about to die. Yeah, yeah, people change but there’s a difference between “characters change over time” and “this is a total betrayal of the character” and you can guess which this one is. I’d rather have Rocky Balboa spout facts in a nerd voice (ok, not really)

    Other than that yeah, I don’t hate most of the things people hate, like the groundhogs or Marion and Mutt, but boy do I hate Ox and Mac. (Whose death also seems to reek of rewrites/reshoots). And I’m sure I’ve pointed this out somewhere but Blanchett is an incredibly under-written character, the only thing of note is that she’s played by Cate Blanchett. If she were a man there’d be literally nothing interesting about this character, but at least they might have chosen an actual route to go. As is, she’s a half-baked, fence-straddling antagonist who doesn’t really do anything that hateable, but the movie also teases her as “not that bad” and an equal/peer of Jones, but then they don’t follow up with that either. And then she dies in the exact same way the villains die in 3 of these 4 movies, except here it’s even more inexplicable.

    I still prefer this over Lost World though; it doesn’t have that Michael Bay-style nastiness and it at least has something resembling a structure. I also really like that gag with the hat at the end. Like if I caught the last 10 seconds of this movie on cable I’d be like “hey this movie looked pretty good!”

  65. Zod,

    You didn’t even mention the “let’s use a rubber snake as a rope to pull Indy out of the quicksand” part. Changed my mind, I am not watching this again. Thanks for freeing up two hours of my weekend (or five minutes, more likely).

  66. Generally I think modern Spielberg films look ok, in fact I like that there’s a visual distinction between “classic” Spielberg and modern Spielberg.

    But that modern look was an ill fit for a return to a classic Spielberg series and the fact that he just stuck with his usual guy, instead of teaming up with Dean Cundey again or someone, shows how little he really cared.

  67. I mentioned this in the apparently less constructive Last Crusade talkback, but if you got back and watch Catch Me If You Can, at one point the cinematography/lighting/make-up mesh so poorly that it is just inescapably obvious that Christopher Walken is wearing gobs of lipstick. I know I can seem petty on the visual stuff, it’s kind of OCD. There are filmmakers who are very thoughtful about creating a suspension of disbelief on stuff, like Nolan, so when an otherwise clearly talented filmmaker misses something obvious or does something so cartoonish, it just kind of messes with me. It’s like Uncle Buck and that Principal’s mole–it’s all I can look at or think about.

    I do think with this one, it’s not just that Indy had a gang, but it seems like such a hammy and underdeveloped gang that seems like a drag and a distraction rather than something that really serves the story or compels us (me).

  68. Well, Douglas Slocombe was 94 when they did CRYSTAL SKULL. He retired after LAST CRUSADE in ’89. So it makes sense for Spielberg to use “his usual guy” instead. They intended to mimic the look of the previous movies. In Vanity Fair Spielberg is quoted as saying, “I needed to show them to Janusz because I didn’t want Janusz to modernize and bring us into the 21st century. I still wanted the film to have a lighting style not dissimilar to the work Doug Slocombe had achieved, which meant that both Janusz and I had to swallow our pride. Janusz had to approximate another cinematographer’s look, and I had to approximate this younger director’s look that I thought I had moved away from after almost two decades.”

    Since nobody seems to agree that it looks similar maybe it would’ve been cool if he tried to do a more colorful look. I don’t know.

  69. Wow. That quote from Spielberg sorta just perfectly sums up why that movie doesn’t work for me. That’s very telling.

  70. Jeff G, here is what I was referring to. Video Images has streaming video of the gore. You all probly should not click on it:

    http://dogbegone.com/order.htm

  71. So Vern, do you think it looks over lit and washed out? Just curious, based on your post above. I do find it to be a weirdly lit movie.

  72. Rewatching Prometheus, since it popped up here recently. I really dislike it, but man it’s a gorgeous looking film, unlike Crystal Skull

  73. Jeff – yeah even though we agree on Spielberg’s latter output looking subpar, I do feel it’s weird that cinematography is such a subjective thing from person to person. Like you figure people would universally agree that such and such film looks great, but that’s rarely the case. I think Vern mentioned in the Prometheus thread that despite everything else, at least it has that gorgeous look to it, whereas I honestly felt it looked no different from a Paul W.S. Anderson movie. I saw it twice, by the way, once in the theatre in 3D and once on HBO and both times I was never wowed once.

    On a side/related note, I think it’s kind of trendy for nerds to bash Aliens these days and a common complaint is that it looks “flat” or TV-movie like. I never noticed that as a kid obviously, and it’s still one of the greatest movies of all time, but on my last few watches I finally did notice there’s a cheapness to the non-queen Aliens and the sets, and it does look like a TV movie, especially when watched right after Alien. But it didn’t ruin my enjoyment at all. I mean, every great movie we love from the 80s has some special effects that don’t hold up today, (nobody takes points away from Robocop for its FX, for instance) so I feel if KOTCS had a decent or even complete script, we would cut the fake jungle sets and the CGI ants, etc.. some more slack.

  74. Gonna rewatch this again, but I think this discussion is gonna very well. We generally like the first half, and then feel complete apathy/hatred towards the second half, which should NOT happen in an Indiana Jones movie cuz that’s where all the most fun and emotionally-fulfilling stuff is. Last Crusade saved its best set piece for last, along with the great relationship between Indy Jr/Sr that has that great prolonged sequence getting to the grail, with that perfect emotional climax of “Indiana…let it go”. Temple of Doom doesn’t have as strong of an emotional core as either Raider or Last Crusade, but it packs the back half with a lot of exciting sequences. Raiders is pretty close to perfect throughout the whole movie, but so much in the second half works like gangbusters, straight into the final shot.

    I need to see it again so I can find out where that apathy comes from, but you guys also covered something I think FilmCritHulk was on about, the tangible details theory. That when a story or movie isn’t working for someone, they tend to grab on to tangible details. Like the Star Wars prequels use of CG, yeah, THATS why it was terrible. Not because it doesn’t have a protagonist, awful dialog, stilted direction, non-characters with with actors giving non-performances, no sense of narrative momentum or dramatic stakes or ANYTHING in the first two…no its because Jar-Jar Binks, right? Its because they made a CG Yoda, that was the big thing.

    Its not that one was sillier than the other, there’s something deeper in its story and its storytelling thats keeping Crystal Skull from acceptance. I’m gonna watch it again and I’m gonna try and point it out.

  75. Watching Kingdom again, it feels like a combination of bad ideas being performed by people who didn’t feel very confident in what they were doing. Its a Lost World situation. Post-Schindler’s List Spielberg seemingly lost his touch for this kind of adventure cinema. Where the exposition scenes of Raiders and the Last Crusade bristle with wit and intrigue, here they just dawdle. This really hurts the exploration sequences, where in LC or Raiders we know what we’re looking for and so every discovery is exciting. In Kingdom, that whole sequence with Indy searching with Mutt feels vague and perfunctory. Where previously Spielberg and his second unit showed an excitement and inventiveness in staging and creating set pieces, here every setpiece is flaccid. There’s none of the interest building to Eureka moments of discovery you get often in Raiders or Last Crusade. There’s a proceeding sense of just going through the motions. When Ray Winstone shows up following Indy in…wherever that South American country they went to, there’s none of that colorful pulpy giddiness of when Toht peeks from behind a newspaper, or that little motif that plays whenever Kazim and the Brotherhoods how up, with their distinctive visual red hats. They can’t even do the sequences where Indy argues with Ray Winstone’s character, which is supposed to be like Belloq trying to seduce Indy to his line of thinking. Except that scene was both exposition AND character building, here the conversation just sits there, changes nothing, doesn’t give us any character insight…nothing. Pointless. Kaminzki is doing an imitation of Slocombe, which kinda sums up the movie in general. A bunch of talented people trying to remember how they did something 20 years ago.

    Again, the bad ideas. I don’t think…ANY of these 1950s satire ideas work very well. The Greasers, the “I like Ike”, the McCarthy thing, Area 51. Its not funny or interesting, or compelling. Completely WASTING Cate Blanchatt, Ray Winstone, John Hurt, and Shia LeBaeuof(yes, even him) on undernourished characters. All the Indy/Marion drama is so tedious, and then Karen Allen decided to do the rest of the acting with her giant smile for the back half of the movie. The quicksand sequence is the nadir of the entire franchise, not just the idea, but the execution. Indiana Jones doesn’t even feel like an active participant in most of the action. He’s just along for the ride with Shia, or pops up here and there for the fight with the protectors who show up and disappear just because they needed some kind of action in an exploration sequence that holds little intrigue to the audience otherwise. Or he mostly just rides alike in the big jungle, not actively trying to get back in the driver’s seat like the Raiders Truck Chase or leaping onto the Tank and taking out all the Nazis in the Last Crusade. Its clear the big Jungle destroying this is supposed to one-up the Tank from Last Crusade, but that threat was so much more tangible. They built up to it when they got it from that dude, and it was so much

    There are individual moments that work. The Warehouse discovery sequence. Indy vs the big Ruskie with the ants. “They weren’t you, Honey”(mostly cuz of Marion’s theme that plays, which is my all-time favorite John Williams song). Harrison Ford in general. There are a few moments where Spielberg’s intuitive eye for staging and composition show up in brief snatches. The jungle chase music that plays when Shia and Cate Blanchett are sword fighting.

    But by and large, the movie just doesn’t work. It qot a quickly cobbled together script, with a lot of talented principals either confused by what they were doing or just didn’t know how.

    Its a 5/10 movie. Rarely actively bad, but equally rarely good, either. No strong emotions one way of the other. Even Temple of Doom(6/10) has more successive moments of comedy, menace, and thrilling sequences. Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is just boring, which is really the worst thing an adventure movie can be. It feels pointless, never justifying its existence outside a craven at more money .

    But we’ll always have Raiders(10/10) and Last Crusade(8/10), and that’s important. I’ll never have to watch it again for the rest of my life, and I got two really strong Indy movies I can revisit annually when I’m in the mood.

  76. If KINGDOM is a 5/10, then DOOM is at least an 7 or 8/10.

  77. I don’t think Doom really works either. Its got just as many bad ideas as Kingdom, with even broader characterization, racist caricatures, story structural deficiencies, and just flat out stupid attempts at humor, but the biggest difference being the craft on display. Spielberg and co’s idea for staging, creating, shooting, lighting, and editing exciting set pieces is on a completely different level than Kingdom. John Williams has some excellent tunes, and displays them in all the right moments. The production design of the temple itself is really cool, the use of Red both in the color scheme and the lighting inspired, the photography by Slocombe hits that balance of being very visually attractive to showcase the opulence of China/India, but also menacing in the way you want an adventure movie to look.

    Temple is like a bunch of bad, thin ideas done well. Kingdom is a bunch of bad, thin ideas done ineptly.

  78. I’m a big enough man to admit I’m wrong.

    Crystal Skull was on SyFy last night and I started watching it. Made it up to the snake in the quicksand (which is still the worst thing ever), and I was actually enjoying it. Harrison Ford didn’t look nearly as bad as I remembered, maybe that is because I’ve seen Force Awakens since. And he actually was a little livelier than I remembered. I liked the older, wiser Indy. His talks with Mutt about doing what he loves, going back to school, etc. I thought were pretty interesting for the character.

    There was still a ton bad. First, it is amazing how all of the “exterior” shots look like they were filmed inside on a set. It is almost like they were intentionally trying to make the shots look campy. I don’t think they filmed anything outdoors. Maybe Ford had some kind of clause in his contract that he needed air conditioning.

    Every side character in the film is pretty awful. Ox is near unwatchable. Mutt isn’t that bad a character, but I just dislike Shia Lebeouf so much I can’t get past that. Mac is pointless. Cate Blanchett is kind of wasted. It was almost like Spielberg said, “there are all these actors I really want to work with, let me see if I can cram them into this story”. I think the film could have been a lot better with just Indy and Mutt. Or Indy and Marion. None of the extra characters really move the story along. And people fall down goofily way too often. It would make a good drinking game to take a shot every time Indy stumbles and falls over.

    But I found myself watching it and slightly enjoying it. I liked the opening action scene better than I remembered. I liked the motorcycle chase a LOT more than I remembered. Liked the scene with the guys with the blowdarts and the masks, even though, again it was obviously filmed on a set, inside somewhere. I am going to watch the whole thing this weekend.

    Lost World was on TV Monday, and it was worse than I remembered, BTW.

  79. Jeff – yeah we’re on the same page – the nuked fridge and the gophers and the vine-swinging and everything else the internet keeps bringing up are the least of this movie’s problems, but I guess “nuking the fridge” is catchier than “Ox speaks gibberish again” or “Mac switches sides again”. I didn’t notice the falling/stumbling but I’ll have to pay attention next time.

    RIP Douglas Slocombe, btw – we were just talking about his amazing work with Indy and it’s sad to see him go.

  80. Weel, fo those who absloutely need to see real life gophers; here for your viewing fucking pleasure…

    Exploding Varmints, Vol. 1 (Advanced Action Videos, Late 1990s)

    This is probably the most disgusting and exploitive video I have ever watched in my entire life. Everything about it drips with sleaze--the premise is that y...

  81. Can we talk about them throwing the rat snake to Indy to pull him out of the quicksand for a second? This is probably just as dumb if not dumber than any fridge or inflatable raft/parachute.

    Indy is starting to sink in quicksand along with Marion. He has a leather jacket on. So, wouldn’t it make sense to take off your jacket, give one arm to Mutt, hold onto the other arm, and have him pull? Nope, let’s go find a huge snake in the middle of the jungle. Mutt, for whatever reason, knows the snake is a chill dude, not poisonous, not a biter, has a casual attitude.

    Grab the snake, use him as a pretend rope. This is the same Mutt who about twenty minutes earlier didn’t know if he should be worried about the scorpion that bit him (a completely throwaway moment which, to me, kind of implied that Mutt was out of his element and Indy wasn’t, but now all of a sudden Mutt is a zoologist).

    Is there a snake in the world that wouldn’t bite someone in this situation?

    I actually would have been very on board with a shout out to Indy’s snake fears. We hadn’t seen Indy encounter a snake since Temple of Doom. It’s funny. But there are eight million ways they could have shoe horned that in that would have been better than this.

  82. The Original Paul

    March 9th, 2016 at 8:09 am

    Just came back to read what’s been written in this one since I last looked at it, and can I say just how much I think Jeremy09 nails it? That’s exactly what I feel about CRYSTAL SKULL.

  83. My favorite WTF moment is when Indy’s entourage pass through the first part of the temple and then the natives come out of the walls/columns after they pass through.

    So…..those guys just hang out in the walls all day just in case someone comes strolling through? Don’t they get hungry? And who gets the job to rebuild them back up again after they come out? It would seem coming out of the walls like that is only scary if the group you are trying to scare/intimidate sees you do it. If you’re just following them, why not just come through a regular door or something and go on your way. Now some poor clod has to rebuild that whole deal. Also maybe do that before the group can get outside where it’s much harder to catch them. And so on.

    This is similar to the other comments (prairie dogs, ants, monkeys etc) where if the film was more engaging I wouldn’t have time to think of such things, or even better wouldn’t care.

  84. Indiana Jones 5 Release Date Announced

    Disney has announced the Indiana Jones 5 release date; the studio has also confirmed that Steven Spielberg will direct and Harrison Ford will star.

    once more unto the fridge etc

  85. There’s almost no chance anyone involved learned any lesson from CRYSTAL SKULL except “People hated it because it was different, so make it more samey.” Not “People hated it because it kind of sucked, so make it less sucky.”

  86. I’m just scared that they think they have to please the nerds and their “waah, everything sucks” criticism and make it like a more beloved Indy movie: THE LAST CRUSADE. *shudder*

  87. No Lucas. No Dice.

  88. Wow, as much as Harrison worked as Han in TFA (just one guy’s opinion), it is now 8 years post-KOTCS, and even then he was already starting to show noticeable signs of wear in terms of him credibly participating in action sequences. I don’t believe he has the capacity to play a compelling or credible central action hero anymore. When motivated and challenged, I still believe he can give a great acting performance, but he can’t do the classic Indy action beats in a credible way anymore, not to mention that those beats might be wearing a bit thin on the 5th go around even if this was 1998 or whatever.

    It’s possible that they could come up with some new angle, like maybe it could work if they took a weird left turn in terms of de-emphasizing the swahbuckley action and shifting toward a more cerebral, intellectual puzzle kind of direction, along with an explicit acknowledgement that Ford is now fighting battles only with his wits (and/or the aid of abler bodies). More just him solving a mystery than him having to kick a bunch of ass. I’m not saying that actually could work, but it might, and I can’t see another classic Indy-type role working at this stage of life. There’s a reason Sean Connery hung up the Bond gear in his 50s.

  89. Solution for the action: bring back Short Round now played by a prominent Asian actor born in the 70s. Or just be lazy and use Donny Yen.

    Of course I’ll still pass but they do have options.

  90. Solution; make an animated feature with Fords voice acting or create a 20 years younger CGI Ford.

  91. I think there may be a way to do it to emphasize Indy as a grizzled old guy (possibly with eyepatch), like a Clint movie. But he would probly need a younger co-star to add some action, and there’s no way they’re gonna bring Mutt back as a main character. Especially without Lucas it seems likely they’ll follow the current trend of bending over backwards to imitate the first movie and not do anything that might be new or surprising or CRYSTAL SKULL-like for conservative, easily startled fans.

    But to be honest I was worried they’d do one without Spielberg directing, so this is already going a little bit better than I expected.

  92. Yeah as much as I didn’t like the last one, this just feels weird to do it without Lucas.

    And yes, I’m sure it’ll end up being a soft reboot/remake like The Force Awakens, which is odd since the endings of 3 and 4 already re-did the ending of 1!

  93. I’m just baffled they’re doing it at all, because it really seemed like Lucas was the driving force last time around. Seemed like Spielberg and Ford were barely interested at all, except as kinda a fun trip down memory lane to when they were young and virile. I honestly can’t imagine what would appeal to them about the concept of going back and doing it again. I mean, maybe this is naive of me, but at this point in their careers it can’t be the money, right? Does Ford just want to kill off another of his beloved characters, is that it?

  94. Crushinator Jones

    March 16th, 2016 at 10:41 am

    M. Subtlety, I think your last sentence might have nailed it. And I suspect that Blade Runner might be the same deal. Harrison Ford is Taking His Movies And Going Home.

  95. Crushinator — I bet he did BLADE RUNNER II just to spit in the face of the whole “Deckard is a repilcant” theory which Scott loves so much. He’s willing to spend a year of his life, and one of his last productive years as an artist, producing a work solely to piss off a guy who was annoying to work for 35 years ago. By god, there’s something inspiring about that. Since Villenueve is directing it, I don’t doubt that it’ll turn out great in spite of being a terrible idea, but the more I think about it, the more certain I am that this final round of unasked-for sequels by Ford is just about an old man finally getting to have his way.

  96. At least I know Rick Frantic and John Witness are still safe which is a relief.

  97. And Richard Fugitive

  98. Crushinator Jones

    March 16th, 2016 at 12:49 pm

    “Jack Force One”? Oh wait, that’s a popular gay porno I had to shelve back when I was a video store clerk.

  99. The Original Paul

    March 16th, 2016 at 2:37 pm

    I’ll be the odd-guy-out (shocker, after the LONDON HAS FALLEN comments, I know) and say that my favorite part of THE FORCE AWAKENED was everything to do with Harrison Ford. He schooled the young’uns in that film. I will also repeat that my problem with CRYSTAL SKULL was never Ford’s performance (or anybody’s performance, really). Give HF something decent to do, and I think he’ll do a good job of it.

    As regards Skani’s solution of making the next Indy film a more “intellectual” prospect… for the first time ever I’m going to disagree with Skani, because Indy was always a man of action. You can make that film but it wouldn’t be an Indy film if you did. (In fact they tried it once. It was called THE DA VINCI CODE, and it sucked.) What makes the Indy films work – and the whole reason the fourth one didn’t work – is the constant use of small, intimate moments in order to build up to big epic ones. I think you can do this style of filmmaking without relying on Harrison Ford leaping about like he’s just stepped off the set of the MORTAL KOMBAT movies or something. You might even say that there’s always been a little bit of “old guy action” throughout the Indy franchise – what’s the famous scene where Indy shoots the swordsman in the original RAIDERS, if not that? – and it would be in-character for Indy to conserve his energy, take some hits, get a bit beaten up, but keep getting up and going through sheer dogged determination.

  100. I have to assume this is going to be some Young Indiana Jones Chronicles/Die Hard Whatever type thing, with a grizzled old Indy reflecting on his younger days where he’s played by whoever is cast in that Han Solo prequel.

    Anyway, this announcement makes it clear that Vern is gonna be complaining about how the big bad internet nerds stole poor George Lucas’ lunch money and gave him a wedgie until the heat death of the universe.

  101. Subtlety, as I said in one of these Indy threads, Ford has repeatedly in the media said that he is taking movies exactly and specifically for the money. This is the only one I can find, but if you look at Kimmel and Conan interviews, he has straight up said it’s for the money. There’s a bit of a twinkle in the eye, but I think he means it.

    Harrison Ford doing "Expendables" for "rent money" | Harrison Ford doing "Expendables" for "rent money" | Videos | Washington Examiner

    Harrison Ford just replaced Bruce Willis in the upcoming installment of the "Expendables" to be able to pay the "rent money".

  102. Harrison Ford on ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’: ‘I Got Paid’

    Once again, during an appearance Tuesday night on ‘The Tonight Show,’ Harrison Ford proved that he is one of the most unabashedly honest late-night guests of all time.

  103. Original Paul, there is a first time for everything, and that is fine, because you consistently say awesome and enlightening things, while I consistently deliver typos and sleep-deprived, un-proofed sentence fragments.

    Anyway, I think that’s a great point you raise, and you may very well be right. In any case, I agree that it won’t be an Indy film as we know it. The choice is between it being a sad exercise in lazy, cash grabbing vs. it being a real opportunity to do something new and imaginative. To unpack that a bit further:

    1. Either it will be something different but awesome in its own right and in a fresh, compelling way.
    2. Or it’ll be safe but competent and 75-85%-satisfying fan service (paging Dr. Abrams).
    3. Or it’ll be a depressing, tone-deaf cash grab that reflects neither creative risk-taking nor real commitment to excellence.

    I’m hoping for Door #1, think #2 is probably most likely, and I certainly hope it’s not #3.

  104. Last one. I PROMISE. This is actually a pretty interesting interview.

    Harrison Ford: 'I'm in it for the money'

    When you've been in the business as long as Harrison Ford has there are two ways of approaching the media: charm, schmooze, and trot out colourful anecdotes about your career; or tell it how it is – with no frills.

  105. Ford is right. You should get paid for doing your job. This isn’t a charity.

    if the franchise murder theory is correct, what if he did one more Jack Ryan to nail that coffin shut too?

  106. Speaking of Harrison Ford and Conan interviews. This new one really SHOULD be called: INDIANA JONES AND THE COMFORTABLE CHAIR.

  107. Jacl Ryan is safe. It will just keep getting rebooted until Clancy’s estate gets sick of trying over and over again.

  108. I don´t see the problem. Roger Moore it. Ford for the close ups, the rest a stunt double.

  109. If they do that I hope they make it super obvious like in MOONRAKER.

  110. When was it not super obvious? Like in the opening ski chase in THE SPY WHO LOVED ME; the close ups with Moore in which he seems to struttle along on a fine winter ski trip, then cut to the stunt man with a completely different posture and going super fast.

  111. I’m thinking they’ll take a LAST CRUSADE approach. Give him a younger sidekick, let him play the mentor, more so than he did in KOTCS. They won’t bring back Mutt, hope they leave Marion out of it too. Give him a cool young actor/actress to play around with. He was great with Daisy Ridley, so why not give him another female sidekick, maybe Alicia Vikander or Rebecca Ferguson. I’d go see that.

    By the way, am I understanding correctly that Lucas has nothing to do with this? That would be weird, as Spielberg has always said Indy is his buddy’s vision and he’s just there to bring it to life for him. Then again, if they had to wait for Lucas to write another script it would takes ages and probably end up being crap. And Spielberg does care about how his films are perceived, maybe he just wants another chance at ending the franchise on a high note, giving the fans what they want (as far as that is even possible with Ford at age 93).

  112. Lord save us from filmmakers trying to give us what we want.

  113. I want Gaspar Noe to direct a STAR WARS entirely made in a POV from the perspective of The Force.

  114. Franchise Fred- I’d be up for another Jack Ryan movie, based on the laterish novels where Ryan is president but still manages to do all kinds of ridiculous world saving stuff for 1,000-2,000 pages. Ford was always older than the Ryan in the books, but he is now around the median age Reagan was when he was in office, which was obviously Clancy’s reference point for President Ryan. It’d surely be more interesting than SHADOW RECRUIT at any rate

  115. Wait, Jack Ryan became President of the United States in the novels??

  116. Majestyk: But sometimes what “we” want, is stupid! You as the guy, who hated the fan- and crowdpleasing JURASSIC WORLD should know that.

  117. Did you think I was being sarcastic? I wasn’t. I am dead serious about wishing some all-powerful divinity would stop filmmakers from trying to predict what fans will like and instead just focus on what they themselves like. Following your own muse with conviction and sincerity is what turned George Lucas and Steven Speilberg’s genuine interest in old serials their fanbase had never even heard of into a beloved film series, while slavishly and cravenly courting the imagined whims of a theoretical fanbase is what has left the cinema landscape littered with the corpses of Terminator reboots and failed YA adaptations.

  118. Maybe we should hope everyone involved with Indy 5 goes through a divorce just before they start shooting. That way they won’t give a fuck about what the fans want anymore and we’ll get something dark and exciting. It worked with Temple of Doom after all.

  119. I am sure some nerd community is working on a scheme like that in this very moment.

  120. Crushinator Jones

    March 17th, 2016 at 9:34 am

    I don’t think greatness comes from pandering. Popularity certainly does, but not greatness. George Miller made Fury Road for himself first and it was last year’s best movie by a substantial margin and I guarantee you’ll see ideas and elements reappearing from it in a decade. Is anybody going to be aping the soulless corporate trash of Jurassic World?

  121. Crushinator Jones

    March 17th, 2016 at 9:39 am

    It’s why I’m more hopeful for DC than Marvel, btw. I saw this on another forum and it stuck with me: The comic book movie genre is like junk food. Marvel is like McDonalds, they spend a tremendous amount of money to produce the most broadly popular stuff possible. DC is like Chipolte, it’s still mass-market swill but there is a bit more of an individual vision for it and more quality in the ingredients.

  122. Pandering is the greatest enemy of creativity.

  123. Ford will be 77 years old when INDY 5 is slated for release. That, all by itself, kills it for me. Yeah, he can still be the clever, resourceful scientist at that age, but an action hero?— fuggedaboutit.

    Oh, and Happy Saint Patrick’s Day.

  124. Fred — I’m not arguing Ford shouldn’t get paid, but jeez, at this late stage in his career, why is he still doing roles for maximum payout? Surely he already has more money than he could ever spend. He’s spent years inactive before, so why revisit all the old stuff now? I can only think that it’s that the original creators are finally too old to fight him on what direction the various franchises should go in. All those movies he famously disagreed with the director about — now he can finally go back and have his way!

  125. Crushinator Jones

    March 17th, 2016 at 11:01 am

    As somebody who has legitimately worked directly for billionaires, I can tell you that they get to the point where the money itself becomes a motivating principle. It’s a psychological transformation where they basically start to consider their lineage – like they are royalty. They aren’t just working to enrich themselves or their kids, they are working to build a legacy where their great-great-great-great-grandkids in 300 years won’t have to work because a distant ancestor that they know from a painting was ultra-successful.

  126. “As somebody who has legitimately worked directly for billionaires[…]”

    Crushinator, are you Mr Smithers?

  127. Crushinator Jones

    March 17th, 2016 at 1:02 pm

    Despite what The Simpsons shows, it takes a lot of Smithers to make a Burns.

    In fact that’s what I wish people knew about most: how absolutely different everything is for the rich. For example when I worked for my old boss I would regularly interact with the following people:

    1) His security staff
    2) Staffing firm for the pilot for his jet
    3) His personal driver
    4) His IT staff (yes, they have their own computer department both at home and at work)
    5) Landscaping
    6) Event coordinators/social secretary
    7) Housekeeping
    8) Construction contractors (they are constantly putting on an addition or making something somewhere in the world at all times, or at least for the four years I worked for this dude)
    9) full-time Chef
    10) full-time Personal trainer (he actually did stuff for his company too but his first priority was the boss)

    I could keep going but you get the idea. Just take a business and replicate it for a person and that’s what the rich have – a support system of dozens of people constantly working for them on their behalf. The sheer amount of delegating that they do in a day is nuts. And they love every minute of it, and this particular person loved to verbally body-slam people and fuck around with them every chance he could.

    The crazy thing to is that they basically don’t deal with anyone except employees or their families for weeks at a time. No dealing with anyone as equals, and I certainly wouldn’t call the relationship between this dude and his wife and kids equal. It fucks them up really bad. This guy was notorious for flipping the fuck out over the craziest stuff. Once his laptop battery died and his backup didn’t work. He had a lackey run over a replacement to him from his house to his place of business at around 5:00pm and so the dude hits traffic and it takes him an hour to get it to him. The guy literally screamed at him for almost five minutes. Crazy times.

  128. Crushinator Jones

    March 17th, 2016 at 1:04 pm

    I want to make a minor correction: “the sheer amount of delegating they do” should be “the sheer amount of things delegated on their behalf” because as you might expect most of this stuff was done by other people and just rolled up and presented to the boss man in a digestible format.

    It’s such a surreal time in my life, looking back. I once did some calculations and realized that, in order to make as much as my boss did in a year at what he paid me, I would have to work 20,000 lifetimes. Not years. Lifetimes.

  129. I´ve heard that working for Hank Scorpio is a pretty sweet deal. From what I have heard hee seem to have none of those idiosyncrasies

  130. I actually think Ford is being a little blustery. I think he does want money. He does feel that he needs to provide a lot for kids and grandkids, and one thing I’ve noticed is that, as your lifestyle and standards improve, so do your expectations. The whole “I want my kids to have a better life than I had” mentality does not change even if “the life had” is that of a multi-millionaire.

    I also think he enjoys the way this keeps him relevant. He comes across like he doesn’t care about the limelight or whatever, but it’s very hard for me to believe it’s all money and that he’s totally indifferent to the sense of importance, legacy, and cultural impact that comes from being in an iconic role that will (in theory) delight millions of people, etc. Of course, no one wants “the paparazzi,” “limelight,” “the awards,” (so they say), but I think anyone gets off on the ego stroke that comes from the knowledge that millions of people are lining up to see you and be entertained by you.

    Finally, I do think he takes on things that he thinks will be fun. In horrible Expendables 3, it seemed to me like he was having fun, and in one of those interviews he said it was fun.

    I think he’s just having some fun, racking up some cash, taking a victory lap, doing it his way.

  131. Shoot is right. Do you think Ford was doing his own stunts in Raiders? He has a great stunt double and Spielberg is a master at selling the illusion. Ford’s job is those closeups where he takes a punch or throws a big swing.

    Skani is right. Ford has a big family to take care of, including 5 kids from 3 marriages. That’s a lot of tuitions.

    But I also react as someone in a creative profession where people expect you to do it for free for the love of it. If you’ve established yourself for three decades you should be paid accordingly.

  132. I purchased some INDY comics today. One I am especially fond of features Indy fighting Arabian Ninjas. I reemmber the comic fondly. And it is still a fun read.

    Also I love how the cover implies how Indy is fighting a Marvelesque figure , almost Quasimodian

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