Decent Films Mail > Mailbag #7

Re: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)

You wrote:

Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is an homage to homage, playing to nostalgia for the earlier Indiana Jones films. In that capacity, it delivers more or less what one would expect: a reunion with a few old friends amid disposable popcorn entertainment, not a lot different from countless Raiders imitators. Enjoy it for what it is, but don’t hope for more.

Exactly right. And we can enjoy it because the self-referential aspect is much more acceptable here than it is, say, in At World’s End. What we wanted there was a satisfying conclusion to what had been begun only a year before in Dead Man’s Chest; what we got was something prematurely ’mythology-bound’ (as you put it).

Here we’re not looking for the resolution of a crisis, but for something that makes us feel we’re in the world of the Indiana Jones that we came to know all those years ago. And on that level, it works. It’s still disappointing, though, that the aliens/lost-civilization plot, which is the vehicle for the action and interaction, is so silly and so easy not to care about! But then we took it for granted that the aliens would give Spalko her deserts; what we really cared about in the ending was [spoiler alert] seeing Indy and Marion finally get married. And your comment about the fedora is again spot on.

I won’t read your review of Prince Caspian until I’ve seen the movie, but your B+ looks encouraging!

A priest

Thanks for writing, Father. I agree completely: Every Indy film to date has been a one-off, this one more than any since the original, because of the time lapse.

I just rewatched At World’s End with my two older boys, and was struck at the extent to which, without being exactly horrible in itself, it failed completely as a conclusion to the trilogy, and specifically to the second film. To pick just one point, after spending a whole film building up the Kraken as a monster, they kill it off between movies? Isn’t that a little like telling us in the opening crawl of Return of the Jedi that the Emperor killed Darth Vader after he let Luke escape? As lame as the jokey end of Boba Fett might have been, this was ten times worse.

In part At World’s End fails for precisely the reason that Crystal Skull modestly succeeds: In At World’s End, the story and the emotions have become so serious and woebegone that no one is having any fun. In Crystal Skull, having fun is the whole point. Neither perhaps quite gets the balance that made Raiders so great, and Curse of the Black Pearl a superior entertainment. Failing that, though, I’ll take fun over no-fun.

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