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“I’ve Got A Bad Feeling About This”: Indiana Jones and the Return of Indiana Jones

Friday, May 23, 2008

I don’t think I have ever been more excited about a movie in my life. I also don’t think I have ever had as much trepidation about a movie before either. Even though I have recently found some troubling aspects in the original three features, I still cannot deny that they are among my favourite films. Raiders, Temple, and Last Crusade are comfort food, and an instant portal to childhood.

I never really wanted another Indiana movie. I felt that the finale of Last Crusade, the four heroes riding off into the sunset, made the perfect ending to the trilogy. So when rumours of a fourth began to circulate, and circulate, and then die down, and then circulate some more, I, to quote Indy, was beginning to have “a bad feeling about this.” I felt there was no way that they could make a movie as good as Raiders, or as good as Last Crusade (my personal favourite). Making a film better then Temple would not, in my mind, be much of an accomplishment. But I suppose the real threat, and I in no way hold the trinity of Spielberg, Lucas, and Ford accountable for this, was that there was no way they could make a movie as good as my childhood memories of the first three.

And they haven’t.

But I honestly can’t say whether I liked the movie or not. So let me break it down, and yes, many spoilers are to be found on this page.

What I Liked About Kingdom of the Crystal Skull:

  1. Harrison Ford still kicks ass. His advanced years were acknowledged in an appropriate and humourous way, and not distracting in the least.
  2. I am man enough to admit that the nod toward Henry Jones Sr., and Marcus, brought a tear to my eye.
  3. The beginning. Indy surviving an atomic bomb blast. Awesome.
  4. Bringing Marion back, and giving Indy a son – highly appropriate considering the father/son thing in Last Crusade (yet not developed nearly enough).
  5. Shia Leboef is an engaging presence and can hold his own with Harrison Ford dressed as Indiana Jones. Props.
  6. Cate Blanchett.
  7. The motorcycle chase through the university, and the discovery of the crystal skull – lots of cobwebs and dark tunnels. Though the mysterious ‘natives’ suddenly appearing armed with poisonous darts were never properly explained. Sigh.
  8. The quicksand scene was good, and the snake being used to save Indy was a nice touch.

What I Didn’t Like About Kingdom of the Crystal Skull:

  1. The truck chase. And this is a biggy, as it’s the largest action sequence in the film. Didn’t do it for me. Too much CG, and not enough inventiveness. Almost boring in a way.
  2. Mutt doing the Tarzan thing. Please.
  3. The monkeys helping Mutt attack the commies. Give me a break.
  4. The swarm of CG ants. Sure, a particularly unpleasant way to go, but they would be much more at home in a film like The Mummy, which was a cheap rip-off of Indiana Jones anyway.
  5. Tom Stoppard didn’t write the dialogue.

At least Lucas didn't write the script...

I’m still waffling on whether or not I like the McGuffin. The Communists were an obvious choice, and I guess the crystal skull as an object works fairly well. So that, in combination with the 1950s B-movie nature Spielberg and Lucas were trying to emulate, helped me go with it (though why the spacemen had to look like the same aliens from Close Encounters, or AI, I’m not sure [at least they didn’t look like Yoda, or Jar Jar Binks!]). And the shot of Indy standing in front of the giant flying saucer taking off was certainly iconic, but I’m still not sure I liked it.

There are other things I could complain about (sometimes Janusz Kaminski’s cinematography was far too washed out, and lacked Douglas Slocombe’s epic, crisp look), but that would just be sour grapes. Am I glad they made another one? For the moment, no, I wish they had let sleeping mutts lie. Or maybe they should have ended it after the opening teaser, with Indy surviving the bomb blast. If they had done that, they could be pumping out Indy mini-movies every couple of years until they’re really too old. That way they wouldn’t have to worry about plot, character development or any of those, you know, important things.

I might change my mind after another viewing, but for the moment, I’ll be a spoil sport and be content with Marcus, Sallah, Henry, and Indiana riding off into the sunset thank you very much. Thing is, Last Crusade has a genuine sense of closure, and a real bonding between father and son. The father/son thing in Crystal Skull isn’t developed nearly enough, and the coda, the Indy and Marion nuptials, with Mutt almost putting on the hat, feels like it’s leading into yet another movie, which is never going to happen, especially if it takes 19 years for it to come out . . .

11 Comments leave one →
  1. Sarah P permalink
    Friday, May 23, 2008 12:13 pm

    I liked the movie a lot. I’ll agree with both your lists, but I weigh the lists of things I liked more heavily than the things I didn’t like But then, I never dressed up as Indy for Hallowe’en. The movie was a lot of fun and I’d recommend everyone to go see it!

  2. Friday, May 23, 2008 8:10 pm

    I just got back, and I can honestly say whether I liked the movie or not. Holy god did I ever not. Bad as a regular movie and just terrible as an Indiana Jones movie, as a Spielberg movie, as a god damned modern Lucas movie, even. Disappointment on the scale of an out-of-nowhere nuclear bomb blast.

    As for your list…

    The “Good” Parts
    1. Ford was fine, but I don’t think the movie treated him very well. I never had any fears about Ford being too old to play Indy, I just figure they’d age the character, which they did. He was still Indiana Jones, just trapped in celluloid crap.
    2. Having those characters be dead was stupid. Okay, I guess the actor who played Marcus really is dead, so a nod to him was appropriate enough. But there was no reason why Henry I needed to be gone. Didn’t do anything for the plot. It was like they felt obligated to mention him and figured they’d add some fake sentiment to it at the same time.
    3. The atomic bomb felt so stupid and out-of-place to me. The coincidence of it (it just happens to be nuke testing day?) and the way he survived — less the fridge shielding him from all that radiation than him surviving being launched like that in a metal box. The idea behind those moments where he realizes he’s in a fake house with a fake family and what’s about to go down — that’s a solid idea, executed poorly, but mostly executed in the wrong movie. That’s not an Indiana Jones scene, if you ask me. (The mushroom cloud looked really cool, though.)
    4. Marion was fine and the father/son paralleling was decent, but neither was done enough or well enough.
    5. The Beef was good, though they had him dress as a greaser, ride a bike like a greaser, and carry a switchblade, but he never really acted like a greaser. The kid was good, the character could’ve been better.
    6. Like the Beef, the Blanchett did right enough with what they gave her. Cartoony Commies have fun potential they didn’t really tap here.
    7. Why the bike chase and the discovery of the skull are lumped together, I don’t know, but anyway. Bike chase was okay, with a few fun ideas tossed in, and the conquistador’s tomb just felt like a retread of creepy tomb scenes from the other movies.
    8. Remember, it wasn’t quicksand. And yeah, probably one of the better scenes, one of the few that actually approached “good.”

    The BAD Parts
    1. The truck chase was hit-and-miss for me. The fencing I could do without, but some of the musical chairs worked. Definitely could’ve been better, though.
    2. Tarzan? Yeah, that goes right up there with gymnastics girl in The Lost World. When that moment happened, I pictured an intimidated newbie Shia LaBeouf sitting in a chair opposite the confident trio of Spielberg, Lucas, and Ford just after being presented with this idea, finding the courage to say “You’re fucking kidding, right?”
    3. Monkeys, agreed. Can I also take a moment to say what the fuck was with all the CGI gophers? Am I forgetting the gopher scenes from Raiders? Was this Indiana Jones and the Shack of the Caddy?
    4. Funny, I thought the ants actually did fit Indiana Jones, and was one of the few justified overuses of CG in this over-CG’d-to-the-brim movie. Mostly it was that the deaths these ants provided fit well with some of the creatively gruesome deaths the first three contained.
    5. Yeah, why is David Koepp Spielberg’s go-to guy? I mean, he has written some good stuff, but more often then not he strikes me as the epitome of Hollywood adequate, and that’s in terms of plot, character, and dialogue.

    Bonus Bad
    1. Speaking of plot, this had a really terrible plot. Not only ill-fitting to the series, but cliche times ten.
    2. The wedding at the end. Not an Indiana Jones-type ending. Riding of into the sunset, that’s and Indy endy.
    3. The Commie’s comeuppance. Oh no! Too much knowledge.
    4. The general CGI excess. I’m not saying don’t have any just to remain “pure” (though that’s really not such a terrible idea), but this was way, way, way overboard.
    5. Can I just mention the Tarzan and the monkeys again?

    Normally, I’d be the guy to say “it’s an Indiana Jones movie, of course go see it, even if it’s not so great.” But no, I would have to tell people to avoid. It’s just so bad. Such a shame.

  3. Sarah P permalink
    Saturday, May 24, 2008 1:34 pm

    Well, it seem I got TOLD.

  4. Saturday, May 24, 2008 1:44 pm

    There was no joy in it, believe me. The not-so-goodness of the new Star Warses didn’t really hurt me so much, because while I certainly like the old ones, they were never favorites. The Indiana Joneses are, so this is a damn bummer.

    The new X-Files movie needs to be real good, else I may not make it through this summer with intact wrists.

  5. Anonymous permalink
    Saturday, May 24, 2008 2:02 pm


  6. Saturday, May 24, 2008 2:20 pm

    With bold, controversial statements like that, I too would hide behind a shroud of anonymity.

  7. James17930 permalink
    Sunday, June 8, 2008 9:02 pm

    Okay, Beal, I think you’re overdoing it a little bit. Yes, the dumb stuff you and Graeme mentioned was kinda dumb, but it wasn’t enough to turn me off the movie. Overall, it’s another one of those decent films that’s neither great nor bad. Simply decent.

    Yes, enough stuff wasn’t developed, but I think that’s simply because they didn’t want to make a three hour movie.

    And I actually really liked the plot. The first 3 films all dealt with various religious iconography and legends, all of which would easily be at home (in terms of adventure story-telling) in the time the movies were set (the 1930s). This one was in the late-50s, the time of Roswell lore, B-Movie aliens at the drive-in all summer, and, of course, the birth of Scientology (wink). So to take this and combine it with Incan god myths, and have it all make sense, I thought was pretty clever. My only complaint about it was that it would have been okay to just have them be ‘flying saucer people.’ We didn’t really need the explanation from the old guy that they were ‘inter-dimensional travellers.’ That’s just masturbatory on Lucas’s part.

    But Beal, you’re definitely right about one thing — Henry Sr. certainly need not have been dead. Not only that, he SHOULD NOT have been dead. Am I the only one who’s noticed the giant plot hole here, where at the end of Last Crusade he drank from the Holy Grail . . . you know, that thing which is supposed to grant you eternal life?

    So . . . I’m gonna pretend that the Joneses are simply pretending Pop is dead so as not to arouse suspicion.

  8. Monday, June 9, 2008 1:33 pm

    “But, beware: the Grail cannot pass beyond the Great Seal, for that is the boundry, and the price, of immortality.”

    Yeah, you can drink from the grail all you want, and live forever with the knight of the first crusade in the temple, but once you leave – game’s over – you’re stuck as a mere mortal again.

  9. James17930 permalink
    Monday, June 9, 2008 7:08 pm

    Doesn’t that just mean the grail can’t pass beyond? Because what of Sir Richard, the one who was buried in the library in Venice? Don’t they say that he died of ‘the extreme old age’ of 150 or something like that?

    So even if not immortal, I thought that drinking from the grail at least extended your life a bit. Which would explain how Indy could survive in that fridge, but should’ve meant Pops would’ve been around a bit longer.

  10. Tuesday, June 10, 2008 10:50 am

    Sir Richard was 150 years old because he stayed in the temple for that long, then he and his brother left. His brother died on the way back, but he made it to Venice where he died shortly thereafter, so it doesn’t appear to extend your life any. Too bad for Pops…

  11. James17930 permalink
    Tuesday, June 10, 2008 11:33 am

    Ah. A reasonable explanation.

    And, I must say, quite a letdown in terms of ‘one of the greatest treasures of all time.’ I’d rather have the skull.

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