Spielberg’s depiction of family has always been more complicated than many critics give him credit for, and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is a great example.
The film, of course, introduces Indy and Marion Ravenwood’s son, Mutt Williams, and concludes with the three of them forming a family unit when Indy and Marion finally tie the knot.
So, a typical Spielbergian tale of familial unity then? Not quite. This is a family unit that has spent the better part of two decades apart, and the father isn’t the man who raised the son.
Not only that, but in the opening act of the film, we are taken to a nuclear testing site that is disguised as a fully constructed town. It’s a perfect picture of idyllic suburbia and American family life, right down to the mother, father, son and daughter watching Howdy Doody in the living room of one of the houses.
This utopia is ripped apart when the A-bomb hits and Spielberg shows the carnage in detail, with close ups of the dummies disintegrating and the town being swept away.
This scene mocks the familial ideal Spielberg is often criticised for craving. It shows that the perfect family unit is a fantasy, as ridiculous back in the 50s as it is now.
Yet, the brutality with which it is destroyed lends the scene a sense of tragedy and Spielberg’s reformation of the family at the end of the film suggests that he still laments the family unit’s dissolution.
Perfect familial harmony may be difficult to achieve and it may not come in the form expected, Spielberg says, but it is worth striving for