My friends, for instance.
I've now seen the film twice, and I can positively say I enjoyed it quite a bit. Enjoyed. Not loved.
There is a lot to love, though. The goofy, silly Indy is back. The fedora, the whip, the music (although the whip is pretty under-utilized). The thrills, chases and white-knuckle escapes. The opening scene and the whole atomic era and cartoonish villains. Indy being such a dirty fighter. It's all there. The other-worldly plot device doesn't even bother me. It's about as plausible as the Ark of the Covenant, the Holy Grail and Mola Ram's beating heart fetish. I felt right at home, and given the milieu of the film, it worked perfectly.
If anything, I felt the film was a little small in plot and grand in scope. Raiders and Last Crusade had Indy globe-hopping to save the world. Here he spent half his commute in the hands of the enemy, thus reducing the exhilarating feeling of barely making it out of a scrape alive. It's exactly what happened in Temple of Doom.
My friends hated Shia Lebeouf, which is interesting, because I loved him. Sure, I think he's no one to fill Harrison Ford's shoes, but then again, who is? My question is this: who can hate Mutt Williams yet love Willie Scott and Short Round? It boggles the mind.
Part of what happens, I think, is that there are plenty of subtle in-jokes and references that, if not caught, detract from the overall experience. Every single thing about Mutt Williams (even the Tarzan bit) is a throwback to some sort of film icon-- including his name.
There are problems, yes: the script is a leaky, leaky bastard, full of exposition and lame plot twists. Ray Winstone, John Hurt and Jim Broadbent do their best with phenomenally underwritten and wholly unnecessary characters. And the most atrocious sin of all is that Karen Allen is wasted in a role that is not only not needed, but is clearly a selling point to revisit the franchise twenty years after it seemed to been over with.
Theoretically, Marion Ravenwood is the perfect heroine for this film. Several key scenes practically scream what the overarching theme is, and Marion is exactly the character that should raise the stakes. Instead, she's "mom" to Mutt, and little else than a driver for an extended action sequence.
All this, and yet I enjoyed it... why? Maybe it's Steven Spielberg's ability to direct an action sequence. Maybe it's the fact that Harrison Ford, after ten years of uninspiring films has finally done something where he seems to be having fun. Maybe it's just that flaws and all, I felt like a kid again, and the movie felt like a celebration of everything I love about movies without having to think about too much. Problems? Hell, all the Indiana Jones movies have problems. I just have too much damned fun to care. A friend said the previous movies were always outlandish yet plausible, something this one was not. Clearly, we didn't see the same films.
Or maybe it's that some people believe in the wrath of God, His almighty healing goblet and obscure sadistic southeastern religions, but not in the possibility of extraterrestrial life. Perhaps if you believe in both --or neither-- the film is easier to swallow. Perhaps...
I told my friends that my liking Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull when they despised it is equal to my utter contempt for Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. If they're allowed to appreciate something I find so absolutely unnecessary and horrifying, then they should shut up and let me enjoy whatever the hell I damned well feel like. To me, Indiana Jones is experiential.
That's why I had to see the film again by myself.