Thursday, May 29, 2008

Indiana Jones: A Review, Or How I Learned to Survive An Atomic Blast

I've been busy the last couple of weeks. I moved up to Austin (again, and for the last time) a couple of weeks ago with my girlfriend, Stephanie. We found a nice little duplex off of Slaughter and settled in well. Our friends, Patrick and Ray, moved into the other half of the duplex, which means we'll either A.) wind up hating each other, or B.) nothing will ever get done. So far, "B" seems to be the winning choice.

Last Tuesday I went to the hospital because my mother was getting a heart catheter put in to see if she had any blockage...and she did. So much so, in fact, that they had to do emergency triple bypass surgery to save her life. As such, I've been in Houston for a while hoping my mother recovered -- and she did -- so I could breath easy.

All of this brings us to Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, a movie I've been dying to see. I missed opening weekend for obvious and important reasons, so now that I was back in Austin I could finally see it! I'm 24 years old, which means I've never seen Indiana Jones on the big screen before. Although, I consider the series to be my favorite movie series ever, I've never had the pleasure of seeing any of them in the theater.So, obviously, I'd see it at the Alamo Drafthouse because, well, why would you go anywhere else, right? I caught a matinée showing yesterday with my girlfriend, Stephanie, and Patrick (with surprise guest, my old roommate Nick, and his girlfriend) and sat in the middle row, middle of the row, because I have to do that. I'm compelled to do that.

Alamo Drafthouse always shows great trailers before they're movies, especially if they have old trailers that somehow tie into the the movie you're about to see-- which is what they did. The Raiders of the Lost Ark trailer played before the movie and it was old, and shitty-looking, but most importantly: magical. I would've died to be able to see that movie on the big screen! There were some other trailers -- one starring Shia Lebouf -- and some regular Drafthouse fair about shutting the fuck up in the theater when it happened. The logo. No matter how excited I am for a movie, no matter how many times I've seen certain movies, there's no greater joy for me than seeing Lucasfilm Ltd. sparkle its way onto the screen. It's like a magical contract you've signed with your heart. OK, it's not like that, but you do know you're in for a memorable ride-- for better or for worse.

Indiana Jones sort of fits between those two extremes. It was strange, really. It was like watching Indiana Jones, but not in an Indiana Jones movie. I know that sounds weird, but that's the best way to describe it. The characters were all there and they fit nicely into the Indyverse, but there was a spark missing for some reason. Now, that spark could've been missing for a number a reasons. Lucas, Spielberg, and Ford are all a lot older now, and maybe they're out of touch with what is cool now? Maybe. But I think it was more likely that the script was just...weird. There is a lot going on this movie-- just like you would expect, but the majority of it never really comes to together. Often times I sat and wondered "Why is this in here?" Apparently, David Koepp has the answer to this as he "stitched" several drafts together to create this movie. Which is a big problem.

That was a biggest problem for me. I could go on and on about little things, or ridiculous scenes, but it all boils down to one thing: it's disjointed. Nothing in the movie matches up and thats why many people are leaving the theaters scratching their heads going, "Wow... geez... that was... what did you think... because I.... hmm..." Like the other Indiana Jones movies, this one leaves you with a sense of wonder-- a wondering what happened. There are several head-scratching moments to be found throughout, like when Indiana Jones haplessly his way onto a nuclear test site and has to hide in a fridge (seriously) to survive the blast. Then it cuts to him back home, safe and sound, being questioned and treated as a traitor to America, something that never rears back up again despite the story making you think this is important. Okaaay.

What also didn't help was the lack of urgency. At no time (expect the jungle sequence) did you feel like Indy and crew were really in trouble.
*Highlight the next part to read it-- I have a spoiler!*
For example: Indy and Marion are trapped in a quicksand sort of pit when Marion spills the beans on Mutt (Lebouf) being his son. This seems like the kind of thing that would build and build, there would be a lot of emotion surrounding it, or at least some type of crescendo in the action, but there isn't. She kind of casually mentions it, like she isn't about the die.

I mentioned the jungle scene. That was a cool scene. That felt like an Indiana Jones movie... until Shia literally Tarzan's through the jungle with a gang of monkeys. Literally. Besides that you had all the elements of an Indy movie: fights, explosions, jokes, gruesome deaths, and Indy being Indy. There are more elements, but that scene really just had those.

Even the end, when all the sci-fi stuff happened; that didn't really bother me. Yes, it's about aliens, but how is that more extreme that Indy finding the Ark-- the fucking Ark of the Covenant-- and watching (read: hearing) it eat Nazis? The sci-fi thing made sense. Hitler was all about the occult-- that's documented. Once WWII was over the world entered a state of technological leaps and explorations. After all, the Cold War was a war about technology, so the alien thing fit because that's what this was about: a race for technology.

You should still see this movie simply because it's an Indiana Jones movie. I was glad to see it. However, as someone who likes movies this particular film was flat and hollow. It wasn't a full film, and that makes me wonder: were Lucas and Spielberg trying to make a new Indiana Jones movie, or were they trying to make a summer blockbuster?

--End Transmission--