In Defense of Mutt

You’re wrong about Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull…and a fifth movie just might be good news.

This week, while the internet collectively freaked out about the announcement that Steven Spielberg and Harrison Ford will return for Indiana Jones V, I quietly rejoiced while hoping that Shia LaBeouf would also return.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (theatrical poster)

Perhaps I’ve already lost you.

These are the arguments I’ve heard, over and over and over, against Kingdom of the Crystal Skull:

  1. Aliens are incompatible with the established Mythos of Indiana Jones.
  2. Mutt is terrible.
  3. The CGI is too unrealistic and pulls the audience out of the story. (The scene where Mutt swings through the trees with the monkeys is usually mentioned, as are the ants.)
  4. Related to #3, you object to the unrealistic physics.
  5. The refrigerator.

I think these arguments are most likely being made by fans who have never watched the first three movies with a critical eye. And let me be clear: there is nothing wrong with just enjoying a movie. But you don’t get to be critical about the fourth movie while holding the first three to a standard they don’t actually meet, at least not without me telling you that you’re wrong.

  1. Aliens are no more out there than the Ark of the Covenant or the Holy Grail. You only think they are because the ark and grail are bible-related and/or because you consider the early movies canon.
  2. And yet you love Short Round. Don’t deny it, I know you do, even if you otherwise hate Temple of Doom. May I suggest that you actually hate Shia LaBeouf, the actor who played Mutt? You are wrong there, too, but I paused work on my essay about his brilliance to write this so you will just have to trust me for now.
  3. The CGI is unrealistic. But you were cool with Raiders of the Lost Ark’s claymation melting faces? Cool story.
  4. Indy, Short Round, and Willie jumped out of a plane on an inflatable raft and sledded down a mountain on it. An hour later, they rode in a runaway mine cart which Indy stopped with his feet.
  5. That was hilarious. Just shut up.

If your response at this point is, “But I still don’t like it,” that’s cool. You don’t have to like anything you don’t want to. That’s kind of the whole point of the first amendment. (If you are not a U.S. citizen, sorry. You do have to like it.)

My point is that your arguments are incorrect proof that it’s not good. That doesn’t mean you have to like every movie that’s not demonstratively bad.

So why do I think beating this horse for a fifth installment is a good idea? At least in part, because of the relationship between Henry Jones, Jr, and Henry Jones III (uh, spoilers). Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was clearly intended to be a bridge movie, passing the torch to Indy’s son. Whether it succeeded in that is another matter, of course.

(As an aside, “Mutt” is an obvious play on the fact that Jr. named himself “Indiana” after the dog, as revealed in The Last Crusade. You don’t have to like it, but it’s cute and maybe even clever.)

So the movie ended with Mutt reaching to pick up Indy’s iconic hat, and Indy stopping him and donning the hat once again himself. What does it mean? Well, nothing. Unless the fifth movies picks up at that exact moment, it is just an ending. Could it be argued that he doesn’t pass the torch at all, but keeps it for himself? Well, maybe. Ford is signed to the fifth movie and LaBeouf is not yet. In fact, Spielberg has suggested that he is hoping to cast Chris Pratt in an undetermined role. Could he be planning to have Pratt take over the role of Mutt? Is he thinking of introducing a different protégé for Indy? Or was that news based on the idea of rebooting the franchise?

Obviously I don’t know (though I believe it’s the latter). But I maintain that continuing this franchise is potentially a positive move. I certainly hope the fifth movie will be about Mutt, though I don’t have tremendous hope that it will. After Disney’s handling of LucasFilms’ other big franchise, though, I’m willing to wait and see.