Sunday, May 25, 2008

Indy 4: (I Slump As I Type This.)

I'm sorry... I'm going to have to say what everyone is thinking but too reverent to speak a bad word.

Indy 4... kinda sucked. This picture sort of says it all for me.

Now, I use the word "sucked" in a relative sense. Not toooo relative, but certainly relative. Lucas and Spielberg have forced me to grade this film on a curve that they have set for adventure-sci-fi films. We are talking about the men who created E.T. We are talking about the man who wrote and directed Close Encounters of the third Kind when he was 29. We are talking about the man who created Chewbacca, Yoda, Obi-wan, Han Solo. But most importantly, we are talking about the wonder-duo who created INDIANA FRIGGIN JONES.

SPOILER ALERT: This review will contain plot elements that you may not want revealed until you see the film. But, I'm telling you, it won't matter. Everybody knows its got something to do with aliens, so make one up yourself over your ham and eggs, you'll probably come up with a plot that equals this smouldering poop-ball of a plot.

I can't believe I'm doing this. I can't. And maybe it is because we watched it right after we say August Osage County on Broadway- one of the most amazing plays I've ever seen. I know all those people in my play. They are all members of my extended and immediate family. (Some of my family still live in Osage County, Oklahoma.)

Back to the task at hand.

My problems with the flick:

A swash-buckling Indy was no longer believable, sadly. I don't know if it was the directing or the lack of build-up... but every punch that Indy gave or received was just hard to swallow, considering the man is 65. Granted, the dude looks friggin awesome for 65. If I look that good, and I will, at 65, I'm going to come back in time and kick my 33 year old but right out of this chair...

Then there was Shiah Beowulf, or whatever the crap his name is. (One of the two Hollywood names that I'll never get, and and I'm too lazy to look up. The other one is M. Night Shamalamadingdong.) I guess he was alright; he was no River Phoenix, but talented enough to like. But come on. I could see his sonship to Indy coming a million miles away.

Okay, okay. You know what this movie reminded me of? A Disney re-enactment. You know at Disney Land when they are re-doing a scene from Indy and then Harrison Ford makes a surprise appearance? Then he says his lines with a grin on his face as if he knows that you know that he's really not Indy, but that you really love Indy and him showing up is bringing you great pleasure? You know what I'm saying? I never felt like that Harrison really bought his Indy-ness. I think he had fun. But more fun because he was still able throw some punches at 65 without being rushed in for a quadruple bypass. Hooray for him and his superior genes. What I wanted was magic, and magic... I did not get. Sure there were some "fun" moments. Sure it was great to see Indy running around old ruins, but overall, it was Indy by the numbers.

Indy 4 was to Indy 1,2,3 is what Star Wars episode 1 was to Star Wars 3,4,5. I wasn't even thrilled about the return of Marian. It was all just too hokey. I know, I know. It's an Indian Jones movie. It's supposed to be a little corny. But the great thing about the original films is that you could really tell that the creators believed in the material. Here, not so much. It was like dear old dad dressing up like Santa Clause and going through the Santa Clause motions and we all play along. The difference being, it was much cooler when Dad really made an effort to help us believe that he WAS REALLY Santa Clause, thereby causing the whole latter-day charade to be a little... depressing. Depressing because, "wow, dad is looking older in that Santa costume. That means I'm older too. Wow. Old. There's really no such thing as Santa Clause. I'm old. Pass the eggnog, the eggnog WITH the liquor."

Here, the director and creator said that they made this movie for the fans. Mistake number 1. Any time you make a work of Art for any other reason than the sheer joy of it, for yourself, then it turns out a little unbelievable.

Everything seemed a little bit lazy. From the Roswell stuff to the CGI flying saucer bit at the end. Even the trick-designed temple. The crystal skull even looked dumb. Come on. Something that size, solid crystal? No way they'd be able to toss it around like a plastic football. Shoot, the original Crystal Skulls look ten times better. Kate Blanchet was even one-dimensional and comical. No wonder the Ruskies are ticked about this film.

I don't know. I hate to be such a party pooper. I would still recommend seeing it. It is some good summer fun. But nowhere NEAR the fun of the first three films. I would even prefer seeing the Mummy films over this one. And THAT, ladies and gents, is something I NEVER thought I'd say.

In the end, I applaud the creators and actors for giving it their all. These guys are my heroes. But on a scale of 1-10 on the Spielberg/Lucas chart... I'd say it scored about a 4-6. (I can't think of a Spielberg film that has scored lower than 4 on that chart, btw) Up their with maybe Hook. But even Hook had more magic than this. Maybe because it was missing Sean Connery or Saula or Marcus. Don't know. It just lacked the charm, wit, and bravura that the originals had, even at their worst. (Temple of Doom.)

I'm pretty sure I won't be buying this film when it goes to DVD. If I do, I'll buy it for the special features. I'd like to compare the enthusiasm that the filmmakers had in the first films to the enthusiasm they had on this film. I'd like to compare the skinny, nerdy Spielberg and Lucas of Raiders, running around like a giddy teenagers, reveling in every moment of torture and danger that they were putting the squirming actors through with the bugs and snakes, to the fatter and richer directors of today zooming around the sets in their jeeps telling the actors to jump around at the non-existent ants and stuff that would be added later at the Skywalker Ranch.

One thing that the newest installments of Star Wars and the lndy 4 has taught me. CGI is still nowhere as good or as believable as good old fashioned models and puppets, or real snakes and real bugs. Nothing will ever top the first 30 minutes of Raiders. Nothing. Ever. Just good old fashioned filmmaking at its best. From the lighting to the editing to the acting to the directing.

Lastly, I'm pretty sure this was all shot digitally. Film looks so much better. It just does.

Final Grade: C. I hate giving that grade. I really do. I feel like I'm talking bad about my father or something.


Bill Hensley said...

I just got back from seeing the movie with my family (Mom, Dad, and two teenage sons). I thought it was ok, in the sense of passable summer entertainment. I'm not sure Indiana Jones was ever anything more than that. Of course, I am NOT an artist. I wouldn't know art if I stubbed my toe on it.

One thought occurred to me while reading your review, Seth. I wonder if, just maybe, Indy 4 was a letdown to you because you saw the first three when you were a kid and now you are an adult. Do you think that's it?

Seth Ward said...

Hmmm. No, I don't think so. Yes, they are pulp movies, but the cool thing about the originals, especially Raiders, was that Spielberg and Lucas really elevated the genre into something new. Everything about the first one is fresh and captivating. Even the ludicrous stuff like the seemingly unending length of Indy's whip.

The first is a great film, no doubt about it. The second and third had the same kind of "feeeel' about them. One of the strongest things about the first three are the scripts. They were witty and fun. The fourth lacked the luster and polish and just seemed a little lazy. I didn't buy into the mythology nor the characters.

It had its good moments, for sure, but overall I left wanting to go home and watch the originals.

operamom said...

you hit the nail on the head with the feeling old bit. Harrison looked a little green during the hitting scenes. i wanted to hand him some aspirin.

then, i just felt old too. pass the eggnog.

A.Macaroni said...

Ugh. What an uncomfortable movie to sit through. I kept uttering, "You've got to be kidding me", or "please let someone die at the bottom of this third waterfall." Just a little too far outside of the reality-zone for me. I also feel badly for my Russian colleagues at work -- what a horribly cartoonish and insulting Russian stereotype to use. I think something happened the day that George Lucas created Jar-Jar Binks -- he just hasn't been the same since.

Seth Ward said...


Yes, the waterfall bit was tardoramma. I mean, even in Temple of Doom when they fell from the plane the only did that one time and the waterfall that they fell from was so ridiculously high that they made it funny. In this one the waterfall sequence just came off dumb and dumber.

I don't know, it was just like hearing a great commedian telling jokes that you've heard before but all the jokes fall flat because you can tell the comedian is bored with the material.

Seth Ward said...

Also, I bet they hate Armagedon and that whole bit about the dilapidated Russian space station falling apart because of a leaky pipe.