When this movie came out, my boys were already teenagers, but I hoped they would love the franchise as much as I had. I went to the theater with high hopes. What I experienced wasn’t the best movie in the series by far, but it still had a lot going for it, including Steven Spielberg’s keen eye behind the camera and Harrison Ford’s roguish smile and crisp delivery.
Luckily, I took my small nephew and he was duly impressed with the special effects. My boys remembered enough of the previous movies to stay interested throughout the entire 2 hours and 2 minutes. I had a predisposition to love the movie, so I overlooked some fairly large plot issues and kept my eyes glued to the screen.
The issues I had with the writing were overpowered by the fast pace of the action. Of course, the jaw-dropping finale and long-awaited wedding of the dashing archaeology and another beloved character erased all doubt in my mind that this movie earned its place in the pantheon of Indiana Jones top movies.
Better the Second Time Around
To be honest, the movie didn’t 100% win me over until the second viewing. I was able to see it on my own without interruptions for popcorn runs and bathroom breaks for my nephew. The movie is set in 1957, with Cate Blanchette playing a beautifully evil Russian spy, Irina Spalko. Spalko commands a team of spies searching for the alien secrets hidden in Area 51 in Roswell, New Mexico.
The Russians have nabbed Indiana Jones, fedora and all. They coerce the archaeologist into helping them, which he does, with intermittent attempts to slow them down. However, the determined Russians cannot even be thwarted by a nuclear blast.
So, the first thing I noticed was that Indiana Jones seemed to have taken a wrong turn somewhere in the desert to end up in sci-fi territory. Then, it became clearer, Why Roswell? It turns out that the alien skeletons are crystal. That’s right, the same material of skull found throughout Indiana Jones storied history.
Kingdom of the Crystal Skull Explained
It turns out the villains in this movie aren’t interested in El Dorado, where the journey leads the intrepid heroes. The Russians are also uninterested in the alien artifacts for scientific reasons. It’s all about mind control. The skulls can unlock the secrets of controlling the thoughts and actions of others. Spalko wants to “liberate” the minds of Americans, making them embrace the ideals of the USSR and turn away from capitalism.
Rewatching this following Russia’s interference in America’s 2016 elections hit a deep note for me. The McGuffin or object used to trigger the plot feels vitally relevant in the current charged political environment. I would love to see Indiana Jones jump into the fray and cut the Russians off at the knees before they commence the inevitable mind games to come in 2020. Our freedom is just as precious as the Holy Grail or the Ark of the Covenant.
The real reason to watch Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull lies in the spirit of the movie. It’s fun, playful and irreverent in a way that only Dr. Jones can deliver. After watching it a few times over the last decade, the campiness has sunk in and fermented like fine wine. I can suspend disbelief long enough to enjoy the impossible vine swinging and refrigerator nuking.
Indiana Jones is supposed to go astray of reality. He’s bigger than life and The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull proves that Harrison Ford, like his character and fine wine, improves with age.