Friday, May 23, 2008

Indy IV (Spoilers)

I have a feeling this is going to get me in trouble. I saw the new Jurrasic Park movie last night and was enjoying it, until I realized that it was an Indiana Jones movie. I hadn't fully formed my opinion by the time I left the theater but as I mulled it over the movie began to come apart. Regardless of whether it is an Indiana Jones movie, the movie still has to stand on its own as a movie. The bad:
  1. Extra Characters: There are just too damn many people wandering around here. Ray Winstone's character is completely useless and adds nothing to the movie that couldn't have been done better with a more dynamic villain. John Hurt's character takes the place of Indy's brain. Karen Allen seems to exist only for horrid exposition through dialogue. All of these people just clutter up the film. Indy is at his best working off one sidekick, whether it is his dad, Short Round, Salah, or Marion. In previous films they were always careful to remove one character from the action as they introduced another. Even in Last Crusade's tank chase scene there are really only two characters actually doing something Indy and Henry even though Salah and Marcus are present. Indy and Mutt are fun, and I thought the movie was at its best when it is just the two of them together early on.
  2. Fan Service: There is just too much of this. I will not list it all but the wedding was completely uncalled for. One little thing I liked: I believe that the town he was discussing in class was Skara Brae of Ultima/Bard's Tale fame. If I heard him correctly.
  3. Cheesy CGI: Please, don't do this anymore. The action scenes lack the weight of the original movies because of the CGI. Everything just feels overlit and floaty. Whether you should do something is at least as important as whether you can. Monkey scene=bad.
  4. Action Sequences: These lack the realism of the original movies, obviously plenty of physically impossible situations exist in the first three films but Indy's actual movements were always realistic. This is not Harrison Ford's fault. I have to say that he still is very convincing in a fist fight as Indiana Jones. The problem here is in the direction and the CGI.
  5. Horrible Exposition Through Dialogue: This is like Rule #1 of writing: You don't do it. It is done constantly throughout the movie, especially in the soulless exchanges between Marion and Indy. Their romance just suddenly flares up in minutes after he abandons her with a child! John Hurt's character exists only for exposition through dialogue and to serve as the Prima Strategy Guide that Indy reads to get through the movie.
  6. Superhuman Indy: What made Indiana Jones cooler than Luke Skywalker? He had no super powers. Well he does now. They have turned Indy into a cartoon character, he was always tough but now he is a rubber man, a cartoon. The thing with the atomic bomb and the fridge was not cool, it was silly. There is a difference.
  7. Bulletproof: The bad guys cannot hit anything.

The movie was at its best when it stuck to the things that made the others great:

  1. The Motorcycle Chase: This scene carries the weight of reality present in the earlier films. It also centers on the contributions of only two characters Indy and Mutt. It also has my favorite bit of acting in the whole movie. Mutt does something daring on the bike and gives Indy a cocky look, Indy fires back with the exact same unimpressed facial expression that Henry senior gave him in Last Crusade's bike scene. This works. Many of the other "we are like you and your dad" moments fall flat.
  2. The Warehouse: The fan service was completely uncalled for but the scene itself is one of the better action sequences in the movie. Indy's failed whip swing and "I thought that was closer" line are about as close to the Raiders Indy as you are going to get.
  3. The Plot: I actually liked the overall plot. You have to take it in the spirit it was intended though. The first three Indy movies were send-ups of '40s serials, this one is a send-up of '50s paranoia B movies. Keeping that in mind it works.

This movie owes more to Jurrasic Park and The Mummy than it does to the other Indy movies (which owe alot to North By Northwest). I think it was an error to turn this into a Disneyland ride were the action sequences are strung together willy nilly. Sadly there is plenty of plot there but they never seem to connect it to the action sequences in any meaningful way. Cate Blanchett's character is the weakest of the Indy villains because she is never developed in any way. The characters, other than Indy and Mutt, are really weak and their relationships seem to exist based on what the fans wanted to see rather than any logical train of thought. At the end of the day if you replaced Harrison Ford with Brenden Frasier this would have been the weakest of the Mummy movies (I am not counting The Scorpion King here).

Overall C-


Silas said...

It was Skara Brae, but not the one from the games. There was a real-world place called Skara Brae, which was abandoned as Indy says in the movie. There's actual FACT in an Indiana Jones movie? Who knew?

(McNutcase from the FTB forums here, by the way)

rmckee78 said...

Oh, I know that there was a real town with that name. I was just figuring that it was specifically chosen as nerd candy for the movie.

Anonymous said...

I don't think you're off base, dude.


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