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No, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was not as bad as you thought it was

The fourth installment of the Indiana Jones franchise has had its share of criticisms. We look at why it’s better than you might have remembered.


Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny hits theaters on Thursday, June 29, which brings renewed debate around its most recent predecessor.

The first three Indiana Jones movies were released in the eight years between 1981 and 1989. They were all popular films and while Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom has its share of critics, they all remain incredibly popular movies for fans of all ages.

20 years after Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade was released, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull came out in theaters to an eager audience. In many ways, the movie landed with a thud. It got solid ratings from critics, but audience feedback was not great then and has not improved much since.

I’m going to have to disagree with the haters!

I’m a long-time Indiana Jones fan, so my opinion should be taken with a bit of a grain of salt. Kingdom of the Crystal Skull has some issues that do bring it down a notch. It is not as good as the first three. And yet, it’s still a solid installment in the series that offers continuation in the canon and a fun, adventurous romp.

Let’s take a look at some of the critiques and why they may or may not be off base.

What about the CGI?

Let’s get the most negative thing out of the way. The CGI is weak in the movie. The worst example is Mutt Williams swinging from vine to vine during the biggest chase scene with the Russians. The first three movies featured over the top action sequences, but too many of the Crystal Skull action scenes felt fake and almost cartoonish. That’s my biggest reason for downgrading the movie to a clear fourth among the first four films.

Shia LaBeouf is too whiny and just not a good companion

Harrison Ford had better chemistry with Marion, Short Round, and Henry Jones, Sr. Willie Scott was whiny in her own right, but the over the top nature of it was part of what made her character in Temple of Doom.

So where does Mutt Williams fit in? While the chemistry wasn’t as good as some of the others, it did enough to move the plot forward. The whining and Mutt’s overall behavior actually felt relatively appropriate given the rebellious character he was portraying. My biggest issue was that he was a bit of a stretch as a greaser. But for purposes of the relationship with Indiana Jones, it was good enough to not detract from my enjoyment of the movie.

The aliens were over the top

I don’t know that anybody can make a reasonable argument that one Indiana Jones adventure is too ridiculous compared to the rest. This is a franchise that portrayed the Ark of the Covenant and the Holy Grail as real things with supernatural powers. The Temple of Doom was problematic in its portrayal of Indian culture and religion, but again, nobody thinks it’s realistic for someone to reach in to your chest and pull out your beating heart while you remain alive.

Critiques around the alien plot are missing a critical point. Steven Spielberg and company were developing a plot out of the 50s b-movies that focused on science fiction and aliens. The aliens represented the broader idea of knowledge while still offering the supernatural phenomenon that is such an integral part of the franchise.

So, why should I watch it?

Aside from it being a part of what I consider one of the best movie franchises out there, it moves the franchise forward in key ways. We see the aging character dealing with the issues of aging. We get to see some closure on the romantic front that fits into the idea of growing. And for long-time fans, we get some fan service with the return of Marion Ravenwood and the love connection that always fit best from the first three movies.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was a perfectly welcome addition to the franchise and retains watchability even more than a decade removed from its release. Now, we wait to see how Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny holds up!