Ticket price: 10.99
Seat: center middle
Attendance: 5, including us; 2 left halfway through the movie
Weather: Warm, foggy
Food: Frozen yogurt, M&Ms, Coke
Pre-show ads: Mazda, Vitao, Telus
Trailers: Passchendaele, Wall-E, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Australia, Kung Fu Panda, Eagle Eye
Indiana Jones returns in what feels like a scan of a copy of a photo of a kinescope of the old movie serials and B-movies that George Lucas and Steven Spielberg profess to love. I have seen much of that original material: they were corny but generally exciting, eschewing logic and quality in favour of Buster Crabbe dodging ray guns, Gene Autry foiling underground spies at the Radio Ranch, or Johnny Weissmuller swinging on vines. They were as cheap and ethereal as the pulps that preceded them, and they existed primarily to give people a reason to come back to the theatres week after week, leading into what were often equally forgettable features.
It is ironic that the two men who created the modern blockbuster film- Spielberg with Jaws, Lucas a year or two later with Star Wars – should lose sight so completely of what movie serials were. Instead of potboiler action made on the cheap, they have piled layer after layer of time and money and effort and expectations on a franchise that has grown steadily worse with each installment- not as steadily worse as Star Wars, but worse nonetheless.
I get what they were trying to do. Put Indiana Jones in the 1950s, make little nods to a bunch of movies from that period (as well as Spielberg and Lucas’ early blockbusters); but ultimately, the core of the story is weak. Mare and I came up with several good alternatives (including one that allowed them to use Nazis instead of Reds) within ten minutes after the end of the film. It is not a good sign when I can come up with a better script in ten minutes than the most expensive Hollywood talent can after many years and many drafts.
I went along willingly at first. Preposterous as it was, I enjoyed the first set piece and the reintroduction to Jones and his world. It was especially nice to see Karen Allen again. It was not so good to see Shia LeBeouf again; my only other encounter with him to date being last year’s equally uninspired Transformers film. Lucas and Spielberg actually have the balls to introduce LeBouef in the same way that Marlon Brando is introduced in The Wild One; the reference is cute for the few who will get it, but it is also wildly inappropriate, since LeBouef is clearly no Brando.
I lost my patience with the jungle chase scene. At first it was goofy, with the sword fight on jeeps; then it was overlong; then it was just lame, with Shia swinging from vine to vine like Tobey Maguire, with whom he could be compared fairly. After that chase scene, the film was a breathless and brainless rush of one set piece upon another, each stupider than the last, each more reliant on CG than the last, until we find ourselves reliving the conclusion of the X-Files movie. Which would be fine if it was, you know, an X-Files movie.
I can understand why Lucas might fail; he hasn’t written a decent script in 30 years. But Spielberg should know better. He should be able to understand that what people loved about Raiders of the Lost Ark (and by extension, Indiana Jones) is that unlike all of the sequels, the plot felt like The Amazing Race, with the good guys jumping from one exotic location to another, one step ahead of the villains. This movie feels more like National Treasure 2; an idiotic movie about generic characters solving obvious CG puzzles in pretty locations.
Crowd reaction at end of movie: none
Credit cookie?: no
For further consideration: as a sidekick, Shia LeBouef is not as bad as Jar Jar Binks, but he is no Chewbacca.
Opening next week: Hellboy II, Journey to the Center of the Earth, Meet Dave, Garden Party, August
Hoping for: Hellboy II