Director - Steven Spielberg
So 20 years have past since Indiana Jones rode away from Petra... and the question that some people might have been asking is "What is he up to now?"
Well.... turns out he's still up to the same old shenanigans.
This is a difficult film to analyse because all the pieces are there, everything SHOULD work, and yet.... somehow.... it doesn't. I don't want to turn this into a purist rant about how the trilogy didn't need to be revisited, but I will talk about the things that did work and (in my opinion) the things that didn't work.
Before I go on.... I want to say, I don't mind the Aliens - sorry, Pan-Dimensional Beings. I don't really see how they are any more unbelievable or ridiculous than the sheer bonkers nonsense that is the old old old man guarding the holy grail.
The first one of these is that it really feels like it is trying too hard to appease fans.... and I think that this may be something to do with Mr Lucas. Who has shown time and time (with both the Star Wars Prequel trilogies and the re-cgi'd relaunches) that he just loves throwing as much shit as possible into a story and as many nods as he can to previous films.
So the opening action sequence upsets me for three reasons.... firstly, the Russians are lazy villains... they're just the Nazis with different accents. However, they fade in comparison with the other two issue (which are linked) and it all stems from having a massive scene in the mysterious warehouse of mystery.... which kinda means it loses some of that mystery. It is no longer a hushed up secret that we barely glimpsed. We're now following flying gunpowder on an official tour.
But worst of all.... during the battle scene they decide to show us the Ark of the Covenant.... in case we forgot. Completely unnecessary.
However, whilst the sequence does annoy me, there is one shining light. Cate Blanchett is hamming it up with a marvellous level of gusto and with the wobbliest accent which flipflops from Eastern European to English with alarming speed. But Blanchett does open the floodgates for a cavalcade of marvellous actors sticking their heads in. Probably because it'd be dead fun to be in an Indy film.
At the top of the list, most worthy of note are the two British legends Mr John Hurt and Mr Jim Broadbent. Both are (naturally) wonderful and fit into the lovely 1950's world of adventure. At the bottom of the list is Shia 'The Beef' LeBeouf in his role of Mutt (hoho he picked his name to be a dog's name like what Indiana did)
He is a very bland character and whilst he does get the coolest and most preposterous action sequence.... he also gets one so cringeworthy it makes me want to cry.
And whilst I don't want to pin all of the film's failings on Shia LeBeouf, he is central to the flaw... which is the family dynamic. Even the sheer excitement of Marion returning is numbed when they spend large amounts of time being boring and talking about the family. Marion shines when the action sequences begin and she is allowed to forget the 25 years of history and just be reckless, driving trucks off cliffs.
She doesn't deserve to have her brilliance lessened, the way it is by this film.
And I suppose thats the main problem.... what we have is a film which is much much less than the sum of its parts. That doesn't quite feel like an Indiana Jones romp.
It may be that CGI has cheapened action - now that ANYTHING is possible, it just doesn't impress as much as it used to - now it has to be an unbelievable stunt which is also PRESENTED in an unbelievable way.
It may just be that we've sort of done the 'Indy as a dad' thing with Short Round and we've sort of done the 'Indy's issues with family' with Henry Jones Snr - so this film feels redundant. Its sad.... but true.
And of course, that moment where Mutt picks up the hat and no one is sure whether this means he'll be continuing the franchise (because I wouldn't put ANYTHING past moneyeyes Lucas)... well, that's the scariest thing in the entire of Indiana Jones history. Fuck the Thuggee.
However. What we do learn, is the sheer enduring power of Indiana Jones. Because whether he is portrayed in silhouette or just 2 key props on a box. He is unmistakable. And he is a hero.
Just don't make anymore....