Monday, May 26th, 2008

Indiana Jones and the Worst Installment of the Series

Back in 1981, the marketing campaign for the original Indiana Jones film, Raiders of the Lost Ark, included the line, "From the creators of Jaws and Star Wars." After waiting 19 years for a new Indiana Jones film, I'm afraid the marketing campaign should include, "From the creators of Jurassic Park II: The Lost World and Howard the Duck."

On Saturday, I watched Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull with Moobi. We are both avid fans of the works of George Lucas and Steven Speilberg. Both of us find redeeming values in all of their projects from their classics in the 1980s to those that missed the mark in the 1990s and today. As we both left the theater, we said the same thing, "What the hell was that?" On the ride home, we attempted to unearth anything worthwhile to discuss. We even questioned if we were being too hard on the film since it was an Indiana Jones film. Would we feel the same if was something like, National Treasure 3 or The Goonies 2.

I am one of George Lucas' most supportive followers. I enjoyed the Star Wars prequels. Sure, they are not as good as the original trilogy. Most people blast The Phantom Menace with an ion canon, but if Jar Jar Binks was toned down a bit, it's honestly a good Star Wars movie. Anakin Skywalker should have played a more prominent role in that one though. In Attack of the Clones, Lucas missed his mark a bit. The overall story was good, but the script probably required one additional rewrite. Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith was fantastic with a powerful story and outstanding visuals.

I just do not understand how this is receiving on 79% fresh rating on


If you have not seen the new Indiana Jones film yet, please stop reading here. I am going to discuss spoilers. Come back after seeing the film and share your thoughts.

Let's address some good points first. I did enjoy the concept of the story. It was a pleasant change of pace to see Indiana Jones hunting for alien technology rather than another religious artifact. I always wondered if Indy would have some connection to the Roswell incident in 1947.

If you were a fan of the original films, you received a few glimpses at familiar territory. In the warehouse, that's where the Ark of the Covenant was stored. It even makes a brief cameo. Indy even took a moment to remember Marcus Brody and his father.

The movie had some good chase scenes. I did like the bike chase on campus.

During the early portion of the film, far too much time was spent reminding me that we were now in the 1950s and not the late 1930s. Going into the film, I knew that it was set later, so I had that advantage. I knew we were in the 1950s when the kids were racing the army vehicles and listening to Elvis Presley. Insert a few, "comrade" lines and the occasional, "I like Ike" comments and I understand that the Russians are the enemy and not the Nazis.

I wanted to love Cate Blanchett's character, Irina Spalko. She was apparently a psychic, but after one scene, they completely abandon that point. Moobi and I disagreed. He didn't buy her as a Russian. I did.

I've always believed if a scene doesn't advance a story, or at least offer some type of character development, cut it. I wish George and Steven cut the nuclear test site scene. For me, it was a little too much - Hey, we're still in the 1950s. Did you forget? The refrigerator? I could take it or leave it.

One of the worst elements of this movie dealt with Karen Allen's character, Marion Ravenwood. She's actually Marion Williams in this one. Marion is arguably my favorite fictional female character of all time. She's tough and can stand her ground against some of the most evil men. She can also also be soft and caring. I'm afraid she suffered Princess Leia's fate in this one. Leia transformed the same way from tough leader of the rebellion standing before Darth Vader and General Tarkin, to weeping in Han Solo's arms. At least she had three films to soften.

I was afraid that Shia LaBeouf's character, Mutt Williams, would end up being Indy's son. Sure enough, Marion gave birth to Indy's on, and he didn't know about it. I was prepared for that to happen, so I was caught off guard. When Mutt started swinging in the vines with the monkeys, I knew the movie was lost. I hate when television shows add younger stars when the principal cast becomes too old. To me, Mutt Williams was to Indy that Olivia was to The Cosby Show, or Andrew to Family Ties.

Let me know you're thoughts, but wait until you've seen the movie.

Tags:  Movies
Bill and I didn't say much to each other as we sat there watching in horror and hope, but I mentioned right off the bat that there was something odd about the opening credits. It may have been the fact that there WERE opening credits. From the Wikipedia entry for "Opening credits":

"His decision to omit opening credits in his films Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (1977) and Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back led him to resign from the Directors Guild of America after paying a fine that the Guild imposed on him."

I like for a film to omit opening credits in general, but if they do include them, to simply play them over some indistinct, abstract, or ambient background that isn't being used to directly tell the story. The Indy IV opening credits violated this, so maybe that put a bad taste in my mouth from the get-go. Granted, Lucasberg may have wanted it to "feel" like a '50s movie to get that nostalgia effect. And maybe that worked for the senior crowd. I don't know. I like to jump right into the action.

(Remember, folks, there's a SPOILER ALERT still in effect)

To make a less anal point, I'm tired of "silly violence". If you have trained military firing hundreds or thousands of rounds from fully automatic weapons at you from ranges of 10 to 50 feet, you're going to get hit. Even if they suck. Also, shipping crates are not going to be completely obliterated if you drive a truck into them. Unless there are explosives involved, which weren't. And then you have a fencing match from the backs of two military vehicles that are pounding through the jungle. Jedi have the Force to accomplish such a battle (a la Obi-Wan/Anakin in Sith), but Mutt and Irina certainly do not.

Maybe I've lost some of my "willing suspension of disbelief" as I've grown older and more critical, but I can only forgive so much unreality. I don't think Bill and I are saying "Don't see this movie". Just don't see it expecting it to be on par with the other three.
Mark Almighty   Monday, May 26, 2008
There was plenty to dislike about this movie, but I thought there was plenty to like as well - enough to add up to a very entertaining popcorn flick that was a nice diversion on a summer afternoon.

I agree with you that there were times where it was extremely difficult to maintain a willing suspension of disbelief. Indy surviving an atom bomb at point-blank range being perhaps the worst offender, with Mutt swinging through the jungle Tarzan-style being a close second.
Eric T.   Monday, May 26, 2008
I don't know. I'm struggling to find things to truly like. Sure, it was great to get out of the house to see an old friend on screen. It was just was stale for me. I am going to see it again this afternoon. Did Jack Bauer survive a blast in season two from about that same distance? That just dawned on me. Why didn't he hide in a lead lined fridge?
Bill Pearch   Monday, May 26, 2008
I would agree with everything you said, except the positive parts.
SallyPants   Monday, May 26, 2008
I have to say I worked at the old Fox Theater when Raiders came out. We showed that film for a year. It is hands down my favorite. None of the rest of them even come close. That said it was good to see our old friend Indy on the big screen again and I might say he has aged well. There were a few moments that took me back to that old theatre but there were plenty that left me shaking my head. The whole Close Encounters ending for example? Over all it was entertaining not my favorite buy some popcorn lower your expectations and enjoy yourself.
Sholtis Triplets   Monday, May 26, 2008
I just returned from my second viewing. If you're just looking for a shoot-em-up movie, then it's a perfect summer flick. My problem is that this is the Indiana Jones brand, and that means a lot. After three great movies, this one seems sub-par. All along, George, Steven, and Harrison said they would only sign-off on a movie if it met the approval of all three. I just find it difficult to believe that they sat around and said this was the one. If they could only squeeze out one more draft.
Bill Pearch   Monday, May 26, 2008
I totally agree about cutting out the atom bomb test site scene. It was totally unrelated to everything else, and didn't contribute to the storyline at all. I LOVED seeing Indy in that setting, with all the mannequins on that picture-perfect street. That was absolute pop culture at its best. Even then though, it was unnecessary.

I leaned over to Courtney during the "swinging with the monkeys" part and said it just jumped the shark. Truthfully though, it did earlier, though I couldn't pinpoint just where.

The large ant scenes went on way too long too. And the part where the ants climbed on top of each other to reach that chick's foot who was hanging in the tree? Jumped another shark.

I think technology is George Lucas' kryptonite. When he was forced to make movies 20 years ago with the "limited" technology of the time, the movies came off feeling more real, and they were forced to deal with the actual story more than just throwing in special effects every other scene.

In Indy 4, near the beginning when we first see Indy after he gets out of the trunk, much of that scene was green-screened (and it was obvious). Why the hell do they need to bring in a green-screen on something like that? It looked fake and distracted from the story.

Anyway, I did like the actual story itself. I wish they would have cut down some of the action scenes and spent more time elaborating on tying ancient civilizations to alien encounters. That would have been sweet. There was also the feeling than Indie was "pulled into" this adventure more or less, and I find it much more satisfying to follow him places when he is the one initiating everything. If that makes any sense.
Dave Heinzel   Wednesday, May 28, 2008
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