a pro script reader ponders movies, reading, writing and the occasional personal flashback

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Indy 4

So maybe it was because I went in with considerably lowered expectations (I have friends who hated, hated, hated this movie), but I didn't hate INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL.

In fact, I was entertained in a turn-off-your brain kind of way.


Though I think I can see what a lot of people don't like about this movie. It's basically just a stew, made up of bits and pieces from the other movies.

Chases, fights, fights during chases, people swinging on things, scenery-chewing one-note bad guys (Cate Blanchett won't be getting an Oscar nom for this cardboard performance), the same old plot of some Indy trying to keep some ancient object with magical powers out of the hands of the bad guys, here Russians who drive around in vehicles marked with a big red star, even when they're in South America.

Shia LaBoeuf isn't bad, and he has some good banter with Harrison Ford. But Shia doesn't have the edge that really would have made him convincing as the knife-wielding greaser tough-guy he's supposed to be; he feels more like a kid in a Halloween costume.

And if it's really a spoiler to you going in that he's going to turn out to be Indy's son, then you haven't seen any movies before. Though the movie really does fall way short in mining any real emotion out of this, or out of the reunion between Indy and Marion, or out of the fact that Indy is now rather old, even though Harrison Ford does fine in the role.

The plot is also rather silly, basically just an excuse to have a bunch of chases, even though a lot of them don't make much sense logistically.

So how could I generally like it?

Because Indiana Jones movies really aren't about logic. They're based on the old adventure serials, where wild stuff happens, and a lot of it isn't remotely convincing but what the hell, it's fun. And despite what some major critics have said, there is a lot of fun stuff here, including a well-choreographed chase through a jungle.

It's not a movie I'll likely see in a theater again or buy on DVD, though if it comes on TV I might find myself drawn in for a stretch. But for Indiana Jones fans who don't expect this to be another RAIDERS, it's certainly roughly on the level of the other two movies.

So, a soft recommendation. I'll give it a B-.


At 1:28 PM, Blogger marcoguarda said...

THIS IS O.T. and maybe pointless -- feel free to skip --

*** Spoilers? ***

There is this thing haunting me lately -- well maybe I tend to ruminate things a little bit too long -- and it is about the series POTC.


I really loved the 1st installment. I think the script of POTC-TCOTBP is a screenwriting touchstone, both for its variety, the ingenuity, wittiness, and so on.

I will talk here about two characters specifically, Governor Swann, and Commodore Norrington.

The script takes its time to portray them. They are in my opinion good characters, fully developed from the beginning to the end of POTC 1, fully aware of who they are, of what is expected from them, with their quirks, and hopes, all their bells and whistles at the right place.


Then came POTC2 - DM'sC. I think in this movie Commodore Norrington and Governor Swann start to fatally crush under the weight of the new characters (Davy Jones, Cutler Beckett, Tia -- alias Calypso, Barbossa right back from hell, Bootstrap Bill). Indeed, Norrington's life and Swann's start to drift along troubled courses that keep them quite away from the main story (maybe Commodore Norrington is the one who most strives and fights to change things here, trying to get back his dignity).


... The Kraken ...


Finally, the 3rd installment. POTC -- ATW'sE.

More characters rise. The story fragments into multiple subplots. What about good 'ole Commodore Norrington, and Governor Swann, by the way? I think they're no trifle characters, after all Elizabeth is somewhat deeply related to them.

Well, so much for them. Their stories grow thinner and thinner, until there is not much time for them but to die in a quick way.

That I could not understand.


Three hurrays for Governor Swann and Commodore Norrington. Quick, fill yer bowls with rum. Now raise them up. Higher. A toast to them gone fellows.

Yo-ho. Drink me hearties. YO-HO. YO-HO.

At 1:36 PM, Blogger marcoguarda said...

IMDB rates Indy 4 -- 7.2 -- right now.

Raiders -- 8.7 --
Temple of the Doom -- 7.3 --
Last Crusade -- 8.3 --

At 2:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hated INDY 4 -- even going in with low expectations.

It's all subjective. We all know it, but that doesn't make it any easier to accept when you hear good stuff about a movie you hated, or vice versa.

And this will sound gay, but I think from the moment you try to write your own screenplay, an innocence is lost and movies will never be the same. Kinda sad really.

At 3:26 PM, Blogger E.C. Henry said...

Anonymous, couldn't agree with you more, "... but I think from the moment you try to write your own screenplay, an innocence is lost and movies will never be the same..." When you "attempt" to screenwrite you look at everything differently.


I think, you have the PERFECT outlook when going to see an "Indiana Jones" movie.

"... Indiana Jones movies really aren't about logic. They're based on the old adventure serials, where wild stuff happens, and a lot of it isn't remotely convincing but what the hell, it's fun."

I LOVED the parts of Indiana Jones that took place in 1957 America. The warehouse scene was great, as was Indiana Jones surviving a nuklear blast by hiding himself in a refrigerator. Then moments later the topper line, "Hiding out in refridgerator can be dangerous to your health." Genious!

Was much less enthusiastic about the Peru half of the movie, though I did like the ants scene.

"Indiana Jones" movies are geared to be the ultimate in rollercoaster, fun ride, entertainment. And I think for the most part they (Speilberg, Lucas, Koepp) succeeded in that. It's not easy to make a sucessfull sequel, let alone 19 or so years AFTER the last installment. In reguards to meeting that challenge I say Harrison Ford, Speilberg, Lucas, and Koepp hit one out of the park.

- E.C. Henry from Bonney Lake, WA

At 8:31 PM, Blogger Brett said...

I didn't hate it, but lord knows I didn't love it. It felt as much as anything like the best INDIANA JONES ripoff I've yet seen-- even better than the first MUMMY movie.

Second half dragged on way too long, giving us extended FX sequences instead of plot and character that we could sink out teeth into and savor. Shia was not awful, but he was rather unconvincing. Cate was having fun, but her character was silly as often as threatening.

More than a few times I wondered what Darabont's movie might have looked like. Had to have been better.

At 10:24 PM, Anonymous Matt Bird said...

I didn't hate it-- at first.

Then my Netflix queue happened to spit out "The Phantom" from 1996, which, it just so happens, is pretty much the same movie-- a chase through the jungle to recover the crystal skulls of legend.

And it was sooooooooo much better.

This was a movie that was a big flop at the time, and one whose reputation has only marginally risen in the intervening years. It's a fun, goofy B-movie. But unlike Indy 4, the filmmakers cared about what they were doing. For one thing, THEY ACTUALLY VISITED A REAL JUNGLE.

Spielberg refused to shoot a single frame of film outside the U.S. for his movie. If he had, he might have realized that you couldn't have a 20-minute truck chase through uncleared jungle.

"The Phantom" had no credits at the beginning, but when it was over, I was in for a surprise. It was written by the late Jeffrey Boam, who was the original writer on Indy 4 twenty years ago, and directed by Simon Wincer who directed most of the "Young Indiana Jones Chronicles." Was this a re-written Indy 4 draft? If so, they can be proud, because they produced a movie that was better in every way than the actual product that lamely limped its way to the screen 12 years later.

At 1:54 PM, Blogger Harold said...

Indy was okay, fairly entertaining I went in with low expectations also. But with the same low expectations I really enjoyed Speed Racer. It was much more entertaining in a non-thinking cartoon kind of way...the set up is terrible but then it picks up is pretty good. I think they sold it as an action movie when it should have been marketed as a live action cartoon.

At 7:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Scott, you are too nice. This movie is that bad. The magic that once accompanied this franchise is long gone. I too would've liked to have seen Darabont's version. And Shia is also that bad and I shudder at the thought of the fedora and the whip being handed over to him, and yes, I'm full of Hater-ade but, Indy 4 just tends to leave you thirsty for more.

At 8:59 AM, Blogger Emily Blake said...

Bad movie. Bad.

I tried really hard to like it, but halfway through I realized I'd been struggling not to hate it. Then I gave up the struggle and embraced my hatred.

At 10:31 AM, Blogger Scott the Reader said...

Marco -- Regarding POTC, the first movie works well because it's just a fun, entertaining ride. The second and third movies try to be too clever and do way too much plotwise with comic-adventure material that really isn't served well by trying to do too much with it.

Everyone else -- It's becoming very clear that Indy 4 is a good example of a movie in which people's (relative) fondness for it seems to diminish as days pass from seeing it. Whether you like it at first viewing or not, once one starts really thinking about it, it becomes clear that it just doesn't hold up very well at all.

Still, I wasn't bored at the time, though I'm not entirely sure why not.

At 10:36 AM, Blogger Matt said...

It was a good flick. Not as good as the first three, better than most blockbusters out there.

At 4:00 AM, Blogger Lucy said...

I thought reviving Indy was so a new generation could see it and be impressed like we were as kids.

On that note then, my kid wasn't that impressed; he thought Iron Man was waaaaaaaaay better (for the record I haven't watched Indy, his Dad took him).

And that's my own personal theory re: the issue here - kids' expectations of what's cool has moved on... Whereas those people who were kids and liked the stuff like Indy in the first place wanted it to feel the same... But it can't do, because you were a kid then and now you are a grown up. And not only that, you're a grown up who is interested in screenwriting. DEATH then to any childhood fantasies maybe?

At 8:17 AM, Blogger Alasdair said...

I think one other problem that no one has made much of, is the fact that Indie was always about archaeology. The Ark, the Grail, and okay... whatever it was in the middle one, but there was always a love of something we never really get in films these days. The ancient. But this time in Indy 4, we get sci-fi. Inconsequential sci-fi. Did it mean anything? No. They flew away. Did nothing. And the skulls? Er, a typical McGuffin with no meaning at all. That was the disappointment - the emptiness...

As for our knowledge of scriptwriting spoiling things... does an art student stop enjoying art? No. The just notice bad art quicker.

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