Stuff *I* didn’t like about Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Not to step on Matt’s toes, but this has been bothering me. The Indiana Jones franchise has always been about searching for an artifact that is tied into a major world religion. 1)  Ark of the Covenant : Judaism. 2) … Continued

Not to step on Matt’s toes, but this has been bothering me.

The Indiana Jones franchise has always been about searching for an artifact that is tied into a major world religion.

1)  Ark of the Covenant : Judaism.

2) Weird glowy rocks : Hinduism.  Kiiind of.  While none of the Indiana Jones movies are going to win any cultural sensitivity awards, I suppose I really should pause to mention that Temple of Doom’s depiction of Hinduism is ludicrous and offensive, even if the bad guys were supposed to be a nutty fringe cult.  Still, narratively speaking, the rocks get the job done.

3) The Holy Grail : Christianity.

But then we get to the latest film…

4) The Crystal Skull : ???

And there’s just no reason to care about it.  It turns out that there actually is an old cryptoarchaeology fraud about some actual crystal skulls, but this isn’t very interesting because first of all, no one knows about it, and second, it’s, uh, fraudulent.  And you know what?  Third, we don’t care because they basically spend the whole movie in posession of the skull!  Dudes, you’re supposed to have to go find the thing. Don’t you remember how this works?

And let’s look at the subtle cultural bias here.  Jewish religious artifact?  Lays the righteous smack of JHWH down on some Nazis.  Christian religious artifact?  “But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.”  “Hindu” religious artifact?  Well, it burns the hell out of Indy’s backpack, and you’ve got to imagine that the high priest’s heart-ripping-out mojo came from somewhere.  At any rate, they don’t try to explain away the weirdness.  But the vaguely Incan/Mayan/Aztec/What-Have-You religious artifact?  It’s just space aliens.  Would we have accepted a version of The Last Crusade where the grail turned out to be some kind of metaphor for a flying saucer?  I think not.  But the religious traditions of the precolumbian Mesoamericans don’t get the same respect, because they weren’t “true.”  I mean, obviously, or else their civilization wouldn’t have been wiped out by smallpox, am I right? Am I right, guys?  High five! *Sigh.*

Lucas/Spielberg couldn’t even be bothered to come up with an actual Aztec myth to bastardize. And that’s a  shame because the Centzon Totochin sound like they got down.

Almost as troubling as the ethnocentrism is the wasted opportunity.  I mean, they’d already done Christianity, Judaism, and Hinduism, so what’s left?  Is there a major world religion that they haven’t touched yet, that’s incredibly relevant to 2008 America, and that’s dominant in a part of the world where Archaeologists go all the freaking time?  Anyone?


You know what, actually, I can’t think of anything either.  It’s probably best they stuck with the Crystal Skull… there really weren’t any other options left.

(Pay no attention to the elephant in the room.)

15 Comments on “Stuff *I* didn’t like about Kingdom of the Crystal Skull”

  1. Ben #



  2. Matt #

    Jordan –

    If I recall correctly, immediately after we saw this movie, you gave it a B+, basically because it included whipping. How’s it seem with a little distance?

    – Matt


  3. Stokes #

    Ben: I guess they kind of DID use scientology, huh?

    Matt: Might downgrade it to a B. But I still enjoyed it, and I’m guessing that some of the stuff that was absoludicrous the first time around (i.e. Shia LaBouef, king of the monkeys) will annoy me less if I ever see it again. My main problem with that scene, and the others like it, is that they took me out of the movie, and that’s less of a problem if you know what to expect ahead of time.


  4. Gab #

    ::sings:: Everyone’s a little bit racist, it’s truuuuue…


  5. Kate #

    I’d like to think that this movie implies that all the other artifacts are tied to space alien culture, it was just never spelled out for us. But maybe I’m just reaching for it because I want to believe Martians can melt the face off a Nazi.


  6. Stokes #

    Kate: Brilliant! Oh man, imagine if they came out with “Special Edition” versions of the first three movies, only instead of making Greedo shoot first or making the guns into walkie-talkies, they just plopped Grey Aliens into the background of all the supernatural scenes! The horror…

    Matt, I think I have a video editing project for you.


  7. Crazy Loco #

    I think they should have found Tom Hanks. Then watched as he and Tom Cruise flew off in a spaceship together. And took Katie Holmes with them.
    The end.


  8. fenzel OTI Staff #


    Or was that the nine years where Indiana Jones was blissfully content not making movies?


  9. Ben #

    Stokes: Although they alluded to the great works of L. Ron, I’d much prefer it if the next one featured Nancy Cartwright as a villain, enslaving kids and pulling engrams out of people.

    Maybe Beck could team up with John Williams for the soundtrack?


  10. Gab #

    They could just do a remix of “Sexx Laws” and extend the video into a full-length feature film. It’s chock-full of aliens, after all…

    Alien v. Indiana Jones, anyone?


  11. Michael N #

    So the Ark of the Covenant, the Holy Grail, and Glowy rock things aren’t fraudulent? Yeah… right…

    I don’t have much of a problem with the topic of the movie. Afterall, in past movies we’ve seen such sci-fi/fantasy weirdness as people being melted by a box filled with spirits, hearts getting ripped out, brain-washing, magic burning stones, and a dude that’s lived for hundreds of years waiting for people to get a cup that grants eternal life and heals wounds, wrongly chosen cups that rapidly age the victim, all sorts of ancient contraptions that could never have been built by ancient people, aaaaaaaaaaand a grown professor running around the world with a young chinese kid without anyone questioning that or his tenure being challenged. Advanced extraterrestrial technology from aliens or interdimensional beings is really not that much crazier.

    It’s just that years of bad alien movies and TV shows have tainted the idea and made it cliche. It’s just like how a pretty well-done movie like Signs gets knocked because there were aliens in it, and just like all the copycats of The Matrix “ruined” bullet-time so much that some people were complaining about it in the _Matrix sequels_. I mean c’mon.

    My real beef with Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is that there was too much cheesiness, corniness, and overall lameness (Indy surviving a Nuclear explosion in a refridgerator, and Indy JR. swinging on vines with monkeys. Just what the hell, haha.)

    It’s not that the Indy movies tackle things from religions – they take on mythologies of all sorts, and the alien thing certainly fits to me.


  12. Gab #

    The point was that those religions have been BELIEVED and PRACTICED by so many for so long that, unless you’re a Scientologist, there is no established doctrine or dogma to pull from about aliens. Even if a person doesn’t follow the religion being portrayed, however loosely and science-fiction-esque that portrayal is, the history of the establishment of that religion runs deep enough within the global culture that those myths and legends are much easier to swallow, even by non-believers. And while Native American myths and stories have been around just as long, Western society had no idea they existed until a few hundred years ago- so no matter what spin you put on them, the combined unfamiliarity of Native American and alien myth makes for a very hard-to-swallow scenario.


  13. Michael N #

    Maybe I have a tainted perspective, because I had heard theories of Egyptian and Mayan civilizations being based on alien interaction. Sure they aren’t religions, but they weren’t made up just for the film either. Heck, I’ve even heard the idea that the Old Testament was mostly a bad recollection of alien encounters. Ezekials “Wheel within a wheel” as UFOs, burning bushes as holograms or some sort of communication… Not saying any of it is true of course haha, just that the idea existed prior to the movie.


  14. Gab #

    Well, I’ll be honest, I’d never heard of the aliens in the BIBLE bit- yeah, the Egypitians and Mayans, but not Christianity. Not to say I’m the be-all, end-all authority, but I really don’t those theories aren’t nearly as common, or at least commonly ACCEPTED. The theories that the pyramids (on both continents) came from aliens are generally scoffed at by common culture. Yeah, there are probably intellectual circles that are VERY serious about them, but those are relatively small and unknown, and probably snickered at by the bulk of popular science/theory/culture.


  15. Kopakka el Incrópito #

    Burning bushes could be next… I’d like that… On so many levels.


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