Thursday, May 22, 2008

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Pale Shadow of His Former Self

So it took 19 long years since the last installment, to finally decide to nail a decent story befitting of the trilogy that went before it. I would have thought it's because Spielberg, Lucas and Ford were racing against time to add some good money to their coffers before the latter got too old to don the fedora again, so they just greenlit this poor, poor imitation and parody of an "Indiana Jones" (deliberate quotes, mind you) movie, and slapped a Kingdom of Fictitious Skulls on it to make it sound like the worse title ever since Attack of the Clones or The Phantom Menace. If I had my way, this would be Indiana Jones and the Curse of the Mediocre Action Sequels with Weak Multi-Genre Plots.

Let's face it, Hollywood is running out of ideas for it to constantly raid old stories to remake of late, or to raid its has been heroes of the 80s to try and relive their glory days. Sylvester Stallone did it with Rocky and Rambo with some success, as did Bruce Willis with Die Hard, so everyone's jumping onto the bandwagon, but thank goodness Clint Eastwood stated categorically there'll be no more Dirty Make-My-Day Harrys. While the fans might have clamoured for more Indy adventures, is this exactly the stain they're asking for on their beloved franchise? Hardly. Like the recent action movie franchise additions, what we got here was a transplanting of an old school hero into an environment much different from what we're familiar with seeing the hero in (OK, so it's just about 10 years after WWII) but unfortunately fused with plot elements so generic, they've been used in just about every Indy-styled clone, from Sahara to the National Treasure movies, to sea based treasure hunters like Fool's Gold and Into the Blue. If the original franchise served as a template for others to follow or model themselves after, this installment too didn't become a trendsetter, but woefully dragged its tail behind the movies it inspired.

If you've rolled your eyes at the titles I've mentioned, you'll probably roll them some more by the time you're through with this Indy installment. Indiana Jones has lost all the charm which had endeared it to fans, and looked more like Indy learning a tip or two from Nic Cage's Ben Gates in solving puzzle after puzzle, each so obviously fabricated, that it leads from one action sequence to another. And these action sequences were lazily designed, each without putting our hero in grave danger enough to hang you on the edge of your seat. You'll know exactly when and how he's going to make his great escape, and many action set pieces here will make you scream silently, "what's the point?", with every animal and insect from the animal kingdom making an appearance. Not to mention too that the sequences were haphazardly delivered no thanks to poor editing, teleporting our hero from one scene to the next, surviving even the motherload of all weapons - an atomic bomb.

Indy's no Superman, but he's made out to be indestructible here, in childish terms, right from the start when he stood to admire the mushroom cloud or was able to dodge bullets fired by professional soldiers using automatic weapons from all directions at the same time. Spielberg and Lucas sprinkled so much fairy dust on him, that even his fedora has magical powers to appear and disappear at will or when it's inconvenient, and I'd buy me one of those bunker refrigerators too. Both filmmakers also can't resist putting their past glories into the movie like a kind of one-upmanship, with Lucas wanting to remind everyone about the forest chase sequence he did in Return of the Jedi complete with lightsabre battles if he could get away with it, and Spielberg reminiscing his good old days with ET and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, which ultimately destroyed everything Indy about Indiana Jones. He's now Fox "Ben Gates" Mulder, who wants to believe because the truth is out there unravelled by a friend.

If I can describe this movie in one word, it's Lazy. Laziness at all angles. Harrison Ford might be too old to do all the stunts required in the movie, but it's lazy when you can distinguish every shot that he was replaced by a stunt double. The special effects were poured down left right and center, and were unimpressive to begin with, serving no purpose other than trying its best to wow a modern audience so jaded with such attempts at beautifying generic backdrops, or to try and disguise scenes so obviously shot in a soundstage. Lazy in having a score that was lacklustre and playing ad-nausem. Lazy in coming up with half-baked jokes uttered by almost everyone. And laziness in trying to connect everyone together in dotted line relationships, some drawing to unseen pasts and conveniently linked together through a line of dialogue.

Laziness in coming up with bland, uninteresting supporting characters. Harrison Ford returns as a reinvented Indiana Jones Version II, and there's more than one Harry here. Karen Allen returns as Marion Ravenwood just to bicker some more, and Shia LaBeouf just played what he has been playing all this while in Transformers and Disturbia (I'm smelling dangerous typecasting, and what's with that comb anyway?). Spielberg even toyed the idea of passing on the franchise baton to LaBeouf's Mutt Williams (yep, get the doggie name joke yet?), whatever for, I do not know, and I reckon the franchise will go down the Highlander way if it continues in that direction. Ray Winstone, John Hurt and Jim Broadbent were pedestrian, and Cate Blanchett obviously has to realize a Chigurh haircut doesn't suit her, and neither does her villainous character, who can waltz into anyone's list of badly constructed movie villains, doing nothing but bark orders in Russian.

And it's an Indy trait too that it has some of the dumbest villains ever, since they all succumb to their own undoing as they personify the basic evils of man's greed for power, money and monkey skulls, but villains dispatched here takes the cake. The ultimate laziness in the movie, is the design of the titular bone structure. I could've sworn the Alien Mother Queen could have made an appearance, and still won't look out of place. Worst of all, and I'd give the Worst Prop of the Year award to it, was that the skull was made of cheap see-through plastic, and stuffed with even more cheap, transparent plastic bags inside it to make it look like brain matter, although all the actors would try to make you believe they're made of Swarovski.

I went to this movie wanting to love it, but what I got was a sense of betrayal, like watching a loved one selling herself for cash. Indiana Jones may be back and it started off quite promisingly with winks at the earlier movies, but it's a yawnfest with a storyline that goes nowhere, and generic action sequences poorly designed in a rush for time. I have no doubt it'll make its gazillions at the box office, but just give me the original trilogy in a box set, and I'd try to forget this nightmare ever existed. It should have stopped at the Last Crusade, and not get tempted by the lure of more greenback.

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...