Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008), a recap (part 3 of 8)

Previously: Indiana Jones had a great trilogy that wrapped up perfectly. And then they made this.

Harrison Ford and Shia LaBeouf are pretending to eat at a diner. Shia introduces himself as Mutt, which Indy thinks is a stupid name, as do I. Mutt says his father died in the war and an archaeologist named Harold Oxley helped raise him. It appears Mutt never asked to see a picture of his father. Is that not a thing someone would be curious about? Maybe his mom just pointed to Bob Barker.

This episode was legen… you get the idea.

Mutt says that his mom got a letter from “the Ox” saying he was down in Peru. He was investigating a skull—a crystal skull. Apparently, he was obsessed with the skull found by “Mitchell Hedgekiss”. Indy corrects him, saying that the Ox and he were obsessed with the “Mitchell-Hedges” skull in college. No, Indy, you weren’t.


F.A. Mitchell-Hedges was a British adventurer. He claimed to have found a crystal skull in a tomb in Belize in the 1920s. But two things: first, the Mitchell-Hedges skull wasn’t known to anyone before 1943. That’s long after Indy was in college. Second, no archaeologist ever took the discovery seriously. It bore no resemblance to anything the Mayans had ever made or could have made.

Did I say two things? I meant three things. Third, and I can’t stress this enough, the skull has been conclusively proven to be a fraud. It’s been dated to long after the Mayans had passed. It also bears markings of modern tools. Some crazy people disagree, but the skull (and others that keep turning up) is not real. At best—at best—some of the skulls may have been 19th century decorations made for Mexican churches.

And this is what makes me angriest. Indiana Jones movies are about humans coming into contact with the divine. There really was an Ark of the Covenant. And if Jesus existed, he probably used a cup. These things tap into the wonder of faith. A skull that was known to be fake at the time this movie was made? That’s so stupid, it’s insulting.

Spielberg chose… poorly.

Mutt says that Ox was taking the skull to Akakor. Indy finds this very exciting. Akakor was a city of gold, built for the natives by men in flying ships. According to the legend as Indy tells it, whomever returns the crystal skull to Akakor is granted its power.

Akakor was briefly a real legend. The tale of the city was told to a German journalist by a self-proclaimed Brazilian native chief in the early ’70s. You might be asking: Was any of this legend in any way true? Nope. In 1993, the “chief” was proven to be a German ex-pat who had relocated to Brazil to avoid paying child support and engage in his true passion of being a full-time lunatic.

So, to sum up, the “legend” of Akakor didn’t exist until fifteen years after the events of Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, and had been disproven fifteen years before the making of Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. That is just so, so much fail.

Ox hid the skull. Mutt’s mother went down to South America to find the Ox. He’d been kidnapped. His captors told her that if she didn’t bring them the skull, they’d kill him. She sent Mutt to ask Indy for help. Why would he help some guy’s mom?

Oh, now I get it.

Before Indy can piece this together, the two Russians from the train come over and ask Indy to come with them and bring Ox’s letter. Well, they’re asking as more of a formality. They’re holding guns.

As they’re walking out, Indy tells Mutt to punch some random college guy. He does and this starts a fight between everybody in the diner dressed like Richie Cunningham and everybody dressed like the Fonz.

“When you’re a Jet, you’re a Jet all the way!”

As a distraction, this works. Indy and Mutt run out, chased by the KGB. They get on Mutt’s motorcycle and tear ass out of there with the KGB guys in a car right behind them. I don’t say enough nice things about this movie (in that I don’t say any nice things about this movie), so here’s one: Many of the motorcycle stunts are obviously done by Harrison Ford and Shia LaBeouf themselves. Steven “Remember That Time Liam Neeson Made You Cry Like a Baby?” Spielberg makes the most of it, with lots of close-up shots of his $25 million actor and whatever state quarter collection LaBeouf got paid.

During the chase, Indy gets pulled completely into the car. He has a fistfight with the guy and then climbs back out of the car and onto the moving motorcycle. This gets a big musical sting from John Williams. They’re driving on sidewalks and through buildings. They drive through a student protest where people are holding signs which I like to imagine say, “Join the Conversation”.

Indy and Mutt attempt to drive through a library.

It’s actually the University Commons dining room at Yale, but you get the idea

The two finally wipe out. While he’s lying on the floor, a student asks Jones a question about his archeology homework. Fun fact: the student is played by Tom Hanks’ son, Chet (the one who isn’t Colin).

This is actually Tom Hanks in Philadelphia, but you get the idea.

As Jones and Mutt get back on the motorcycle and ride away, Indy calls back, “If you want to be a good archaeologist, you’ve got to get out of the library!”

In the next scene, they’re back at the Jones house doing research. The KGB knew Indy by name, so… wouldn’t they be looking for him here? I don’t know. I’ve been humming the Indiana Jones theme since halfway through the car chase.

Dr. Jones has a bunch of books open as he tries to decode Oxley’s letter. He states that it’s written in Koihoma. It’s not. Koihoma had no written component. It’s also not Mayan. Some of the symbols sort of look like Olmec, a Mexican civilization that thrived around 1,000 B.C.E. (Before Cows Exploded). But in general, it’s just gibberish.

“All work and no play makes Jack legen… you get the idea.”

Easy to make out on the letter are pictures of a cross and an elongated skull. There’s also a drawing of what I think are the ruins of the church from the Enrique Iglesias video where he punches Mickey Rourke.

Jones interprets all this as a riddle: Follow the lines in the earth only gods can read which lead to Orellana’s cradle guarded by the living dead. It looked like there were way more words than that, but okay. Indy correctly surmises the lines “only gods can read” are the Nazca lines. They actually exist and are actually cool. The Nazca people of Peru, 2,000 years ago, drew huge line art in the ground. Some were just geometric patterns, but they also included pictures of birds, fish, monkeys, and other animals.

The most amazing thing about the Nazca lines is that the shapes generally cannot be seen from anywhere but an airplane. And nobody knows exactly why they were made.

Since the reboot, Marvel has declared this non-canon.

Hey, the movie is now doing that thing where the plane flies as a line gets drawn on a map. It takes about five hops to get to Peru. They end up on a dirt runway surrounded by chickens (chickens being the universal shorthand for “South America”). They also brought Mutt’s motorcycle. That must have been expensive.

They find out that Ox was locked up for a time in a local sanitarium. They choose to walk there trusting, I guess, that nobody in Peru knows how to steal a motorcycle. Mutt is amazed that Indy speaks the local language. In a nod to the events in the pilot episode of The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, Indy says he picked it up while riding with Pancho Villa.

As they make their way to the asylum, Indy and Mutt have a heart-to-heart about disappointing their parents. Indy says Mutt should be nice to his mom, whoever she is. Mutt says she’s mad at him for dropping out of school. Apparently, he was a great student, but decided that he could learn more from real life than from books. Doctor of Archeology Henry Jones, Jr. agrees with this sentiment.

Pictured: The minimum number of books you have to read to earn a PhD in Archeology.

A nun leads Mutt and Jones down into what appears to be a medieval dungeon filled with cells of insane Peruvians crying and banging their heads against the iron bars. It’s not the best health care system, though it’s still way better than Florida.

According to the nun, Ox was taken out of the prison some time ago by men with guns. Before that, he spent his time shouting incoherently and drawing pictures all over the walls. She lets them into Ox’s cell. Despite obvious overcrowding, they chose to: a) give him a room slightly bigger than the average hotel lobby; and b) leave it empty as a permanent tribute.

“We’re keeping this room open in case we have to hold a Bar Mitzvah.”

Indy is back to puzzling out clues. Ox wrote the word “return” in a bunch of different languages. He also drew more elongated skulls. For reasons known only to Steven “It’s a Bridge with Spies on It” Spielberg, Indiana starts sweeping the floor frantically. He finds more carvings, which he declares to be a representation of the grave of Francisco de Orellana.

Using nothing but a very dusty line drawing, Indy is able to figure out where Orellana was buried. In the next scene, they’re both already there because this is a movie. It’s the ruins of a Spanish mission right next to that Nazca drawing of the non-canon spider. (In reality, Orellana died 2,900 miles from there in Pará, Brazil, but once again, movie.)

Our two adventurers wander around with shovels, looking for the exact burial spot. Mutt spots movement in the shadows. They make their way down into the half-excavated site when they’re… well, they’re… they’re attacked by ninjas. It’s ninjas.

The ninjas turn out to be natives wearing really scary skull masks while they flip around and do spin kicks and other finishing moves from Mortal Kombat. Indy scares one off with his pistol. The other is about to blow a dart at Mutt when Indy pops up and forces the attacker to swallow his own poison arrow.

They never address it, but it appears Jones just killed the guy. This is all very exciting, unless you try to imagine this guy’s backstory. This tribesman trained his entire life to protect a sacred burial ground from white grave-robbers. Then one night, white grave-robbers show up. He springs into action, finally fulfilling his one sworn purpose. His family will be so proud. And thirty seconds into the fight, he gets murdered by the hero of the movie.

Jones kills a morally blameless person. I mean, Nazis are at least Nazis. Sacred ninja Peruvian natives are almost completely different. This homicide isn’t an isolated incident for Indy. He kills all sorts of people. There are message boards that try to add them up. IMDb even has a page devoted to it.

And it’s a meme, because of course it’s a meme.

Tune in next week for Part Four which will be legen… you get the idea.

Jordon Davis

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

State of Georgia - 1996
State of New York - 1997

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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