Friday, May 23, 2008

Indy 4 Review (with SPOILERS)


I really liked the movie. Ten minutes in, I was wondering what the negative reviewers were smoking. But there were definitely some problems:

1. Suspension of disbelief
The truck chase scene through the desert in Raiders was basically possible, and therefor believable. The chase scene through the Jungle in Indy 4 was downright preposterous. First off, the line of vehicles were driving along at a pretty good clip behind the jungle-clearing machine out front. Then to get the action started, Indy destroys that machine with a rocket launcher, at which point the vehicles speed ahead? Huh? With the jungle-clearer gone, how would that work? Then the back and forth fighting between the vehicles was just silly. I longed for that scene to end, and it did with an absurdity that topped the entire absurd scene: Mutt swinging on vines (after hanging still for several seconds) fast enough to catch up with the speeding cars. Make excuses for it all you want, that was just dumb. Maybe it's an even-numbered movie thing. Raiders had no utter physical impossibilities, while Temple of Doom had the mine car jump. Last crusade didn't have anything like that that I remember, and so we get the speed-vines of Peru in Cystal Skull.

2. Talking down to the audience.
When Indy first leaves his classroom to walk down the hall, you can see briefly a portrait of Marcus Brody on the wall. I thought "Nice, subtle, respectful of the attentive fan." Then the movie goes on to bludgeon the audience with Marcus Brody for the next ten minutes: a picture on the desk, a mention by Indy of his death, and lastly a goddamn statue with a clearly visible MARCUS BRODY plaque. And later in the film, when secrets (that my two labradors figured out from watching the trailer) were revealed, complete with "AH-HA!" (the word, not the band) musical flourishes from John Williams, it just seemed silly.

3. Not enough people got shot on screen.
The ratio of bullets fired to onscreen deaths made this movie feel like an episode of the A-Team. I know Lucas and Spielberg have gotten soft in their old age, but that's no excuse. The liberal use of squibs and blood packs gave the earlier movies a gritty feel that this movie lacked completely.

4. Too much action, not enough character interaction.
One of my favorite scenes from all of the Indy films is the Cairo rooftop scene were Sallah and Indy are talking about the dig and Belloq while Marion interacts with the children and the monkey. Not only does Karen Allen absolutely GLOW in that scene, but it also gives all the characters a dignified reality that makes you care very much about the scenes that immediately follow. If there had been just a little bit of that with the new "Mac" character, it would have lent much more weight to his betrayal and death. As it was, he was basically a cartoon character.

5. Too much CGI.
When a director is considering an action scene for inclusion in a non-Sci-Fi movie, he (sorry for the sexist language here) should ask himself "Could I do this sequence without CGI?" If the answer is "no" then the scene should be cut or changed. The jungle chase scene falls SQUARELY in this category. In that type of scene, CGI should be used to remove the strings and matte in the backgrounds, not to replace the stuntmen. I will say that I was awed by the flawless execution of the CGI finale. Good stuff.

What I liked
OK, enough negative, and as I said at the outset, I generally liked this movie a lot. Here are some specific things I liked:

1. Shia LeBeouf.
He did a great job. After sitting through his terrible performance in Transformers, I thought for sure that Indy 4 would be more of the same: jittery, wide-eyed whining, but was delighted to see him come across as pretty tough while still being human. I'm not saying I'd pay $10.75 to see "Mutt Williams and the Hunt for Sasquatch" or anything, but he played his part well here.

2. First 30 minutes.
Were great. They really were. Worth the price of admission.

3. The pre-exposed film look.
The soft glow of the film, especially in the early scenes, was nice. It gave it a real feeling of being in history.

4. Janitor from Scrubs.
Neil Flynn rules, and loyal Scrubs viewers will remember that this is not the first movie he's done with Harrison Ford. I hope they work this appearance into a future episode.


At May 24, 2008 at 2:40 PM, Blogger Tyg said...

Hi Ethan, just had a read of your post there. Some good points. Certainly agree around the character interaction stuff, lots of very broad strokes used, particularily weak is ray winstones character.

I don't know if you agree but I get the feeling there was a lot of editing done to make it fit into the short running time. I'd be curious to see what the DVD presentation is like, perhaps there were a couple of scenes which will be included that will flesh it out a little

Go Jan Itor!


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