This movie has become somewhat legendary since its release, so much so that I went from never wanting to see it to thinking I should probably watch it for a laugh. SPOILERS, I guess.
And the film doesn’t disappoint, right off the bat, things are pretty awful. From the very start, the sheer amount of greenscreen in the film seems absolutely preposterous, and I found myself wondering if the entire film would use it to the degree which the opening scene does. And that very first scene has a particular doozy in with its plot too: there’s a hyper magnetic box in a warehouse full of metal, that is not attracting any of the metal already in the warehouse, but only seems to attract metal brought into the warehouse. Why? Because it’s convenient.
This film reminds me a lot of the Star wars prequels, in that it tries to replicate the feel of the original movies with too much of a reliance on CGI and too little attention to internal coherence. Yes, there was always some level of ridiculousness to the earlier films, but this one takes believability was always an issue, though not for us kids, but the really don’t seem to care at all about it any more, such as with the waterfall sequence, during which all the stars but Cate Blanchett should die three times.
I guess the most offensive part of all this is the Chariots of the Gods nonsense to the plot, but I’m not sure it’s that much worse than believing the Ark of the Covenant can melt faces or some guy in India can possess people and rip out your heart with his hand, or the Grail is guarded by an ancient Crusader. I mean, I guess it’s a bit worse, but I’m not sure it’s as far out of the realm of the series as some people claim. (I mean, this series as always believed in magic, are aliens that much worse than magic?)
To me, the far greater issue is the reliance on computer effects instead of real stunts, and the replacement of the Nazis with the communists. The former is a constant distraction, even with the physical set pieces. But the whole communist thing – trying to be both anti-communist and also anti-Red Scare – feels particularly stupid, with Indy getting fired for no reason except perhaps for a cameo, and particularly confused. (The Ruskies were bad, but so were those Americans who believed everyone as a communist!) If you’re going to set the film in south America, why not use the Nazis who escaped there as the bad guys? (Speaking of South America, I thought the Crystal Skulls were a Mayan thing…)
It is, indeed, a poor sequel, and the worst of the series. I don’t know that it’s a terrible movie, I just think it’s very, very mediocre.