|By Zach Patterson||Tuesday, 27 May 2008|
This review contains spoilers. Making a new Indiana Jones nearly 20 years after the last one is bound to divide audiences between “YES INDY’S BACK” and “THIS FUCKING SUCKS”, and sure enough, the movie has elicited both responses since its release. I’ve heard glowing reviews and awful reviews, and I fall somewhere in between. The movie has that unmistakable hint of modern era Lucasfilm at points (in other words, an over reliance on computer generated images early in the movie and late in the movie) as well as some questionable script choices (was this really the best script they could have come up with? I mean, really?), but much of the middle part of the movie is just fun, enjoyable action movie.
I will say that this is probably the weakest of the Indiana Jones movies, but that doesn’t necessarily make it a bad movie. There’s actually a pretty good movie here, it’s just that it would have been a GREAT movie with some small changes. First and foremost, I love Harrison Ford in this role, and he seems to love it too. This is one of those roles he was born to play, and he singlehandedly breathes life into an otherwise just okay script. He makes the gags and dialog funny without seeming contrived. He makes a plot essentially about aliens seem like it’s not too far out. That’s a credit to a great actor. His supporting cast is pretty solid too. I normally hate Cate Blanchett, but here, she is a pretty good, albeit a bit one dimensional, Russian bitch. Karen Allen returns to the series after a long hiatus, and she’s still as charming and lovable as ever. I’m so glad they chose to bring her back. She gave the movie some much needed familiarity and made a nice tie to the old movies. And for all the bitching about casting flavor-of-the month young actor Shia LaBeouf as the sidekick here, he does a serviceable job playing off of Ford and creating a decent rapport. I’m still not quite sure what the animosity is towards LaBeouf (Just a product of being in too many popular movies at once? The theories that they want LaBeouf to take the mantle of Indiana Jones? Who knows), but the movie needed someone like him to complement Ford.
One thing I would have like to seen a lot less of is the computer generated imagery. For all the praise that ILM gets, between this film and the recent Star Wars films, I haven’t been incredibly impressed with their ability to mesh live action with CG. There’s too many parts where the CG takes you out of the film. Random CG animals, creatures, and explosions look kind of impressive, but also a bit out of place. Not only that, but some of the stuff seems like it could have been filmed with some creative stuntmen, but it was decided to just do it in post-production instead (and some scenes, like the LaBeouf Tarzan scene, shouldn’t have been added at all). Luckily, the film also has some very long stretches that looked pretty free of all computer tinkering, and these parts (mainly the middle bulk of the film) are the strongest parts of the movie.
The script is what I would call rough. I heard it had dozens of rewrites, and yet this still feels like an okay script and not a rock solid one. I mean really, was aliens the best thing to explore? On one hand, the Jones movies have always been about these pulp fiction, noir, fantastic adventures inspired by serials of the 30′s and 40′s, and this fits pretty well in that mold. And while you are watching it, you kinda swallow the whole movie with the tongue in cheek plot until the end, where it just really goes over the top. You get to the climax where you seen the beautiful corpses of these aliens, and suddenly they resurrect into one big alien in this CG fuckfest where the the whole temple they are in falls apart and a flying saucer takes off. I just don’t think it was all necessary. We never needed to see these aliens, and if they were trying to mimic these fantastical serials, they should have taken a page from the “less is more” mentality of many of them. Describe and allude to this creature, but don’t give me a good view of how stupid it really looks. It takes all the wonder from the movie, and you end up feeling like you just watched the end of Mission To Mars instead of a great Indiana Jones movie.
Despite a rather crummy ending, it doesn’t ruin the movie for me. I was too busy grinning watching some great chase scenes, classic Harrison Ford, and a fun adventure. The characters and their interactions make this movie good, and even some occasional lame sequences can’t ruin that for me. It wasn’t perfect, but I never expected it to be. It’s a good popcorn movie for the summer, and worth putting down the money for, in my opinion.