Friday, June 27, 2008

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (contains spoilers)

****Warning: spoiler alert****

Yeah, I finally saw it. And yeah, I didn’t like it.

I swear, I tried. Honest.

The reason I saw it so late was because Tess Gerritsen and I decided to wait until we could see it together. Tess is a big fan of both archaeology (and she knows waaay more about mummies than I do) and adventure movies. Anyway, we got together with the menfolk, had a good meal, some wine, and I promised myself I wouldn’t pick on the archaeology (not that there’s ever much). If it was a good adventure story, I’d be happy.

I know nothing will ever touch Raiders of the Lost Ark, but jeez. The idea of opening the movie with the last, exquisite shot of the warehouse from Raiders—tearing the veil off that perfect mystery, and worse, putting that in the TRAILER—made me sputter long before I saw the movie. But in the interest of trying to be fair, I’ll try and leaven my nit-pickery with what I did like in parens. They are nits the size of VW Beetles, though. (N.B. My views don’t necessarily reflect those of the whole party in attendance).

***Hic Spoilers***

1. Everyone in the cast seemed to be tired/bored/mugging.

(Karen Allen was the exception; I’ve missed Marian. Hands up everyone who ever tried to learn the Nepalese dialogue so they could recreate the drinking scene in Raiders. I know I’m not the only one. I liked that the older characters had some mileage on them, and I liked learning about Indy’s war record, but Mac? How disposable was he? He was pretty cardboard, and they already had the Cate Blanchett character for moral (yawn) comparison.)

2. It felt like every shot in the film was reproducing from one of George Lucas’s films (the other Indy films, American Graffiti, Star Wars, etc.). The problem with this was that it recalled all those excellent scenes (Indy, arm in arm with Marian, going down stairs; the morphing of the Paramount logo into the first shot; bad guy brains melting at the end; etc.). It made me wish I was watching those movies again.

(Umm, I’m groping for a pro here: okay, the fight scenes. Indy’s learned to throw some elbows and his ground-game's gotten better. There was some cool capoeira-looking choreography by the zombies-dudes in the cemetery. Very ambitious, for zombies.)

3. The dialogue blew chunks. It telegraphed everything (the reference to fencing in the first act…) and spelled everything out while trying to sound snappy. Nothing worse.

(The line about Comrade Spalko sinking those teeth “into the wubble-u’s” was great.)

4. Aliens? Aliens, really? And for a group mind, they weren’t a very efficient system, if missing one dang skull kept them from Phoning Home. Also: please, movie people: why, why, why is the mandible always fused to the maxilla?

(Even though I kept thinking the plastic skulls filled with Saran Wrap were really hokie, I loved the idea of the glass skeletons. Is there some glass blower on Murano who takes skeleton orders? Now, that’s home decor.)

5. The chase scenes, even with ants—and I liked the ants— went on forever (and recalled the “speeder chase” from Return of the Jedi). They weren’t fun, either. There's only so many times you can watch Mutt getting whacked in the goolies before even that pales.

(Loved the reference to V. Gordon Childe in the library. Dumb moment, but a great archaeology reference with layers relating to the movie’s political setting. And, at a stretch, the aliens.)

6. Um, absolutely no explanation of “Adventure Spoons” anywhere (see my blog entry, "No time for love, Dr. Jones"). The mystery remains.

(At least Indy and Marian got together at the end.)

This rates with three other films that I thought could have been brilliant but left me gnashing my teeth and calling for a script and a red pencil. I’m not sure this movie will even have the effect of imbuing archaeology with temporary cool, as Raiders did, a bazillionty-one years ago. But at least now I won’t be dating myself too badly if I reference Indiana Jones.

Watch here for my take on Hell Boy II. And pray for me. It's all up to you to restore my faith, Guillermo del Toro.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The whole thing struck me as just kind of silly. I have to say, doing archaeology in public, we have heard way fewer Indiana Jones comments this summer than I expected, so I think you are right about its (lack of) effect on the public. Lynn

5:20 AM  
Blogger Dana said...

Drat! So we don't even get that bump. It will be interesting to see what happens when THE MUMMY III comes out (with Jet Li!).

5:59 AM  

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