The Ninjabot

NERD OFF – What’s the Best Indiana Jones Film? Amanda Says it’s Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Posted on March 30, 2013 at 12:00 pm by Amanda Andonian

best indiana jones kingdom of the crystal skull

That’s right, you heard me—Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is the BEST Indy movie. Fans of the series like to call bullshit on Crystal Skull, but if you take the formula that is an Indiana Jones movie and apply it to this installment, I think it delivers completely on the promise of adventure and action that marks the series overall. It has all the hallmarks of a classic Indy movie: the story drops us right into the middle of the action, there’s plenty of great escapes, and the humor is campy and enjoyable. See? It’s the best Indiana Jones movie.

Best Indiana Jones Movie? The Critics Say Yes!

Before you lay into me for my opinion, take into account that some very notable film reviewers gave Crystal Skull a favorable nod. Leonard Maltin gave it 3 out of 4 stars in his 2010 Movie Guide, saying that, “Indy returns with the same brand of high adventure,” and “Ford reclaims the role he invented in fine fashion.” Roger Ebert gave it 3.5 out of 4 stars and said, “The very title causes the pulse to quicken, if you, like me, are a lover of pulp fiction. What I want is goofy action—lots of it.” And this movie definitely delivers on goofy action, whether it’s Indy escaping from an atomic bomb in a fridge or the myriad chase scenes through the university, and then the jungles of South America.

Faithful to the Franchise

best indiana jones kingdom of the crystal skullUnlike a certain other franchise from the 80s, this newest installment to the Indiana Jones series is faithful to its predecessors. Indy is still the same cocky adventurer who kicks ass while still solving the mysteries of ancient archaeology. Like any good Indy movie, Crystal Skull gives us Harrison Ford throwing bad guys out of moving vehicles, tossing back witty remarks, swinging around on a whip, and wooing his leading lady. He might be more than he was in previous films (i.e. some kind of super spy for the US government), but he’s also had almost 20 years since the last film to build that reputation. It might be an older Indy, but it’s definitely the same Indy.

Let’s not forget all the fan service, either. I would contend that if you like any of the previous Indy films, then you have to like Crystal Skull on some level, even if you won’t admit it to yourself. It gives us fans little nods like the Ark of the Covenant in the warehouse, Dr. Jones teaching a class, introducing characters that Indy already “knows,” and a nod and “memoriam” to Sean Connery (who played Henry Jones Sr. and didn’t want to be in the film) and Denholm Elliott (i.e. Marcus Brody, who had passed away before the making of this film), both of which played such signature roles in previous installments. Maybe you think it’s pandering, but I think it’s a nice acknowledgement of what’s come before.

Epitome of an Indy Plot

best indiana jones kingdom of the crystal skullGetting to the story itself, it’s no more contrived and silly than any other pulp action film, especially when it comes to Indiana Jones. We have our MacGuffin, the elusive crystal skull, that drives every action in the plot because the Russians want to acquire it for its mysterious powers, and Indiana Jones is on a quest to find the artifact purely for the sake of knowledge and sense of adventure. It’s chock-full of iconic things from the late 50s: Elvis, the Cold War, McCarthyism, and of course the atom bomb. Some have lambasted the film for its portrayal of the Soviet Union and Peru, but if we’re going to be overly sensitive about the way that cultures and people are depicted in Indiana Jones movies, then none of the other films can escape criticism either. Can you say “Indian monkey-brain soup”? Don’t even get me started on Short Round and the Germans, though it’s certainly inarguable that demonizing the Nazis is perfectly acceptable in the grand scheme of things.

Aliens, You Guys!

best indiana jones kingdom of the crystal skullPerhaps my favorite aspect of Crystal Skull is the whole idea that the skull comes from inter-dimensional beings who were responsible for helping the Myans advance technologically. Ancient Aliens, anyone? If you know me at all, you should also know that I am pretty much onboard for anything that has aliens in it. Even theories that aliens helped humanity along in their evolutionary journey. I may not believe it, but I definitely enjoy it. Not only that, but both Lucas and Spielberg have said that the basis of the film was the Hollywood B-movies of the 50s and 60s that used aliens as stand-ins for the Soviet Union during the cold war.

Yes, There are Problems…

best indiana jones kingdom of the crystal skullI’m not blind to the movie’s faults; however, I would argue that the vast majority of those faults center around Shia LeBarf’s involvement. His character—a quintessential greaser of the 50’s, I suppose—is flat, uninteresting, and just bogs down the entire film. I would argue that he’s also never done anything that was even remotely interesting, so I’m not sure how he managed to land the role of Indiana Jones’ son. I am immensely grateful that the movie does not end with him putting on Indy’s iconic fedora, because that would have enraged me to no end. Fortunately, LeBarf seems to have burned his bridges quite effectively with Spielberg and Ford, so I doubt we’ll see him again if a fifth Indy movie was ever made.

My Final Say on Crystal Skull

Despite its shortcomings, I definitely feel that Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is a worthy installment to the series, and would even argue that it is my favorite of the movies, though I do really love The Last Crusade.

If you’re “Jones-ing” (har har) to see these movies, but you don’t have them already, please consider buying Indiana Jones: The Complete Adventures on BlueRay or Indiana Jones: The Complete Adventure on DVD at Amazon through Geek Legacy’s affiliate links right there in order to support the site.

Finally, if you haven’t already, check out my colleagues’ reviews of Raiders of the Lost ArkThe Temple of Doom, and The Last Crusade, and stay tuned for Tyler’s review of the Young Indiana Jones TV series tomorrow morning.

You can follow Amanda at @reiko516 on Twitter.

    • You came out swinging, I'll give you that. In my mind, Indy has only one "son" figure in his life, and it's the adorable Short Round!

      And I hope you're right about Shia's lack-of-involvement with part 5(if it happens).

    • Chiste

      April 1st isn't until Monday.

    • Snackbar

      For shame. How dare you besmirch my Shia. The character was the problem, not him. Watch The Greatest Game Ever Played and I dare you to not to fall in love with him. Plus he's Sam Witwicky for 2.5 Transformer films.

      • Mmmmmm, I'm not gonna do that, haha. We shall have to agree to disagree.

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