The Hunt For The Worst Movie Of All Time: Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull

Gabe Delahaye | February 2, 2009 - 4:15 pm

I am going to be a perfect old man. I’ve already got the whole complaining thing down, all I need now is the inherently limited number of years left to live that confronts people with their own mortality so that they can’t, or at least won’t, say shit. “Let him say what he wants, we’re not going to change him now. Besides, he is so old! It is a wonder that he is not dead.” I will sit on my hover porch yelling at all of the robochildren to get off of my space lawn.

But there is one thing that I will never do, and that is complain about how things aren’t as good as they used to be. I recognize the steady march of progress. The world is a mean, mostly terrible place, but it’s still less mean and less terrible than it used to be. (All of this clear-eyed optimism about the ineluctibility of human advancement goes out the window the second Cormac McCarthy’s The Road moves from dark fable to unbearable reality.) My point is that nostalgia is predicated on lies, everyone self-centeredly believes that their period of cultural relevance was the best, and nothing is sacred.

And that’s a good thing. Because if nostalgia was actually valuable, and if the tarnishing of childhood memories was something that mattered, the new Indiana Jones movie has the power to destroy a generation. Via suicide.

So, Indiana Jones is back, and now it is 20 years after The Second To Last Crusade and the Russians have kidnapped him and taken him to Area 51 where all of America’s secrets are stored in crates (because secrets, as a rule, are always physical objects, and they are always stored in wooden crates). They find a secret that is highly magnetic and then there is a chase and then Indiana Jones gets into a refrigerator because of that is how you are safe from nuclear bombs duh. Then Shia LaBeouf takes a break from being an extra in a Stray Cats video from 1985 to tell Indiana Jones that his surrogate father-figure has sent him a letter about finding a long lost ancient skull and they go to Peru and fight some capoeira trolls in a graveyard and find the skull and it is made out of crystal. Indiana Jones says that no man-made tools could craft a skull like this out of crystal, because he’s not just a professor of archaeology and an adventurer, he’s also a Genius About Crystal Carving. Also, it is magnetic just like the secret at Area 51 so now Indiana Jones says “huh?” to himself like he is putting the pieces together. But when they get out of the graveyard they are captured again by the Russians who tell Indiana Jones everything, because that is what you do with people you consider your enemy, and they explain that the skull is from an alien with a crystal skeleton and that if it is returned to a secret temple in a Mayan city of gold that whoever returns it will gain control of a powerful weapon. Then it turns out that the Russians have kidnapped Marion Ravenwood from Raiders of the Lost Ark and that she is Shia LaBeouf’s mom and that now Indiana Jones is his dad. Whoa. I would be surprised if that plot twist alone didn’t earn some kind of Oscar for Most Incredible Plot Twist You Could Never See Coming No Matter How Smart You Were. They escape and then some Russians get eaten by killer ants. Then Indiana Jones and all his friends drive a car off of a waterfall. Then they find the city but its not made of gold and the ancient temple is filled with FUCKING ALIENS and the Russians show up again and Cate Blanchett’s eyes catch on fire and it turns out that the city made of gold was actually made of knowledge, and that knowledge will catch your face on fire. Careful! As we know, the human brain can only safely store 160 gigabytes at a time.

This entire movie feels like an Indiana Jones fan fiction written by a 12-year-old. It is sloppy and tone deaf and has a scene involving quicksand in it. And did I mention the fucking ALIENS? I’m surprised they didn’t have penises for hands and that their secret wasn’t how to get unlimited Mountain Dew for the rest of your life.

The opening scene really sets the wait-a-second-is-this-a-joke tone for the next two hours.

He just looks so…old. They try to acknowledge this fact and turn it into part of the film’s charm, like 2006’s Rocky Balboa. Shia LaBeouf keeps calling him “grandpa.” Except that you could kind of believe that Rocky would get back in the ring because a) he’s stupid, and b) Sylvester Stallone still takes more HGH than most of the contestants on Tool Academy. With an aging Indiana Jones, all I could think was “jumping down from that ledge must be hard with those creaky knees.” All of the action seems slowed down to accomodate Harrison Ford’s decline into old age.

I feel like a lot of people’s major complaint with this movie, besides it being terrible, is the previously mentioned nostalgia factor. The movie feels like a slap in the face to a lot of Indiana Jones fans who have invested a great deal of child-like (or ish) enthusiasm into this franchise and don’t like having subpar garbage tarnishing the good Indiana Jones name. Sure. Except that the movie goes out of its way to run roughshod over what came before. I mean, during the escape from the warehouse sequence, the Russians actually RUN OVER THE ARK OF THE COVENANT. Later, in another chase sequence, the Russians hit a statue of Marcus Brody, who you may remember as Indiana Jones’s friend and surrogate father figure, and the statue’s HEAD FALLS OFF. Steven Spielberg seems to take pleasure in smashing through the detritus of the film’s legacy, which normally would be something I could support and applaud if only a halfway decent movie was left in its wake. But in this case it does sort of seem like tearing down a national monument in order to put up a Taco Bell.

Then, of course, there’s the “nuke the fridge” thing.

Now, I will admit that this is an incredibly ridiculous scene, and it deserves to be mocked, but somehow it seems out of proportion that this moment has gained all the attention in a movie that features Mayan aliens. And how is that I went eight months without having seen this movie, and yet no one happened to mention the part when SHIA LABEOUF USES A SNAKE AS A ROPE TO PULL INDIANA JONES OUT OF A SAND PIT. What is this, a Keenan and Kel movie? And you don’t have to hate snakes with an Indiana Jonesian passion to have a problem with using a snake as a rope. Because that’s just weird. And stupid. And really stupid.

The saddest thing about a movie like this is the fact that it doesn’t really matter what we think. It made a jizzillion dollars despite being horrible, and it was always going to make a jizzillion dollars. Spielberg likes to travel in style so he put a helipad inside his limousine so he could hover while he drove, and George Lucas got that solid gold beard trimmer he’d had his eye on.

It was the definition of Hollywood’s disregard for the audience in service to cash money at its worst, but ultimately there’s no one to blame but ourselves. Just kidding. Do you know how many people worked on this movie? Let’s blame them.

Then again, the climactic ending of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was kind of a metaphor for what it felt like watching the movie, so maybe they did know what they were doing:

Next week: A.I. As always, please leave your suggestions in the comments or in an email. And if you haven’t done so already, please consult the Official Rules.