Jul 1, 2020
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008), a recap (part 8 of 8)
Previously: Who cares? The movie’s almost over!
Indiana Jones has made it to the inner sanctum. His ex and his son have sort of helped. His old friend, Harold Oxley, found and deciphered the riddles of the crystal skull. A “double agent” named Mac has done jack-all. Irina Spalko is hot on his trail with however many Russians she has left. If she wins, she uses the power to control the world. If Indy wins, he uses the power to control… a museum, maybe? He never really specifies.
The five adventurers stand in the heart of a large, circular room. On thrones of gold around the room are thirteen crystalline skeletons of these big-headed aliens. Ox finds a headless skeleton and moves to put the skull back on. Follow me on this: If each skeleton is one, unbroken crystal piece, there’s no way to put the skull back on. If each skeleton is just a collection of bones, then it never would have stayed together in the first place.
Just as Oxley is about to replace the skull, Mac pulls a gun. “Sorry, Jonsey,” he smirks. An upset Indy asks him if he’s a triple agent. “No,” he answers, “I just lied about being a double agent.” I have no idea why Indy would expect anything else. Even if he somehow chose to forgive Mac for his past betrayals, he didn’t actually have to bring him to Akator. This is just bad personnel management.
Spalko catches up to them. I don’t know how she got down here. The spiral steps down into the tunnels have already retracted.
She looks around in wonder, then starts listing off attributes about the aliens that are based on nothing that was ever shown or told to us. According to Spalko, the aliens are still waiting for the one who was lost. They don’t seem to be waiting; they seem to be skeletons. That’s like saying my grandfather is still waiting for his cheese danish. The man’s dead. He’s not hungry.
Spalko takes the skull and lectures that the aliens were a hive mind, i.e., physically separate but thinking as one. I cannot stress this enough: we have no evidence of this. Physiologically, they look very much like humans. Humans are not a hive mind. We can’t even agree on the color of that white and gold dress (it’s blue and black) or exactly how much the Patriots suck (a lot).
Spalko is still talking about how these aliens were more powerful together then they could ever be apart. Well, yes. That’s true of everything. The larger team in tug-of-war is generally going to win. Imagine, Spalko says, what they could teach us.
Indy says he can’t imagine, and neither could the natives who built the temple. But, um, didn’t the aliens teach them farming and irrigation and stuff? Isn’t that what they could teach them? This movie has lost all meaning. It’s like act two of Waiting for Godot.
Indy and company slowly back away as Spalko places the skull atop a decapitated alien skeleton. It sort of comes to life, sitting up straight on its throne. Spalko staggers back in awe. Oxley approaches the skull and begins speaking gibberish. Indy decides it’s Mayan. Maybe it is.
Indy translates Ox’s continued nonsense. He’s grateful and he wants to give us a gift. Okay, I understand what’s happening here. Oxley is speaking as the alien which, I have to emphasize, is a collection of bones.
Spalko approaches the skeleton and asks it to tell her everything it knows. “I want to know everything. I want to know.” Let’s be clear on a couple of points: 1) as far as the aliens know, it’s Spalko that finally replaced his skull; and b) Spalko is asking for knowledge, not money or power. This’ll be important in a minute when they kill her for no reason whatsoever.
Indy backs away even further and says…
Damn it, movie! He says, “I’ve got a bad feeling about this.” That’s a Star Wars line! You can’t just throw in vague Harrison Ford callbacks. We’re here to see a movie, not a montage from the Kennedy Center Honors.
All of the eyes of the skulls begin to glow, something pointed out by the otherwise useless Marion. The brickwork around them begins to crumble, revealing a more futuristic facade underneath. Mutt asks, “What are these, spacemen?” Yes, Mutt. We established that in the opening scene. Oxley, keen to make the movie dumber, says they’re “interdimensional beings.” I have no idea how that would work, or why it would make more sense than just having them be regular aliens.
Parts of the room are rotating. The ceiling sort of disappears into this pool of light. Oxley says it’s a portal to another dimension. Indy isn’t keen on leaving this one, so they all duck out through the door they came in. Spalko and her five guys just stare at the light, transfixed. They’re like cats encountering a laser pointer.
A bunch of soldiers get sucked up into the portal. Spalko doesn’t. This movie has become completely incoherent. Steven “Vince Vaughn + dinosaurs” Spielberg has achieved 100% incoherence.
Lights are coming out of the skulls’ eyes and converging into Spalko’s eyes. She’s shouting, “I can see!” Now all of the skeletons start melding into each other, with an audible thump. Each time, the alien gets a little more fleshed out… literally. You can see organs after a while, and then muscles and finally skin. So were there always 13 of them? And how did they get separated in the first place? And why are they naked?
The re-incorporated alien leans down towards Spalko and makes a kind of mean face. Her eyes burst into flames of light and her body disintegrates. And that’s the end of her, because reasons.
Everybody except Mac scrambles out of the quickly crumbling temple. He stops to fill his pockets with necklaces and gold and stuff until it’s too late. He gets sucked into… whatever he gets sucked into. For a guy with a keen sense of self-preservation, he certainly had a very poor sense of self-preservation.
Everything is falling apart. Indy, Marion, Mutt, and Oxley find themselves at the bottom of a steep, stone well. Which is not a problem, because a tidal wave rushes towards them, and instead of tossing them around like ragdolls in a washing machine, it gently lifts them up the well and deposits them on dry land.
They’re just in time to look out over the valley they just came from—you know, the one with Mayan ruins and loads of murdered natives. The temple collapses in a huge swirling dust storm. We slowly see a huge flying saucer emerge. But if they had a spaceship, what’s the point of the interdimensional portal?
The spaceship leaves. The crater it sat in fills with water to make a new lake. Oxley says the aliens haven’t gone into space, but into “the space between spaces.” I don’t know what that means or why it matters.
Indy philosophically muses that “knowledge was their treasure.” Dude, they didn’t impart any knowledge. They exploded the one woman who asked them a question. All of those artifacts they collected were destroyed when they took off. And whatever might have accidentally been left behind is now at the bottom of a lake.
Mutt starts walking away, keen to stop being in the movie. Indy grouses at him, “Why don’t you stick around, Junior?” Mutt shoots back, “I don’t know. Why didn’t you, Dad?” This makes everyone… laugh? Deep-seated psychological dysfunction is funny. Oxley asks, “Dad?” Yes, Oxley. Indiana is Mutt’s dad. You knew that. Marion specifically told us you knew that.
Cut to some time in the future. Jim Broadbent rushes past a workman painting “Professor Henry Jones, Jr., Associate Dean” on an office door. I cannot think of what Indy could have done to get his job back, let alone a promotion. The FBI still thinks he’s a communist, and all he has to point to is a lake.
Hey, speaking of loose ends, whatever happened to that other alien body? You remember, the one that Indy helped Spalko find in the first scene? The one she showed him in the jungle? Did anybody ever go back for that? Also, we haven’t seen Mutt’s motorcycle since they flew it to Peru.
Never mind. We’re at a wedding. Indy and Marion are getting married in front of a suspiciously small crowd. Mutt is standing by as the best man. Oxley is here, looking dapper and fairly sane. Marion and Indy share a passionate kiss, and everyone applauds.
And now for the final indignity of the movie. A gust of wind blows the church doors open. Indy’s fedora gets knocked off a hat rack and tumbles to the floor right at Mutt’s feet. Proudly, Mutt goes to put it on. Symbolically, Indy’s journey has ended while Mutt’s is just… oh, Indy snatches the hat away and puts it on his own head? That makes much more sense.
And this last image of the movie perfectly encapsulates just the worst part of all of this. Crystal Skull promised to be a last chapter for Indiana Jones, and one final ride into the sunset. But it doesn’t even trust itself to do that. It isn’t a last ride or a passing of the torch. It’s a movie that refuses to commit to itself. It would be as if Princess Leia died when the bridge of her spaceship blew up but then she wasn’t really dead and could live and even fly around in space. I mean, who would believe that? That would just be stupid. It’d be so, so very stupid.
So what’s the takeaway of all of this? Hell if I know. Russians are terrible? The Indiana Jones series should have remained a trilogy? Don’t ever listen to George Lucas? Almost any amount of pain is worth it if it reminds you to rewatch The Frisco Kid?
I guess the main lesson for me is that Steven Spielberg isn’t perfect. He’s capable of making a bad movie. But he’s also capable of coming back with something great. This was a bad one. I’m ready for whatever’s next. Are you ready? Are you ready, Player One?