Monday, June 02, 2008

Indiana Jones and No Kingdom for Old Men


I have been opposed to yet another installment of the Indiana Jones saga from the very beginning. As far as I was concerned, ...THE LAST CRUSADE had been a fitting finale, finishing out a trilogy which pretty much tied it all up in a ribbon of closure so we could all move on. The first thing was that it cleansed the palate after THE TEMPLE OF DOOM, the weakest of the three (albeit, the best title). It also included the ingenious casting of Sean Connery as his father, the most significant addition to the series and helped flesh out its main character as a result. There were elements that actually touched the heart, something unheard in this genre. Finally, they rode off into the goddamn sunset. What more could possibly want? Well, if you're George "I'll never let anything go cuz I haven't had an original idea since the Seventies" Lucas, you insist on another chapter because you apparently can't have too much money. Of course the all mighty buck was the main justification for all this. What else? Ego? Bingo! Harrison Ford has grown to be irrelevant in the 21st century, his last hit of any sugnificance being WHAT LIES BENEATH (answer: this festering turd of a movie). Ford didn't need the dough, having done quite well for himself over the years. He just needed to feel useful again. And Steven Spielberg? Apparently, he's fallen on hard times.... Uh-uh. Leggo my ego. Ergo, INDY 4.

Needless to say, I thought this was a bad idea. An aging star reviving an iconic role...hmmm, can anyone say NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN? Yep, Sean stumbled big time trying to bring himself back as James Bond in the mid 1980s, replete with a new rug and a Roger Moore sensibility. It did not work. Want another example? how about RETURN TO MAYBERRY?

But that was then.

This is now. We live in an era where originality takes a back seat to cheap imitation (THE MUMMY, NATIONAL TREASURE), endless rehashing (THE MUMMY 2, NATIONAL TREASURE 2) and crass reimagining (oh, you name it). Don't forget that just in the last decade, we were blessed with the Chapters 1-3 of the STAR WARS saga, AKA The Ugly, The Bad and The Good.

Finally, after years of speculation and Lucas procrastination, INDY 4 finally saw the light of day. And its title: INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL. First of all, the title is too long. It should be INDIANA JONES AND THE CRYSTAL SKULL. Maybe KINGDOM is in there to try to match INDIANA JONES AND THE RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK...except, NOBODY calls it INDIANA JONES AND THE RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK! (Moot? You betcha! I have as much geek cred as any little obsessive ass with a blog.)

However, I find it safe to say, that this installment can be summed up in two words:

GOOD ENOUGH.

Maybe lowered expectations took the stress out of the situation, but I actually found the film to be quite good from the moment it began. Sure, it's corny as get out with every period cliche in the book, but it is a crash course in 1950s pop culture. You got your Commies. You got your red-baiting FBI type. You got the Bomb. You got Brando wannabe punk Mutt Williams (worst name ever. Sounds like a sportscaster at a Midwest TV station.) You got Area 51. You got your rock n' roll, daddy-o.

Some of the action and pacing is stodgy and clumsy in places (the sword fight on motorcycles? Yeesh...), but the second half really does rev it up, Indy-style with a couple of honest to God jaw dropping moments, namely the army ants and the Mayan ruins. Nobody, but nobody does epic action like lil' Stevie Spielberg.

As for Shia LeBeouf as Mutt....well, he's okay. I don't think he'll be able to carry on the mantle if that's what they have in mind. He has no jaw and I don't think he'll age well. He has no chin.
Karen Allen did. She looks as adorable as she did in RAIDERS. Damn, that's a sweet smile. Too bad they made her so goofy toward the end. Marion and Indy really needed better moments than those awkward reconcilliation moments.As for Harrison? He knocked it out of the park. Oh, maybe it tipped over the fence, but it was nice to be reminded what made us like him in the first place. He didn't embarass himself and that was really the most important thing, let's face it, shall we?

So the film as a whole had its stumbling blocks, namely Ray Winstone's thankless and underdeveloped role. A real shame for an actor I admire. The same pretty much goes for the great Jim Broadbent. What the hell. But John Hurt was a welcome addition and Cate Blanchett...well, we're getting into dangerous ground here, mainly a sexual fantsyland with an E ticket. She was hot as balls. I'll leave it at that.

Unlike the consensus of critical opinion of this latest offering, I prefer the second half over the first. While I'm not too crazy about the epilogue, way too cutesy pie for my taste, I left the theater not feeling either cheated, compromised or sad, erasing the dread out of my system and actually feeling like telling Georgie Porgie "thank you"-mainly for not fucking it up.

THE CRYSTAL SKULL... not as good as THE LAST CRUSADE, but better than TEMPLE OF DOOM. From that standpoint, that's why I declare it:

GOOD ENOUGH.

NOW can we move on?

How about it, George?

Oh.

He's too busy working on the STAR WARS TV series.
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