Written by: David Koepp, based on a story by George Lucas and Jeff Nathanson, which was in turn based on characters created by George Lucas and Philip Kaufman
Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Harrison Ford, Shia LaBeouf, Cate Blanchett, Karen Allen, Ray Winstone
My Advice: Matinee it. If you must.
It’s 1957 and Indiana Jones (Ford) has been busy since we last saw him, all the way back in 1938. Among other things, he appears to have fallen in with the wrong crowd (again), somehow getting himself and his partner, Mac (Winstone), kidnapped by a gang of Soviets led by a would-be psychic/doctor Spalko (Blanchett). The bad guys want Indy to help them locate something that he helped recover from a crash site in Roswell some time before. They think that this is the key to figuring out…yes, you guessed it…a super-weapon which will help them rule the world. Moohoohahaha.
[ad#longpost]Let me take a moment to explain where I came from to get to this film. The original Raiders is a classic. It’s exactly what Lucas and Spielberg set out to make: an homage to vintage serial heroes. It’s fun. It’s timeless. And its rewatch value is through the freaking roof. The prequel, Temple of Doom, I recently realized that I didn’t care for it as much. Rewatching it when the boxed set came out on DVD, I found myself turned off by its darker sequences. I know that sounds weird: me, getting turned off by darker sequences. But I thought they were too dark for an Indiana Jones film, if that makes sense. Last Crusade I was never crazy about, despite enjoying Sean Connery.
So when it comes to the Indy Trilogy, to me it’s all about the first film, because that’s the nearest and dearest to my heart. Also, as modern filmgoing audiences, we’ve been taught to regard all films, but especially sequels like this one, with a great deal of suspicion. Throw George Lucas into the mix, who dashed the hopes and dreams of a generation with his crap prequel trilogy, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.
Here’s the bottom line: I really wanted to like this film. How can you not like Indiana Jones? Even in a poorly written cobbled together mess like this, the character still shines and Ford can still bring him to life. The action sequences, even the most implausible ones, I was fine with. Even the overarching McGuffin of the piece, I was fine with. It’s just that…if you try to actually think about the plot of the film and why things are happening the way they’re happening, it doesn’t make a lick of goddamn sense. And that’s because the script, I’m afraid to say, is rubbish.
Unfortunately, I’m held by my own desires to write spoiler-free reviews from pointing out any of the finer details as to why it’s rubbish. But I will say this: once you get to the end of the film, you realize that the titular crystal skull shouldn’t be out and about in the first place. And that the special properties it possesses seem to only take effect when it serves the plot for it to do so. Handy, huh?
I’d also like to point out here that I’m not a big stickler for plot holes and nonsense when it comes to films like this. Because it’s not like the basis for films like this were the bastions of continuity and reality-based adventure. But this isn’t just a few shreds in the storyline–the entire thing is flawed from the ground up and just makes no freaking sense if you stop to think about it.
And there’s the rub: I could stop and think about it. Perhaps if the character of Mac hadn’t been given just a few lines about how he and Indy were such buddies and long-standing partners and I was supposed to care about him for his twists and turns–that might have helped. Maybe if Blanchett’s Russian accent had been better. Maybe if Karen Allen’s much vaunted return had been given a little bit more breathing room before bygones were bygones. Maybe if anytime somebody stopped getting hit or action slowed down the film didn’t start to grind into a slow, limping halt. But that’s just it–all of that was problematic and finally, my brain woke back up and was pissed.
LeBeouf isn’t at fault–he does well here, although I think he actually was given more to work with in Transformers, sadly enough. And the Tarzan bit was just way, way too much. I know I’ve seen lots of people complaining about the copious amounts of CG used–I don’t have the same problem. I figure when your beginning, middle and ending don’t even hold together in a light breeze, your problems are much more fundamental.
It’s a damn shame that Spielberg couldn’t get it together enough to make this better. Either the filmmakers are idiots for not realizing that they’re making a flawed film, or they think we’re idiots and won’t notice. Whichever it is, Henry Jones Jr. deserved better.