Originally Posted by Udvarnoky
Oxley really is a superfluous character when you think about it. His functions in the story seem to be:
1) A motivation for Indy to go to Peru
2) A way of demonstrating the dangers of the skull
3) A guide to Akator
But all of those functions would have been more effectively and elegantly served in other ways. As a reason for Indy to embark on the adventure, Oxley is weak, because we have no investment in the character. Mutt simply saying that Marion Ravenwood has been kidnapped would have been a cleaner and more compelling impetus, both for Indy and the audience. No need to pointlessly shroud her identity, and you can ditch the nonsense with the letter.
There's no need for Oxley once the story gets to Peru, either, because Indy should have been the one driven mad by the skull and used as the "divining rod" to the lost city. The way the final film handles Indy's influence by the skull is utterly without stakes and a huge missed opportunity. Somehow the Soviets make him look at the skull just long enough to interpret Oxley, yet not long enough to suffer any ill-effects himself? What kind of weird cop-out is that? I'm not sure what it even accomplished, because afterward Indy doesn't seem to be employing any special knowledge beyond his own to figure out the directions from Oxley.
Besides, we've never met Oxley before; we don't even know what he was like when he was sane. So seeing him insane has no effect on us. Subject someone we care about to the skull: Indy. When Indy gets captured in the Russian tent, I would have had the corpse of Oxley and maybe a few other guinea pigs dead on the ground, with Spalko explaining that the last few men who were forced to look at the skull went insane and had to be put down. That way there's an actual sense of jeopardy for Indy when he is forced to stare at it.
After that, the movie could have played out largely the same way, except with Indy slowly losing his mind throughout the journey. By the time they get to the waterfall, he is in Oxley's state or worse, and proceeds to the lost city because he has to, and not because "it told me to," which is such a wimpy way to kick off the third act, especially in comparison to, say, Connery being shot before the Three Trials. Indy being possessed does make him less proactive once they're in Akator, but guess what, he's not proactive in the actual movie either. At least this way there's a reason, a degree of drama, and an element of spookiness sorely missing in the final product.
And how about we let the characters solve problems through actual ingenuity, and not just by following the lead of a character who figured everything else out already? One of the more boggling choices the movie makes is to have John Hurt have the real Indiana Jones adventure off-screen and before the events of the movie. People want to see Indy figuring stuff out himself, not just following somebody's breadcrumb trail and being a passive character in his own story. It's ridiculous.
You can play this game endlessly with Crystal Skull, because pretty much every scene in the movie has a much better option right there in plain sight. Why doesn't it ever take them? Why is Indy constantly helping the bad guys of his own free will? Why is Mac a triple agent? Why is Spalko introduced as maybe having psychic powers before the idea is dropped completely? Why was the jungle cutter abruptly destroyed when it was crying out to be the centerpiece of a fight scene? Why are the Akator natives simply cowed by the skull when their capture of the heroes could have been the setup for a fun escape sequence instead? Why doesn't Mac use his feet? Why does the federal scrutiny of Indy utterly evaporate at the end?
It's all such a lazy mess. The movie had great ingredients, but it just kind of threw them in a pot. It has a bizarre lack of interest in itself.