Let me start by saying I love the Indiana Jones movies. Bought ‘em on DVD the day they were released and I’ve watched them repeatedly. So I went in to the theatre with only one prayer to the movie gods: Please don’t let this movie suck. Don’t let Lucas and Spielberg redact Indiana Jones and ruin the memory of the original trilogy the way Lucas Jar-Jar-ed the Star Wars saga to death with his poorly directed, poorly acted, poorly conceived prequels.
The good news? In no way does this film make a mockery of the previous movies the way the Star Wars prequels did. I suspect that Spielberg probably had Lucas’s vitamins replaced with prozac during filming to keep George from replacing Shia LaBeouf with an entirely CGI robot sidekick.
Go get ‘em Mistuh Jodes!
I’d also bet that George at some point skipped those vitamins and that was the day he decided on Shia’s character being named “Mutt” and scripted his ridiculously Brando-esque entrance. Subtle is not a word in George’s vocabulary. Fortunately, this film feels a lot more like Spielberg than Lucas.
It’s big, noisy, silly and just a hell of a lot of fun.
This time ’round, Indiana Jones trades Nazis for Commies and trades the mystical for a science fictional element. The set up of this update is the one part of the film that doesn’t really feel like an Indiana Jones movie. For the first 15 minutes or so, despite the trademark action (and the biggest explosion of any Indiana Jones movie, by far!) of the opening, somehow it just doesn’t quite seem like the movie I went to see. Once the update is complete, and we get to Professor Jones in the classroom and then from there into the real action, it’s all Indy from there on.
Harrison Ford might be a bit on in years, but he’s credible in the action sequences and for the most part the stunt doubling is invisible. Shia LaBeouf does a great job with the action and has one of the best fights in the film. Unfortunately, almost all of the groans of disbelief in the theater came at his expense as well. The two play well of each other for the most part though and the character of Mutt fits into Indy’s world pretty much seamlessly.
It would spoil it to explain how, but Mutt gets the best of Indy at one point and it was a fantastically well executed play on one of the classic Indiana Jones elements. Actually, they put just enough references to the previous films in to tie the movie to it’s predecessors without taking away from this one and a lot of those little touches play out in the dialogue between the two men.
John Hurt plays an old friend of Indiana’s who is at the center of all the nastiness and he’s such a damned good actor that he makes the most nonsensical dialog sound like Shakespeare. His part isn’t large, but he dominates every time he opens his mouth.
Cate Blanchett is obviously having a ball as Colonel-Doctor Irina Spalko. She’s ruthless, sexy and gleefully over the top. A sword wielding, relentless, tough as nails foil to Indy’s roguish charm; bringing the saga into the age of the struggle for feminine equality with a flourish. She is a worthy successor to the villains of the other films, in every way. With a much nicer ass.
Karen Allen and the new sidekick played by Ray Winstone are the weakest points in the film. While it’s great to see Allen back as Indy’s love interest, she’s just not quite as sharp and appealing as she was back in the Raiders days. The sidekick, Mac, is dull and uninteresting, and aside from a couple of gags at his expense the character could easily have been dispensed with and the movie wouldn’t suffer a bit.
My only other complaint with this movie is a minor one. The Russian foes, while portrayed as just as mean and evil as the Nazis in the earlier films just don’t seem all that formidable. Actually, they hardly seem Russian, more like generic “soldier” types that could be wearing any uniform at all. Aside from Cate Blanchett’s accent, there is little to remind us who Indy is fighting with or why.
Spielberg and company stick to the formula, setting the table with an early action sequence, giving Indy a reason to run off to the jungle and then throwing peril after peril at him until the very end. They avoided heavy CGI and stayed true to the style and flavour of the original films for the most part. Lots of car and truck chases, great stunt work, plenty of fist fights both on the ground and while riding in various cars, trucks and motorbikes and even a sword fight for good measure. Aside from the Russians for Nazis and Sci-fi for Mysticism switcheroo, everything feels like it should in the movie.
I have my issues with Lucas’s insistence on a sci-fi theme and all that means to the film, but it’s done well and right up to the end it’s simply a story element that manages to stay largely out of the way of the action.
So, is this the last go round for Indy? Sean Connery was doing action films in his seventies and Ford is still in believable form these days. In Hollywood, maybe 65 is the new 40…
Please welcome the newest star of High School Musical 5!
High marks for style and execution, but the Russian judge deducted a few points on the dismount. This time around they’ll have to settle for the Silver.