Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Indiana Jones and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Movie

Not too long ago, in a movie theatre just down the road, I wasted two hours of my birthday watching Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Perhaps the best assessment of the film I ever came across was a simple statement from a kindred spirit in an online review: "George Lucas pooped on my childhood again."

To be fair, you can't lay blame for the horrendous awfulness that was Kingdom of the Crystal Skull solely at the feet of George Lucas. After all, Steven Speilberg directed it, Harrison Ford agreed to star in it, Cate Blanchett should have been jailed (or at least assigned several hundred hours of community service) for her over-acting, and poor Shia LaBeouf was left a broken shell of his former self by oppressive guilt over his participation in the violent wrenching of an iconic film franchise from the hearts of lifelong fans.

I won't waste your time reviewing the myriad things wrong with the movie. Well, okay, maybe just a bit of your time, but I'll be quick about it:
  • Ridiculously bad script;
  • Over-abundance of CGI-enhanced gimickry;
  • Lackluster performances;
  • Under-developed subplots;
  • Overwrought action sequences.
It's as though Lucas and Speilberg thought all we wanted was a clever MacGuffin, as Hitchcock called it, and to see stuff blowing up; that we were interested only in the spectacle (which is important) and not at all interested in the slow, character-development moments (which are equally important). They haplessly flung a few meager scraps of actual storyline at us like lazy waiters tossing around undercooked food. 

The two have often spoken about how Indiana Jones was always intended to be a riff on the fun adventure serials of early Hollywood, and I can appreciate that as an inspiration, but it isn't a defense for low-quality story telling. Story and character development, along with a heaping helping of spectacle, are exactly what made Raiders of the Lost Ark and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade so much better than either Temple of Doom or Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. The two superior installments in the franchise allow us to glimpse the emotional motivators driving the characters and leave us feeling connected in some way, unlike the other two installments that come across like bloated video games.

Recently, it was confirmed that a fifth Indiana Jones movie will soon crest the horizon and the news has filled me with dread. I'm not talking about a the-Hobbit-wasn't-nearly-as-good-as-the-Lord-of-the-Rings-because-it-strayed-too-far-from-the-source-material kind of dread, but rather a sincere, heartfelt and oppressive dread brought on by the possibility of witnessing yet another nail being driven into Indiana Jones's celuloid legacy.

Perhaps I, as a fan of the series since elementary school, can offer several suggestions to all at LucasFilm:
  1. Build all the sets you can afford and skip as much of the CGI as possible. The audience really can tell when an actor is standing alone in front of a green screen reacting to a scale-wage handyman waving around a mop instead of a sword-wielding bad guy.
  2. Put the characters in the correct year. Raiders of the Lost Ark took place in 1936 and was released in 1981. Thirty-five years later, Indie should be taking part in moon landings, the Vietnam War, or the opening of Walt Disney World.
  3. Apologize to Karen Allen (and John Hurt, while you're at it) for completely wasting her time in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Bring her back and give her more to do. I still say the MacGuffin of the movie should have been Marion's son and his true identity -- not aliens.
  4. Forget the fourth movie ever happened. None of it. Not a stitch. Write it off as a delusional head trip brought on after Indie experimented with acid at a Steppenwolf concert in 1968.
If you can accomplish any one of those things, then you might succeed in getting me to the theater to see the next Indiana Jones movie. Otherwise, it might be time to hang up the fedora.

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