Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull opens in theatres on May 22 of next year, but all of the movie sites have been buzzing about it for what seems like decades. Before the title was announced, everyone was trying to come up with the cleverest new moniker for the film while at the same time mocking Harrison Ford’s advanced age. (My favorite was Indiana Jones and the Confusing Bingo Card.) But all the footage of Harrison/Indy has been encouraging – he looks older and grayer, yes, but he’s still fit and Indiana Jones-esque – so people have stopped making up geezer titles and everyone’s getting excited.
No, that’s not quite true. I’m pretty excited, and doubtless I’ll be there on opening night. I just don’t think I’m going to appreciate where this thing is going to go.
By the way, if you’re scared of movie spoilers, read no further. I don’t know the whole plot of the movie, but I know enough to be dangerous. If you want to be completely and utterly surprised, turn back now.
Still here? Well, I warned you. Except now, you’re probably expecting something really juicy, and I really don’t know all that much. So you’re probably going to be disappointed. (Just thought I’d warn you about that, too.)
The plot is centered around a crystal skull, which is presumably constructed by aliens. And that’s what bugs me. Every other movie has focused on religious artifacts, requiring Indy to suppress his worldly skepticism and take a leap of faith. Each movie ends with a mystical denouement that is both unexplained and unexplainable. And that’s the way I like it.
Science can’t give us the reasons why the Lost Ark melted off all the Nazis’ faces, or why the Shankara Stones burned through the bag and killed Mola Rum, or why the Last Crusader Knight lived for hundreds of years reading the Bible by himself with all those fake Grails. What’s more, if there are scientific reasons, we don’t want to know what they are. It’s fun to watch the utterly rational Indiana Jones get his comeuppance as he encounters spiritual forces far greater than he is.
So along comes this alien crystal skull, and suddenly everything is going to get explained. And that just plain sucks.
From what I’ve heard, the Lost Ark was tagged in a box and, according to this new movie, sent to a warehouse – in Area 51. That’s just a rumor, but there’s some indication that the Ark is going to figure prominently in the story. If you look at the teaser ad, you’ll see Indiana Jones’ hat and bullwhip resting atop a large wooden crate with the same number – 9906573 – as the crate they put the Ark in at the end of the first movie. In addition, John Hurt is going to be playing Abner Ravenwood – Marion’s father and an Ark fanatic who was presumed dead in Raiders. Every indication is that the Ark and the Crystal Skull are going to be spending some quality time together.
After reading the tea leaves, I’ve concluded that we’re going to be told that aliens dropped off the Ark to ancient Israel, and now they want it back. So it wasn’t the power of God that fried the Nazis – it was some bug-eyed dudes from Alpha Centauri. And all of Judeo-Christian tradition was planted here by weirdos from another planet. Suddenly, Indy is vindicated – the world is rational after all. It’s no fair, and it’s no fun. I’m not too thrilled about an Indiana Jones universe where there’s no room for wonder.
That’s not to say that I don’t like the Chariots of the Gods motif when done properly – I’m a huge Battlestar Galactica fan, which covered this ground well, and certainly elements of my own faith have been interpreted in a “weirdos from another planet” way. (I think we Mormons get a bad rap on this, though, but I digress.) The problem is that these ideas are being inflicted on established Indiana Jones continuity, and they’re going to inform how we view the previous films. I don’t think the Raiders ending is as much fun if we learn that the Ark’s “unspeakable power” comes from the planet Vordon. The series was built on a different premise, and KOTCS is coming along and changing the rules in the middle of the game.
In the end, though, I’ll still be cheering. There will surely be great action sequences, and it’s going to be fun to see Karen Allen as Marion Ravenwood again. I’m not sure if I’m as excited to see Shia TheBeef as Indy’s son, but I’ll reserve judgment. That’s a plot change that could work. Aliens drinking out of the Holy Grail is not.
Of course, all that could go out the window when they finally get around to making Indiana Jones and the Unpleasant Prostate Exam.