I went into the new Indiana Jones with zero expectations and still came out disappointed. The Mummy is better, The Mummy Returns is better – and those are rip-offs! Murdering insects that crawl into the bad guy’s mouth? Check. A greedy dope of a man who tries to grab up as much treasure as he can when the temple’s falling apart? Yuh-huh. An adventuring bickering family jumping around jungles and trudging through temples? Oh yeah. How does Stephen Sommers have Steven Spielberg beat at his own game? Shit, even the names are similar. The dopey treasure-stealing man, played by Beowulf himself Ray Winstone, says near the end of the movie something to the effect of “What a stupid legend. A waste of my time.” Brother, you took the words right out of my mouth.
Of all the stories, of all the titles, of all the ideas George Lucas and Steven Spielberg could’ve used they decide on The Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls, a plodding yarn about ancient aliens with psychic powers and the Russians want their skulls or their spaceship and Area 51 shows up and the Ark makes a cameo and John Hurt is some crazy guy and Marion Ravenwood shows up somehow and Shia LeBeouf leads an army of monkeys as he swings through vines or whatever. Remember the Star Wars prequels? Okay, same fucking thing happened to Indiana Jones.
The beginning should’ve tipped me off. For an action/adventure sequel it sure takes its sweet time reintroducing audiences to a treasured film icon. After Indy and a group of Russian soldiers chase dust around the warehouse from the end of Raiders I should have given up. It’s dull, it’s silly, it’s the windshield-smashing action we’ve seen dozens of times in the trailer. Then the Ark from Raiders shows up peeking out of a broken crate, accompanied by John Williams’ “Ark Theme” leitmotif and I can feel the bile in my throat rise a little. Didn’t The Last Crusade already make a cute reference to Indy’s first adventure? Is another reminder necessary? Do they think we forgot?
After that there’s a nuclear blast and some gophers and Indy flying in a fridge. If this was a better movie that previous sentence would sound fucking awesome – Indiana Jones and the Flying Fridge – but watching it just felt embarrassing. The gophers are CG-animated little fuckers and they show up three times too many. They also live on a nuclear testing site which could explain why they look so shitty. And this, ladies and gen-tle-men, is probably the most interesting point of the movie. It’s the Fifties. We missed nearly 20 years of Indy’s life. They briefly pay some lip service to his time spent fighting in WWII but that’s it. It’s a whole new world full of scientific possibilities and discoveries and what do we do? Go chasing after some fucking crystal skulls. Indy spends a scene staring at one and a goofy prop is carried around the whole time. Each time there was a close-up on it you can be sure the audience snickered. The psychic soldier thing could be really cool in a better story (say, Metal Gear Solid) but it just adds up to a climax that apes Raiders with the extra special added addition of CG E.T.
Shia LeBeouf shows up as a greaser with the leather jacket, hair-combing and blah blah and … hey, chase scenes! Remember the chase scenes from the other movies?! They’re back! And they’re pretty cool! Shia and Indy ride a motorcycle through a college campus and it’s pretty fun, and funny! All right, awesome. This is the Indiana Jones I remember. Okay, now here’s another chase scene through some South American jungle and … huh. Shia meets another CGI animal, a monkey this time. Why does it look so sad? Oh god, now Shia is swinging through the jungle like Tarzan. With an army of CG monkeys. What.
Oh wait, isn’t Shia his son? Okay, don’t know why we need to give Indiana a son, it’s not like they have a dynamic as fun as Sean Connery’s and Harrison Ford’s in Crusade. It’s nice to have Karen Allen back as Marion and it almost feels like a reunion, a return to form but it simply doesn’t matter when the rest of the movie feels so hokey. It’s cool to see her and Indy together again and it’s cool to see Cate Blanchett, who is strangely alluring in a Xenia Onatopp dominatrix type way, until you realize she just sounds like Natasha from Rocky & Bullwinkle. But hey, she swordfights with Shia atop speeding cars. That’s about the nicest thing I can about the movie.
It feels like going through the motions, an Indiana Jones movie for the sake of a new Indiana Jones movie. But with CG-enhanced crap. Remember Peter Jackson’s King Kong? It’s a lot like that. Just dumb and with no sense of discovery or thrill. I felt, somewhere around the 83rd time they were checking a map or translating glyphs (It’s fucking ALIENS, Indy), that I could just close my eyes in the theater and go to sleep. I don’t remember the previous three movies spending so much time on catching the audience up with detailed bullshit that doesn’t matter. What exactly was John Hurt’s deal? Conquistadors? Peruvian ninjas? Mayans (Aztecs?!) who hide in walls?! It’s just bullshit coming out of the woodworks, dragging along to a predictable and stupid ending. “Spaces between spaces?” Shut the fuck up, Kane.
At worst Indy 4 is dreadful. As a fan of the original wonderful trilogy, as someone nostalgic for that wonderful time in the early 90s when Lucasarts pumped out cool PC adventure games and the Lucasfilm logo inspired joooooooy, Indy 4 barely reaches “okay”. Yet this will make a killing at the box office. You can’t escape it outside the theater. Coke, Cheet-Os, Sprint, name your brand, they did a fucking parody of the idol-stealing opening scene from Raiders. It’s embarrassing. It’s boring. It’s charmless. It’s lame. So, please. See Speed Racer in IMAX. See something innovative and fun. See Iron Man again. Don’t feed the Spielberg/Lucas Machine. If they’re going to bother to resurrect a beloved film franchise and then they can’t be bothered to make it any good, then they don’t deserve your cash.