Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008), a recap (part 7 of 8)

Previously: There was a big chase scene wherein nothing anybody did had any causal relationship with anything that came before.

Anyway, our five heroes are sailing to an ancient alien city in a jeep. The adventurers get about thirty seconds to enjoy the Amazon River before John Hurt looks into the distance and proclaims, “Three times it drops.” Everyone is confused by this, but it sounds to me like they’re headed for not one, not two, but three separate waterfalls.

Iguaza Falls, the actual location from the movie. We should go sometime.

I’m right. They spot a waterfall. Everybody panics. They all yell, “Ahhhh!!” as the boat-jeep goes over the falls. The thing bobs to the surface completely upright, with everybody still in or near their seats. Before they can properly process this experience, they go over the second waterfall. It’s the same thing.

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The third waterfall is huge. This one ejects everybody and capsizes the boat-jeep. It looks very much like they should have all died upon landing on the million or so rocks at the bottom, but they all just swim to shore without a problem. I don’t know why Steven “Let’s get Dakota Fanning to Boston” Spielberg put this in the movie. The waterfalls weren’t a test or chance for character development of any sort, as far as I can tell. They were just a thing they survived. 

It’s like if Harrison Ford jumped, but then went and got a job at Arby’s instead of looking for the one-armed man.

Oxley is babbling about passing through two eyes of tears. Mutt figures out that this means they have to go under a waterfall. Indy gets very serious and says he’ll return the skull, and nobody else has to go. They ask him why and he explains, reasonably, that the skull told him to. Regardless, they all go wandering into the cave under the waterfall.

Indy looks at the cave wall and starts naming minerals. This tells him that the cave is 5,000 years old. I don’t know if that’s a thing a person can tell just by looking at a cave wall, and I don’t want to look it up. I already spent half an hour trying to figure out if you could pull a 180-pound person with a snake.

They find some old murals that show that someone taught the natives farming and irrigation. Oxley holds up the crystal skull, and it matches the figure in the mural. Indy says he thinks he understands. Of course you understand, Henry. It’s the same legend you told Mutt, and the same one Spalko told you. Also, she showed you an actual alien corpse.

There are shows on the History Channel that contain less hard evidence.

The cave has turned into your more standard Indiana Jones underground tunnel system, and Oxley leads them further in. From behind one of the stone masks carved into the wall, we see an eye following them. Out of various hiding places in the shadows and on the ceiling, a dozen or so natives drop down and begin to stalk our heroes. I’m going to guess these guys are the same Native American guardians as the ones Indy fought in Peru.

Sensing that they’re being followed, the group begins running, and they burst out into the sunlight. They’re now at the top of a pyramid that’s either Mayan or Aztec or Nazca or some combination thereof. They run down the steps of the pyramid, and hundreds of natives chase them across an open plain with blow-darts and nets and stuff, and they nearly capture everyone. Indy says to Oxley, “You’ve been here before. How did you get past them?” So Oxley…

Dammit, movie! Oxley shows the skull to the natives, and they all back off just like the ants. They stand around helpless as the five just walk right past them. This doesn’t make sense. They’re the protectors of the stupid alien skull place. As Indy just said, they’ve seen both Oxley and the skull before. They should have had a plan for this.

Also, has the movie established that Oxley actually has been here before? We know he found a skull, we know it told him the location of Akator, we know he hid it a thousand miles away in Orellana’s tomb, and we know he’s been babbling about a “return”. If he’d already taken the skull to Akator, then wouldn’t he have already returned it? Also, if he’s been here before, why did he have to give directions in a series of riddles about sleeping rivers and crying eyes?

John Hurt does not have good luck with aliens.

At the top of this pyramid, there’s a huge obelisk with stone faces set into it. Oxley mutters some more nonsense, which Indy takes to mean that he has to hit the faces with a rock. He manages to use a rock to pull one of the faces free, and sand begins running out of the hole. They all run around punching stone faces until sand is pouring everywhere.

The top portion of the obelisk begins sinking into the bottom portion as the sand gives way. And congratulations to the ancient Mesoamericans for designing sand that went 5,000 years without getting wet and turning to concrete in, you know, a rainforest.

As the obelisk sinks, it lifts four huge pillars upright until they come together. This opens some sort of trapdoor that the five fall through. This is very cool for only one reason: Steven “I slapped a 13 year-old Christian Bale” did it as a practical effect. He spent actual money to build this.

They paid for this out of the ant and monkey budget.

Indy and the crew fall inside the pyramid, where they find themselves at the top of a spiraling series of stairs. The stairs begin disappearing into the wall, and they all run down as fast as possible before the stairs retract fully. They then drop the last few feet into some standing water. What was the point of this? Why have a solvable sand puzzle to get into the pyramid just to have booby-trapped stairs?

Elated that they survived the stair thing, Marion and Indy find each other and almost kiss. Marion, by the way, hasn’t done one damn thing in this movie. She could have been replaced by lamp—a once-sexy and now sweet, grandmotherly lamp—and it would have made no difference.

Mac takes a moment to loot the remains of a dead conquistador and… what? A dead conquistador? So they got this far 400 years ago and then somebody reset the stairs, filled the obelisk with sand and reaffixed all those stone faces. Was it the natives? Because they were too afraid to get anywhere near the temple in the last scene.

Mac inconspicuously drops a small, blinking tracker. Cut to outside where Spalko picks up a similar tracker, and we see that she and her men have shot all of the natives. There are bodies everywhere. But if she had the ability to track Indy and the skull, why did she bother with the jungle chase? She should have just let them all go and then followed them to the pyramid. Her plan hinged on trying very hard to kill Indiana Jones and failing by just enough to lose him, but not enough to be eaten by ants.

And I suppose we have to deal with this Mac thing. Jones has been letting Mac tag along in the belief Mac is really CIA. He did this even though Mac has betrayed him at literally every opportunity. Since becoming a good guy, he hasn’t done one damn thing to help Indy in any way whatsoever. I’ve had hallucinations that were more tightly scripted.

Pictured: Men Without Hats being more coherent than this movie.

The team wanders down into some sort of treasure room that’s filled with statues and artifacts made from stone and, let’s suppose, bronze. There are treasures from every society in ancient history: Etruscan, Egyptian, Babylonian, and so on. Indiana then says the single stupidest line in the entire movie. “They were archaeologists.” A little later he’ll say, “Knowledge was their treasure.” This should anger you. Be angered.

First of all, if they were archaeologists, then you would expect the artifacts to be, you know, curated. Instead, they’re just strewn everywhere. There are no demarcations as to where one kingdom’s stuff ends and another begins. They aren’t even in discrete piles. That’s not archaeology, that’s hoarding. Second, piles of crap aren’t knowledge.

It’s like if your dad said he’d buy you a car and then gave you this.

Also, collecting stuff isn’t archaeology; it’s grave robbing. Cataloging stuff with notes and pictures in order to learn about the past is archaeology. But in that case, you’re supposed to give it all back. It’s called repatriation, and it’s basically the difference between the British and basic human decency.

But the aliens weren’t even collecting relics of past civilizations. They were collecting artifacts of civilizations that still existed. So by definition, they weren’t archaeologists. They were anthropologists. Professor Henry Jones, Jr. does not know the definition of archaeology.

Digging up this picture? Now that’s archaeology.

Oxley takes the skull out of his bag and approaches an ornate door. The second he uncovers the skull, all the coins in the room begin to vibrate. Because the burlap was blocking the magnetism, you see. Everyone is transfixed by the skull except Mac, who’s busy stuffing his pockets with whatever jewelry he can find like he’s in The Goonies.

Indy finds a skull-shaped indentation in the door, and just like a real archaeologist, he presses the skull against it. This triggers some sort of rock counterweight mechanism that causes the doors to retract. Walking through a small passageway, Indy and the rest emerge to find…

…I won’t tell you just now. We’ll save that surprise for next time. Spoiler alert: it’s the end of the movie. They find the end of the movie.

Next Up: I finish this recap and go back to working on my novel.

Jordon Davis

B.A. Political Science, SUNY Albany - 1991
Master of Public Administration, University of Georgia - 1993
Juris Doctorate, Emory University - 1996

Admitted:
State of Georgia - 1996
State of New York - 1997

Winner:
Fields Medal (with Laurent Lafforgue and Vladimir Voevodsky) - 1998

Follow Jordon at @LossLeader on Twitter.

Multi-Part Article: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, a recap

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  • PhysUnknown

    Every time I watch Last Crusade, and Henry Sr asks, “You call this archaeology?” I answer, “NO!”

    Also, if I had a place to work, the tools, and instructions, I would LOVE to get that instead of an assembled car.

  • Kradeiz

    “They find some old murals that show that someone taught the natives farming and irrigation. Oxley holds up the crystal skull, and it matches the figure in the mural.”

    Great. Yet another example of native people’s accomplishments being credited to aliens. I guess I should be grateful that it was just a throwaway line here and not the plot of the entire story like ‘Tattoo’ in Voyager.

    • Greenhornet

      Agreed. I use to like the “ancient astronaut” craze because it was FUN. Now I avoid the von Danikan-type shows because it feels like they should add “because Earthlings are TOO STUPID to make this” every third sentence.

      • The_Shadow_Knows

        I’m not sure “Earthlings are too stupid to make this” quite plumbs the true depths of von Daniken’s obnoxiousness.

        He claimed aliens built the Pyramids, the Easter Island heads, and Machu Picchu. He never claimed they built the Parthenon or Notre Dame. Notice anything about the respective groups he believes were and weren’t helped by aliens?

  • The_Shadow_Knows

    All of your points about the story and writing are well taken, but it isn’t difficult to locate the basic cause. It’s right in the credits: “Story by George Lucas”.

    This is the man who brought us the Star Wars prequels which – in addition to failing very badly in areas like acting and direction – failed comprehensively in every aspect related to story and plot. Why anyone allowed him to write a movie in 2008 is something I’ll never understand.

  • “So they got this far 400 years ago and then somebody reset the stairs,
    filled the obelisk with sand and reaffixed all those stone faces.”

    I always wondered who maintained all those complex traps and kept the caves free of vermin…and properly lit and ventilated….