Monday, May 26, 2008

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Lost Plot


I saw the new Indiana Jones movie tonight...

I don't know what my problem is. After all, this movie's probably getting great reviews. I've only come across one review so far (which was favourable), but I'd lay money on all the standard superlative-laden cliches on 95% of all the reviews that ever come out: "an action-packed thrill ride!"; "Blanchett is fantastic!"; "a fun-filled adventure that leaves you on the edge of your seat!".

But the only reason I sat through it was because I'd invited my wife out for the evening and I didn't want to spoil everything. Yes, I'm saying I thought the movie was a waste of time. The story is convoluted and gap-laden; there's a crystal skull with magical powers, and some old professor friend, and Indy has to travel to Peru, and there's some lost city of gold, which turns out not to be of gold at all, but of "treasure", which turns out to not have "treasure" at all - or I should say, the "treasure" turns out to be knowledge, though we never even get to find out what the knowledge might consist of...and weird aliens who number fourteen, but also assimilate into one, and can waft in and out of our dimension, who are from "the space between the spaces"...and I would bet a thousand bucks that not one of ten of the people who emerge saying they loved the movie could give any coherent account of its plot.

However, there are all the requisite giant explosions and people-eating insects and car crashes and cutesy jokes and magical survivals after falling down three gigantic waterfalls and being shot at by fifteen Russian soldiers with machine guns ten feet away. And because the bad guys are the commies, there is also Spielberg's misguidedly dutiful depiction of how evil American anti-communists were (sort of a scaled-down reminder of Spielberg's attempt in "Munich" to show "both sides" of the 1972 PLO kidnapping and murder of Israeli athletes. "Both sides" of murder? Maybe Spielberg in the future will also take time to show us "both sides" of the Menendez Brothers story, the Ted Bundy story, and the Charles Manson story).

Cranky? Sure. I couldn't even stand all the hammed-out "Indy and Marion Together Again" nostalgia show (probably not least because the indescribable glee that Karen Allen understandably feels at finally finding another Hollywood job after twenty years just seemed to ooze off her in every scene. Everytime the camera panned over to her, her facial expressions were such that I thought she was going to start screaming, "thank you Steven! Oh God! Thank you! Thank you SO MUCH! FINALLY ANOTHER ACTING ROLE! FINALLY SOME MONEY!"). And that Indy and Marion ended up falling in love and getting along famously and then getting married, when their incorrigibly on-again off-again love-hate dynamic was firmly established two decades ago, seemed awfully forced. I just don't see it.

Anyway...I think that in an effort to keep things rolling, this movie tried to do way too much. It could still have featured lots of action; but clearer, tighter plot lines and more actual drama - as in, believable characters interacting with each other as humans in believable ways - would have helped (see "Casino Royale", which, for my money, combined these things very successfully).

Just my two cents,

T.

10 comments:

Mal said...

Thoughtful occasional essays like yours are the reason this retiree is glad for taking a moment to learn about newsreaders.
Always a pleasure to read your posts, Tal.
Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

Wow. You could give www.mrcranky.com a run for his crankiness. I am curious if the special effects are even more special 25 years later. It seems they could really top the original in that regard. Did Tracy like it? Did she still think it was a great date night?
I still haven't seen Casino Royale...I don't like action movies on video as much...oh, well. Thanks for the review. We know with you...we'll always get the other side of the other side of the story.

Guinevere said...

So you didn't go just to see Shia Labeouf?

Lewis said...

Spielburg is a hack director that has gotten rich with over-hyped movies. In almost every movie of his, it is tough to get lost in the movie because you are constantly being reminded that you are watching a movie made by cliche. No real inspiration. And you are spot with your take on Munnich - what a disgrace he is to his heritage.

Cr@ig said...

I coulnd't agree more with your movie review... I left the theater wondering what the hell just happened, I thought I was going to a Steven Spielberg-George Lucus Movie and instead left thinking I had been to poorly made Jerry Bruckheimer's "National Treasure 3"

Diana said...

I wish I had read this before going to see the movie. I, too, was disappointed in the movie and at one point I thought Nicholas Cage was going to come around the corner.
The plot is incomprehensible. The close-ups of Cate Blanchett's face and her false eyelashes bothered me. I guess I could name 50 things I didn't like about this movie...

Tal said...

This is what my life has come to - I actually felt grateful to the point of *truly moved* that I got some supporting comments on my review. Guess I'm not alone.

I don't want to take anything away from Steven Spielberg's illustrious Hollywood achievements...but just thinking about the "Munich" business ("I wanted to show the OTHER side of murder and kidnapping!") leaves me feeling some serious disgust...and it bleeds into the Elia Kazan business, which makes me even more upset.

frizzlefry said...

Several of our friends went to it at midnight opening night and all I have heard since then was how weird and disappointing it was. I'm pointing them to your review now, as they will love to commiserate with you.

I'm waiting for the video, if that.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the review, Tal. I actually looked forward to seeing this movie because I liked all the other Indiana Jones movies, but I shall wait for the DVD now --- it would be easier to walk away from it if it is as bad. What did Tracy think of the movie?

I like Harrison Ford's movies in general. I loved watching the Star Wars Trilogy.

Anonymous said...

hey my husband looks like harrison ford and we liked the movie.. but you know what? nothing beats the first of the series.. love, http://en.gravatar.com/avatar/44e925c329e9a34d15d35eeff28205a6?s=80&r=any