Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Indy Flick

So the Lovely Bride and I went to see Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. And it was OK.

And just OK. It moved smoothly through its high adventure stations of the cross, touching all the right buttons, making all the expected remarks. But at the end of it, it was just OK for me. And for the Lovely Bride as well, though she is a big fan of what she calls "D&D Movies" like National Treasure and Sahara.

Oh, some minor spoilers come up here, so be warned.

I don't think we can get another Indiana Jones picture as good as the first, because the thrill of discovery and surprise is a big attraction. The first time with the bullwhip, the importance of the hat, the thing with the snakes, all are part of learning the character. Now, after three previous films and a TV series (tapped into continuity here), we know the character. He has moved as a character to a James Bond status - he is moving us through the plot, with just a hint of character development along the way.

We know the pacing - Action-oriented start, back to the school, several chase scenes, dire perils, amazing discoveries, mystical deus ex machina ending. Oh, and massive destruction of archaeological sites in passing. And it all comes together, along with a deep sigh of "I'm getting too old for this" resignation. But when it is all said and done, it is the same frame with a new skin stretched over it.

In previous versions, we have a lot of Indy discovering stuff, and being an independent operator. Here, there was a lot more of "follow the madman around". It reduces the character a bit. Indy also has a bunch of support characters here, where he generally just needs one to banter with. He and the kid, Mutt, have great banter, until Marion shows up, then Marion gets to banter, and the kid takes a backseat.

So here's the point that I think it lost me - the three waterfalls. Watching it, I thought of an amusement park ride, and with it, the interminable roller coaster/mine car from Temple of Doom. And its not as much the cartoon level of violence and indestructibility of the lead (Heck, we blew him up with an A-bomb earlier, and he survived a flight inside a flying refrigerator). Its the idea that his invulnerability now extended to the rest of the team as they all go over Victoria Falls. The snapping sound you hear is the strands of the sense of disbelief separating.

But in general, it was OK. Harrison Ford is comfortable, and he delivers the character well (high point - ending a chase scene through a college library with pedantic advice to a student). Karen Allen is the delight of the film - Marion steals her scenes and she is infectiously happy to there. Cate Blanchet makes a good bad girl, but this is an Indy film, so you know she's going to end up in a bad way. Shia LaBoef is the kid and not annoying (though I like the whole Wild One riff).

So it was OK. It was a good cheeseburger. It was good. And it was a cheeseburger.