Indiana Jones and the blah blah blah

2 06 2008

“Monkeys….why did it have to be monkeys??” No, that line was not in the movie. More’s the pity. George, Steve, Harry, why couldn’t you just leave well enough alone? Actually I have to place most of the blame on George. Mr. Lucas, you’re done. Please retire from filmmaking with all dispatch. I know you’re enamored with the pulpy serials of your youth, but the original Indiana Jones was something much greater. He had depth, his world had guts.

 Crystal Skull is far too in love with itself. The audience’s sympathy is taken for granted. And there is a sizable audience that won’t mind, but that’s no excuse for making a lousy movie.

 

In principle, I’m on board. Naturally Jones would have served in WWII, and how that experience might change him is a fascinating question. But the best thing about Indiana Jones is he is not James Bond. “All those years we spent spying on the reds??” No. All wrong. I could see Jones as an enlisted man, seeking out illicit archeological opportunities in war-torn Europe. Or an officer assigned to a counter-occult unit, predicting the next moves of Nazi mystics even while disbelieving their mysticism. In fact, that would have been a good place to start the movie. As it is, the first 20 minutes are complete garbage. From Indiana’s first appearance as a prisoner in the trunk of a car, this wanna-be heroic tale is compromised.

 

I don’t even mind the space alien angle. It’s a logical enough extension of Jones’ paranormal milieu. But when a Martian skull is staring us in the face for half the movie, you might as well hand out light sabers and laser blasters. There’s practically an alien autopsy in the opening scene. Are we really supposed to be shocked when the skull’s silhouette matches the ancient Inca pictoglyphs?

 

The movie’s real problem is it’s just dull. This is largely due to the flatness of the characters and overall conceptual dilution. Add to that the fact that the action scenes look like previews for the next new ride at Disneyland, not actual threats to anyone’s well-being on screen. There’s no sense of urgency.

It’s official: Indiana Jones suffers from reverse Star Trek Film Franchise Syndrome: the odd numbered films are good, evens are bad. Crystal Skull will forever be lumped together with Temple of Doom as movies best forgotten.

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