Here lies Indiana Jones. Once the symbol of adventure. Now the whipping boy for everything movie fans have come to associate with the modern George Lucas: overblown CGI, wooden acting, and the tarnishing of a memorable franchise. But the criticism for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal is misdirected. While people complain about the aliens and nuked fridge, they overlook the most important factor: the story.
CGI gophers and monkeys, aliens, nuked fridges, and Shia LaBeouf are noteworthy criticisms but don’t address the troubled script. Take them out and you still have a story that lacks suspense and high stakes. Besides, were a nuked fridge and aliens that big of a deal? Ancient artifacts that shoot laser beams, melt humans, rip beating hearts out of a living person, and keep a man alive for centuries are all plausible but aliens? Heck no!
The Plot in a Nutshell (spoilers!)
Indiana Jones escapes from the Russians after they recover alien remains from Area 51. He unknowingly teams up with his own son, Mutt, as they try to find an ancient artifact that one of Indiana’s old friends had hidden from the Russians. When they discover that the artifact is an alien skull made of crystal, the Russians get Jones to lead them to the aliens’ resting place in South America. After a thrilling chase, Indiana and the gang find the alien remains, only to discover they’re inside their spaceship. Indiana and his friends escape as the Russians are annihilated. It all ends with Indiana reuniting and marrying Marion.
For the audience’s sake, we’ll cut the monkeys and gophers. For this new version we’ll cut Mac (Ray Winstone). Throughout the movie he flips sides and leaves tracking devices for the Russians to follow even though they already know where Indiana Jones is going. He doesn’t affect the plot so he gets axed.
The weakest link are the Russians. In the original trilogy the Nazis and Mola Ram always had the upper hand. They didn’t just outnumber Indiana Jones, they either had the ancient artifact in their possession or were closer to finding it. Indiana was always behind and had to overcome. In Crystal Skull the Russians have the Skull but Indiana does all the work while the Russians watch from a distance or wait for him to lead them to the locations.
In the original trilogy we knew the stakes; we were told how powerful each of the artifacts were. In Crystal Skull we don’t know what the artifact is or what it can do. Without this knowledge the suspense and emotion are missing.
We’ll keep the Area 51 scene and the mysterious remains but drop the nuke. Indiana would escape and be lost in the desert until found by the military. After they exchange information the federal government would offer Indiana a mission to recover what was stolen: ancient remains that lead to the resting place of a lost civilization that supposedly had direct contact with “the Gods.” This ancient civilization (a la Atlantis) was believed to be advanced, even beyond modern times, with the ability to space travel, hence why the Russians want to find this location.
After Indiana rejects their offer he returns to Marshall College to discover his office has been ransacked. Mutt arrives and tells Indiana he escaped from the Russians after he, his mother Marion, and Professor Oxley were on an expedition together to find that same civilization. Indiana, still in love with Marion after all these years and still in debt to Oxley for helping him in their youth, takes the mission.
Indiana and Mutt arrive at a site in South America where Mutt last saw Marion and Oxley. The Russians, digging deep into the woods, are led by the sadistic Irina Spalko who tortures Oxley and Marion for information. Indiana and Mutt disguise themselves as Russians and sneak around the camp. When they’re caught, Spalko and the Russians force Indiana and Mutt to lead them to the actual power source of the lost civilization. After they survive all the ancient booby traps protecting the source, they reach the main chamber of the ancient temple and discover the civilization wasn’t blessed by “the Gods” but by aliens (yes, we’re keeping them) who gave them technology and knowledge until they destroyed themselves fighting for power (reminiscent of the Cold War).
The Russians take the alien energy source, kill Oxley, and lock Indiana, Marion, and Mutt in the chamber with lit dynamite. The trio, now vengeful, escape from the chamber before the dynamite explodes. They go after the Russians with the classic vehicle chase we see in all Indiana Jones movies. After the massive chase and fight, the trio destroy the Russians and let the energy source fall off a cliff to a bottomless drop. Spalko, unable to control her lust for power, goes off the edge trying to get the energy source. Cut to the states, Indiana and Marion are married and they bury Oxley with Henry Jones and Marcus Brody.
This story has higher stakes as well as a structure closer to the original trilogy. Instead of Indiana Jones trying to solve a mystery, we return to the original structure of a chase movie with Indiana Jones always a step behind the antagonist. This way the action never lets up and Indiana is pushed to his limits to save humanity. This way we now have a sequel worthy and reminiscent of the originals.
Thank you all for reading and I look forward to re-imaging another movie with you next week.