Location, location, location
For starters, there’s the location of the lost kingdom. After visiting Nazca, the Communists take Indiana and Mutt to a place called Ilha Aramaca on the Peru/Brazil border. Our heroes flee a few miles in a military vehicle, then float a few more miles downriver. Suddenly they’re at the Iguazu Falls on the Paraguay/Brazil border, nearly 2,000 miles from their previous location.
But who cares? The lost kingdom may derive from a Maya, Inca, or “primitive” Amazon culture, but they’re all the same, right? It doesn’t matter where the kingdom is located because the Mesoamerican Indian cultures are interchangeable. Add a few stepped pyramids, snake and skull motifs, and spear-wielding savages, and...voilá! You've got a generic Mesoamerican civilization.
Judging by Crystal Skull, Spielberg might set a Navajo film in Alaska, New York, or Costa Rica. Why? Because they’re about as close to Dinetah as Iguazu Falls is to Ilha Aramaca.
No wonder I wasn’t able to tell where the kingdom was located from the trailer. It doesn’t have a real location. It’s in Never-Never Land.
Akator, the aforementioned kingdom, is in a valley ringed by mountains. The ruins are extensive. I’d estimate they occupy at least a square mile. They’re completely open to the air, not hidden under a jungle canopy. Yet no airplane has ever spotted Akator. Like the Shadow, I guess, a magical Indian kingdom has the power to cloud men’s minds.
Those ignorant Indians
The big revelation is...Akator was built by aliens. Or nonhuman beings from another dimension, which amounts to the same thing. Indiana determines this by literally reading the writing on the wall.
The ruins are clearly Maya in style. There are stepped pyramids like the ones found at Tikal and Chichéen Itzá. There are carvings of Chac Mool, the Maya rain god. There are paintings of aliens in Maya poses and clothing (though they also look a bit Hindu). Maya-style glyphs accompany the painted figures. Professor Oxley receives a mental message and repeats it in the Maya tongue.
And yet Indy claims the ruins are 4,000-5,000 years old, which is long before the first Maya or Mesomerican civilization took shape. Early men couldn’t have built this kingdom, he says. So every aspect of Maya culture--art, architecture, religion, writing--came from these aliens.
In other words, the Maya weren’t smart enough to develop these things on their own. After all, they were just superstitious savages--little different from the beast-men still guarding the ruins. The aliens taught them everything they knew.
Crystal Skull makes this at explicit at one point. The writing reveals that the aliens taught the Indians farming and irrigation. Every other culture around the world was able to invent these practices on their own, but not the Indians. They were so primitive and ignorant they needed outside intervention.
Spielberg the Western supremacist
Wow. Spielberg has just reinforced every von Däniken-style conspiracy theory. Ever since Columbus, dumbfounded Euro-Americans have claimed that Indians couldn't have done what they did. For instance, here's Andrew Jackson in his First Annual Message to Congress (December 8, 1830):
In contrast, the Greeks and Romans managed just fine. No book or movie has ever claimed that aliens helped them build the Parthenon or the Colosseum. But Crystal Skull is the umpteenth example of someone saying indigenous people couldn’t accomplish a similar feat. Because they’re inherently inferior, I presume.
Spielberg has a poor track record when it comes to Indians. In Raiders of the Lost Ark, the Hovito Indians are about as bad as the Ugha (!) Indians in Crystal Skull. Spielberg also produced Into the West, which is rife with stereotypes: the noble Lakota and other base Indians.
Whether it's sharks, Jews, or aliens, stick to something you know, Spielberg. Clearly you don't know jack about Indians.
For more on the subject, see Indiana Jones and the Stereotypes of Doom.
Below: Maya-style corbeled arch and serpent heads.