Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Indiana Jones and the Aliens

Okay, so it's been out a week, so I figure it's safe to post a blog about this film. BUT, if you haven't seen it and still want to STOP READING.

I wasn't sure of my reaction to this new Indiana Jones movie, because I'd had plans to meet up with some friends before hand and our wires got crossed, so I wasn't in a great mood going in. But after a week of thinking about it, this film didn't work for me.

Many things felt really indulgent. Like the filmmakers were including unnecessary elements--like the greaser vs the preppy kids fight in the diner--just because they're nostalgic for the 50's. And I'm sorry. Putting animatronic gophers into the scene, doesn't make an atomic bomb blast funny.

And while it's not a storytelling problem, per se, I think the over the top stunts in this film made my eyes roll just a little too often and a little to wildly. Thinking back to the first Indiana Jones film--it's been a while since I saw it--sure, the stunts were over-the-top. But while they would have taken super-strength or super-speed and timing and luck, you could understand what he'd done in each of the stunts and almost believe it was possible.

Starting with the second film and that absurd being-tossed-out-of-an-airplane-and-getting-into-an-inflatable-raft
-mid-air stunt... This franchise started to lose me a bit. And there were so many stunts like that in this film. My favorite (least favorite) was the refrigerator in the atomic bomb test thing. Even if you believe he'd survive the heat and radiation because of the "lead lining" they made sure you'd notice, ridiculous in itself, even if you believe the blast blew the fridge miles away, while no other debris seemed to have gone that far, tell me every bone in his body wouldn't have broken when that fridge hit down.

But on a storytelling level, I think the problem with this film is that we never ever understood what the heck he was trying to prevent the evil Russian chick from getting her hands on, or what she hoped to do with it if she got it. I mean... Once they did have it, no one got any great power from it. I do get that the stories around it were "just a legend", but I don't think you can build a compelling story around preventing something that's really not that dangerous or terrible to begin with. In the end, it was just ET wanting to go home. And how come ET only took the bad people with him into the portal or spaceship or whatever it was, and let all the good people be?

I wanted to love this film, I really did. But in the end, I'm not sure I even liked it.

Am I just a big Indy Grinch?


Kristin said...

Maureen, my kids loved it. I think that is the thing. When I saw the first Indiana Jones movie I was something like 11 or 12. Just about the age of my oldest. I've become cynical and hard to please in my late 30s, I guess. I was looking at the whole film with a critical eye.

What was hardest for me was to just see an aged Indy. I wanted him to stay in his 40s forever. Tough, virile, and able to pull off those stunts. But in this film, it was just too hard to suspend my disbelief.

What I wanted was more of the whip...what happened to it? It was a very important tool in the other films...why not this one? And why not the usual beginning scene with Indy in an adventure that was quite unrelated to the plot of the film? But we get 50s kids drag racing in the desert.

The only part I really, really liked was the warehouse was *the* warehouse of Ark of the Covenant fame! And the trick with the magnetism (although it didn't really make sense why half the things in the warehouse wouldn't be attracted to it) was fun. As was the rocket sled ride.

What this was lacking was character development. Did you even care about Mutt? or his friend who betrayed him? Twice? Also, as Indy and Marian were sort of like watching your parents...there was no true romance in the film. There was always the pretty girl and the sexual tension. But this one? Why didn't they find some cute thing to distract Mutt for a bit?

On my scale, I give it a 3.5 out of 5. Most of it for nostalgia's sake. With all the time they had between films, you'd think they would have made sure the script was stellar. Oh, Indy, I miss you!

Maureen McGowan said...

Kristin, great analysis. I agree with everything you said. I was so excited about the Karen Allen character coming back and the fact they had a son... but then they didn't do anything with that, except Shia acting like a 6 year old might when Indy tried to kiss his mother.

I kind of enjoyed that warehouse scene, too, and the little Ark wink... and I was willing to overlook the inconsistent magnetic powers at that point, because you're right, the gunpowder trick, implausible or not, was classic Indy and kind of cool... But then the film didn't reward me for suspending my disbelief through that part, but just harder and harder to believe.

Nor did the magnetism get more consistent... or that thing's ability to affect people's minds. What was that about? Did not make sense at all -- or it could have if they'd followed through, which they didn't. That was classic telling instead of showing. Indy said a few times "the thing told me to do it" but we NEVER got a sense he was being controlled by it. To the contrary. And why did it make the John Hurt character crazy, and then not crazy. That didn't make sense, either.

And you're so right about the opening. I'd blocked that out. It was like a bad trick. Make us nervous that something bad's going to happen... but to characters we don't know or care about and never see again - ON BOTH SIDES of that stupid drag race -- and then no payoff. Totally pointless scene and an a better example of the nostalgic self-indulgence I was talking about. At least that stupid fight in the diner I mentioned affected the plot, sort of.

Okay, I'm angry now. They could have/should have done so much better.

Barrie said...

I'm going to end up seeing this film no matter what. Because I have a couple of kids who are determined to see it. I'll let you know what I think.

Kristin said...

This is when I wish I lived down the block from you, Maureen, and we could meet for coffee and hash this thing out.

You are also right about the dread surrounding the Cate Blanchett character and what happens if/when she gets this 'device' or set of skeletons. I didn't get it either.

You know, there were a lot of nods to the fact this took place in the 50s. Rather than just be part of the setting, like the previous films, they seemed to want to go overboard with the 50s stereotypes...Look, drag racing! Look, greasers vs. the all american boys! Look, a Harley! Look, nuclear weapons testing!

It's like they jammed a decade of stuff down your throat for no reason. They never did that in the earlier films. What did we learn about the 30s but that the Nazis were bad even back then? That's it. We didn't need to see Depression Era okies riding in their jalopies. Or hobos riding trains. Anyway, you get my point.

The beginning scene saved this for me, as did the start of their adventure...even the crazy stuff in the jungle (sans the monkey swinging).

I feel like no one challenges George Lucas any more on his movie decisions. No one tells him, "Gee, George, that's a really dumb idea." And he *needs* that feedback.

I've heard somewhere that they are considering starting a new Indy franchise with Mutt as the central character and Indy playing the dad role, like Indiana Jones #3. I might go for that, if they promise to spend more time on getting the story right. After so many years doing films, you'd think they'd have this stuff down pat.

Barrie, no worries, your kids will love it. Mine really did. In fact, my 8-year-old son started his own Alien hunting organization the next day! :-)

Nelsa said...

Great review, Maureen.

As a long-standing fan of Indy and the first most awesome Raiders movie (I saw it 3 times in 3 weeks when I was eighteen - how's that for dating me?)I was a little apprehensive and a lot excited about seeing the new movie. My main worries were being disappointed in seeing Harrison as an old man and not up to Indy snuff (how could he top the scene when he whips out the gun and shoots the sabre weilding man in the town square with a look of "You've got to be kidding me" disgust on his face?)

Actually, Harrison did not disappoint - I could believe he could still run and fight with the best of them. But, unfortunately, the movie did disappoint. The first drag racing scene that led nowhere did not make me feel hopeful (when my 8 year old who has a pretty high tolerance for bad movies whispers to me, "Well, that was boring" I knew something was wrong.)

I liked seeing Karen Allen but thought she was underutilized. Why was she kidnapped again? And Shia LaBoeuf is appealing as an actor but they could have done so much more with the storyline of unkown Indy's son. I thought it would have been better for Mutt to know Indy was his dad all these years and resented him for not being there then be forced to work with him to find his mom. The conflict would have been great. And, excuse me, he named himself MUTT?? What son of Indiana Jones would name himself Mutt??? Please.

And while there may be potential for sequels with Mutt he'd be an archaeologist in the 1960's. Ack, what would they call it? Mutt Jones and the Love Guru? Please. Maybe they'll send him to Viet Nam. Should have called him Rambo.

Not to be totally negative there were good scenes. Liked the ants and the jungle chase scene though it went on too long. And Indy holding the snake for the rope was cute. But overall I kept thinking, they should have brought back the ark. The Russians could have done some nifty experiments to show it was more powerful than an atomic bomb or something. Maybe the trick to these movies being successful is having a really cool MacGuffin.
Or, at least, a good script.

Ah, Indy. It could have been so much more...

Marilyn Brant said...

I've loved reading your review, Maureen, and all the posts on Indy from Kristin, Barrie and Nelsa, too. I haven't seen the film yet and probably won't until it's out on DVD, but that it had enormous plot holes and major character flaws doesn't surprise me. (Thanks for the warning! :) Makes me all sentimental, though, about the early films--esp. the first--and how much I loved them.

Maureen McGowan said...

It's funny, I walked out of the film feeling ambivalent, but the more I think about it, the more I didn't like about it.

Gina Black said...

Ha. That's funny, because I made a crack about ET being going home when we were leaving the theatre.

The only explanation I could get for the fixation on the 50's was American Graffiti. The thing is, we've moved on.

Christine d'Abo said...

I went in to the movie with zero expectations...and really just wanted to see how good/bad Harrison was going to look. It was fun, but that was it.

I was more distracted by the fact they seemed to make references to every Lucas film he'd done. American Graffiti, Star Wars, etc.

I'm sure my kids will love it. It was a fun two hours.

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