Kingdom of the Crystal Skull Live Blog

Now that Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull has arrived on DVD, the time has come for one last nostalgia-filled live blogging adventure. In case you need a refresher, the original three installments can be found here, here, and here.

I enjoyed Kingdom of the Crystal Skull when I saw it in the theater, but I can't say I was blown away. It was difficult comparing it to the original Indy movies at first, since they are like old friends, and familiarity is one of their biggest assets. But each time I re-watch Crystal Skull, certain lines become more quotable, the flaws become sort of endearing, and my affection for the film grows. Of course it's no Raiders, but it has a place along side the other two sequels on my movie shelf.

Using the old school Paramount logo is a nice touch. On the other hand, the mountain dissolving into a small dirt mound as a prairie dog emerges is kind of a bizarre touch. Prairie dog cameo count: 1.

Regarding the drag race during the opening credits, Kristen asked, "what purpose did that serve?" My answer: "They are establishing the '50s." Immediately following this, a subtitle reading "Nevada 1957" appeared on screen. "That seemed to work just as well," retorted Kristen. Touché.

Russian Colonel Dovchenko makes a dramatic entrance, joining a proud line of evil colonels who have it out for Indy, including Colonel Dietrich from Raiders and Colonel Vogel from Crusade.

Given the long, troubled development history of this movie, Indy making his return by getting pulled out of a trunk and tossed to the ground seems strangely appropriate. But even after all this time, the fedora still fits.

Steven Spielberg has stated that he attempted to be faithful to the visual style of the original movies. While they made a noble effort, it is immediately evident that Crystal Skull is from in a different era of filmmaking. Many scenes have that modern gloss that just wasn't there in the old ones.

So, the Ark of the Covenant was stored in a hangar at Area 51. Who knew? Probably not even Spielberg and Lucas when they originally made Raiders.

If there is one thing the movies have taught us, it is that all Russians are inherently evil. In regards to Irina Spalko, the fact that she is an aspiring psychic with a distinct dominatrix vibe is just the sinister icing on her cake of villainy, as it were.

I look forward to the Mythbusters episode when they test if a highly magnetized object will actually cause gun powder to float through the air.

What's inside the magnetized box? The original, unaltered negatives for Star Wars? Spielberg's ballcap collection? Nope, it's E.T.'s rotting carcass.

Mac's double cross count: 1.

"No defiant last words, Dr. Jones?"
"I like Ike."

Classic Indy Moment #23 - Warehouse pursuit. After watching Harrison Ford get warmed up by swinging from rafters and pounding Russian thugs, you've got to admit the guy's still got it. He's practically as spry as a 50 year old.

Prairie dog cameo count: 2. So which beard has the rodent fetish, Spielberg or Lucas?

As for the notorious "nuking the fridge" sequence, I find it to be an amusing parody of 1950s "Duck & Cover" nuclear scare culture. Having said that, when Indy manages to evade death this time, I think he used up any surplus immortality left over from drinking out of the Holy Grail.

The payoff of the "nuking the fridge" scene offers a striking juxtaposition of the old guard vs. the new, courtesy of ILM.

Prairie dog cameo count: 3. The hardcore fans are starting to get fidgety.

Why is the Janitor (Neil Flynn) in such a surly mood? Maybe he is still upset about getting shot by the one-armed man in The Fugitive.

"Brutal couple of years, huh Charlie? First Dad, then Marcus."
"We seem to have reached the age where life stops giving us things and starts taking them away."

Enter Shia, aka "Mutt" Williams. Say, wasn't Indy named after the family dog? Hmm...

Any time Indy starts with "The legend says...", you know you are headed for a nice meaty exposition scene.

Classic Indy Moment #24 - Indy meets American Graffiti. The impromptu diner brawl and ensuing motorcycle chase are what Indiana Jones is all about.

Marcus Brody was so brilliant, the head of his honorary statue can even fly off against forward momentum.

It's all relative: In the midst of the motorcycle chase, Mutt chuckles at the mayhem and Indy gives him a stern look, just like the one Sean Connery gave him during a similar chase in Crusade.

This time, the customary Wilhelm scream comes courtesy of an unfortunate bookworm in study hall.

"You know, for an old man you ain't bad in a fight. What are you like 80?"

Movie Glossary
Book Smarts: Books are always opened right to the exact page a character is planning to reference. Examples: Pointing out the illustration of the Ark in the Bible (Raiders), Indy explaining the Nazca lines to Mutt (Crystal Skull).

Looks like Lionel Pritchard and the Wolfington brothers have taken their crop circle hijinks all the way to Peru. Get Officer Paski on the phone!

Just to clarify, when the legend says "guarded by the living dead," they actually mean "guarded by kung fu masters in skull masks."

"You're a teacher?"
"Part time."

Unlike the other Indy movies, obtaining the object (crystal skull) is the easy part. But much like the other ones, holding onto it is another story.

Classic Indy Moment #25 - Indy and Marion's reunion. Indy's momentary look of sheer giddiness is perfection.

So it turns out Mutt is Indy's son. That has to be one of the least surprising twists in movie history. Indy's reaction is great though: "Why the hell didn't you make him finish school?"

Classic Indy Moment #26 - Quicksand rescue. This may be one of my favorite comedic moments from any of the Indy movies.

"Grab the snake!"
"Stop calling it that!"
"It's a snake, what do you want me to call it?"
"Say grab the rope!"

Nothing like a little Jones family teamwork, bickering Dovchenko into submission.

Mac's double cross count: 2.

No one stages an action sequence quite like Spielberg. I knew that detail about Mutt being proficient with a fencing blade was going to pay off later.

Could have done without the "Mutt getting hit in the crotch" gag...

...and the Tarzan sequence. Honestly, what were they thinking? Terrible.

The saifu, aka "big damn ants" are slightly disappointing since they are completely CG, in contrast to the real snakes, bugs, and rats of the previous movies. They are not completely without squirms though, such as...

Okay, I'm calling it. The scene where they drive off the cliff and land in a tree, which gently sets them down in the river before springing back up to smack the Russians soldiers climbing down the cliff has to be the most cartoony moment of the entire series. That's practically Wile E. Coyote territory.

Why settle for one waterfall when you can have three? Luckily Harrison Ford is an expert at jumping off giant waterfalls, as Tommy Lee Jones can attest.

Seems kind of impractical for the natives to hide inside the pyramid walls. How long have they been in there? How do they entertain themselves during their down time? Do they have a private contractor that seals them all back in when their protecting is done?

That crystal skull sure does come in handy. First it created a convenient fighting ring for Indy and Dovchenko, now it is warding off the natives. Dare I say it's a screenwriter's dream?

Classic Indy Moment #27 - Entering the Mayan pyramid. This is what practical set building is all about. Love the retracting steps and spikes awaiting them at the bottom.

Mac's double cross count: Ah, does anyone really care at this point?

"I've got a bad feeling about this." Hey, wrong series guys!

Looking at movie history, aliens were the defining supernatural threat of the time period, so their inclusion in the story makes perfect sense to me.

For those who might still be having trouble coming to grips with aliens in an Indy movie, an earlier version of the script, titled Indiana Jones and the Saucer Men from Mars, reportedly featured a climactic battle between the U.S. military and flying saucers. So you can thank your lucky stars that the extraterrestrial aspect has been toned down somewhat.

Wait, the so-called aliens aren't actually extraterrestrial. They are interdimensional. Thanks for clarifying that, Professor Oxley.

I also don't understand the criticism from diehard fans that Indy is too much of a bystander during the climax of the movie. Remember the end of Raiders? He was tied to a post with his eyes closed!

"What the hell is that?"
"A portal, a pathway to another dimension."
"Don't think we want to go that way."

Classic Indy Moment #28 - The woman who knew too much. In my Raiders live blog, I pondered how the face melting scene would have turned out had it been done with CG. After witnessing Irina Spalko's eyes burst into flames and turn to dust, now we know, and it's not quite as cool.

"Where'd they go? Into space?"
"Not into space... into the space between spaces."

In other words, the same place where Indy 5 is being developed.


Krissy said...

You can thank my trip to the Hirshima atomic bomb museum for the following tidbit

Sure, maybe the lead-lined refrigerator protected Indy from the blast, but it seemed stupid of him to get out of it as soon as he lands. What about fallout? By the time they got into their motorcycle chase, his face should've been melting off... literally.

Ben said...

I liked this movie the first time I saw it but it was one of those movies where, upon leaving, I knew I would have to see it again to see how much of my initial reaction was due to it being new, rather than actually it being good, if that makes sense. Luckily we went and saw it two days later and I was convinced it was a keeper. So Dave, here are my thoughts:

Of course russians are evil, this movie takes place in the 50s. It wasn't until the 80s that Rocky Balboa ended the Cold War and the Russians became our friends. "If I can change...and you can change...."

One of my favorite overlooked lines is when they are questioning Indy and one of his buddy CIA agents scolds him for getting inside the fridge because (paraphrasing) "The lead in those things'll kill ya."

"Punch Joe College" "Get that greaser!" good stuff

If Officer Paski can't take care of Lionel Pritchard and the Wolfington brothers, then they can always get Graham and Merrill to run around in circles and "act crazy"...you know, curse and stuff. "Aaah! I'm insane with anger!"

The quicksand scene is great..."Maybe I can touch the bottom."

I was hoping that when we saw the aliens for the first time, Will Smith would come out of nowhere, punch it in the face and yell "Welcome to Earf!"

I too was hoping that Spalko would have died a more gruesome death. Dave, you mentioned something along the lines of the X-Men 3 scene with Professor X, and I agree.

One more thing. I never felt a sense of danger with this movie, like the main characters never seemed to be in real peril, I don't know why that I felt that way. I guess Indy's starting to get a reputation? Overall, I love this movie, and I know it's good because I find myself at random times telling myself I want to watch it again.