Steven Spielberg Blames George Lucas For How Dumb 'Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull' Was

by Kevin Jagernauth
October 26, 2011 9:33 AM
21 Comments
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But Takes Full Credit For Nuking The Fridge



While the film has its delusional defenders, most rational people can agree that "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" was pretty bad. A stain on an otherwise solid trilogy -- yes, even the uneven 'Temple of Doom' -- taking the pulpy good times of the previous three films into outrageous sci-fi territory, the result was a movie that even managed to make Cate Blanchett look ridiculous. And while Shia LaBeouf got pilloried for trashing the movie -- Harrison Ford recently called him "a fucking idiot" for his comments -- it looks like Steven Spielberg is finally ready to own up that the movie was a dud (sort of). And he puts the blame squarely on the shoulders of producer/visionary/bajillionaire George Lucas.

"I'm very happy with the movie. I always have been...I sympathise with people who didn't like the MacGuffin because I never liked the MacGuffin. George and I had big arguments about the MacGuffin," Spielberg rationalized to Empire. "I didn't want these things to be either aliens or inter-dimensional beings. But I am loyal to my best friend. When he writes a story he believes in - even if I don't believe in it - I'm going to shoot the movie the way George envisaged it. I'll add my own touches, I'll bring my own cast in, I'll shoot the way I want to shoot it, but I will always defer to George as the storyteller of the Indy series. I will never fight him on that."

As for the long rumored fifth movie? Spielberg says it's all up to Lucas and again emphasizes, he comes up with the story ideas. "You have to ask George Lucas. George is in charge of breaking the stories. He's done it on all four movies. Whether I like the stories or not, George has broken all the stories. He is working on Indy V. We haven't gone to screenplay yet, but he's working on the story. I'll leave it to George to come up with a good story," he said, presumably without sarcasm.

But it's not all Lucas' fault as Spielberg takes full ownership of the 'Crystal Skull' moment that quickly became a catchphrase for shit getting fubar. "...What people really jumped at was Indy climbing into a refrigerator and getting blown into the sky by an atom-bomb blast. Blame me. Don't blame George. That was my silly idea. People stopped saying 'jump the shark.' They now say, 'nuked the fridge.' I'm proud of that. I'm glad I was able to bring that into popular culture."

And as for that other mega franchise that's still stomping around, "Jurassic Park"? As you know, the developing fourth entry in the series got some movement early this year when a writer was brought on board and if anything, Spielberg swears it'll be better than the last one. "The screenplay is being written right now by Mark Protosevich. I'm hoping that will come out in the next couple of years. We have a good story. We have a better story for four than we had for three..." he insists.

The lesson in all this? Hitching your wagon to Lucas these days probably isn't the best idea. And as for JPIV -- that's what we're calling it now -- it's definitely a long way off as "Lincoln" and "Robopocalypse" will keep Spielberg busy until 2013.

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More: Films, Genre Films, Jurassic Park IV

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21 Comments

  • Duder NME | October 29, 2011 2:14 AMReply

    Typical blogger insisting that his "us vs. them" mentality should be taken as gospel. Before one disparages another for being "delusional", perhaps taking into account the variance of human nature and the adage "one man's treasure is another's trash" should be a prerequisite of critical thinking before launching into what already seems like another in an ongoing series of calculated whining attacks on popularly hated targets to boost one's own hip cred. Failure ensues.

    I liked Crystal Skull. Commence to crying about your insignificant raped childhood.

  • Are you kidding? | August 31, 2013 9:28 PM

    Are you joking me? You LIKED this movie? He got blown out of the city in a lead refrigerator for goodness sake - that doesn't seem stupid to you? And I loved when his son started swinging through the jungle with a herd of monkies faster than the ground speed of a car...right before the car goes down 3 huge waterfalls and everyone survives just fine.

    Yeah, that wasn't stupid at all.

  • Jake | October 28, 2011 7:57 AMReply

    Spielberg had the least to lose by doing a 4th Indy film. The fact that his previous film was Munich and his next film, Tintin, is already getting good buzz confirms that.
    Ford's last good film was "What Lies Beneath" & the fiascos that were the Star Wars prequels speak for themselves.

  • Rev1 | October 28, 2011 7:36 AMReply

    No threat that Indy faces after an atomic bomb has any weight. The genius of Raiders is that the cliffhangers were larger than life, but he was always vulnerable to death. Indy was never a superhero, but a tenacious guy with a lot of knowledge and more than a little luck. By placing the fridge-nuking at the head of the film, quicksand doesn't seem too scary, nor do a handful of thugs, some ants (ANTS!), a cliff, a waterfall. This isn't WHY the movie is bad, but it's one example of bad decision-making in creating a dramatic arc for the story. This is not "true to form" except perhaps to the inflatable raft sequence in Temple of Doom, which everybody will readily admit was not the strongest of the three earlier films.

    Another huge story problem is that they actually nab the MacGuffin early in the film, and spend the rest of the movie trying to get rid of it. That's just awkward. In addition, the Skull is not terribly well defined as an artifact, nor is the goal of the antagonists. We found out what the Ark of the Covenant could do the first scene it's ever even mentioned. Likewise we learn what the Holy Grail is capable of in a similar scene. The Skull has information in it? And maybe also can help psychics with mind control? Maybe? Ooookkkay.

    And let's not forget the characters and their relationships. The main relationship is a less nuanced and less interesting rehash of Last Crusade, with the only possible interest being the flipped roles. Then, there's Oxley, who stands in, poorly, for Henry Jones, Sr, or Marcus Brody. Indy's assistant from the beginning of the film is lame, perhaps in a pulpy way, but the double-cross at the beginning is neither surprising or exciting.

    The college chase scene is by far the most Indy of all the scenes in the film, and I applaud it for doing Indy like a real Indiana Jones movie. The rest of the film, sadly, falls short, not only in idea and story, but also, perhaps more sadly, in execution. Over-reliance on CG post processes turned some perfectly decent sets into overly digital cartoon landscapes (Jungle, I'm looking at you).

    I WANTED to like this movie. I'm not even convinced that Aliens or trans-dimensional/pan-dimensional/inter-dimensional beings wouldn't work. It's just that they DIDN'T work, and all of the connective tissue in this film failed to hold it together. If nothing else, a movie like this should make a few things clear to me right off the bat: what are they looking for? Why do I want them to find it? What happens if they don't? When this stuff isn't clear, or is muddled, then you wind up with Tomb Raider instead of Raiders of the Lost Ark. If you enjoyed this movie, then you're more easily entertained than I am. If you enjoyed this movie MORE than Raiders, then we obviously have entirely different understandings of what makes a story enjoyable. If you think think it's a better film, then I feel like we may have completely different fundamental understandings of things like language and math and yes and no.

  • Kevin Jagernauth | October 28, 2011 6:12 AMReply

    But was it true to form?

  • Justin | October 28, 2011 6:10 AMReply

    I thought Crystal Skull was great. Overall, it's tone was completely 100% true to form with the other films to date. Ford was true to form, Karen Allen was true to form. All of people had problems with the opening, and I've never understood that, as again, it's true to form with the rest of the films. All of them open very unbeliveable. That's what's so fun about it. I don't get it. And with the aliens. Why is that so hard to believe? I mean, it's easier to believe in a ark that contains ghosts? The Crystal Skull was very true to the tone, humor and adventure of all the previous films. The only thing I can think of in regards to the film that was somewhat negative was LaBouf. He's a horrible actor, and perhaps the whole thing with the LaBouf and the swinging monkeys was a bit much, but again that shouldn't allow someone to just brush off the film. Lucas is getting older, and it's always seemed to me like he's trying to appeal to a younger audience. And that bugs me, but overall the Crystal Skull was fun, and again very true to form with the previous films..

  • Don | October 27, 2011 10:43 AMReply

    Hey rich beyond belief filmmakers, here is an idea, try writing and making an original movie... not one of your re-treads. Thanks!

  • Glass | October 27, 2011 4:35 AMReply

    Hey JD, you can only blame yourself for putting The Playlist on such a huge pedestal and taking such offense to their commentary. Unless you're a brand new reader, you should know what you're getting into, at this point.

    That said, Playlist = best movie news/commentary site ever. I really mean that, too.

  • Ken | October 27, 2011 3:54 AMReply

    and @JD

    really? Crystal Skull's target audience was 50 year olds? lmao

  • Ken | October 27, 2011 3:52 AMReply

    @Glass

    I think he's just loyal to George Lucas, I don't think he sets out to direct bad scripts. He directs the Indiana Jones films, but it's George Lucas who comes up with the stories. Of course he's going to be loyal to Lucas, they've been friends for like 40 years.

    It's just a shame that his friend George Lucas has turned into a shitty storyteller

  • Erik McClanahan | October 27, 2011 3:14 AMReply

    @JD
    Look man, you make some good points and all, and we respect that you like the film here (no bullshit, we really do), but how is most of your comment any different than the "squalling temper tantrum" you proclaim this blog post to be? Dude, calm down. And you say that our opinion of the movie is a "weak opinion" (we really appreciate you stating that in all caps by the way, we almost missed your point there), well that's your opinion. A lot of people, whatever their age, agree that KOTC is a rather pathetic effort by Lucas, Spielberg and Ford. I'll say it, I HATED this movie, and for many, many more reasons than you assume here.

    How can any rational human being call KOTC anything other than an "emotionally immature fanboy’s saturday afternoon fantasy"? I don't care how old you are, Shia LaBeouf getting hit in the nuts constantly by tree branches while straddling two fucking jeeps, only to grab a vine and swing with fucking monkeys (and eventually catch up to said jeeps) is plain old stupid. But my biggest issue with the movie in the end is that Lucas, Spielberg and Ford clearly didn't give a shit about making a good movie. I think the quotes from Senoir Spielbergo in this post proves that point quite well. Mr. Jagernauth, if you read his work on this site, is a fantastic and tireless blogger that is always fair-minded, especially when he throws his opinions around. We wouldn't have a site for you to read were it not for his work.

    But thanks for reading JD! We hope to disagree with you more in the future.

  • Lao Che | October 27, 2011 2:26 AMReply

    The MacGuffin wasn't the problem with Crystal Skull. Sure, it may have been unpopular but that wasn't what made it a bad movie - it was everything else that made it bad.

  • starway2001 | October 27, 2011 1:48 AMReply

    Because, you know, using a life raft as a parachute while jumping out of an airplane is perfectly acceptable. But getting in a fridge... HAS GONE TOO FAR!

  • JD | October 27, 2011 1:47 AMReply

    I'm one of those "delusional" defenders. That is, I'm capable of actually enjoying everything that's good about it, not having a squalling temper tantrum because a 4th Indiana Jones film exists and it isn't some emotionally immature fanboy's saturday afternoon fantasy of a Frank Darabont-scripted pandering to the video-game internet geek demographic.

    It's people like Mr. Jagernauth constantly and irrationally pounding the hate drum in article after article on this website continually proclaiming KOTCS garbage, who really need to wake up and cut the shit. Write journalism, not snide put-downs with zero basis in actual critical objectivity, okay? And fucking grow up. "Outrageous sci-fi territory?" That's an opinion. A WEAK opinion from someone displaying rather poor taste and a narrow, self-satisfied perspective. The whole subtext of the endless harping on Crystal Skull around here is "Only stupid people could like this 'cause I don't." Yeah, well, I'll say again, I liked it. And a lot of people over fifty like it. And y'know, I strongly suspect that's the target audience, and that's the real reason it's so roundly hated by certain twenty and thirty somethings. Because it's NOT aimed at them. It's NOT meant for them. It's an older person's film about getting old, and the fanboys just have their red-faced screaming fits because it wasn't what THEY wanted. Well, y'know, tough. Go watch Green Lantern.

  • Glass | October 26, 2011 11:29 AMReply

    So Spielberg's saying he's willing to direct a story he doesn't like? Awesome, crossing him off the "filmmakers to trust" list.

    How lame. The world did not need a fourth Indiana Jones and it doesn't need a fourth Jurassic Park. WTF happened to these guys? It doesn't boggle the mind, but it's really too bad.

  • kure | October 26, 2011 11:08 AMReply

    you do know,Kevin Jagernauth, that spielberg is not going to direct jurassic park 4?? joe johnston will,probably.
    and universal already confirmed that its on track for 2013...
    http://www.deadline.com/2011/07/steven-spielberg-says-jurassic-park-4-may-happen-in-2-to-3-years/

  • Mark Jobson | October 26, 2011 11:07 AMReply

    You have to wonder about people that think Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is a bad movie.

  • Pierre | October 26, 2011 10:40 AMReply

    Phew, thank god I'm not the only other person who liked (loved) Crystal Skull.

  • Nolan | October 26, 2011 10:37 AMReply

    I don't have a problem with the fridge nuke. I didn't see it as that big of a deal. The movie did suck, however.

    The Indy movies, by law, go good-bad-good-bad, so if they make a fifth one it will be good.

  • jimmiescoffee | October 26, 2011 9:59 AMReply

    hmmm. 'temple of doom' is the shit.

  • hmm | October 26, 2011 9:49 AMReply

    kotcs rocks. College chase alone is better than Crusade and Temple. (Though they all are good.)

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