Well… and so it begins. I actually put off watching this film for a while, and finally got around to it a couple months ago- courtesy of Saturday Night Screening. Part of what had turned me off to the film was the reaction of those who had seen the film: the audiences seemed to have a unified loathing of the film. Having now seen the film, I think I can understand why.
First of all, Indy doesn’t do anything. He’s only around to play babysitter to Shia Lebeouf and discover stuff that someone else already knew. Oxley already knew about the Crystal Skull and had essentially laid out all the necessary groundwork for Indy to simply pick up the bread crumbs and follow after. When did Indiana Jones become so docile? Nothing he figures out is a result of his own original thinking, but rather stems from hints and artifacts left behind to help him find his way. Call me picky, but I prefer an Indy who actually solves puzzles.
In addition to making Indy a passive observer most of the time, Lucas and the other writers apparently saw fit to give him a kid. Um, what? And not just any kid, but one of those stereotypical 50’s biker teens with the greased back hair and pseudo-tough facade that doesn’t really fool anyone. How did Indiana Jones produce one of those schmucks? And why is he played by Shia Lebeouf? Now, I don’t have a problem with Lebeouf as an actor (I liked Holes), and I haven’t seen enough of his work to evaluate his ability, but he’s no tough guy. He always seems to be trying to hard to convince the audience of his overbearing machismo. It wears thin pretty quickly. If they had made this film 10 years ago, when they should’ve, then James Franco would’ve been great in the part. Now, as far as Marian Ross goes, I was happy to see her back. Karen Allen hasn’t done too much as of late and that’s a shame. However, I don’t approve of the character’s handling either. Why wouldn’t she tell Indy or Mutt about each other? What kind of mother keeps the identity of her son’s father from him, when said father is alive, well and probably perfectly willing to take care of his kid. Instead, we had to make Indiana Jones a deadbeat runaway dad, and Marian a liar. Aren’t we supposed to like these people? And what happened to Marian’s edge? In Raiders she had spunk, charisma, she could throw a good punch. Are we supposed to buy into the idea that motherhood turned Marian Ross into a spineless harpy? That’s no good. Also, let’s discuss the complete wasting of John Hurt, Ray Winstone and Jim Broadbent. None of them did anything! Hurt’s around most of the time to spew nonsensical ravings, Broadbent’s in the beginning of the film to wax nostalgic with Indy about Marcus and Henry Jones Sr. (people we’d have rather seen, and could’ve if the film had been made 10-15 years ago (when it should’ve been). What relation did Broadbent have to any of these people? We never met this character before this film, and we’re supposed to believe that he has some great bond with characters who actually existed in previous films? And Ray Winstone’s character was completely superfluous and should’ve been cut. Ray Winstone’s a badass, but his character is a snivelling, unlikable nuisance that exists only to get killed in the end. The whole ‘double agent, triple agent’ subplot didn’t work, and there was never any effort to make it convincing. And where was Sallah? Why wasn’t John Rhys-Davies approached to reprise his role? That’s a character we’re familiar with and actually like, and you wouldn’t have had to worry about attempting back story with him. Instead we bring in 3 new buddies for Indy who we have no reason to connect or relate to. Finally, there’s Cate Blanchett. She seems to understand the material, and she brings a nice dose of campy villainy to the proceedings. Everyone else seems to be in a different film.
Now, the CGI. I have no issue with CGI when it’s done well and actually contributes to the story. But the problem is, the appeal of Indiana Jones was the distinct lack of computer effects. Constructed sets and props were essential to the earlier films, and matte paintings were used mainly for the purpose of set extensions. There was a good feeling of verisimilitude in the sacred trilogy. Locations looked and felt genuine, and when we saw a visual effect, it was because the story required it. Here, we get CGI, CGI, and more CGI. Trees, vehicles, fight scenes, buildings, monkeys, a nuclear explosion, a fridge, a room full of wooden crates. Oh yeah, and Shia Lebeouf swings with in the trees with monkeys. That’s not a CGI issue, but rather an problem rooted in screenwriting stupidity, and I felt it needed to be mentioned. What happened to Spielberg’s promise that CGI wouldn’t have a large part in Indiana Jones? The other films did just fine without it, and there was a nice gritty quality to them because of it. This film seems way too polished and smooth; there’s no kick, no edge.
The biggest problem with this film is that it’s boring. I didn’t care about anyone or anything that was going on. The plot trudged along tediously and the characters were around simply to tag along. There’s never any sense of danger (which is also a problem with CGI fight scenes). I just didn’t care. Also, would it have killed the writers to give Indy the opportunity to say, “It belongs in a museum?” I know I’m a nerd, but hearing that line would’ve entertained me, which is something the film failed to do.