Say Something Nice: INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL (2008)

Aka INDIANA JONES AND THANK GOD FOR FAMILIAL NOSTALGIA.

Indiana Jones is important to me.  A look at the year I was born will tell you that all three of the original films came out before I was alive, but they made up a huge part of my youth all the same. My formative years were spent ignoring the curriculum that my teachers were trying to drive into my head and burying my nose in history and archaeology books instead (sorry Dad). The movies are filled with the action and adventure that I craved, but were still focused around an intellectual with a respect for the artifacts he hunted.

It’s because of all that that I rushed to the midnight release of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. It’s also why I was just as disappointed as all of you who clicked on this article ready to head to the comments to ask me what sort of drugs I was on in 2008. I get it, y’all. This one hurt. I left the theater with only one thought: I’d simply ignore everything that happens with the aliens. I’d replace it all in my mind with some sort of scene where Indy and Ox find a scientific (or hell, even magical) explanation to it all, and I’d just live in ignorant bliss. Unfortunately, that’s not really how movies work.

Since Kingdom of the Crystal Skull took a running leap past the themes of the Indiana Jones of yore, I decided to take a look at the family aspect when finally popping in the DVD I shamefully own (I’m a terrible completionist, please send help) to research for this column. My dad was the one who introduced me to these films. You know what Temple of Doom does to a five year-old? It fucks with them, that’s what. Still, I have fond memories of curling up with him to watch Indy save the day. There was also a shortage of functional women in my adolescent life, so characters like Marion were and remain very important to me.

So, here we are, looking at a film that tried desperately to evolve with the times while still remaining in the period that it needed to be set in. Though we all know that it missed that mark, it still gave us a few standout moments that call back to the relationships that helped make the franchise great. They even toss in some of the humor for good measure.

Listen, y’all. I’m not afraid of snakes, but if getting out of a deadly situation involved me having to grab a spider, my ass is just gonna have to die. Most of us have that one thing that we aren’t touching for any amount of money in the world. The humor plays well, and Indy’s fear always adds a nice extra level to the character. The scene also happens to be the moment Indy finds out that he has a son.

Introducing a son to Indiana Jones’ world in the same film we say goodbye to Henry Sr. has weight to it, no matter what state the rest of the film is in. Often our heroes are presented as untouched by the progress of time, but the introduction of Mutt and the loss of Henry allow the Indiana Jones franchise to age in a natural way without plucking our hero away from us. Which brings me to my next point:

Why do I think the wedding is one of the best parts of a movie about an action hero archaeologist? While I admittedly adore Marion Ravenwood and am delighted to see her return to the franchise, it has nothing to do with seeing her and Indy finally tie the knot, and everything to do with the final moments of the film.

Spielberg and Lucas go out of their way to make us think Mutt is going to put on that damn hat. We’ve seen franchise after franchise pass the torch to younger counterparts to ensure the studio can keep raking in the dough. Because of that, yes, the moment when Indy snatches up his hat before Mutt can put it on is absolutely the best moment of the movie. Not today, kiddo. The passage of time is acknowledged, but Indy’s not hanging up the whip any time soon. We may have traded in historical magic for aliens in this one, but at the end of the day, Indiana Jones remains.

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