Animadversions.

The weblog of Joshua Drescher

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Indy IV

May 27th, 2008 · No Comments · Movies, Rants

Quick and dirty, spoiler-free review:

It’s quite good. Harrison Ford looks great and plays his role in a way that makes frequent (perhaps TOO frequent) nods to his age without sacrificing any of the action we expect from Dr. Jones. Shia LaBeouf plays his role with surprising effectiveness, switching effortlessly between comic sidekick and burgeoning Heroic Man of Action.

The whole film is full of nods to the earlier pictures - which you’ll either love or hate. I loved it.

It felt like an Indiana Jones film - preposterous, light-hearted, raucous and fun. If you ever enjoyed any of the earlier films, you’ll almost certainly enjoy this one.

Additional, spoiler-heavy comments below:

Some grumpy malcontents have taken the “George Lucas ruins things” position with this film, much in the same way they responded to the newer Star Wars pictures. These people are wrong and should be ignored. Roger Ebert summed this up nicely when he initially reviewed Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace and I will quote him now, but with the new Indy film inserted instead:

If it were the first “Indiana Jones” movie, “The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” would be hailed as a visionary breakthrough. But this is the fourth movie of the famous series, and we think we know the territory; many of the early reviews have been blase, paying lip service to the visuals and wondering why the characters aren’t better developed. How quickly do we grow accustomed to wonders. I am reminded of the Isaac Asimov story “Nightfall,” about the planet where the stars were visible only once in a thousand years. So awesome was the sight that it drove men mad. We who can see the stars every night glance up casually at the cosmos and then quickly down again, searching for a Dairy Queen.

Over time, we all wind up elevating our favorite things to a status that exceeds their merit. Albums we enjoyed at critical parts of our youth become hard-wired into us as “the best” music we know of for the rest of our lives. Books that resonate due to coincidental applicability to our own sensibilities at the time we first read them become towering works of literary genius. And movies we obsessed over - starring characters we dressed up as for Halloween and whose toys we frantically collected and whose adventures we relived in our backyards - are enshrined as magnificent wonders, possessing a greatness untouchable by time or subsequent works.

So, when the creator of one of those Great Works tries to revisit that sacred territory, they are competing not with the ACTUAL quality of their past efforts, but with our MEMORY of those efforts.

Indy IV is up against that problem and I think if anyone judges it honestly, it more than holds up to the second and third films in the original trilogy. It’s not as good as Raiders. It’s about as good as Last Crusade. It’s definitely better than Temple of Doom.

A fair number of people have bitched about the fact that there are aliens in the movie and that the presence of aliens is somehow so absurd that the story fails to connect in any real way. To this, I say the following:

The aliens were about as important to this movie as Moses was to Raiders or as Jesus was to Last Crusade. Yes, they’re part of the story, but 95% of the story is about Evil Commies, adventurous archaeologists, swashbuckling action and sprawling fantasy. Get over it.

Hear are some other complaints I’ve heard.

Complaint:

Why were their only four guards at Area 51?

Response:

Who cares? Did you think Spielberg and Lucas were going to spend the first hour of the film with the Russians killing their way through wave after wave of soldiers? Maybe they were all killed off-screen to speed things up and keep the story kid-friendly. Maybe they were all hiding somewhere in preparation for the nuclear bomb test. Or maybe it doesn’t matter.

Complaint:

Speaking of nuclear bombs, what the hell? He survived that inside of a refrigerator?

Response:

I’ll admit - hiding in the fridge wasn’t the best choice they could’ve made. The best choice would’ve been Dr. Jones ducking and covering and then emerging - dusty nut unscathed - from a pile of rubble. The opening sequence was - in my view - intended to set the tone of the film. It deliberately thumbs its nose at pretentious realism, and rightly so.

Complaint:

That scene where they’re searching for magnetic boxes is lame. Gunpowder has no metal in it! And lead isn’t magnetic either!

Response:

Shut up. It’s a MAGIC skull. It uses SPECIAL MAGNETISM. They explicitly point this out in the film when it’s shown that the skull attracts gold.

Complaint:

Why are the aliens your typical “greys”?

Response:

No idea. Maybe they were trying to maintain the iconography of alien depiction or something. I’ll admit that part of me was REALLY hoping the giant ship would play the alien tones from Close Encounters as it took off. I guess you can’t win ‘em all.

Complaint:

The Tarzan scene was terrible.

Response:

YOU’RE terrible. That scene was awesome. It was no less believable than the mining-cart chase scene in Temple of Doom. Why can’t you just enjoy things?

So, in conclusion, if you are not a joyless cyborg or some form of Internet film connoisseur, go see Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. And don’t even TRY to bitch about the Commie-bustin’ Super Monkeys.

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