Lately it’s been the return of the 80’s action stars. In the past couple of years, John McClane, Rocky Balboa and John Rambo have all returned to the multiplexes. Now it’s Indiana Jones’ turn.
So how is it? Well, the good news is that it’s better than the Star Wars prequels. The bad news is that’s not saying a whole lot.
The movie gets off on the wrong foot right from the start. Rather than starting with an amazing action sequence like the previous films, this film starts with two minutes of 1950s teenagers hot-rodding, though those characters will never be seen again, thus making the scene a complete waste. Then Indy and his sidekick show up, then there’s a ton of exposition, and THEN we get an all-too-short action sequence that has to do with the film’s main plot (as opposed to the other films, which always opened with Indy chasing a different relic, thus giving the feel of watching the end of one Indy adventure dovetailing into the beginning of another).
There are sloppy pacing and editing decisions made throughout the movie like this. Weren’t Steven Spielberg and George Lucas the ones who showed everyone else how this type of movie was done in the first place? What happened? After spending 15 years in development, why does the film play like it was cobbled together in a manner of weeks?
There are other problems. Spielberg eschewed the real and outstanding – stunts of the first films for mostly ludicrous CGI (nervous groundhogs, anyone?). The normally dependable Harrison Ford sleepwalks through his role, and Cate Blanchett (who looks like she’s hunting for “moose and squirrel”) fares no better.
Part of the problem is Spielberg’s unwillingness to commit to the Communists as the bad guys. Spielberg loved tearing down the Nazis, but as a true Left Coast liberal, he can’t bring himself to portray the Russians as anything other than cardboard cutout villains. Meanwhile, scene after scene rails against McCarthyism and nuclear testing and (gasp!) capitalism.
I’m not saying that Spielberg isn’t entitled to his views; I’m saying that he made a weaker movie than he would have if he could have committed to the Commies as the bad guys. There are unnamed Nazi extras in the other Indiana Jones films that are more memorable than anything that Blanchett’s “Nastasha” does or says.
The McGuffin in this film (Hitchcock’s term for the thing in the movie that everyone’s chasing) is too confusing and takes too much time for exposition in the script when more time should have been spent on character development. All of the plot mechanics leads to a thoroughly head-scratching, incomprehensible climax.
Even the score by John Williams is completely lackluster.
The film wasn’t a total waste. It was terrific to see Karen Allen again – she seemed to be having a lot of fun in her role. Shia LeBouf also provided an appropriately light touch to the proceedings. I won’t accept him as a successor to Indy, but he’s good in a sidekick capacity. And the 1950s scenes were fun, even if they occasionally felt pasted-on.
Also, I loved this movie’s version of the Parmount logo dissolving into a mountain (or some variation thereof).
So, Raiders still reigns supreme, with Last Crusade a respectable second. Temple of Doom and Crystal Skull battle it out for last place in my mind. Today it’s Crystal Skull. Ask me again tomorrow.