Friday, May 23, 2008

Indy 4: The Movie That Should Not Have Been Made

(No spoilers in this review.)

You have no idea how much it pains me to say that I saw Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull last night (and was first in line for the 9:45 PM show... arriving nearly 2 hours in advance, for that matter), and it was awful. So much so that I sat--stunned--in my seat at the end of the movie and felt extreme bitterness welling up inside of me. So much so that I stayed awake in bed last night, going over the movie in my head and getting upset all over again. So much so that I am even more angry about it today. How could they take TWENTY YEARS to come up with the idea for this movie and still have all of the same big names as in the past attached to its creation and have it be so horrible? I'm at a loss for an explanation.

So what was so bad? Where do I begin? Since I don't want to give anything away as I know tons of people are going to see it no matter what, I will have to be a little bit vague here. At a high-level, here's what I hated:
- The overall storyline. It was very convoluted and not well thought-out. The movie was two hours long, and at no point did I feel any tension or excitement. About half-way through, I was bored--and remained that way. They could've cut out almost all of the scenes at the very beginning--we didn't need that much set-up. In fact, one whole part where Indy is in a "fake town" seemed, in retrospect, totally pointless.
- The special effects. I will say that some of them were OK, but then others were just so unbelievably bad that I had a hard time believing I was watching an Indiana Jones movie released in the year 2008.
- The extra-ridiculous scenes. And how many of them there were. I knew there was no saving the movie after witnessing the "Shia of the Jungle" sequence, as my friend CM called it. I was seriously embarrassed by what I saw, but even more embarrassed for the actors. And the climactic scene at the end did not belong in this movie. It belonged in another movie that I am greatly looking forward to this summer (that's a hint), but NOT in this movie. The several animal scenes didn't belong, either. In fact, some of them were straight-up stolen from Caddyshack.
- The bad acting. Shia was by far the best actor in the movie (yes, I'm biased), but even he didn't do that well. Harrison Ford--well, it was like he was playing a different character 75% of the time. Cate Blanchett? Umm, let's just say that Galadriel cannot pull off a Russian accent.
- Shia's haircut. On top of everything else, I didn't even get to indulge my Shia crush, because he looked like The Fonz, and it was just not right.

I blame George Lucas for this monstrosity. Spielberg has enough other movies in his roster that you can be pretty sure that he wasn't behind the horribleness of this movie (though he must have signed off on it). But George Lucas? Besides American Graffiti... the man is kind of known for cheesiness and not-so-great films.

What? you say. What about Star Wars? Well, I do love the Star Wars franchise, but the cold hard fact is that if you saw those movies for the first time as an adult, there's a good chance you would think they were crap and wouldn't understand what all the fuss was about. Like it or not, a big reason why those movies were so successful is because they were geared toward a younger audience who could deal with a lot of goofiness, bad dialogue and sub-par acting. They came to us from the same man who made Howard the Duck and Captain EO, need I remind you.

So I blame Lucas for Indy's downfall. As my husband said, "They were just trying to do too much" in it, and it was "over-the-top." My husband didn't hate it as much as I did, but then again, he's not as big of a nerd as I am, either. He felt that the movie was simply meant for younger audiences... not jaded thirty-somethings. (And while many of the reviews I have seen have been mediocre to overly kind, here is one that I agree with, though it contains spoilers.)

I will end by saying this... the theater wasn't even sold out (though I know the movie is still going to do well and rule the box office for a while), and there were like two people who clapped weakly at the end. I think most people left the theater just as highly disturbed as I was.

If nothing else, I hope my scathing review of this movie has sufficiently lowered the expectations of those of you who have not yet seen it, so that you will perhaps be pleasantly surprised after you check it out. But as for me, well... I wish I never saw Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, because now my memories of Indy are tainted forever. (Yes, I'm being dramatic, but I'm still really mad, OK?!?)

- e

(Comments for this post CAN and SHOULD include information about the movie, because I'm interested to hear from those of you who saw it. So if you don't want to be spoiled, don't read the comments.)

14 comments:

JediJohnson said...

Hey E, thanks for your spoiler free review. I'm going to go watch it this afternoon and I'll come back and let you know what I think. I was going to be like you and get in line Thursday night and watch it, but from what I'd been hearing from my movie theater buddies I decided to give it a little bit of time before I went to watch it. I will tell you what my friend told me and see if you agree. He said it felt like Spielberg an Lucas were fighting over this movie. One moment it was very Steven, the next it was very George. And he said it was persistent to him throughout the movie. Anyway, I'll check back with you later.

CM said...

E- I didn't hate it with quite the ferver you did (let's remember that I'd just sat thru the even greater monstrosity known as "Speed Racer" just nights before -- so anything would have glowed in comparison), but I do agree with every line of your review.

There were some fun moments here and there, but I left the theater feeling like I did when I went to see The Police and realized that my beloved Sting has reached a point where he actually fumbles over the lyrics to Roxanne. It's just not the same.

There were points where I swore I felt a glimmer of the old Indy, despite Harrison Ford's poor acting, but most of the time, I was just worried he'd break a hip. (Come on. Three drops against hella-rushing waterfalls and NONE of the three 60-somethings in the raft get hurt. Forget crystalline skulls. These geezers must be made of titanium.)

The only other point I have to add is that, if this truly is the passing-the-torch-to-Shia movie that everyone says it is, what a sad passing it is. There were points in the movie where I actually had visions of young Shia mustering up the courage to stand up to old-timers like Spielberg and Lucas..."Really, guys, are you sure you want my first appearance as the new Indy to have me riding on the scene looking like one of the Village People?" "Are you really *set* on the Tarzan boy thing?"

Poor kid. He has his work cut out for him...

JediJohnson said...

Hey E.
I have to say I disagree with cm, and totally agree with you. While I will agree that there were some fun moments, and some moments that made me laugh (both with humor and with pity) overall I left the theater disappointed at what they'd done to Indy. I gave a ten word review to one of my friends, and I'll give it to you here for your perusal.
"Hey! You got your Star Wars in my Indiana Jones."

I think that sums it up. There was a struggle between Mr. 'Berg, and Mr. Lucas. And it was a struggle for reality, and fiction. Now I'm not saying that Indian Jones movies are the realm of reality, but they are all based on some reality. Indy usually deals with things like the Ark, which was something from antiquity that had to do with the history of a people, and was real (if you're of the Jewish or Christian persuasion). Same with the Grail. No one ever thought aliens made those. As for those Stones in Doom, I have no clue what those were from, but they were ancient artifact from earth, not from the stars. The whole alien angle dealing with past events is a recent idea (to my knowledge, correct me if I'm wrong). Legends of aliens were never around in history past, that's something that people just started using in conjunction with ancient "gods". Well that's all well and good for me, if it's Stargate we're talking about, not Indiana Jones.
Don't get me wrong. I love Stargate, but that's what I felt like I was watching during this movie, Stargate 2. I was waiting for Dr. Daniel Jackson to pop his head around the corner and say "Hey! I was right! It was aliens all along!" Granted these aliens weren't even from space, they were extra-dimensional. But that probably made it even harder for the general public to wrap their brains around. I think they've "alien"nated (ha ha, lame joke!) plenty of the original audience. I'll tell you the one line that sealed the deal for me. It was at the very end, When Harrison Ford did his best Han Solo line, "I've got a bad feeling about this." I was like, wait a minute... Is this Star Wars?
As far as the rest, I saw "Indiana" pop up ever now and again. That smirk, his love for his hat, the snake thing (I did roll with laughter at that), but there was something missing in Harrison's portrayal of him.
Shia did a great job. He and Marion were hilarious during the sword fighting sequence. And I loved how he had a quirk with his hair just like Indy has with his hat (you know, it's like his baby). I couldn't stand all the CGI animals and some of those CGI scenes were just awful (that would be more of Lucas popping up. I just think that guy has finally fallen off his rocker. Tarzan? I mean really?). And cm is right about the whole falling off the three cliffs, but I can't believe no one has said anything about the bigger fantasy of surviving a nuclear blast in a lead lined refrigerator. Now I really am out of my league there, I have no clue if that's even remotely possible. But I'm pretty sure it's unlikely. And that's what most of this movie felt like to me. Highly unlikely. I gave it two fedoras out of five.

On a side note, I'm not sure that passing the torch to Shia is a bad idea. I think he did a really good job, and I am a big hater of the whole, "Oh, hey, you had a son. Didn't you know?" plotline but it didn't irk me as badly in this movie and I think that's because Shia did a real good job (who thinks if there is another one he'll be afraid of scorpions?). Oh well, here's hoping the next big movie of the summer is going to be good. That one can have all the aliens they want in it, and it'll be fine with me. ;) (Where is the Truth? It's out there.)

seg said...

e - Well I *thought* I liked the movie until I read your review! Kidding, mostly. While Shia of the Jungle had me groaning, and the alien thing seemed way off for me (my friend & I actually though that was SS doing since he seems to like aliens) overall I was entertained. I did not go in with any expectations so maybe that's why! I liked Shia and it was fun to see Marianne (Karen Allen) again. If they continue the franchise with Shia I will see the next one, he was great in it. I CAN'T wait for the REAL alien movie to come out this summer though!

Chris Warfield said...

I grow up as a Star Wars fan, really young, then, in the 90´s I was introduced to the Indiana Jones movies and even loved the Young Indiana Jones Chronicles.

I was 17 when Episode I came in 1999; I went 8 times to watch it, I liked it for the big Jedi Temple and the full Republic stuff.

I didn´t like Episode II and I though that III was nothing more than a bad acted cartoon-ish ending. Not a single minute with Darth Vader!!! maybe I was 23 at the time.

Now, I am 25, my favourite movie, at least between my top 5 is "and The Last Crusade" for the bad nazis, the crazy turkish tank commander, the loveley blond girl, a great Indy and an even greater Dr. Henry Jones Sr.

This movie, about the crystal skull is supposed to be made for nostalgic fans, and is fun to discover stuff like the Ark, the beloved music from Raiders and romance, the good enough Shia "Matt".
Maybe Lucas is wrong, or right, maybe when I watch "Raiders" again I time-travel to the past, maybe that the world have made me cynical... don´t know.

I am exploring your not-LOST-blog, really nice.

Kind regards,
Cris

dy said...

E- J & I went to go see this yesterday afternoon in a packed theater in the middle of the day in suburban Houston, so obviously this movie is raking it in. I think I would hate this movie more, if I didn't SO SO desperately want to like it! People have already pointed out the most obviously ridiculous scenes. The alien thing really bugged me. I totally agree w/ the comments of jedijohnson on that one. Would have preferred his adventure to be based around one of the 'usual' historical artifacts, and leave the aliens for a different movie. I guess what I'm struggling with is kind of what you mentioned about Star Wars. Watching those original movies today, they are pretty bad. Was Indy really always that corny, and we did not notice because it was 20+ years ago? I honestly think not. I think this one just didn't measure up to the last ones, but this question still bothers me. I feel like we were old enough when we saw the 3rd Indy (which was my favorite one, followed closely by the original) to know the difference between a good movie and cheese...

I did get bored in the middle, but thought it picked up in the end. I'd call it 'entertaining' but it doesn't rank above your typical summer action/adventure movie for me. And I kept looking over at J to see if he was annoyed with it - he wasn't. But I was the one who was VERY excited to go see it, so I don't think his expectations were quite as high.

DawgfatherJr said...

SPOILERS!

OK, I'll say basically the same thing I said on your Facebook profile. Your review pretty much nails it for me. It's especially painful, because I love the Indiana Jones series so much, so to see it sullied like this really hurts. It's not like it's impossible to make good "series" movies. Look at Casino Royale. That movie took a very tired series and injected life back into it. Why? Because we CARED about the characters, dammit!!! I'd hardly call the Indy series "tired" (until now), so with decent writing, they should have been able to knock this one out of the park. Instead, when Cate Blanchett's character died, I wasn't happy or sad--I was indifferent. I should have been either ecstatic that the vile villain got what she deserved (analogy: if Keamy were to die) or emotionally torn because the misunderstood "villain" got it (like if Ben were to die--please please no, Darlton!) Instead? Bored.

This pretty much sums up the movie for me: The most emoional I got was the scene where they revealed that Marcus and Henry Sr. had passed away in the past 2 years. Not good, Mr. Lucas! (...and Mr. Spielberg. Giant spaceships? Ugh.)

Here's to better times this Thursday!

wanders said...

Really, e? You know you are my favorite blogger of all time... but after reading your review and everyone's comments, I'm left to wonder what I'm missing. I thought it was fantastic! This is Indiana Jones we're talking about. A character George Lucas created based on the old Uncle Scrooge Adventure Comic Books he read as a child (of which I'm also a long time fan). Of course Indy can survive three drops off a waterfall, not to mention a nuclear explosion, he's Indiana JONES! And no, aliens from outerspace are not out of the question - consider the source: an Uncle Scrooge, Donald Duck comic book. It's not an action film; it's a fantasy. It always has been. But when we were kids, we bought it so eagerly, we thought it was an action film. Go back and watch any of the Indiana Jones films - I think this one may be the best of the lot, with PERHAPS the exception of Raiders.

I loved the monkeys, I loved the ants, I loved the sword fighting. Shia wasn't dressed as a Village Person, he was doing Marlon Brando in the Wild One. The nuclar explosion was awesome and the fact that the space ship was a spinning tin pie pan straight out of 1957 was fantastic. The only thing I felt dragged was the first motorcycle sequence through the campus, although some of the little bits emphasizing Ford's role as a teacher were funny. Karen Allen was as gorgeous as ever and I totally enjoyed her role. And to complain about Ford's acting is like complaining about Jimmy Durante's singing voice. Even his best acting (Witness?) has never been anywhere near great, but he was as charming as ever. So, I'm going to have to say, I disagree. This movie absolutely made me feel like a kid again.

I feel sorry for anyone who raised their expectations so high that they couldn't just relax, eat some popcorn and drink a coke, and have a great time. My kids all loved it too... even the youngest, although she did cover her face when the ants were rampaging.

Now, Speed-Racer? That's a different story. And admittedly, I did see that the week before, so maybe that's why Indiana Jones seemed like a masterpiece... Hmmmm. Yes, that could explain things.

e said...

Hi everyone -

I knew this post was going to get some reactions one way or the other!

JediJohnson - I think you are right about Speilberg and Lucas conflicting over the plot and action sequences... it just felt like a mish-mash.

I agree with you about the alien plot just being not very "Indiana Jones"... and this is coming from a person who actually does believe in aliens! : ) It just didn't fit for this movie... or, at least they way they pulled it off didn't fit... I think it COULD'VE worked had certain scenes not been so over the top. And yes, I'm excited for the REAL aliens later this summer in the X Files (I have an extra-special post coming up for that one in July...). Oh, and good call on the potential fear of scorpions for Shia, if the movies continue...

seg - I see that you, too, know what the REAL alien movie will be this summer. And I am sincerely happy that you liked it... I certainly was not hoping that others would be as disappointed as I was... if anything, I hoped I would be the only one who hated it so much.

Chris - Yes, you seem to not be the only one who enjoyed the movie for its nostalgic qualities. I had more of the opposite reaction... like my childhood had been ripped out of my brain and stomped upon with heavy boots (or perhaps run over by Shia's motorcycle).

Notice how NONE of us are calling him by his character's name? Which is, ridiculously, Mutt? There's a reason for that!

Everyone knows I absolutely love Shia, and he was great in other action movies like Transformers, but I honestly do not think he can pull off being the next Indiana Jones. Not with a name like Mutt, or that hairdo, for God's sake.

dy - Yeah, I feel like it must have been a fluke that our theater wasn't sold out... the movie did rake in over $300 million, so it's doing just fine.

And I should clarify what I meant about the cheesiness stuff... I only meant that about Star Wars. I do not feel that the first three Indiana movies were on that level of cheesiness by any means... they still hold up pretty well today. I just meant to point out that if anyone was to blame for the downfalls of this latest movie, it was Lucas, because Speilberg has done enough other stuff in the past 20 years to earn respect, whereas I don't feel like Lucas has, and I also feel like some of the stuff that made him famous wasn't really that great to begin with.

But I am glad you didn't hate it... like I said, I really didn't want other people to be as miserable about it as I was!

dawgfatherjr - I totally agree with you about the indifference about Cate's character blowing up at the end. And the pointlessness of the entire quest, considering that's what happened. Made no sense.

Wanders - It's very funny that you mentioned Speed Racer at the end of your comment, because as you might have seen above, CM, who saw the movie with me, was also kind of gentle in her review, and she had also seen Speed Racer! It's all relative, right?

I still think that compared to the other Indiana movies that this one was by far the worst. I didn't like the alien aspect of it at all, and perhaps that was just because of how they executed the storyline, rather than the idea of an alien artifact itself (because I totally believe in that, there's a reason why Area 51 is my favorite video game!). I did know that Shia was supposed to be like Brando, but it still just seemed too over-the-top. That's the phrase that just keeps coming back to me again and again, even now nearly a week later.

But I am honestly truly glad you enjoyed it, and even more so that your kids did, because that IS who it was meant for.


For those of you who read my latest post on the Kanye West concert, you will now perhaps have a better appreciate for how scared CM and I were when Kanye started talking to a spaceship at the beginning of the show. We just looked at each other like "Not AGAIN!!!!"

- e

wanders said...

e, yes, it is all relative. LOL. I'll only add, though, since you brought up the name Mutt... how else were they going to indicate that both Indiana and Mutt had chosen their own nicknames after dogs? Lame name? Yes. But I thought it was kind of clever way to indicate their character similarities. I'm glad I liked the movie, and am truly sorry that others didn't. Not in a patronizing way; obviously, I'm the one without taste. I fully realize that. I blog about Mary Worth for heaven's sake.

Lula! said...

e,
Haven't seen the movie, but still would like to, just so I can say I did. I heard the "aliens" spoilers and thought, "Why can't we just wait for X-Files? Why's it gotta be my Indy?" And I'm also assuming that was what you were referencing...no?
Sigh...thank God we have this Thursday night to be excited for--because I know it won't be a let down.

amy said...

E-
I aimlessly wandered over here from your LOST blog that I enjoy so very much...maybe I missed it, but I can't believe you didn't mention that Widmore was in it! That was a "te he" moment for me...though I could have done without his horrible American accent.

Reading your review and the comments, I also feel the need to share my thoughts and air my grievances as I'm a big Indiana Jones nerd and watched the movies maybe over a 100 times growing up. I went with my husband to the midnight show, knowing that even if the movie stunk, we could at least poke fun at the other nerdier Indy fans that were sure to show up. Plus, you can always count on people in costume and they did not disappoint! We had at least 4 Indy's and one even did a mini stunt show on the front row arm rests. That must have warmed up the crowd because there were claps and cheers for just about everything, which helped to dilute the cheesiness and sometimes embarrassing moments in the movie. I had very low expectations, but the first Indy shadow profile almost brought a tear to my eye and that's when I knew I'd like it no matter what. Then he opened his mouth and I too immediately blamed George Lucas. I cringed at some of the one liners and dialogue. Honestly, I didn't even have a problem with the alien space ship thing - mostly because I thought Spielberg might have influenced that and I give him more leeway than Lucas. If someone could explain the gofer thing and why it was in there, I would appreciate it - it wasn't even cute! And as much as I find the fact that Indy is afraid of snakes endearing and humorous, couldn't they have worked that in some other way?? And the "Shia of the jungle" thing - ok, I get the swinging through the air/whip metaphor, but it was really dumb and I thought it might actually doom Shia's career. Maybe it was the nostalgia talking, but despite all this, I came out of theater glad that they had made it and impressed by Shia and Cate Blanchett (duh, right). I even saw it again on Sunday. I felt that overall, the ridiculousness was consistent with the other movies and Harrison Ford isn't known for his stellar acting skills anyway. And thank goodness for soft focus lenses! Every once in awhile I caught a glimpse of the old Indy.

And after all that, I don't think I would mind if they did another one with Shia taking over.

PenguinJosh said...

Hey e!

Another great review! I read it before going to the cinema this evening, and was glad I didn't have high expectations- probably why I didnt hate it (but didnt like it all that much either).

I agree with most- the tarzan sequence was ridiculous.

Cate Blanchett sucked.

The SFX were, in general, appalling.

Whilst im biased to hate Shia (hello, even stevens!) this has actually really made me like him (along with Disturbia) and hes no longer the goofy idiot he was in that- even though it was a kids programme haha!

Anyways, I've said enough. Although I disagree with you on one thing- I loved the little animals! Hehehe!

And of course, great seeing Charles Widmore in there ;)

PenguinJosh!

Matt in Dallas said...

Nuke The Fridge

A colloquialism used to delineate the precise moment at which a cinematic franchise has crossed over from remote plausibility to self parodying absurdity, usually indicating a low point in the series from which it is unlikely to recover. A reference to one of the opening scenes of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, in which the titular hero manages to avoid death by nuclear explosion by hiding inside a kitchen refrigerator. The film is widely recognised by fans as a major departure from the rest of the series both in terms of content and quality.

Guy 1: "Wow. Did you see the new Indy movie? What the hell was that? It was like I was having some kind of flu induced absurdist nightmare."

Guy 2: "Yep... did or did not that series permanently Nuke the Fridge?"

Guy 1: "Oh, totally Nuked the Fridge! But I guess Spielberg is happy as long as he has the money of the people who trusted him."

Guy 2: "Guess so..."