Spoilers ahead. Read on at your own peril.
The movie starts with a bunch of Soviets ransacking that warehouse we see the US Government wheel the Ark into in Raiders. Now, this warehouse is full of things. The Soviets don’t want the Ark. They want a coffin with weird “magnetic” properties. Magnetic properties that include attracting gunpowder, lead, and god knows what else, but only when convenient for plot. They’ve captured Indiana Jones and they’re holding him at gunpoint with another dude. Indiana tries to escape, but the other guy turns out to be a commie spy and Indiana gets fucked. Turns out the coffin contains the alien from Roswell.
Here’s a cool fact, though. The army base scene was not filmed at an army base. It was filmed at Ghost Ranch, a major fossil bonebed.
So, Indy gets out and finds himself in the middle of a nuclear test site, scrambles inside a refrigerator, and the whole place is nuked. Indy survives because the refrigerator is lead-lined.
So, now the CIA is after Indy because the KGB kidnapped him, and he loses his job at his university (tenure apparently means nothing) and we see some forlorn looks at photos of Brody and Sean Connery. Sean Connery is apparently dead. Indy then leaves and runs into Shia LeBouf, who is a malt-shop gang member right out of West Side Story and wants him to translate something because his mom and a family friend got kidnapped. Something to do with crystal skulls. KGB are following, and then there’s a motorcycle chase through the school grounds. So, they get back to Jones’ study, and they translate the letter from some ancient tongue which probably doesn’t exist, and figure out that they have to go to the Nazca lines in Peru. So, they charter a plane and off to Peru. They find out that the friend (The Ox, a stoner of unparalleled magnitude) was in an insane asylum, and there are some crazy pictures scrawled on the walls: an alien-looking skull and the words “return” in a bunch of languages. Okay, the skull has to be returned. Apparently it was stolen from El Dorado by the conquistadors and it has to be brought back. So, they go out to some ruins, fight a bunch of natives who have nothing better to do that sit around in an abandoned city, and they get the crystal skull. Oh, and Shia LeBouf is terrified of scorpions. Hey guys, if you can’t tell that he’s Indy’s lovechild yet, raise your hands. But hey, the KGB is there staking them out, and Indy and Shia LeBouf get captured, and taken to the KGB camp.
Now, we learn that they have The Ox, who is ponchoed up and stoned out of his gourd. They also haave Shia LeBouf’s mommy, who turns out to be….shocking….Marion from Raiders of the Lost Ark. The KGB is led by Cate Blanchett, who has a really distracting inability to pick whether her accent is vaguely Eastern European or British. She wants the crystal skull because it is an artifact with psychic power. She makes Indy use it on himself to learn about something or another; apparently this is what permastoned the Ox. She basically wants to use it to turn all Americans into communists. Apparently this is payback for McDonalds. From the effects on Anyways, they figure out where El Dorado is, and then Shia LeBouf stages an escape and they end up in quicksand. Stoner and Shia LeBouf run off to find help, and Indy and Marion have a shouting match and we find out that Shia LeBouf is Indy’s son.
So Shia LeBouf comes back with a rope….no wait, it’s a giant snake. According to the movie, it’s a rat snake, but actually, it’s a python (Liasis olivaceous). Now, there are neither rat snakes nor Liasis in South America, but hey, this is just biologist nitpicking.
But we get the “omg Indy hates snakes” gag out of the way. And it really is a pretty snake.
And then they get captured, and then there’s an extended chase scene and some Russians get carried off and eaten by army ants. Shia LeBouf gets helped by some monkeys (WTF?) and then the whole Jones crew goes over a few waterfalls and finds the entrance to El Dorado.
So, they enter El Dorado and it turns out that the crystal skull is not a carving of a god; it is a god, one of a bunch of little green men who came and taught people about civilization. And then it turns out that there are a bunch of natives who have nothing better to do than sit walled into the frescoes, who then break out and chase the Jones crew. They are, literally, called the Ooga-Booga Tribe or something equally racist. Go George Lucas!
I’m still trying to figure out how these people survive being walled up in these pillars. I’m assuming the rest of the tribe occasionally comes by and knocks on the walls:
“Hey Jim, you okay in there? Need some primitive native gruel? Jim? You in there?”
“Hey guys, I think Jim might be dead. Okay, pull down the fresco. Joey, you’re on pillar duty from now on. We’ll have your wife bring you gruel and pour it through the eyeholes occasionally. Remember, we have a sacred duty to protect the temple in case of the off chance that some dashing archaeologist and his merry men come by to return the bones of our gods, and in such an event, we will run around screaming “ooga-booga” and summarily all get shot by commies.”
This is in fact what subsequently happens. Then, the Jones crew makes it into the central temple by destroying some artifacts, and then they find all sorts of art from various ancient civilizations. Apparently the aliens have no taste in art, either. Also, apparently, we’re sticking to the whole “Aliens built the pyramids lolwhut” thing. Who the hell knows.
So then, they make it to the alien control room, and there are seven alien skeletons, one of which is missing its skull. The Soviets are there, and Cate Blanchett talks more about her plan to control the world, and then they put the skull back, and the aliens all come to life, and meld into a single alien. Ox the Stoner is now suddenly sober, and he’s not hungover (WTF) and that they’re interdimensional travelers and they’re opening up a portal to another dimension. Jones et al run away as fast as they can, and Cate Blanchett gets the face-melt treatment before the entire complex is destroyed and a huge flying saucer erupts from the ground and then disappears. Then, everyone lives happily ever after; Indy gets a job as the assistant dean back at the university, and then Indy and Marion get hitched, and Shia LeBouf suggests that he’s gonna be the next Indiana Jones, because he was named Henry Jones III, and then credits rolled almost as much as my eyes did.
So, my thoughts:
1. The movie tries far too hard to tell you that you are in fact watching Indiana Jones. There’s a little bit with the Ark of the Covenant, there’s the classic lines (“I have a bad feeling about this…”), and there’s constant verbal reminders that we’re watching an Indiana Jones movie. Cool, I get it. This is Indiana Jones. Problem is, they seem to have forgotten that when writing the script.
2. Too many George Lucasisms. Cute prairie dogs in the Southwest scene, the monkeys (WTF).
3. Too many “hey guys, we’re resurrecting the franchise hints.” I don’t want to see 20 years of Shia LeBouf stepping in where Harrison Ford left off.
4. Shia LeBouf ruins movies just by seeing them, let alone starring in them.
5. Too much runaround. Not enough awesome puzzles. The awesome puzzles were what made Raiders of the Lost Ark and Last Crusade as awesome as they were.
6. They should have had Sean Connery in the movie. Sean Connery makes everything better. Really.
7. The chase scenes went on and on and on. No fun.
8. Did I mention Shia LeBouf?
9. Aliens. No. Seriously. WTF.