Before I get into this inane argument I just need to note that I actually wrote this post a few years ago on Medium. I’m re-writing it now for a few reasons. Firstly, because no one really read it when I posted it the first time, but mainly I wan to start consolidating some of this earlier stuff here in a more permanent location. If, by some miracle, you’ve read this before, know that I am at least plagiarising myself.
The following argument is something I thought about after the release of Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull in 2008. It is the reason why I don’t think Crystal Skull is the worst Indiana Jones film.
Firstly, I should clarify what I mean by ‘worst’. After Crystal Skull’s release it was heavily critisised by cinema-goers and the critics alike. Most of these people had a point. Harrison Ford is a little too old and Shia LaBeouf a little too much of a jerk. All of these points, and more, I agree with. The hero of the story survives a nuclear explosion by hiding in a fridge for Christs sake. How can this not be the worst film of the lot?
The main point that was picked up was that the extra terrestrial theme ruins this film. This, however, I cannot agree with. This theme, in fact, fits perfectly into the style of the films. To me, it’s Temple of Doom that sticks out like a sore thumb, but more on that later.
The Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Last Crusade where set in 1936 and 1938 respectively. During this time the world was sitting back, relaxing, whilst watching Hitler and his Nazi party quickly growing in power and clearly making moves to expand their influence.
This was one of the biggest things on the mind of people in this era and led to events that will never be forgotten.
Now, before this post gets even more like a history lesson, and a boring one at that, I’ll just say that it’s now believed (if there was ever doubt) that Hitler was completely off his rocker and not only believed in the occult and the validity of Biblical artefacts, he actively sought them out.
That is why, for Indiana Jones, the hunt for the Ark of the Covenant in Raiders and The Holy Grail in Crusade made perfect sense.
It is along these lines where my reasoning for Crystal Skull not being as bad, plot wise, that many think. If the ’30s and ’40s were the time of fearing Fascism and Hitler’s bids to find occult artefacts, the 1950s, when Crystal Skulls was set, was all about aliens!
In July 1947, in Roswell, New Mexico, reports began to filter around the world about a UFO being recovered after a supposed crash. Over the coming years the US, and the world, went alien crazy. In a way, aliens, and Soviets of course, became the Nazis of the ’50s.
This is why, to me, aliens (and the Soviets) are the perfect ‘force’ for Indiana Jones to face when the franchise moved into a different era. Indiana Jones was always supposed to be a modern retelling of the classic ‘pulp’ action books of the past so it makes perfect sense for him to face off against the biggest threat and influence on popular culture at the time.
This also, in a way, goes a little towards explaining the old ‘hide in a fridge to avoid nuclear explosion death’ thing. With this included we see our hero defeat the Soviets, aliens and nuclear weaponry, the big fears and fascinations of the time, in one fell swoop!
I’ve missed one haven’t I? Ah of course, Temple of Doom … When did the world fear blood drinking, monkey brain eating, Indian chaps? Oh yeah I know … NEVER!
This is why, to cut a long story short (too late) while Temple of Doom is my favourite Indiana Jones film, it is also the ‘worst’ in terms of context and relevance.
What do you think? Make sense or should I have left this argument back in 2008?