May 1, 2020
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008), a recap (part 4 of 8)
Previously: Indiana killed a native, but he was standing in the way of the plot, so it’s okay.
Indy and Mutt wander through your typical Raiders-type set. There’s lots of dust and cobwebs and skeletons and stuff. They come to a dead-end, and Indy futzes with some things on the wall and finds a switch that opens a secret door.
The two very lucky adventurers continue down whatever they’re continuing down into. Mutt gets attacked by scorpions for a second. Indy says they’re not poisonous, and then the scorpions all remember they have a meeting or something because they just go away.
The skeletons lining the passageways have elongated skulls. This has no real supernatural origin. The Nazca, along with many other tribes around the world, bound their infants’ heads in order to force them to develop weird. Jones said they did it to honor the gods. He’s probably wrong. It probably had more to do with social status than religion. But he needed to say that line so that the plot works later. It’s kind of the way Doc needed to insist that it requires 1.21 gigawatts to power the Delorean, even though that’s a bizarrely specific thing to say to a high school student.
Indy continues on his hands and knees until he triggers a sort of balancing stone door that leads them to a burial chamber sort of thing. Several mummies are wrapped in old linens. Indy asks Mutt for a knife, and Mutt happily provides his switchblade. Mutt is good with knives. Steven “Life Finds a Way” Spielberg makes sure we know that so that the plot works later.
Jones cuts open the mummy and finds a Spaniard, who’s strikingly well-preserved. Another mummy has been cut open already, and the body inside has on armor with a gold mask. Indy proclaims it to be Orellana himself. As Indy contemplates Orellana’s treasure, some gold pieces fly out of his hand and stick to Orellana’s armor. Sure enough, Indy finds a crystal skull behind Orellana. Because magnets don’t work until you discover them, I guess. Either that, or magnetic fields vary in strength based on one’s beliefs—sort of like the fairies in Peter Pan or supply-side economics.
So here’s what we have to believe: Harold Oxley, who’s already kind of a nut, 1) took his crystal skull to Peru; 2) invaded the tomb of Orellana without bothering the native ninja guards; 3) hid the crystal skull without disturbing any of the metal in the room; 4) left without a trace; 5) used his magic powers to regrow the vines and roots and spiderwebs; and 6) reset all the trap door mechanisms on his way out. Sure. That tracks.
Indiana now has an intermittently magnetic crystal skull. Unlike the real fake skulls, this one is elongated. It also has much larger eyes. According to Indy, it’s one piece of seamless quartz with no tool marks. He says creating such an object isn’t possible with today’s (1957’s) technology. It is, but once again, plot.
Indy ponders the fact that crystal isn’t magnetic, and neither is gold. Thank you. In the name of science, thank you. Indy then creates an entire narrative: Orellana found the skull, but the “Indians” killed him and buried it. Then Oxley dug it up, brought it to Akakor, decided against that course of action, and returned it. The only part of this stupid guessing game that I don’t have a problem with is the use of the word “Indians”. That’s what white people would have called Native Americans right up until the 1960s.
This is about the time in the movie when the bad guys show up to relieve Indy of whatever treasure he’s found. The Russians, having read the script, show up to relieve Indy of the skull. Mac, that British double-agent is leading them, along with that big Russian from the first fight. They travel via another animated map sequence to a camp deep in the Amazon.
The Russians are dancing around the campfire, you know, because Russians. Inside a tent, Mac has Indy shackled to a dentist’s chair. If Laurence Olivier pops in to ask, “Is it safe?” I will declare this the best movie ever made. No? Okay, then.
Indy threatens Mac for a while. Mac tries to appeal to Indy’s greed, saying that once they find Akakor, they’ll be rich, and all the communist vs. capitalist stuff won’t matter. Indiana, not one to be swayed by money, isn’t swayed by money.
Doctor Colonel Irina Spalko comes in, dressed in the same stupid outfit as before. She tells Indy that it was fortunate they didn’t kill him, because he led them right to the skull. Lady, read a book! That’s exactly what Joseph Campbell said should happen! The next thing is the meeting with the goddess, and assuming you consider Karen Allen a goddess, it’s all going exactly to plan.
Cate Blanchett is boring Harrison Ford (not Indiana Jones, Harrison Ford himself looks bored) with a speech about how she’s developing a mind weapon. Also, she can pronounce “w” in this scene. Possibly in hopes of reengaging Ford, Spalko lets on that the crystal skull was not made by humans. She unveils the thing from the crate in the beginning, which turns out to be the corpse of an alien. She peels back some dead, grey alien flesh and reveals its skull is made out of crystal. Its entire skeleton is crystal.
This, by the way, is the point in the movie ten years ago when I completely checked out.
Supposedly, the entire skull is one unbroken piece of crystal. So. Why. The. Hell. Do. The. Aliens. Have. Mouths? They can’t open them. Despite the fact that one picture shows an open mouth, that’s impossible without a free jawbone. And there are lots of parts of the movie where they show the jaw and the skull to be one piece. Indy even called it one piece in the previous scene. Why does it have teeth? I feel like Kathy Bates in Misery. “They just cheated us! This isn’t fair! He didn’t get out of the cock-a-doodie car!”
Indy’s still pretending Akakor is just a legend, so Spalko goes outside and gets a completely crazy Professor Oxley (John Hurt) from around the campfire. Oxley is goofing around, talking in riddles and dancing, sort of like Kathy Bates in Misery. Indy tries to calm him down, which doesn’t work and they take him out.
Spalko then places the single-piece skull with inoperable jaw in front of Indy. He’s supposed to look at it and be entranced. There’s smooth music and shaking and closeups of the skull and Indy sweating. He barks that it’s enough, and they cover the skull.
But Jones still wont help them talk pig Latin to Oxley. So they decide to offer him something else. It’s a woman who spends a minute yelling at the the Russians, until she turns around to reveal that’s she’s…
Tune in next time for Part 5: Indiana Jones and the Disputed Paternity Test!