I have a bad feeling about this…

Greetings from Justin‘s flat, where I am part-way through my week’s tour of the east of Scotland.

The intermission – and wireless internet – gives me a chance to take Rich up on his suggestion that I expand on my comments about the new Indiana Jones film.

In a nutshell, and without giving too much away, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull sees the franchise “jump the shark“. At what particular point I don’t know, but with fridges in nuclear blasts, aliens, and triple waterfall survival, you’re spoilt for choice.

The plot is weak and preposterous, even for a Hollywood action film, and the film takes the traditional concepts of Indiana Jones way beyond where they were in the previous three.

The first three Indy films had touches of the supernatural, the unexplained, and the mysterious… but it was the fact that the truth was never entirely revealed in the films (much as the X-Files would later make its signature) made them vaguely thoughtful and compelling. Meanwhile, this latest offering goes right over that line with no apologies.

On the plus side, the acting is quite good (although Charles “Uncle Jim” Widmore displays a terrible American accent), Harrison Ford is his usual enigmatic self (and looks great for his age), and the progress of the film is fast and never boring. The special effects, action sequences and fight scenes are also excellent, there’s some nice humour that keeps us entertained and which nods nicely back to the previous Indy films, and overall it is a couple of hours of mindless, entertaining nonsense.

However, I can’t help thinking that it was a bit too mindless, a bit too nonsense, a film that stained the reputation of a great cinematic brand, and as such a film that shouldn’t have been made.

10 thoughts on “I have a bad feeling about this…

  1. *spoilers*

    I knew it would be very bad the moment I saw the momentary shot of the Ark in the warehouse. And also, for some reason I deeply object to Indy having spent the post-war years “spying on the reds”. Indy hates Nazis, not Commies. I see him as being considerably more intelligent than the average McCarthy-ite. There was way too much computer-animation too, especially with the bizarre Tarzan scene.

    But worst of all, by a million miles, has to be Cate Blanchett’s complete lack of any subtlety or degree at all.

    I presume the intention was to go more into the comic book genre than before. Oh well. Guess there’s a reason I don’t read comic books.

  2. To be honest, after what they did with Star Wars, I wouldn’t be surprised at them ruining Indie too.

    When the creators are people who have lots of money and a franchise to take care of, the end result is bound to be less exciting than something that is created by people trying to prove themselves through sheer creativity on a more limited budget. Nothing touches people like unadulterated expressiveness, whether it’s in a plotline, an actor, a well-shot scene. And that expressiveness comes from the wells of people whose desire first and foremost is to impress others with their skills. Hungry people make great movies.

    “Respected” directors and “famous” actors have far less to prove, and are working from a muse that is far less fertile. When things have a roughness around the edges, it can serve to draw the eye into the genuine, flawed but exciting human creativity of a piece. The slickness of hollywood often ignores the fact that what people get a kick out of is not what actually happens on the screen, but what happens in the imagination of the audience.

    People are interested in people. If an explosion happens, it’s only interesting because of what it means for people. A ludicrous plot prevents you from identifying with characters, and that’s what people really want to do when they see a film. They want to step outside of their lives and put themselves somewhere else. But they can’t do that if they cannot identify with any of the actors. The plot can be pretty daft, but as long as there is a consistency in the framework that it provides, it will leave enough opportunity for the actors to express themselves.

  3. I don’t agree. I think the franchise umped the shark with Temple of Doom, which was just bloody awful, and then was saved by Last Crusade, which was brilliant. Indy was fun this time out, but not up to the standard of Raiders/Last Crusade.

    The pacing was a bit off early on, but I still think that overall it was a better film than Temple of Doom which, I say again, was bloody awful.

    The ending was mental, but The Kids (and let’s remember these are kids’ films) would have enjoyed it, I think.

  4. Bad animation. What was with those extreme close up of the Gophers? (or whatever they were)… thought that was going to be a random short film?

    Yea, Commies is a bit harsh, as was the russian accent!

    I just felt disappointed… maybe we are expecting too much from films we enjoyed ‘back when we were lads’… maybe if we were young now then it’d be great…

  5. Crystal Skull is *much* better than Temple of Doom; Mutt Williams and Marion Ravenwood are infinitely more engaging than short round and Kate Capshaw’s character. There was nothing “thoughtful” or “compelling” about child sacrifice and ooga booga in Doom. Taking the concept beyond what it has been to date is a good thing; why try and remake Raiders? I thought Crystal Skull struck a good balance from interesting updates to the mythos (the 50’s setting) and nostalgic appeal. Indiana Jones baddies are primarily cartoonish (Belloq had some depth) so Cate Blanchett was perfectly in fitting with the first three films. And Indy and the mushroom cloud is one of the best shots in all the movies to date.

    The distaste (evidenced more emphatically in regard to the Star Wars prequels) for CGI is nonsensical; *all* film is artificial. Stop-motion animation (for example) doesn’t occupy some sort of aesthetic high ground just because it was the stuff of your childhood.

    Greg –

    I think it is very much to George Lucas’ credit that he stuck to the thirty year held vision of his story with the prequels; their “wooden” dialogue/pans etc are contrary to current cinematic norms but (on a long enough timeline) legitimate and (taken on their own terms) effective. And the political subtext makes the prequels “serious” movies in a way the originals are not.

    Not sure about your theory about first time directors either. I’d take the post-success output of Scorcese or Kubrick over any debut efforts in the last (say) twenty years.

  6. Ryan, I agree that it’s as pointless to criticise CGI just it would have been pointless to criticise model work in 70s movies.

    It’s how special effects are done today. Sometimes it’s done well, sometimes it’s done badly. But any suggestion that CGI isn’t a massive advance on using models can’t really be taken seriously.

    ILM aren’t just at the cutting edge of special effects, they ARE the cutting edge of special effects. They just don’t do bad CGI work.

    Special effects shouldn’t drown out the story, characters (except in special cases). But that’s always been the case, whether you use stop motion, moving models or CGI.

  7. Wow, what a debate I’ve started!

    I suppose I should continue it, but frankly my apathy towards the film leaves me with little more to say about it.

    You’re probably all right!

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