To say last week was a rough one is an understatement. The grief over Las Vegas, the desperation coming out of Puerto Rico, and the overall tone of global conversations permeated the majority of my waking hours. I sat for days trying to find a way to bring something inspired out of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, and kept coming up blank. Some of a more cynical nature may conclude it is because this movie is considered a hot mess, and maybe there is some truth to it. After all, reviving characters that have aged 20 years can be a hit or miss. The expectations of the fans, the physical changes of the actors, and the dialogue within current society – all of these things have to play into the planning of a film to make it relevant, entertaining, and inspiring. But I also think it has something to do with the present environment – much like this movie didn’t seem to know who it was or what it was trying to accomplish, our current society is unrecognizable to me. And that makes it hard to focus.
For Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull, the main foundations are there: Indiana Jones is scouring through the ancient tombs and jungles of Peru, looking not only for a supernaturally powerful artifact but an old friend as well. A foreign power wants to use a crystal skull to psychically control the world (just trade the Nazis of old with Russian Kremlin led by Cate Blanchett’s Irina Spalko), and Indy has to figure out the puzzle before the world descends into chaos. We know this story. And even with other familiar faces such as Karen Allen (reprising Indy’s old flame Marion Ravenwood), everything is in place to feel at home with old friends.
But I couldn’t feel it. The entire time I felt like the movie was having an identity crisis, which is funny considering that there is this whole “hidden identity” theme woven through the film. Who is Mutt Williams (Shia LaBeouf)? Is Mac (Ray Winstone) working for the Russians or playing a double-agent role? Who are the creators of the crystal skull? And with all this buildup of “who’s who” throughout the movie, I expected a carefully crafted revelation of identity. I was disappointed. Each reveal (if you can even call it that) was almost carelessly tossed in the script like a side note. (Spoiler alert and my own quotations) “Oh by the way, Mutt is your son, Indy.” “Oh, I’m not really a double-agent, I was working for the Russians the whole time.” “Oh they’re aliens.”
Maybe it was timing, maybe it was the assumption that the loyal fans would be forgiving, maybe the writers and producers really felt it was good story telling…I don’t know. What I do know is that I didn’t see the Indiana Jones that I was expecting. And is that anyone’s fault in particular, or my own? After all, there was an overall expectation for many of us based on what we had witnessed and experienced in previous Indiana Jones movies. The “scene was set” so-to-speak. That’s valid, right?
But what if it’s not enough? What if, because I projected my own assumptions onto something that I had no influence or responsibility in creating, I am the primary cause of my own disappointment? Not alone, no, because filmmakers do have a responsibility to meet the demand of their intended audience – that’s part of the business side of the house. But just because I didn’t have my hand in the final outcome, doesn’t mean I didn’t influence my own experience.
Am I making sense, or trying too hard? Ha! What I am trying to say is that I have a responsibility to reflect and respond when I don’t recognize something or someone. I can’t brush it aside and say “well it isn’t my fault, I didn’t have anything to do with _______.” Or “I never would have expected ____________ to happen.” When we go to work, interact with our families, post online, and even view movies, we are participating in something. And even if we don’t recognize the person or the situation because we expected something else, we have to know who we are, and be confident in our identity in order to move forward and create something special.