Steven Spielberg admits he had reservations about 'Indiana Jones 4,' but still defends worst scene in 'Indiana Jones 4'

Kingdom-of-the-Crystal-Skull

Image Credit: David James/Lucasfilm Ltd

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is not a very good movie. Actually, it’s less of a movie than a horrific catalogue of everything that is miserable and boring in modern Hollywood: The urge to sequelize into infinity, the paycheck-gravitas of great British actors, the redefinition of “plot” as “a series of digitalized set-pieces signifying nothing,” the notion of Shia LaBeouf as an action hero, the notion that Russians still make interesting villains, the limits of Cate Blanchett’s greatness, but, most of all, the TV-ification of movie stardom, whereby every movie star is only really a star when they’re sleepwalking through reheated incarnations of their most iconic roles. (See also: Renée Zellweger, Sylvester Stallone, everyone who has ever starred in a superhero movie besides Christian Bale, the cast of Fast Five, the cast of Twilight.)

But Crystal Skull was directed by Steven Spielberg, who has almost certainly earned the right to strike out every now and then. Spielberg has been producing great, complex, entertaining Hollywood fare for 40 years now. You don’t just pick out your favorite Spielberg film; you pick out your favorite Spielberg phase. Do you prefer the “Classic” era, from 1975 (Jaws) to 1982 (E.T.)? Or perhaps the underrated “Weird” period, from 1984 (Temple of Doom) to 1991 (Hook), which also includes Spielberg’s work as the producer of Gremlins, The Goonies, and Back to the Future? Some people dig the “Revival” period, when he made the “important” trilogy (Schindler’s List, Amistad, Saving Private Ryan) and mixed in a couple Jurassic Park movies, why not? Personally, I dig Spielberg’s “Bleak” period, from 2001’s totally weird Kubrick mash-up A.I. through a brilliant post-9/11 Tom Cruise duet up to the incisive thriller Munich.

That’s a great run that ended with Crystal Skull, but in a new interview with Empire, Spielberg sounds pretty serene about the Indiana Jones fourquel. That’s not to say he doesn’t understand that people have a gripe with the central plot point of the film, which you’ll recall forced Harrison Ford to run around the jungle waving a Crystal Skull and yelling “Crystal Skull! Crystal Skull! Crystal Skull!” for 90 minutes. “I sympathize with people who didn’t like the MacGuffin because I never liked the MacGuffin,” says Spielberg. “George [Lucas] and I had big arguments about the MacGuffin.” Ah, but don’t think for a moment that Spielberg is joining in the popular Internet sporting event of Hating On Lucas. “I am loyal to my best friend,” he says. “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.”

So basically, this is a classic example of an awesome filmmaker deferring to a decidedly less awesome filmmaker, purely out of friendship. (Sort of like whenever Quentin Tarantino works with Robert Rodriguez, or when Alfred Hitchcock took some peyote with William Wyler and Wyler was all like, “Yo Hitch, man, you should totally make a movie about dreams, man!” and the result was Spellbound.) Spielberg happily admits that the most infamous scene in Crystal Skull belongs to him:

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.

Anyhow, the point is that Spielberg feels your pain, and now we can all have a good laugh, and while we’re laughing, we can take a good hard look at the first decade of the new millennium, and ponder the fact that we lived through a moment when George Lucas’ silly ideas were regularly turned into $200 million movies.

Follow Darren on Twitter: @EWDarrenFranich

Read more:
Producers Guild to honor Steven Spielberg: But what took so long?
Steven Spielberg’s ‘Lincoln’ adds team of rivals: Tommy Lee Jones, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, John Hawkes
Steven Spielberg: His Memorable Movies


Comments (210 total) Add your comment
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  • Francisco

    I’ve never heard of “nuked the fridge.” Looking back, I’ve only watched Indy 4 once. The others numerous times!

    • Empire of the Sun is Spielberg’s most underrated movie

      “Empire of The Sun” is Steven Spielberg’s most underrated movie – it is ALWAYS overlooked, yet I feel it is his most artisitc film. Starring a 13 yr old Christian Bale, it is one Spielberg’s finest films – the sound track of the Welsh music fantastic

      • Empire of the Sun is Spielberg’s most underrated movie

        Look at the above article, “Empire of the Sun” is not even mentioned

      • shoegal

        ITA — That’s one of my all-time favorite movies. Christian Bale was astonishing at such a young age. Can’t believe it gets overlooked so often.

      • Francisco

        100% Agree. Empire of the Sun needs a Blu-Ray re-release with extra soundtrack disk or digital download for it’s score.

      • RCB

        Empire is also one of my all-time favorites. Xtian Bale was amazing, esp at the end when he was finally reunited with his parents. Heartbreaking scene.

      • 90s

        Thank you. This is by far my favorite Spielberg movie, to this day “Suo Gan” the Welsh song is one of my all time favorites. Seeing the young Jim having to grow up fast to survive was really moving, especially towards the end

      • realist

        So you mean to tell me this movie sucks after all that HYPE?!?! Well to tell you the truth, I never watched it. You want to know why I didn’t watch this movie? Because you burned me out with everything else you guys have made since the mid 90s. I’m tired. I would rather watch something on AMC Classic movie channel than one of you movies again. No thanks.

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      • Chris

        I agree. In my top five films of all time.

    • Mark

      I’ve heard (and seen) “nuked the fridge” used many times. If you spend any time in the geekier corners of the internet, you’ll see this phrase used quite a bit.

      • Francisco

        I did not know I could get any geekier than I already am. I thought I had reached bottom.

      • Matthew B

        Well, it’s on io9.com and gawker, so you don’t even have to be in the geekiest corners. Just… on the internet.

    • Rush

      This is the problem with fanboys. They’re about as bad as the Christian right. A small yet loudly vocal minority. The movie did well financially, and was generally well reviewed. Fanboys will always be disappointed when their favorite series is revisited because they idealize what came before. The original Jones trilogy was entertaining, but save for the first one, they are not “Great Movies”.

      • Ames

        I wouldn’t say they’re as bad as the Christian right, but they certainly will turn on someone, that’s for sure.

        In my mind, the best thing about Indy IV was that it made Die Hard IV so much more tolerable.

      • Rob K

        Well, when you take into account that a movie review tends to be a polar opposite of a movie’s actual quality, and that there is a huge difference between a movie doing well financially and doing what is expected financially, I’d say that these are hardly indicators of success by any definition of the word.

        I’ve noticed a trend with movie sequels (and I’m not the only one) where each subsequent sequel is never as good as the original. This applies to television series that are based on movies, too (and vice versa). In fact, this trend is so blatantly obvious that it’s close to being a scientific law. This is something that every movie director and producer should bear in mind before attempting to create a franchise out of great movie.

  • fbdbpw

    Guess ill always be one of the very few who enjoyed it

    • Chelsea

      I’m with you. Was it as good as it should’ve/could’ve been? Hell no, but I found it entertaining nonetheless. Karen Allen still rules.

      • CalculusThief

        I’m with you….best Indy movie? No. But entertaining? Sure- and still better than most of what comes out of Hollywood these days. I even enjoyed the “fridge scene”- you’re trapped in the middle of an atom bomb proving ground, one is about to go off- where else would you hide?

      • Jeff

        I’ll climb on board with you guys. Was it perfect? No. Was it entertaining? Yes. It moved to the ’50s. Russians were big with The Cold War and Aliens/Sci-Fi were all over the B-Movies. Made sense to me. Why do people get all over the fridge scene too? Like everything in the Indy movies was believable up to that point. Remember the 400 year old knight?! This movie was by far, way better than Temple of Doom. The only one I will watch, if nothing else is on.

      • orville

        Me too. Mostly because of Karen Allen. I just decided to think of it as purposely over-the-top silly. That way, Blanchett’s “Moose and Squirrel” accent could be excused in my brain.

      • ^

        Karen Allen’s character was completely ruined.

      • sigh

        i couldve forgiven the first half of the movie, if the second half didn’t exist. the whole alien crystal premise was badly written and it was like they rushed the ending so you didn’t have to think how stupid the deus ex machina plot points were. the last half hour is what put the movie in the waay bad territory. up to that point, it was unrealistic and over the top, but still a relatively fun romp.

      • sockigal

        I loved that they put sassy Karen Allen in this movie! She is awesome and perfected that spunky character. I really did enjoy Indy 4! It was a great movie experience for my family.

      • realist

        Aren’t these guys movies just one rip off after another rip off of classic movies from the golden age of cinema?

      • Chris

        It wasn’t the best, but it still entertains. The author of the article isn’t even getting at the stuff which really were problematic. It’s not the nuked fridge or the MacGuffin, it’s the way Indy got softened, Marion got slapstick and the missing gravitas of the other films, most notably Raiders.

    • F

      You’re not alone. I honestly don’t know why people hate this film so much. IT IS NO DUMBER THAN THE PREVIOUS INDY FILMS.

      • Realist

        Oh, yes it is.
        Shia swinging with monkeys on vines with enough speed to catch up to a high speed car chase.
        Prosecution rests.

      • NedPepper

        Temple of Doom had Indiana Jone and company fall out of an airplaine, using a raft as a parachute and then having them tumble down a mountan. And people get mad about the fridge? Come on! It’s the POINT of these movies to be a little silly…

      • Herman

        The only flaws w/ Indy IV was the long title, over-reliance on CGI, and that insufferable Shia LeBeouf (I loathe him). Other than that, it was okay. And I enjoyed it more than “The Last Crusade.” “Raiders,” “Temple of Doom,” and “the fourth one” were great pictures. But there should not be a fifth film. A 4th installment was pushing it.

      • D

        Not to forget in Raiders Of The Lost Ark where Jones hangs onto a submarine all the way to Cyprus… which is at least a two day voyage. Oh and talk about production value: You can see the snake’s reflection when it hisses as Indy.

      • Liz

        The Last Crusade is the most over the top and my favorite. But to second what some people have said, the Indiana Jones movies have always been ridiculous. It’s just that the younger generation, which is expected to attend Shia’s movies, has always had Jones as a cultural touchstone.

    • Sue1

      Add me to that list. It was NEVER going to be as good as everyone expected, but we enjoyed it. The fridge scene–no more unrealistic than using a raft as a parachute. Still fun.

      • Fingerlakes Dave

        Bravo!
        Or a chase through a mine in mine cars!

      • Herman

        I loved the fridge scene. Does this mean Indy will have cancer in the possible 5th installment because he was in an A-bomb blast?

      • realist

        The first Raider was marvelous, but then again I watched all of the films that were ripped off in the making of that movie, and now I understand why I loved it so much.

      • Daisy Steiner

        The worst scene was actually the vine-swinging scene. “Ridiculous” isn’t a strong enough word for it.

      • Jim

        I also liked the movie, and got a kick out of the refrigerator scene. Given the time period the film was set in, it fit. This was an era when our government was telling school children to duck and cover under their desks in the event of a nuclear blast. A refrigerator would look a lot safer than a school desk to someone in the 50’s. All in all the film was a lot better than Mr. Franich’s review.

    • bill

      I liked it!

    • JPX

      I liked it as well.

    • Nerwen Aldarion

      You are not alone. It wasn’t the best of the Indy films but at least it wasn’t the Temple of Doom *shudders* Ugh that one just annoyed me.

      • Ann

        Agreed!

    • pie thrower

      I loved Crystal Skull. It was a response to the B-movie era of flying saucers (Ed Wood flicks, Day Earth Stood Still) while mixing in Cold War era elements.

      I thought it was brilliant and was more aware of the period it was taking place in than “…The Last Crusade.”

    • Rush

      I thought him getting in the fridge was a brilliant Indy moment. You have to remember that fridges at that time were thick lead lined walled affairs. Of course you might think that you could survive a nuclear blast in one! And the way the shot was framed when it landed was comic brilliance. A part of what keeps Indiana Jones action sequences light is the absurd cartoon nature of them. You could just as much imagine Bugs Bunny doing the same thing. But later in the scene when he looks back on the rising mushroom cloud, it seemed to me like an unstated comment on how the world had changed for Indiana. It wasn’t long after that scene before we met who he’d find out was his son.

    • Steve

      I loved it too!!! What I don’t understand is how Mr. Franich can say Speilberg’s best period is the one that includes “War of the Worlds,” which is BY FAR the WORST Spielberg film ever made. Even worse than the second JP movie.

  • Doug

    I thought the worst scene was the Shia swinging with the monkeys scene.

    • barock

      I like that scene. Go Chaz yourself.

      • Well…

        What on earth does “go Chaz yourself” mean? Is that a Trans joke?

    • Tino

      What Doug said. This scene was totally embarrassing. Would have walked out if I was one of those people who walk out of movies… and I wasn’t on a plane.

    • Dave

      I’m with you Doug. The fridge was silly, but the monkey scene was absurd, unnecessary, and ruined the second half of the movie.

      • Steve F.

        Didn’t think the fridge sequence was THAT bad… but the monkey scene was just plain awful. Still, I’ve seen far worse than Indy 4.

      • Tim

        …almost as bad as when the little girl fought off Velociraptors with gymnastics in The Lost World.

    • Chad

      Mudd goes from Greaser to….Lord of the Monkeys! “Swing with me my furry army!” Sheesh…

  • Tyler Kerry

    I hope that they don’t make another Indiana Jones film. All of the people involved should move onto more promising projects. The original trilogy were all classics and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was a good tribute to them even though Kate Capshaw, John Rhys-Davies, Jonathan Ke Quan and Sean Connery should have been included. It would be best that Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull concludes the series. I have my doubts if they try to reboot it as Harrison Ford defined the role.

    • dexx

      Sean Connery no longer acts and Short Rounds luster wouldn’t be the same with him being older.

      • ^

        More like Spent Rounds am i rite

  • Dave

    The nuke the fridge scene wasn’t the worst. The worst was Shia Lebeef swinging through the forest….that’s outside of turning Indy into a bumbling oaf (like they did with Salah and Marcus Brody in The Last Crusade) and ruining Marion’s character altogether.

  • Jelana

    Awww, I liked Spellbound! Dali dreams!

    • Lindsay

      I loved Spellbound!!

    • Maddie

      I know me too.

  • CC

    I thought the most notorious scene was Shia making like Tarzan with a bunch of digital chimps?

    • Seth Baruti

      I wholeheartedly agree. There were other bad scenes, such as the “nuke the fridge scene” and the army ant scene (primarily because, for modern technology, it had terrible CGI. The look of the army ants swarming the guy looked 100% fake. But the “Tarzan” scene was even more egregiously moronic. First of all, like the ants, the CGI looked like something a 7th grader could put together. It wasn’t obviously green-screened; it SCREAMED green-screen. But to top it all off, it had absolutely no place in the movie. That scene was as disassociative as Suzanne Vega’s lyrics. ‘Crystal Skull’ was abhorrently disappointing. I sure hope someone stops drinking the Lucas kool-aid and critiques his script before putting a 5th Indy film out there. I’d like something which makes up for that shameful mess.

  • stickittotheman

    Well, I’m no fan of the 4th Indy, but I still got goosebumps when the Raiders march started playing in the theater. Having said that, the problem with sequals is the need to ramp things up and up until they don’t make any sense anymore. The 1st Indy movie challenged our hero with basic threats, such as a gun or a punch to the face. By movie four he is surviving a nuclear blast. Where can you go next? My favorite Indiana Jones moments were the small ones (“It’s not the years, its the mileage”, “Truck? What truck?”).

    • Mindshaker

      “The problems with sequels is the need to ramp things up and up until they don’t make sense anymore.”
      Exactly!
      I think more sequels need to follow the James Bond model: simply another story/adventure with the character, rather than trying to build a continuously escalating story, or fabricate “trilogies” and mythologies through retcons.

    • dave

      The Ark of the Covenant was more “ramped up” than an atom bomb. It doesn’t get much bigger than the wrath of God.

  • Nelrock

    People age and the window of opportunity to make a believeable, action packed, Indiana Jones, with Harrison Ford, wasn’t going to stay open forever.
    While the story wasn’t the greatest…I still enjoyed it…just for the simple fact…Indiana Jones was back!
    I can do without Shia…and hope they don’t plan to use his character for future movies.

    • forrest

      For the franchise, isn’t Shia the heir apparent? The Next Generation of the continuing adventures of whoever. James Dean wannabe and the challenge of riding motorcycles?

  • Dave

    Lucas needs to stay away from the franchise. These films became too family-friendly after Temple of Doom.

    • jr

      Lucas was involved from the beginning. On Raiders, he was a writer and producer.

    • taylor

      The whole thing was Lucas’ idea. Speilberg wanted to direct a Bond film, but Lucas said that he had something better. And he did.

  • Nate

    Harsh much? I thought it was a very entertaining movie, perfectly in line with the other 3 Indy movies. Set during the Cold War, of course the Russians would be the villains. Yes, Blanchett’s accent and attitude were over the top…because it was meant to be! The only uncharactersitic part of the fun-filled movie was that Indy was back together with Marion, a woman his own age! But that is what made it all the more special to me! As far as I’m concerned, while Transformers never needed to be made and certainly not sequelized, give me endless Indy movies and I will be perfectly satisfied.

    • Sue1

      Nicely put.

    • dave

      But Transformers 2 is the greatest action movie of all time, according to the commercials.

      • Fingerlakes Dave

        You should be ashamed of that statement, quoting a commercial or not!

      • Mike

        He shouldn’t be ashamed if he was being sarcastic, which I clearly thought he was being.

  • NMO

    I thought the fridge scene was hilarious! To me it was about the indestructibility of Indiana Jones. He also survived falling out of a plane on an inflatable raft.

    • Abe Froman

      Seriously. The fridge wasn’t any more outrageous than anything else in the previous movies.

    • Heather P

      Me too. The whole theater was laughing at the fridge scene. It was supposed to be absurd.

  • Abe Froman

    Bad Indy is still better than most of the crap Hollywood is making lately.

    • Mindshaker

      You’re Abe Froman?
      The sausage king of Chicago?

  • Dave

    I’m saddened by the picture above showing Harrison Ford with his pants pulled up to his chest like an old man does.

    • MultiPass

      He IS an old man

      • Mindshaker

        And that is exactly how people wore their pants in the 1950s! Old men, young men, everyone!

    • Jeff

      It is also a movie in the ’50s. Look at any movie or tv show from that time. Pants were higher then.

  • Crystal

    I remember being in the theater and hearing someone mutter “Oh, bull$&*%” during the fridge scene. Which kind of summed the whole thing up for me.

    • Ed

      …but you were OK with the ghosts flying out of the ark, Indy’s beating heart being removed from his chest, and all of the other absurd moments in the series? It’s a live action cartoon!

      • Dave

        Indy’s heart was not removed.

      • Al

        Don’t forget about the submarine?

      • Ann

        The submarine was the single most ridiculous action sequence ever! Yet I still loved Raiders.

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