Saturday, May 31, 2008

Indiana Jones : ho hum

OK, i know there are one million reviews of Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull out there, but here's another. as usual, if you have not seen the film, then you may wish to skip this as there are probably *** MINOR SPOILERS *** in it.

apparently, we have all been waiting 19 years for this film :

when you think about it, however, we haven't really. when the credits rolled on Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade and the characters rode off into the sunset, that was it really. i mean, the Indy films were fondly remembered, but no one was quite desperate for more. Ford moved on to "grown up" action films in the shape of Jack Ryan, not to mention the odd "drama" or comedy role, Spielberg disappeared to go and make films featuring either dinosaurs or overt political statements, and Lucas, well, he went back to Star Wars. audiences managed to fill the void, too.

as far as i can work out, this fourth Indiana Jones film exists mostly because Spielberg's kids wished to see it, and partially because the three main players listed above have been somewhat absent from the big box office figures of late. add to that something of a current nostalgia market (Beverly Hills Cop 4, no less, will be with us soon) and there's good enough reason for them to have made this.

these "comeback" films tend to have a rather troubling weight of expectation to them, and it is invariably of a mass and dimension that no one film could lift by itself anyway. i went to see Kingdom with the only expectation, or hope at least, being that it was something worth adding to the story; something worth dragging the protagonist back from his ride into the sunset for. basically, a slightly above average tale would have met that requirement.

sadly, for the most part, you don't get that. the plot and story for Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull is limited at best, really. when it isn't being some sort of quasi-mix of X Files and Spielberg's Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, all too often it feels like a contrived homage to something like The Mummy which, as that was a "homage" (to be kind) to Indiana Jones in the first place, more or less paints the poor picture for you.

how the story is told leaves a lot to be desired too. full credit in the first instance for them throwing you into the action - there's no build up of characters returning here, you go straight into it and get on with the story. however, a big loss of credit for the contrived, invented history created for Dr, or rather now Colonel, Jones for the 20 or so years between Crusade and Kingdom. every time there's a significant plot hole or narrative void to be filled all you get is an obscure reference to something or other he did during his apparent military service. no, i didn't know that Indiana Jones, after finding the holy grail, went off to join the army either.

not content with a barely average story and a poor presentation of it, the makers decide to mess around with the character of Indiana Jones too. Indiana Jones was a wisecracking, lucky type, one that fortune certainly favoured and appreciated the bravery of. here he is reduced to some sort of bumbling slapstick comedy figure in a number of scenes, one in particular that is just embarrassing to watch (the bit after he flees "storage area 51" and finds a small town). getting up from some sort of accident, embarrassment or misfortune and acting as if nothing had happened works very well for the stiff upper lip type character (say, John Cleese in Fawlty Towers), but it just comes over as rather painful with Harrison Ford here. recent revisits to 80's classics, specifically Die Hard 4 and Rocky Balboa, worked because the actor remained loyal and true to the character as we remember them. this, sadly, doesn't happen here.

if Harrison is disappointing, then the rest of the cast need not be there. this Shia LeBeouf, who for some reason large amounts of the interwebnet community do not like, gets to do little beyond look uncomfortable being introduced dressed as Brando. Karen Allen, making a much anticipated return as the character from Raiders, is a waste of space. it may as well be an entirely different character, bar a couple of shouted comments. all poor Karen gets to do is smile a great deal, drive for most of the part and deliver but one line of any consequence. Cate Blanchett apparently felt that the need was ready for a homage to any one of the female Bond villains from the awful Pierce Brosnan as Bond era, and the likes of Jim Broadbent, Ray Winstone and, in particular, John Hurt, appear for the most part to be just as clueless as the audience when it comes to working out exactly why they were cast for the parts that they find themselves in.

perhaps the biggest fault with Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull, however, is the lack of reasonable story telling and sense of adventure, both removed to make space for many (and i do mean many) car or other vehicle chase sequences.

far too much of the film is taken up by people driving around and in to each other at 3 or 4 different parts of the world. this wouldn't be so bad if there was at least one memorable scene of it, but they are all pretty much the same thing against a different background, and not one of them offers much new. and how many times can you watch people fall over a waterfall before it gets boring? watch this film and you will soon find the answer.

now, believe it or not, i really did wish to watch and enjoy Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull as a splendid 2 hours of entertainment. sadly, that wasn't what i got. it saddens me to have to say that it is the case that, if there was little good reason to actually make this film, there is even less to go and see it. as visually it is hardly epic in scope, bar one or two impressive shots towards the end, perhaps this will work rather nicely as Sunday afternoon DVD watching. as a cinematic or cultural event, however, it's very little than an ill-conceived after-thought. i tried not to be negative, but what can you do when the best thing you can think of when the film is finished is that the trailer for Will Smith's Hancock looked rather good?

now, let's just hope that The Dark Knight does not disappoint!!

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!
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