If you’re reading this, you’re probably fresh from a showing of what is without a doubt, the summer’s most anticipated movie. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is in theaters… and depressing fans everywhere. George Lucas has struck again.
Whether you had fun with Indy 4 or not (and come on it’s Indy how can you not have at least a little fun), it’s hard to ignore some of the movie’s big problems. It’s even harder not to think that at least some of those problems are the fault of one man. His name is George Lucas.
So maybe Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is fun, but after 19 years of waiting I think everyone expected something more than this. It’s not the first time George Lucas has failed to delivered on decades of anticipation either. So last night, while everyone was off cramming into midnight Indy screenings, CB’s Scott Gwin and I sat down to figure out where George Lucas wronged us worse. Which George Lucas movie was a bigger disappointment: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull or Star Wars: The Phantom Menace?
THE PHANTOM MENACE! JAR JAR ATE MY SOUL!
-- Scott Gwin
George Lucas was a major player in two of the most recognized and popular film trilogies of all time: Indiana Jones and Star Wars. He was also a major player in fouling the legacy for both of them, but no matter how poorly conceived his efforts were in continuing the Indiana Jones saga with Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, they have nothing on the disaster that was Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace.
Consider the villains. Cate Blanchett’s turn as the Russian psychic Irina Spalko may not have resulted in the most frightening or heinous character to ever walk the screen, but she was a match for Indy’s obsession and there was more to her than the fact that she could swing a mean rapier. What did we get from The Phantom Menace? -- a stunt man in bad Halloween makeup who was really only scary because his dubbed in voice-work was so darn crappy. Darth Vader stepped on screen for the first time and proceeded to kill a man with his hands. Would a villain for Phantom Menace that had more to offer than a double ended light saber been too much to ask?
And what about the heroes? As Indy has gotten older he seems to have lost some of his spark and his adventuresome spirit, but he’s still the kind of guy who throws himself fearlessly into dark creepy tombs or out of one speeding vehicle into another; whatever it takes to save his friends or a vital piece of history. On the other hand the Jedi order was reduced to playing intergalactic baby-sitters who pass the time swapping midichlorian counts and negotiating peace treaties with some of the dumbest species in the galaxy.
I could go on, but that would only lead to a discussion of Jar Jar Binks. I really don’t want to go there except to say that nothing in Crystal Skull comes even close to being as cringe worthy as that ridiculous Gungan.
Crystal Skull is an unnecessary but not unworthy continuation of Jones’ legacy. Phantom Menace took everything that made the original Star Wars movies great and mocked it, trashed it and then peed on it just for good measure. There’s no question for me which was the greater disappointment.
INDIANA JONES! EVEN OLD AGE ADVENTURE SHOULD BE EASY.
-- Josh Tyler
It’s hard to argue that anything could possibly be a bigger disappointment than Jar Jar Binks, but I’m here to tell you its so. When it comes to George Lucas screwups, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is the biggest bummer.
Here’s the thing. At the end of the day, The Phantom Menace is a prequel, and at least it doesn’t drag any of the original cast down with it. And let’s face it, making a good Indiana Jones sequel should be a lot easier than continuing Star Wars. Indy is a simple, tried and true adventure formula. All Lucas had to do was let Spielberg follow it… and maybe make the movie about ten years earlier. Instead he dragged Steven Spielberg and Harrison Ford into a film with a ridiculous plot device, an awkward script, and blatant kiddie pandering .
With The Phantom Menace I genuinely believe that George Lucas just couldn’t do any better. He’s George Lucas, he has no idea what he’s doing, and these his movies only work when he cedes some of his power to someone who does. The Phantom Menace was exactly what we all should have expected it to be, had we had our heads screwed on straight. On Indiana Jones however, he had Spielberg, and Spielberg should have been able to save us from George’s idiocy. Instead, Kingdom of Crystal Skull is lousy with obvious Lucasosity: bad cgi, kiddie pandering, cutsey animals and silly plot devices which cut his characters off at the knees.
With The Phantom Menace, when something ludicrous happens we were at least able to dismiss it as simply science fiction. In Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, when Indiana Jones survives a nuclear explosion by hopping in a refrigerator, all you can really do is sit there and laugh. Laugh at yourself for believing that Lucas could touch anything this important without ruining it, and laugh at the unsuspecting public, about to have their childhood fed to the groundhog from Caddyshack.
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is a bigger disappointment than Star Wars: The Phantom Menace because it should have been easier. It should have been a slam dunk. Indy’s world is a simple universe of badder than bad guys and death defying escape sequences. Meanwhile Harrison Ford at any age, is still a badass cinematic god. But whether it’s galactic intrigue or defeating a handful of communists, George Lucas is ready and able to ruin it. I had fun with Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, you probably will too. But that only makes it worse, as the film teases you with a classic Indy moment only to spit out a bunch of Lucas gobbledeegook about flying saucers or to bore you to death with Cate Blanchett’s crummy villain character. Say what you want about Darth Maul, but at least he looks badass. Kingdom of the Crystal Skull has actually managed to make Cate Blanchett look ugly, lame, and kind of fat. You have to work pretty hard to accomplish that.
Read previous Great Debates by clicking here.
Go where it all began, Great Debate in our Music section here.