Saturday, May 24, 2008
I just saw INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL, and was disappointed.
Lotsa spoilers follow:
The film lost points with me from the start by having the opening be part of the main plot. I preferred the openings of the first three films, which other than introducing new characters, were unconnected to the rest of the plot. It felt like there were two Indiana Jones adventures that way. By jumping right into the main plot right from the beginning, I felt like I'd been shorted.
It bothered me that Indy was knocking out the Russians with single punches, when one considers how much trouble he had when he was twenty years younger. And it was weird seeing a CGI Harrison Ford in fights.
I really felt like Lucas and Speilberg didn't bother filling in the details. In TEMPLE, Indy often survived through unbelievable luck; in SKULL, he just survived.
Taking an amphibious vehicle over three progressively massive waterfalls seems like it would be an ideal Indiana Jones action set piece, and yet Spielberg and Lucas didn't add any texture or suspense. Boat tumbles over, characters survive to go over the next waterfall. Repeat.
It wasn't suspension of disbelief that was at issue -- I wanted to see Indiana Jones and company improbably survive a hundred foot drop onto the rocks below. But I wanted the way they survived to be fun and surprising, and instead, the scene showed them fall hundreds of feet, and then get up and walk away. Lazy.
Compare to the opening of TEMPLE OF DOOM, where Indy and friends (and the audience) were treated to a rollercoaster ride on the way down, with all sorts of improbable terrain, improbably saving their lives. If TEMPLE had used the approach SKULL did, they would have rolled all the way down the mountain, then brushed themselves off and walked away unmarked.
How many movies now have used the improbably structure-shifting Mayan pyramid now? Is that a real thing, or have we reached the point where George Lucas is cribbing ideas from ALIEN VS. PPREDATOR?
And I can't believe Shia Lebouf had an entire action sequence to himself. That was insubordinate. A sidekick should know his place.
I did like some of it -- some great stuff resided side by side with the lame, even within scenes. Speilberg and Lucas can craft some great excitement. It was fun to see Indian Jones in a scifi adventure; it's a natural genre for the character. Was I imagining a reference to ANIMAL HOUSE? I thought the final destruction off the city was nicely understated and elegiac. I want to applaud the Wilhelm Scream in this movie, though. Very inventive. I also liked who the Russians weren't out for world domination -- Cate Blanchett's character was genuinely interested in the skull. And the film conclusively demonstrated that if there's a nuclear war, the only survivors will be cockroaches, Keith Richards, and Indiana Jones.
I wonder how successful it'll be? I saw a 9:30 am matinée, at the Cinerama here in Seattle, which is a destination theatre for a movie like this, and it was less than half-full. I remember seeing THE PHANTOM MENACE there in 1999, and the crowd was like Woodstock. Lucas has really damaged his brand.