Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is a Meditation on Death and Regret
When Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull first hit theaters, a lot of fans were disappointed, if not straight-up outraged, by the goofy CGI aliens, CGI monkeys, and the CGI that was used to cover-up Harrison Ford's earring. We get it; it's a bad, bad movie. But it's also not without some deeper, more depressing themes lurking beneath the surface.
Take the controversial opening scene; imagine for a moment that it serves as a symbolic representation of Indiana Jones' psyche. It begins with a chase inside Area 51 in which, not insignificantly, is where the Ark of the Covenant has been stashed away; a token, not just of Indy's first adventure, but of his lapsed romance with Marion Ravenwood.
After this brief visual reminder of his former lover, Indy ends up in a quaint suburban community where families are living the domestic life he rejected in favor of adventuring ... sort of.
It isn't real. And Indiana Jones is too old to settle down and start a family. So this vision of the path not taken is obliterated.
Indy, famously, ends up in a goddamn refrigerator. Which is dumb. But tipped on its side, the fridge looks more like a coffin. If we interpret this scene as almost like a dream, it plays like a regret-filled nightmare. We have the Ark, representing Marion. The fake town, representing the family life he eschewed for adventuring. And since all of that is left behind and/or destroyed, all that awaits him is death.
Lucasfilm"I have an eternity of being tortured by Kali Ma to look forward to."
These existential fears are further underscored when we learn that Indy's dad and Marcus (the two dudes we last saw Indy with, riding into the sunset at the end of The Last Crusade) are dead. If you think we're just pulling this out of our butts, consider this; we're suggesting that this first scene symbolizes Indy's fears that he let Marion go and will never have a family -- and in the last scene he is married to Marion and they have a son.
As for fears of mortality, death is practically stalking Dr. Jones at every turn in this movie. Early on, Indy and Mutt rob a grave protected by people in skull masks. From a visual standpoint he may as well be brawling with the Grim Reaper himself. And the very first shot dissolves from the Paramount logo, not to a mountain like every other Indiana Jones movie, but to a pile of dirt. Yes, it belongs to a gopher, but the image is more reminiscent of a grave than a majestic overture to adventure.