[Though it was originally written before we recorded the Indiana Jones podcast, and though these positions of the author were more or less covered in that discussion, we are presenting here Matthew Belinkie’s original musings on Indy 4. They are, if nothing else, of historical interest. –Ed.]
My freshman year of college, I was really really excited about Star Wars: Episode 1. I bought a plastic lightsaber. I tuned into MTV for the premiere of the “Duel of the Fates” music video. Downloaded all the trailers, including the TV spots. And then I went to see it on opening day… and I claimed to love it. Lord help me, I came out of that theater and said I was totally satisfied.
Of course, that state of denial didn’t last long. Gradually, over the next year, after seeing it again and talking to others, I had to admit the movie was a huge disappointment. But initially, I wanted it to be good so much that I just couldn’t bring myself to admit that it wasn’t.
I’m not going to make that same mistake now. As much as I wanted a fourth amazing Indiana Jones adventure to add to the other three I have memorized, Crystal Skull doesn’t cut it. Here’s some of my initial gripes.
When did Indy become Bugs Bunny?
Look, I know it’s a fantasy and you’ve got to suspend some disbelief. But some of the things that happened in this movie were so silly, they just ruined it for me.
- Mutt swings through the trees like Tarzan, somehow catching up to a speeding jeep. Oh, and he gets monkeys to attack the Russians somehow.
- Marion drives her car off a hundred foot cliff, somehow knowing it would ride a treetop gently down to the surface of the river.
- The gang rides an amphibious vehicle down three giant waterfalls, completely unharmed. Even worse is the shot of Marion on the shore, still gripping the steering wheel in shock. This is straight out of Loony Toons.
And the worst…
- Indy climbs inside a refrigerator, gets knocked about two miles through the sky by a nuclear explosion, and climbs out barely rattled.
There’s no way this would have happened in Raiders. Raiders of the Lost Ark feels like a fun movie for grown-ups. Now, Indy’s become a caricature of himself. Crystal Skull feels like it’s for 13-year-olds. Which maybe explains why…
Indy doesn’t shoot anyone
In fact, I’m pretty sure not a single person gets shot onscreen (with the exception of the Russian who gets shot in the foot). I think Indy pulls out his trusty pistol only once, and he doesn’t fire it – he just points it at a guy in the cemetery to scare him away.
“So what?” a lot of people will say. Well, I feel like one of the hallmarks of a Indy movie is that he kills bad guys. If someone is menacing him with a sword, he will gun that guy down, and forget about him before he hits the ground. Think of all the Nazis he shoots in the first and third films – that’s a crucial part of the Indy formula for me. I may be wrong about this, but I don’t recalling Indy killing a single Russian on purpose in Crystal Skull. Not one. (He hits a few with a jeep while escaping, some get lit on fire accidentally, someone gets carried away by giant ants, etc. But all these are basically accidents.)
I blame George Lucas for this. Remember the whole Greedo Shoots First thing? I’m somewhat shocked that Lucas hasn’t “fixed” Raiders so that the sword guy pulls out a gun the moment before Indy blows him away. And if you think I’m kidding, remember how Steven Spielberg “fixed” E.T. by replacing all the guns with walkie-talkies?
Oh, speaking of how George Lucas ruins everything…
Too much CGI
From the very first shot, with the fake gopher poking its head out of the hole, I knew they were going to tart this thing up with “digital wizardry.”
Raiders: hundred of real snakes. Doom: hundreds of real bugs. Crusade: hundreds of real rats. Skull: clearly fake flesh-eating ants… which were a lot cooler in The Mummy, anyway. Damn you, George Lucas.
“I like my hair” does not constitute a character
Look, I like Shia Labeouf, but Mutt Williams did nothing for me. He enters the movie with a really awkwardly-written scene in a diner, where’s he’s forced to lay out a complicated plot. Then he gets to drive a motorcycle, which is cool. But once he’s taken out of his element, into South America, where he has no useful skills and no idea what’s going on, he loses any potential cool he might have had. Which is too bad, because I think making him the son of Marion Ravenwood was an opportunity. She’s a pretty badass woman, and the daughter of Indy’s mentor. Mutt Williams could have easily grown up exploring the world with his mom, learning a dozen languages, and generally turning into a young Indy. Instead, he’s an extra from Grease, who knows how to fix motorcycles and do switchblade tricks, but not much else.
Can we all just agree that as far as Indy sidekicks go, he’s a distant, distant third to Short Round and Henry Jones Sr.? Disturbingly, there have been rumors Lucas is keen to continue the series with Shia’s character taking the leading role. I’m sorry, but “The Adventures of Mutt Williams, the Greaser Who Knows Nothing About Archeology” just doesn’t get me excited. (Honestly, I’d be a lot more interested in seeing some more Young Indiana Jones Chronicles. Let’s see Indy during the 1920’s, young and hungry, hacking through the jungle in search of fortune and glory.)
That’s how you want to end the movie? Really?
Look, this may be less of a complaint than an “if I were Steven Speilberg” musing, but I found the wedding between Indy and Marion to be really anti-climatic. Indiana Jones gets married… and only the first three rows of the church are filled? This is a guy with friends in every country on earth; that place should have been PACKED with exotic characters. I wanted to see French foreign legion guys, the Princess of Norway, a bunch of Shaolin monks, Salvador Dali, a British man in a tuxedo who calls himself “James,” etc.
This is, after all, the last scene in the last Indiana Jones movie that will probably ever be made. Surrounding Indy with friends from around the globe would have not only been an excellent farewell to the character, it would have alluded to the hundreds of Indiana Jones adventures we DIDN’T see.
Instead, we get a tiny, conservative wedding. Underwhelming… which pretty much sums up this movie.