People Tell Me I Look Like Han Solo.
Thursday, June 5, 2008
  Indiana Jones and the Painfully Unnecessary Sequel
So I finally got around to seeing Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (I wasn't in a huge rush to see it to begin with, though I do love the previous movies, and the middling-to-awful reviews didn't make it an opening-weekend priority), and Sweet Christmas is it bad. The couple of friends I knew who'd seen it before me were even harder on it than the critics I'd read, but even that didn't prepare me for whatever it was I sat through yesterday afternoon.

Now don't get me wrong, it wasn't the worst movie of the year or anything, nor do I expect to clean up at
The Razzies (do I smell a Speed Racer sweep?), but considering the previous films in the series, Crystal Skull was an almost unforgiveable mess. It was so bad I struck up a conversation with a total stranger (something anyone who knows me knows I never do) about how bad it was while he waited for our respective companions (well, I was there with a friend, he was there with his pregnant wife who was due that day) outside the washroom afterwards. Obviously Raiders of the Lost Ark is one of the greatest adventure movies ever made, I doubt there's many people who'd dispute that. Temple of Doom gets a lot of shit (I managed somehow to not see it until it was first released on DVD in the 2003 box set), and while it's a step down from Raiders, it's still pretty good. And Last Crusade, I've recently learned, is also the subject of a lot of negative ink (or whatever the digital equivalent is in the Internet age), but I've always loved it, and as the first Indiana Jones movies I saw in theatres, watching it in the cinema my dad back in 1989 is one of my Hall of Fame moviegoing experiences.

So....what the hell happened here? Crystal Skull tries so hard to evoke the previous movies, Raiders in particular, that it's almost embarassing. And while for years I defended
Harrison Ford from the "he's too old for another Indy movie" criticisms....yeah. He's old. I was as excited as any movie geek when I first heard that after years of rumours they were officially making a new Indiana Jones movie. But the result is proof that sometimes, everyone's schedule being clear at the same time isn't really a reason to make a movie. To paraphrase Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park, they were apparently so excited to see that they could make another Indy movie, nobody stopped to ask if they should.

The movie is a collection of lame gags, pratfalls and some brutal greenscreen and CGI work (CGI gophers? WHAT?!?!?), and the "performances" are mostly just mugging. The only actor who I thought was okay was Shia LaBeouf, who continues to make me like him. As bad as Crystal Skull was, if they do go ahead with what's hinted at in the movie and shift the franchise into adventures about his character, I'd probably check it out. Between Transformers and this, Spielberg obviously sees something in this guy, and I'm starting to see it too.

The bad dialogue and lame jokes really seem like the work of producer
George Lucas, who, with this film, cements my suspicion that he really doesn't understand what it is that made people fall in love with his two signature franchises. (I actually quite enjoy the Star Wars prequels, though I will never argue that they're really any good, but that's a topic that deserves a rambling post of its own....STAY TUNED!) From Lucas, I expect this sort of garbage, but Spielberg is better than this, and I'd hoped that his superior filmmaking skills would override Lucas' meddling, but I was wrong. So very, very wrong.

Seriously, man. CGI gophers.

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