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

I really don’t mind a lot of the dumb gambles this takes, even when they fall flat on their face, because at least this is idiosyncratic and plays fast and loose with what constitutes an Indiana Jones movie in ways Last Crusade didn’t. It’s still hampered by a lot of that film’s tendencies though. Given how vast Indy’s adventures are supposed to be, every time they merely wheel out references to Raiders with visual nods or returning characters, it just makes this universe feel smaller and smaller. I love Karen Allen as much as the next person but it would have been far more interesting to introduce a new, older Indy girl as the mother of his child, no?

This will sound like blasphemy but I sort of wish Lucas got his way and convinced the gang to just go all in and make Indiana Jones and the Saucer Men from Mars like he originally envisioned. The problem with this isn’t the aliens, it’s the fact the film is too unsure of itself to actually commit to that as an idea within the Indy template rather than timidly skirt around it until the last minute. Spielberg is clearly struggling to engage with a script he’s not fully invested in. His direction is fine but it feels like all of his creative energy was poured into that opening onslaught of madness – the film’s strongest stretch by far, and yes that includes the nuking of the fridge – with the rest of film feeling rudimentary by comparison.

I also think this is sorely lacking the tactile, filmic quality of the previous three films, mainly due to the absence of Slocombe behind the camera and Spielberg’s reliance on digital tech for countless shortcuts and enhancements. The whole thing just looks way too bright, shiny and pristine for an Indy movie, furthering its reputation as the bastard outlier of the franchise. Don’t be surprised to see this – Mutt WIlliams and all – lumped in with Temple of Doom in the category of “things we never discuss” once the Lucas-free Indy 5 rolls around.

Watched on blu-ray.

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