Paramount PicturesWhen we went to see the Indiana Jones sequel "Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" opening night in 2008, we ran into an old college friend we hadn't seen in years. The guy had just had a baby and hadn't left the house in months, but he was in the theater for "Crystal Skull." "The Indiana Jones movies are my favorite," he said. "I wouldn't miss this for anything." And then we all saw the movie. Afterward, our friend looked like he'd just watched his childhood puppy being stabbed over and over again. We're still not sure if he's over it.
Our friend isn't the only person who hated "Crystal Skull," but you can rest assured that its director, Steven Spielberg, knows full well how much you despise that film. In fact, he's still apologizing about it ... well, maybe "apologizing" isn't exactly the right word.
The little matter of "Crystal Skull" came up in an interview with Empire, which you would assume would focus mostly on Spielberg's new film -- and first since that Indy sequel -- "The Adventures of Tintin." (He's also got "War Horse" coming in December.) But talk soon moved to other potential future projects, including another Indiana Jones movie. Here's what Spielberg had to say about that:
"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."
But, dude, "Crystal Skull" was terrible. Are you sure you should be letting Lucas make those types of decisions? Absolutely, says Spielberg -- and what do you mean "Crystal Skull" was bad?
"I'm very happy with the movie. I always have been... I sympathize with people who didn't like the MacGuffin because I never liked the MacGuffin. George and I had big arguments about the MacGuffin. 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."
That kind of loyalty is pretty touching, especially in Hollywood where people would generally stab each other in the back if it meant they could get on the poster for "New Year's Eve." But we've never understood Spielberg's unfailing bond to his old friend, even if he is kinda throwing him under the bus in this interview. By the time Spielberg made "Crystal Skull," he was well into his fourth decade of churning out strong, diverse movies: Who else could release "War of the Worlds" and "Munich" in the same year, let alone lifetime? But "Crystal Skull" was possibly Spielberg's most tone-deaf, witless, lifeless film. (We haven't seen "1941" or "Hook" in a while, so we're hedging our bets.) It was a movie that Spielberg simply didn't need to make and didn't seem like he wanted to make. And while he says he's "happy" with how "Crystal Skull" turned out, he sure seems to want to make sure we understand just how many obstacles -- cough Lucas cough -- he had to overcome to get to that point.
Not that Spielberg is going to trash his own movie, mind you. In fact, in the same interview he acknowledges that he's proud of the fact that people now use "nuked the fridge" instead of "jumped the shark," a reference to that goofy "Crystal Skull" scene where Indy jumps into a refrigerator to survive a nuclear blast. "Blame me," Spielberg says. "Don't blame George. That was my silly idea." Apparently, Spielberg's suggesting the rest of that bad movie is his pal's fault. Maybe, but you still decided to direct it, sir.