Monday, June 2, 2008

Cranky At The Movies

Yesterday I saw INDIANA JONES AND THE CRYSTAL SKULL. I was disappointed.

Harrison Ford looks great and if, as I've read, he really does do his own stunts, then he's in amazing shape. The various vehicle chases were fun and inventive. And nobody expects much plausibility of premise from an Indiana Jones script. We go to the movie for the snap and sparkle -- but that's just what was missing, along with any plot coherence at all.

A plot is supposed to make sense -- a minimum of sense -- if you accept its basic premises. Those premises may be outrageous, as in the previous Indiana Jones capers. They may be strictly mimetic, seeking to replicate reality as we know it or as it might become. They may be magical or comic or a half dozen other things. But once they've been shown, the plot is supposed to grow from them, not go off in seventeen incoherent directions. This movie looks as if Spielberg and Company couldn't decide what it was supposed to be about, so they throw in lost artifacts, Spanish conquistadores, Communists seeking psychic weapons, aliens, other dimensions, nuclear bomb tests, mind bending, and an ending that punishes Cate Blanchett for being thirsty for knowledge. Or maybe for being Russian. Or just for having blue eyes. It's impossible to tell what she's done to offend the aliens that everybody else hasn't done, or what their "gift" is, or why ants can outrun human beings. Or anything else.

And Indiana Jones's dialogue seems weary. It's not age; the strong impression is that Harrison Ford would rather have been someplace else. Like back looking for the Ark of the Covenant.

Me, too.


Steven Francis Murphy said...

Maybe it is me but the Colonel Doctor just didn't seem to be a credible "threat" to Indiana. She was a cardboard character of the worst order.

Marion was underutilized and spent most of her time fawning over Indiana. Where is the woman who punched him in the jaw back in Raiders? I've never noticed that childbirth made strong women mellow. Certainly wasn't the case with my own mother.

The ending was a bit much. The best thing to do would be to throw everything out after the decon shower scene and start all over.

Fortunately, I was at a recently restore single screen movie theater where I had seen Star Wars for the first time. Not only did they do a first class job on the restoration, but they served one other thing that helped the movie go down a little easier.

Beer. It is a three beer film, minimum.

S. F. Murphy

Joe said...

I agree about Marion...and yet...Karen Allen's smile is worth the price of admission and more than makes up for that stupid scene where she drives over the cliff, onto the tree, and is gently delivered to the river.

Puh-lease, but at the same time you see her smile right before she does it and you just know she's having fun and am I.

TheOFloinn said...

Also, you can make almost a one-to-one map of scenes in this movie with scenes in the other movies.

LAST CRUSADE had the Brotherhood of the Cruciform Sword guarding the site of the grail. They hassle Indy & co., who get past them. Then the Nazis come and wipe them out and we get a scene that simply shows their boots marching past the dead bodies.

Replace the Brotherhood with the Indian tribe and the Nazis with the Soviets and you even get the same "boots" shot.

Blanchett's head exploded because in LOST ARK Beloc's head exploded.

The fight with the Very Tough Soviet was a clone of the fight with the Very Tough Nazi (again in LOST ARK). The former was eaten by ants; the latter was pureed by an airplane propeller.

There was a touch of possibly unintentional irony in the feds dark comments about commies being everywhere and the "better dead than red" rally. After we had just seen a communist commando force enter a secret US installation, kidnap/try to kill our hero, and go careening through Yale... And our hero's friend did turn out to be a lurking communist dupe/agent. This was all rather subversive of the obvious attempt to draw parallels between then and now with the use of such terms as "person of interest" and so on.

It also seemed to me that too much of what went on depended on the audience having seen the previous movies. When Marion makes her appearance, those ignorant or forgetful of the LOST ARK may have trouble figuring out what she once meant to Indy -- and they sure won't suspect that she's the kind of gal who'd drive a DUCK off a cliff and smile while doing it! It doesn't help when the foreshadowing is in a movie years in the past.

And just because a kid took a fencing class in prep school should we expect him to hold his own against a master of the sabre with years of experience?

Pfui. Consider this another vote for mediocre.

Avi Abrams said...

True, true. No real grit; no real sparkle.