Sunday, May 25, 2008

Some thoughts on Indy 4

...SPOILERS AHEAD...

...and a very long, rambling 'review'....just so you are warned....after the pics:




NOTE: That pic above I snapped as my brother's credit rolled. If you look closely, you can see the name PHILIP J. JAFFE! That's him! My brother worked on an Indy flick! How cool is that!!! Congratulations, Philip!!! :)

Ok so...here ye go:

Still at my brother's in LA. Drove up to see it at a 'real' theater (the Arclight/Cinerama Dome!) and glad I did. I will see it again in San Diego, but it's always great to see big movies in a place where sound and projection are of huge concern for the theater owners; where people who come to see the flicks are movie nuts versus just people trying to get out of the summer heat and willing to see anything. Even tho, I suppose, the later type of audience is a truer test of if the movie 'plays' or not...still...

Kind of coming out of a pot hangover and not really interested/don't have the energy to write a Harry Knowels detailed/sized 'review' but I did want to gab about seeing- after 19 years- a new Indy Jones!!!

Ok so:

-Overall, I didn't like it. I thought it was pretty terrible.
-I was able to hang with it in a sort of, 'Ah, it may not be perfect, but damn! It's Indy! And any Indy is good, no matter what' sort of way at first. The opening sequence was meandering and dull and the whole nuke thing was stupid to me, with Harrison Ford trying to do slapstick (falling over the mannequin little girl, falling off the rocket out in the desert) and the stupid obsession with the moles,etc....but once Shia came in (who I thought was great in this) I was happy with the flick, happy with the Indy/Mutt scene with the letter and the fight that leads to the motorbike chase...loved the bike chase, loved the graveyard scene,etc....fun stuff and while not perfect, it felt like Indy!
-Then, once they strap Indy into the seat and Blanchett (who I liked) started doing the mind meld, the movie lost me 100%.
-The Crystal Skull prop- and it looked like a prop- was dorky looking. It was this HUGE, plasticy looking thing everyone was struggling to carry around...it just looked goofy and dumb.
-Marion- whom I LOVED in Raiders- was wasted and the Indy/Marion thing felt like a sitcom. There was no reality to it, no drama...just like, 'Oh hey, I remember you and let's be boyfriend/girlfriend again, k? K!" and then after that, they fell into this relationship that had come nowhere close to being earned...and not only that, earned or not (which it wasn't, in my mind) the relationship just felt stupid and goofy and- most important- unreal. I mean, yes, these are fun movies, thrill rides. Love that about them. But the people in the stories always seemed a TOUCH real (other than Willie Scott in Temple of Doom). Remember Indy drowning his sorrows in booze when he thinks Marion died in Raiders? Remember the angst and abandoned feelings at the core of the father/son relationship in Crusade? All of that subtext is gone in this movie. The relationships- for the most part- feel like they belong in the shitty Jim Belushi sitcom ACCORDING TO JIM.
-I DID like very much the relationship between Indy and the new college dean. That was nice and felt genuine and realistic, with Indy sad over the loss of his dad and Marcus...and that line about, 'We seem to have gotten to the point where life is taking from us rather than giving us things' was so great and it seemed like this could be a movie- on a subtextual level- about getting older and then finding new life in your children, or something like that. A sense that this movie could be ABOUT something and take itself seriously in just a few places...but they dropped that vibe after that scene and never looked back...The Indy/Mutt relationship was off to a nice start with Indy mentoring Mutt about doing what he loved in life,etc...then it too degenerated into sitcom land once Indy found out he was Mutt's dad...
- I'm sorry....the plot was dumb. George Lucas needs someone to sit him down and go, "No, cocksucker...just no."....just say no to the man every now and then. Aliens? Sure, no worries IF they would have played it a bit subtle and mysterious. But they just let it all hang out there and in doing so, it felt like it lost all credibility. I GET they based these films off Republican serials and yes, back in the day, that sort of thing MAY have worked. But that was 1930-1945! Times have changed; audiences and movies have changed and now to see Indy Jones stand in front of a giant fucking saucer that is lifting off is just fucking stupid. And yes, at the end of Raiders he stood in front of God/Death/Whatever...but that film did a great job of grounding it in a reality and a mythology we were all already bought into...Kasdan- who wrote Raiders- seemed to take the damn story seriously. Not this turd of a movie.
- Lots and lots of aspects to the story that they didn't bother to explain or I just didn't understand: why the hell does the crystal skull open the door at the end?!? What is the Jedi Council thing about? They are just sitting there and they sat their beheaded buddy with them in hopes that someday the skull would return? Had people been bringing the skulls they had found all over the world to these headless aliens over the years and this was the last one? Why did they morph into a real life alien at the end? Did they build the room knowing people would bring skulls in and that is why the skull opens the door?!? Why was NONE of this explained?!?!?! That is the MOST IMPORTANT question! These sorts of questions NEVER would have gone unanswered in earlier Indy flicks...this just felt sloppy....hell, the whole movie felt sloppy.
- And to the sloppy point, I don't buy this:' ahh, just grab your popcorn and have a good time!' argument. Iron Man was a great time that respected the audience. So was The Matrix. So were the earlier Indy films. But this just felt like- in 80% of it- like Spielberg and co. were like, 'Hey! Let's put on a show and kinda make it up as we go and ya know, I bet if we have alot of fun on the set, it'll translate to the audience!"...sorry, no. Ford talks a lot in the press these days about wanting the 'customer' to be happy, damn the critics. And that's great. I love that opinion. Customer/audience is always right. I like to think we take that view when we make our games as well. But in this case, I think they gave up on the customer. Maybe Lucas, Spielberg, and Ford are simply too old to be trying to make popcorn movies anymore. Maybe you get to a point in life where you simply can not make such light, airy, cotton candy fluff because you've lived enough to know that that is no longer your world view; if you live long enough and see enough stuff go down- perhaps- it simply (sadly) can not be? Or maybe it's just age in the creative biz. Not every writer/director can stay relevant into his 60's (Ridley Scott is a rare exception). But it just feels like they are too old to be making a movie that connects with anyone other than little kids who are not very discriminating. All the dorky slapstick and the goofy 'wanna be funny but not even close' jokey lines, the sense that a fun vibe will replace the audience's desire for a good, strong, coherent script...it just reeks of....bad.
- Oh my God, Shia swinging on the vines?!? COME ON! Ok, I get maybe he would do that with one vine...but the whole Tarzan thing?!! Just dorky.

Ok, so there ya go. Makes me wanna see Iron Man again just to remind myself that there are still summer movies out there that do deliver. Batman and Hulk are looking pretty good (new Hulk trailer/footage of the battle in the park looks fantastic to me!)...so maybe they will be great rides. And I will see this once more in the theater because it's Indy Jones on the big screen doing new stuff. And like I said, some of it was pretty cool (the stuff between the fridge/nuke scene ((oh man, I mean, fucking really!??!How STUPID!!!)) and the jungle interrogation scene felt like a real Indy flick). And I thought Blanchett was really cool. And I did like Shia in this and could totally see them spinning off a new franchise with Mutt Jones/Indy Jones the second. Just get a new writer and director please!!!

But so yeah, it'll get my bucks for one more screening. But really, if I was not an Indy nut, I would say that this movie was pretty bad...like 2 out of 5...and more like 1.5 out of 5.

And as a pure popcorn/action movie goes, I enjoyed watching National Treasure 2 the other night about 5 times more than this. And that movie was FILLED with stunningly stupid coincidences. But it felt coherent, it hung together, and it felt like it took itself seriously enough that I could buy into the story and get semi lost in it.

Indy just feels like people who know they are making a movie...no danger and no consequence and no respect for the story...and consequently no fun.

David

ps. and before you post that I should just chill and enjoy a fun time at the movies, please read the part in the review where I address that very issue. I think since Star Wars Episode I, that has been a battle cry for folks trying to defend shitty movies ('ahh, just chill and have a good time! You take it too serious!"). But the reality is, a dorky, fun, let it all hang out movie CAN WORK and I love movies like that (The Mummy, The Scorpion King, The Forbidden Temple come to mind)...but this movie is not that. Those 'B' movies still thrill and entertain. This just bores and embarrasses all involved.

Except my brother. His stuff was great! :)