Crystal Skull: You should have listened to your parents
Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull continues themes set forth in some of the previous Raiders films, but in particular takes on the concept of what it means to be a good parent.
We see a bit of this in the Raiders of the Lost Ark film where Indy spoils his relationship with a prominent scientist by despoiling his teenage daughter.
Although in Temple of Doom, Indy becomes a kind of father figure to Shortstop, the film barely touches on the subject.
Not until the third film do we delve deeply into the parent-child relationship when we see Henry Jones senior neglecting Indy at a young age, claiming later he was teaching the boy self-reliance.
Indy in other conversations lays blame on Henry senior for his mother’s death, although Henry says his wife hid her illness.
By Crystal Skull, Indy has become his father – and has also become a classic Spielberg male hero, something he was not when the film series started, this despite Lucas’ own obsession with fatherhood.
In the latest and perhaps the last installment of the series, Indiana has completed the transition he started in The Last Crusade, and despite all the blows he takes and clues he figures out, he has become something of a sop, mourning the death of his father and best friend, before moving out to learn how to finally become husband and father.
In a scene as Indy packs up to leave his university after being forced into a leave of absence, he talks about where he’ll go, Dean Charles Stanforth saying, “I suppose there’s nothing to keep you here anymore.”
Indy stares down at two photographs on his desk, one of his fictional father the other of his former ally, Marcus Broady.
“A brutal couple of years, eh, Charlie, first Dad then Marcus,” he says.
And then perhaps Stanforth utters the most insightful line of the movie when he says, “We seem to have reached the age when life stops giving us things and starts taking them away.”
A scene later, Mud Williams (the son Indy has yet to learn he has) arrives at the train station on a motorcycle, dressed up like Marlon Brando, calling to Indy through the train window:
“Hey! Hey, old man. Professor. Hello? Are you Dr. Jones?”
Indy still having his snide touch doesn’t respond directly, but points out the obvious.
“You’re gonna run out of platform, kid,” he says.
The boy persists.
“Are you a friend of Dr. Oxley’s?”
“Harold Oxley, the archeologist?”
“What about him?”
“They’re going to kill him.”
The scene switches to a tavern (which looks and feels like a soda shop, but serves beer along with burger) and Indy looking at a black and white photo of the boy (Mutt Williams) and Oxley.
“I haven’t talked to Harold Oxley in 20 years. He’s a brilliant guy. Put you to sleep just by talking to you.”
The boy agrees that his Oxley put him to sleep better than warm milk.
Indy – who shouldn’t talk about taking on odd names – questioned what kind of name “Mutt” was, and giving us a hint that these two characters are related, says, “It’s one I picked, you got a problem with it?”
There is a similar scene in The Last Crusade in which Indy explains why he picked Indiana as his name, irritated by the fact that his father called him Junior.
Indiana wanted an identity of his own separate from that of his father.
Mutt, of course, does not know that Indy is his real father, and gives Indy a story about how his father dying in the war and Oxley filling in as his father afterwards.
We later learn his mother that Mutt was born after Indy and she broke up, and that she went on to marry a man Indy had introduced her to, a pilot that died during combat a short time later.
Adding to the confusion for Indy is the fact that Indy remembers Mutt’s mother as Marion Ravenwood – the daughter of an archeologist that taught Indy – not Mary Williams, the married name Mutt gives him.
Mutt gets offended when Indy doesn’t remember his mother.
“She said you would help me,” Mutt says.
“Me? What’s your mom’s name again?”
“Mary. Mary Williams. You remember her?”
“There were a lot of Mary’s kid.”
Mutt jumps to his feet ready to fight.
“That’s my mother you’re talking about. All right? That’s my mother.”
“You don’t have to get sore all the time to prove how tough you are,” Indy says.
The boy is confused about why his mother sent him to Indy, thinking of him as “some kind of grave robber,” or something, then gets snide when he discovers Indy is a teacher (regardless of the fact he called him a professor at the train).
“Oh, you’re a teacher,” he says. “That’s going to be a big help.”
Later after a conflict with the Soviets and a chase scene, Mutt’s respect for Indy grows.
“You know for an old man you’re not bad in a fight. What are you like 80?”
Although Lucas probably intended Mutt to serve as a sounding board, a foil to whom Indy could explain things – avoiding need for longer dramatic narrative – Spielberg appears have developed a father-son, teacher-student relationship, as Indy lectures the boy on dead languages and artifacts.
Indy proves himself a little more by understanding a dialect of Spanish and the fact that Indy – at about the same age of the boy – had tangled with the legendary outlaw Poncho Via.
“How old were you?” Mutt asks.
“About your age,” Indy replies as they head towards the cell where Oxley had been held.
‘You’re folks must have had a cow, uh?”
“It worked out things were a little tense at home.”
“Yeah,” Mutt says, “Me and my mom weren’t in the best of terms either.”
“Treat her right, kid. You only got one and sometimes for not that long.”
“It’s not my fault, it’s hers. She just go PO’d because I quit school. She thinks I’m some kind of goof or something.”
This surprises Indy for a moment.
“You quit school?” he asks.
“Oh yeah. Sure, tons of them,” Mutt replies. “Fancy prep schools, teach you out to debate, chess, fencing. I’m great with a blade, I just think it’s a waste of time.”
Indy in disbelief looks at him.
“You never finished?” he says.
“No,” Mutt replies. “It’s just a bunch of useless skills.”
While Mutt admitted he loved reading.
“Cause I love reading. I used to read all the time,” he said. “But now I can think of myself.”
When Indy asks what Mutt does for money, Mutt says he repairs motorcycles.
“Are you going to do that for the rest of your life?” Indy asks.
“Maybe I will,” Mutt replies and asks if Indy has a problem with that.
“Not if that’s what you love doing,” Indy says. “Don’t let anybody tell you different.”
The lessons continue – with Mutt often getting things wrong, but in some cases, his observations impress Indy, as they move through each stage of the mystery trying to find clues to where Mutt’s mother and Oxley have gone.
The concept of grave robbing rises again when Mutt reads a sign saying that grave robbers will be shot.
“Lucky we’re not grave robbers,” Indy says, then hands Mutt a shovel as they head into the crypt.
Later, perhaps feeling a little guilty, Indy puts back the dagger he wanted to take from one of the graves.
The fun begins when captured by the Russians, Indy learns who Mutt’s mother is, and banter we first heard in the first movie starts up again.
But it is Mutt that causes the distraction that allows Indy, Marion, and a slightly out of it, Oxley to escape.
This seems to pick up from a conversation between father and son in War of the Worlds, where the father in that film asks about the son’s somewhat foolish plan to go off and fight the aliens.
“At least I’ve got a plan,” Mutt replies, shortly before Marion and Indy step into a pit of quick sand and start to sink.
Here Indy sounds remarkably like his father giving a lesson in the difference between dry and wet quick sand as he and Marion come closer and closer to dying.
“Of for Pete’s sake, Jones, we’re not in school,” the frustrated Marion yelps.
Mutt and Oxley go off in different directions to find a way to rescue them. Marion describes Mutt as a bit impulsive.”
“That’s not the worst quality in the world,” Indy says.
“Indy, he…” Marion says, obviously trying to tell Indy something else. Indy, however, isn’t sensitive to it.
“He’s a good kid, Marion,” he says as they sink deeper into the sand. “You should get off his back about school.”
“His name is Henry,” she finally manages to say.
“Henry,” Indy says thoughtfully. “A good name.”
“He’s your son.”
There is a pause, and then Indy says, “He’s my son?”
“Henry Jones III,” she says.
There is another, longer pause, then Indy shouts, “Why the hell didn’t you make him finish school?”
At which point, Mutt returns to rescue them, and a moment later, the bewildered Oxley returns trailing the Soviets.
The conversation is picked up again in the back of a truck traveling through the jungle headed for the lost city where Mutt refuses to accept the fact that he is the son of a school teacher instead of a fighter pilot. Marion explains the details of the failed relationship with Indy.
We soon learn that Indy is just like most of Spielberg’s irresponsible fathers throughout the other films, who had walked out on Marion a week prior to their planned marriage, and took more than a year to write her, by which time Mutt had been born and she remarried.
The fight escalates to the point where Mutt and even their Soviet guard tell them to shut up.
“Yeah, Marion, lets not let the kid see mom and dad fight,” Indy says, perfectly earnest.
“You’re not my dad,” Mutt says, echoing again other movies, in particular War of the Worlds where the son refused to call his father, Dad.
“You bet I am,” Indy replies. “And I got news for you. You’re gonna go back and finish school.”
“Really?” Mutt retorts. “What happened to there’s not a damned thing wrong with it, kid and don’t let anybody else tell you any different. Do you remember saying that?”
“That was before I was your father!” Indy shouts.
“You’re not my father!” Mutt screams back.
Indy turns this onto Marion saying that she should have told him about the birth and that he had a right to know.”
The father/issue gets put aside for a time as they get back to the task before them, escaping the Soviets and bringing the skull back to the lost city where it belongs. We get continued references, of course, but the matter isn’t solved until the final scenes of the film, where a somewhat exasperated Indy tells Mutt, “Somewhere your grandfather is laughing.”