George Lucas once again proves how lucky he was with the first three Star Wars movies, and Steven Spielberg proves how bi-polar he is with their latest collaboration Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
George Lucas was the man who once upon a time brought us American Graffiti. Steven Spielberg is the same man who brought us Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan. These are two guys who between them know how to tell a story. They know how to create relationships, they know how to craft a good story, they know how to harness the spirit of the Saturday matinée adventure film, and most importantly, they know how to get across the idea of peril.
So why does the latest installment of Indiana Jones have none of these?
The writing was cute, and in some places had that “Indiana Jones” patter to it. I liked the father/son stuff, I liked Shia LeBouff’s character, and I even liked their chemistry together…but Harrison Ford is an old man, and more should have been made of the fact that he’s an old man. Indy has always fought smarter, not harder, but there were several times in this movie where he took the hard route rather than the path marked easy.
My biggest fault with the film though is the lack of a sense of peril. Most of the movie the characters are giggling through scenes, falling over three waterfalls without a scratch, facing off against re-spawning video game characters without any threat of doom, fighting off massive Russians without a fear of really getting hurt.
…and the Russians as bad guys, quite simply the Russians were not the Nazis. Change Cate Blanchett’s ridiculous Russian accent for a German accent, and you’ve got a winner!
Sean Connery is shown in still photos, but he makes no appearance. How great would a cameo by Connery have been? I even know exactly how to do it, have Indy and Henry in some inescapable trap, Indy is clutching on to his father’s hand, it’s slipping, if he lets go Henry will fall to his doom, Connery says “Let go son, it’s your only chance.”, Henry slips from Indy’s grasp, Indy rolls out of the way of impending doom, and his dad falls to his death.
Fast forward to the pivotal scene in the movie, Mutt is clutching Indy’s hand, it’s slipping, if Mutt lets go Indy will fall to his doom. Indy: “Let go son, it’s your only chance.”, Mutt says “Like hell”, pulls Indy up, and they roll out of the way of impending doom together.
Rumours have it that Sean Connery didn’t want any part in the flick, so fine, kill off Short Round or any one of a half dozen other characters that the audience has an investment in from the past. The point is, establish peril. An adventure movie without peril is kind of just an amusement park ride on rails.
Then, there was the ultimate plot point in the film.
You expect some degree of mysticism in an Indiana Jones movie, but what you don’t expect is an X-Files level of alien conspiracy.
Finally the CGI. I know Lucas LOVES him some CGI, but I thought Spielberg had expressed an interest in rekindling the lost art of physical stunts and props. The OPENING shot was a totally gratuitous shot of CGI prairie dogs. The next series of scenes doesn’t so much make you suspend your disbelief, as take your disbelief, put some hooks in your back, raise you to the ceiling, and let you hang there for a couple of days to meditate on your own existence in some sado-masochistic scarification ritual.
What really frustrates me is the reviews this flick has gotten. 77% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes? I’m all for a good old fashioned romp, but this film was just terrible. I think the only redeeming quality is that the trailers before it were quite good.