I clearly remember when ‘Indiana Jones and The Crystal Skull’ came out, as the sound of Stephen’s eyes rolling about the alien subplot actually caused small tremors across the entire Midwestern United States.  Thankfully, it’s been nearly five years, which should allow his simmering rage to have subsided enough for me to finally ask a question regarding a certain controversial plot point.  (Also, I only caught the thing on cable recently…)  When I remember the events of the first three films, I recall Mola Ram and his magical potions, an immortal knight, endless vengeful spirits from within the Ark, and… Oh, yes:  THE FREAKIN’ HOLY GRAIL.  It’s clear from these elements that Indy lives in a world that is NOT governed by the same natural laws that you and I follow, nor is Part IV the first time that plot developments in his world require a healthy suspension of disbelief to follow.

The MS-QOTD (pronounced, as always, “misquoted”) remembered just in time that, in Aramaic, “Nerd-rage” is spelled with a “J”, asking: Given the copious supernatural elements already in play in Indiana Jones’ world, why is the alien subplot in “Crystal Skull” so problematic for some fans?

The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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13 Comments

  1. January 4, 2013 at 11:52 am — Reply

    I have often wondered this myself. Having watched way too much “Unsolved Mysteries” as a kid, I Kind of guessed aliens when I heard the title (well, aliens or an occult ritual involving all thirteen rumored skulls… yeah, “Unsolved Mysteries”). It could have been worse, Lucas could have gone back and added more Nazis with CG or longer musical numbers in the bar scenes!!!

  2. dante_marx
    January 4, 2013 at 12:00 pm — Reply

    Now, I am surely no film expert, but in my experience, there are two crowds of Indiana Jones fans: One crowd that says raiders and crusade are the best movies by far, and another group who say that temple of doom and crystal skull were about as good as the other two.

    I fall into the first camp. The supernatural was not the core problem with Temple of Doom or with Crystal Skull, although I think both of these movies overdid it by including more magic throughout, such as the potions in Temple of Doom and the Psychic Russian agent. However, at the end of the day, these mystical elements lacked the gravitas of those mystical elements presented in the other movies. Temple of Doom’s supernatural elements boiled down to magic rocks and Crystal Skull boiled down to alien skulls. Long story short, the silly camp of ToD and CS worked when I was a kid, but fall short now.

  3. January 4, 2013 at 12:04 pm — Reply

    Really love it when Matthew puts words in my mouth….

    http://majorspoilers.com/2008/10/06/mutt-williams-and-the-tomb-of-the-golden-gods/

    • January 5, 2013 at 1:08 pm — Reply

      If we stopped doin’ that (and I emphasize WE), the show would be about 1/3 as long every week… :)

  4. DarkSIdhe
    January 4, 2013 at 12:25 pm — Reply

    I think it might have to do with people being able to accept magic that seems… biblical, but not willing to accept it from other sources, though the aliens and the psychic powers are pseudo-scientific, which could be problematic for some, as well. Temple of Doom wasn’t very biblical, and lots of people were not as fond of it. I think it’s most likely, though, that people just have fond memories of the movies, which were good for the time, and the newest one just lacked that same magic in comparison to contemporary movies.

  5. January 4, 2013 at 1:51 pm — Reply

    I didn’t mind the aliens at all. The “fantastic” elements rather than the “supernatural” elements didn’t work for me. These elements include the infamous fridge nuke and Shia LeBeouf, adopted by monkeys and swinging through the trees. Without those two scenes I think the movie would’ve been much easier to digest.

    • January 4, 2013 at 2:05 pm — Reply

      Remove LaDoof from the movie all together, and you would have had a great movie.

      • January 5, 2013 at 3:22 am — Reply

        That about sums it all up for me.

  6. Oldcomicfan
    January 4, 2013 at 2:12 pm — Reply

    I echo Steven’s comment. Also, it was just a dumb movie. It’s clear to me that Spielberg grafted the abandoned Tintin Flight 714 script onto the Indiana Jones concept once Peter Jackson and he agree to switch to the more popular Secret of the Unicorn Tintin story. Let’s face it, among all the Tintin books, next to Tintin in the Congo, Tintin in Russia and Tintin in America, the Flight 714 story was the weakest of all Herge tales. I’d have thought that Harrison Ford, like Shawn Connery, could rescue any movie by the mere virtue of being in it, but LaBoof proved to be the Anti-Ford and ruined the whole shebang for everybody.

  7. January 4, 2013 at 2:32 pm — Reply

    Because people are jackwagons, if I may borrow the term, and don’t know their history. Crystal Skull represents a jump in timeline for Indy. He starts in pre-WWII with the first four movies where mysticism was still a big thing. Then the bombs are dropped, or tested anyway, and Indy gets the bump to the “Nuclear Age” where science is king. I loved the movie and had no issues with the alien concept because of the use of magic. For me it made the world that Indy lives in one of infinate possibilities because both magic and super science exist.

  8. M. Walsh
    January 4, 2013 at 4:34 pm — Reply

    If I were to guess, I think because there’s bit of divide for some people between mysticism and the overtly sci-fi.

    I remember way back when Mortal Kombat 3 came out–a franchise with gods, spectres, and mythical creatures–many fans could not abide the presence of cyborgs like Sektor and Cyrax.
    I know some people who saw the Thor movie and were turned off by the explanation of the Asgardians being extremely advanced aliens and not literal “gods.”
    Some stories do play along the lines of what the real difference is between “magic” and “advanced aliens far beyond human comprehension.”
    Lovecraft did that with the Cthulhu mythos.

    In the case of Crystal Skull, I think it was jarring for some people to see a literal, Close Encounters-style alien pop up in the end and fly off in a saucer.
    I think some people don’t like too much sci-fi in their fantasy.

    Me personally, I find Cyrstal Skull the weakest of the Indiana Jones movie, but not so much for the presence of an alien. Without going too into it, the movie just felt pretty….meh…to me.

  9. Mike
    January 4, 2013 at 5:41 pm — Reply

    I would have to agree about the “fantastical” elements such as the monkeys and fridge nuke, rather than the “mystical” elements of aliens and Christian mythology. Even when he is dealing with the mystical stuff like the grail, Indy has always been pretty routed in reality the way he handled situations. It’s believable that he was able to grab a root on a cliff and survive; it was believable that he figured out the clues and made it the holy grail. It is NOT believable that Mutt learned how to be tarzan.

    I don’t even think Shia LaBeouf ruined the movie, it was in the script and he acted the part that was written for him.

    I did hear a way that would have made the movie perfect (coincidentally it also remove Mutt, but I digress): When Indy was in the area with the voodoo people and they were shooting blow darts at him, they should had the drop on him and had him dead to rights. Then when the bad guy is about to kill Indy, a gunshot goes off and the bad guy falls forward, similar to the bar scene in raiders. The camera pans up and you see a young man, dress much like Indy, but with a worn and battered Yankees hat on and you hear a surprised “Doctah Jones?!”

    Credit goes to Art Baltazar of Tiny Titans and the Aw Yeah Podcast for the idea.

  10. Rome
    January 4, 2013 at 6:10 pm — Reply

    I think other commentors have mentioned it, but Raiders and Crusade were firmly planted in Judeo-Christian ‘myths’ while Temple and Skull were not. Indy as an archeologist is more interesting for a western/Judeo-Christian audience when he is seeking culturally relevant items.

    I think Temple is by far the weakest of the films, and it is probably because I have no link to the Hindu artifacts being explored (and the fact that it is almost offensively cartoony). Skull likewise strayed from the formula of Indy uncovering biblical mysteries, and I think the overall plot suffered thereby.

    I also think that the directors, maybe subconsiously, give a certain gravitas to the items in Raiders and Crusade that the other films don’t have, and again it is likely due to the bias of a cultural/religious importance of the grail and ark for western movie makers.

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