Sunday, June 1, 2008

Indiana Jones and the Abused Franchise

The first time I heard about a fourth Indiana Jones film, I think I was about 15 or 16. At 20, I had lost all hope. About two years ago, reliable sources told us that it was filming at last. I had high hopes that after over ten years of delays, we'd get a finished product that could live up to the Indiana Jones legacy.


My sister and brother-in-law met up in the Big Bowl in Reston, VA for some Chinese Food and discussed the problems with it over Kung Pao Chicken and Pad Thai. My thoughts bascially echo everyone else's thoughts that I've read, but here's the gist with spoilers fully functional:

Action: we need more of it. There was a nice opening scene in the Government Warehouse (Same one at the end of Raiders) that ends with a nuclear explosion. Good. There was a nice little motorcycle chase Shia LeBouf, or LeDoof, or whatever his name is. It was a little too short, but it was done satisfactorily. Then there's the Jeep chase in the Jungle which is the 3rd action scene in the movie, at about the halfway mark. Set's a good tempo, but then it's a snooze fest.

Do a tally of all the action scenes from the first three movies and compare them to this. Kingdom falls a bit short. And the worst part is that you could see where they could have put in some gratuitous action in quite easily. It almost feels like they were trying to dull the pace a bit.

Speaking of the Jeeps in the Jungle, let's talk about ill advised CGI. I'm all for CG for things most things, like fighting 100 Agent Smith Clones, or the afore mentioned nuclear explosion ("What? You couldn't be bothered to get a REAL atomic bomb for this movie?"). But what's with the CG animals? Opening the movie with a CG Gopher? I'll ignore it. Ending the scene with a family of 4 gophers that serve no purposes except to show you CG Gophers? Lame. The same can be said for CG monkeys as well. Shia LePew's scene where he swings on vines to land himself in the Commie-Mobile worked just fine without them. This whole issue of adding-cute-things-that-serve-no-purpose can probably be traced back to it's roots with the Ewoks from Return of the Jedi.

Also, I can understand the need to use CG to simulate LeBeef's riding two Jeeps with a leg on each one, but could you polish it up so that it's less obvious that you had to make his legs spontaniously grow 8 inches to accomplish that? or at least make some allusion some kind of stretchy-limb super power that he has, so it's just a little less out of place? maybe?

Kate Allen reprises her role as Marion Ravenwood from Raiders. She was good then, she's good here. She might be even better this time, but that could be due to her surroundings being a bit lackluster.

And these crystal skulls? Yawn. I guess this is really a half hearted complaint, but what ever happened to the Judeo-Christian Artifacts? I guess you can't top the Ark of the Covenant and the Holy Grail, but I was hoping for something less X-files.

And as long as we're splattering Sci-Fi all over Indyland, the rumor is that one of the reasons why this movie took so long was that there was several script rewrites ordered by Ford and Spielberg becuase Lucas was trying to put too much Star Wars into it. Almost as if the original title was Indiana Jones and the Men from Mars.

Villians: In two of the previous three movies, it's been Nazis, which always make a great villian just becuase the're friggin' Nazis. You don't need any other reason to hate them; they're the greatest symbol of evil the 20th century has to offer. Russian Comunists? A good start but you need something more. There was no reason given to Hate Cate Blanchet's character other than she's a Ruskie. We needed her to make us hate her by doing something. Throw someone in a Gulag, set off a nuke in a metropolis, give Indy a wedgie, do SOMETHING. The indifference to the villian does NOT help the slow pace of the movie.

The actor who played Marcus is dead, Sean Connery declined to come out of retirement to be Jones Senior, so some things you can't work around. But John Rhyes-Davies is alive and well, so where's Sallah? C'mon, you couldn't write him into this mess somehow?

One last note on the Action scenes, becuase they are vital. My brother-in-law summed it up thusly: Whenever Indy does someting cool, or makes off with the goods, the iconic Raiders March theme music is played. This is done when he hand-hitches a ride on the Submarine in Raiders, drives a tank full of Nazis off a cliff and survives, etc. This theme isn't played at all until the End Credits, which is just as well, becuase nothing happens that's cool enough to warrant it.

In spite of all this, the movie is still watchable, but I can't tell you that it's good. See it in the cheap theaters, only because you have too. Last but not least, I'm to tired/lazy to proof-read this post for spelling, grammar, or flow, but I assue you, it's better than the writing for the movie.


Tiffany said...

Something that just occurred to me that's also weak...

In pretty much all of the other movies, the eventual downfall of the villains is a direct result of their lust for power. The Nazis want the Ark and the Grail so they can continue steamrolling Europe, and it causes their faces to melt. Even that guy in Temple of Doom is after the stones because of the power they give him. Lust for power = gruesome death. Awesome.

In Indy 4, what causes the downfall of the villainess? Why, might that be an almost Indiana Jones-esque quest for KNOWLEDGE? We know knowledge is good! Indy is a college professor! He wants his finds to go into museums where the public can learn from them! He says approvingly of the ancient civilization that "their treasure was knowledge." (tangent: That gimmick was so "National Treasure" it hurts.)

So Knowledge is Good! Except that it makes Cate Blanchett's eyes catch fire! So knowledge is good... unless you're a Commie? Knowledge is good... unless it's too big for you?

Lame, lame, lame.

Fuzzy said...

I think she wanted the knowledge of telepathy/mind control to further their communist schemes. So much like seeking the Ark of the Covenent makes your head a splode, or Seeking the grail causes you to turn to dust in 20 seconds, seeking Mental Domination over your fellow man makes you burst into flames.

But I agree that the "treasure is knowledge" angle has been beat to death by several other movies.

Tiffany said...

I think that's certainly why the Commies sent her after the skulls, but I think she was really just in it to KNOW. That's certainly how they played the climax, as she is very poignantly saying "I want to KNOW" over and over. If their intention was to make it about power, they did it very poorly- Oh sure, there was that speech there in the camp, but aside from that, she just seemed like another researcher.

Maybe it was just a poor choice to make it a situation where she's standing at the feet of those thrones, begging for knowledge. In the other films, there was some kind of affirmative act that brought about the end of the antagonists- they OPEN the Ark, the high priest PURSUES Indy for the stones, Donovan DRINKS from the wrong grail... this chick just stands there and begs, basically.