I caught most of Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark today on SyFy before going to work and it got me thinking about the series and how people love some of the movies and hate the others. For the rest of this post I'm going to shorten the names of the movies as follows
Raiders of the Lost Ark: Ark
Temple of Doom: Doom
The Last Crusade: Crusade
Kingdom of the Crystal Skull: Skull
Ark and Crusade are the ones that generally seem to be the most liked while Skull and Doom are disliked. Right off the bat the thing I notice is that people like the movies about Christian or Jewish relics while they dislike the movies about Indian religion and mysticism. There are probably other factors, but that complaint seems especially relevant to Skull from the complaints I've heard of the movie.
The addition of Shia Lebouf wasn't something a lot of people liked either, but in general people don't like change and I could overlook that personally, and was more of an attempt to be able to continue the franchise since Harrison Ford isn't really in shape to be making action movies anymore. The bigger complaint seems to be how unbelievable the story is. The first stop is always Indy in the fridge surviving the nuclear blast like that makes any less sense then him somehow surviving an underwater trip hanging onto the conning tower of a Nazi submarine in Ark. That's the kind of ridiculous goofy think I expect from a series like this, and this factor seems to be people enjoying the originals as kids and then growing up and expecting different things while the movies are still aimed at a younger demographic which is akin to Star Wars and something to save for a different post. I don't take Indiana Jones seriously and if he wants to get in a lead lined fridge and survive a nuclear explosion I'll believe he can do it.
The biggest complain is about the skulls and the fact that Aliens made them and brought them to Earth. People seem flabbergasted that the film makers expect us to believe this is possible. A box can contain the anger of God who melts people, and there can be a cup that grants immortality, but there is no way that Aliens exist. That might be short changing the argument a bit, but that seems to be the consensus of why people are grumpy about Skull. Personally I just view the relic for what it is a Macguffin to allow a fun adventure where Indy travels around the world, gets in traps, escapes, and complains about snakes.
The complaints about Doom seem to focus on the darker tone of the movie which I don't mind. It is borrowing from Star Wars again in that it makes the second movie darker, but I like the tone it takes. Putting the action in India gives the movie a much different setting with the jungle than Ark and Crusade have with the desert, but exploring different religious beliefs is a thing it did as well. Maybe backlash against those other beliefs is what made Lucas and Spielberg go back to Christian mythology with Crusade or perhaps that was the plan all along.
I might just be defensive as I've enjoyed all the movies and always will. They all have flaws. Skull has the awful monkey scene which was an awful decision, but it's still a fun adventure romp which is all I expect from an Indiana Jones movie, and I'm willing to suspend disbelief in Indy's survivability and the fact that maybe Aliens put crystal skulls on Earth because the movie makes it seem real.