Cate Blanchett in ‘Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull’

We are going big this week. Big movie. Big performance. Murtada welcomes Gavin Mevius, co-host of The Mixed Reviews Podcast to discuss Steven Spielberg’s Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008).

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Follow along, the film is streaming on Netflix.

What is the film about?

 From imdb: In 1957, archaeologist and adventurer Dr. Henry “Indiana” Jones, Jr. is called back into action and becomes entangled in a Soviet plot to uncover the secret behind mysterious artifacts known as the Crystal Skulls.

When did it come out?

May 2008

Who does Cate play?

Dr Irina Spalko; a doctor, colonel, and the primary antagonist of the film. She is a psychic, as well as a very skilled fencer and combatant. Called “Stalin’s fair haired girl” by one of the characters.

How is Cate introduced? 

 5 minutes in; first a commanding voice then cutaway to her in sunglasses emerging from car. As usual with Cate it’s a movie star entrance.

Box Office: Domestic = $317,101,119          Int’l = $469,534,914

Metacritic : 65. RT: 78.


Topics discussed:

  • What did we think of the first 3 Indiana Jones movies? Why was this one so indifferently and or negatively received?
  • Steven Spielberg – general yay or nay? Fave films?
  • A ridiculous, campy over the top stylized performance. Everything heightened visually (the gray jumpsuit, the robotic body movements, the black bob), sonically (accent, clipped tones) – does it work?
  • Cate gets asked to play villains in big movies – Hana (2010), Cinderella (2015), Thor: Ragnarok (2017). Why? 
  • Lovely to see Karen Allen, remember Starman (1983)?
  • A lot of unnecessary exposition of backstory – just get to the action. And Ford is leaning into old professor delivery which doesn’t enliven the scenes.
  • The snakes, scorpions, quick sands, everyone’s phobias are there. Are they fun? Did we miss these from the other movies?
  • Ford and Allen trying Tracy / Hepburn – does it work?
  • Ridiculous refigerator scene. But it sets the tone and we now know what to do in a nuclear apocalypse.

“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.” – Spielberg to CNN.

  • Who wields the sword best? Shia really had no chance
  • Why the disdain for this performance? Was the film not exciting enough? Was there Cate fatigue at the time? That ludicrous death scene? 

Memorable quotes:

  • “You’re a teacher?” “Only part time”
  • “You fight like a young man. Eager to begin, quick to finish”
  • “Tell me I’m ready, I want to know”

Costumes we loved?

Well it’s just the one; an all -pupose gray jumpsuit.

Lucas, Spielberg, Ford and Blanchett at the Cannes Film Festival May 2008

Scenes we liked:

The car chase in the forest with the sword fighting – exciting.

What seemed off:

  • Is the action exciting? What NY Magazine called “the setups are wittier than the payoffs.”
  • The plot is ridiculous as befits this type of movie, but it’s too ridiculous and unnecessarily dense and confusing.

Film within context of Cate’s career

This film was announced after Cate revealed her break with movies to run the Sydney Theater Company.

What reviews said of film / Cate:

The bad guys this time are cold war Reds first seen poking around an American military base and led by Irina Spalko. A caricature given crude, playful life by Cate Blanchett, Irina owes more than a little to Rosa Klebb, the pint-size Soviet operative played by Lotte Lenya, who took on James Bond in “From Russia With Love.”

Dressed in gray coveralls, her hair bobbed and Slavic accent slipping and sliding as far south as Australia, Ms. Blanchett takes to her role with brio, snapping her black gloves and all but clicking her black boots like one of those cartoon Nazis that traipse through earlier Indy films. She’s pretty much a hoot, the life of an otherwise drearily familiar party.Manohla Dargis, NYTimes

“Harrison Ford used to lighten his clenched persona with goofy shrugs that said, “I can only go so far with this hero stuff.” But the years have dried him out; he seems like a peevish movie star who’s too self-centered to interact. When he’s supposed to realize that Marion is the love of his life, he looks as if he’s gritting his teeth to kiss her. Blanchett—a great art object, her satin skin taut over those Asiatic cheekbones—hits the same note with diminishing returns. How many variations are there of “We meet again, Dr. Jones?”  David Edelstein, New York Magazine


Irina Spalko, played by Blanchett with the severe demeanor of Cyd Charisse’s Ninotchka in the 1957 MGM musical Silk Stockings and the black bob Charisse sports in The Band Wagon.”- Richard Corliss, Time.

“Blanchett, who has absolutely no idea what to do with her role: She’s equal parts evil and incompetent, and she’s the least dangerous villain Indiana Jones has ever faced. Turns out that George Lucas and Steven Spielberg are far more threatening foes.”The Village Voice

Cate in relation to these co-stars, director, costume designer:

  • Only collaboration with Spielberg, Ford, Labeouf and Allen.
  • Kathleen Kennedy – current overlord of Star Wars – produced this and Benjamin Button, released in the same year.

Promotional appearances:

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