The fourth Indiana Jones movie is a piece of shit. Gone is the sense of wonder. Gone is the great love of Republic serials. This is a movie made by two men who have misplaced their ability to have fun. Lucas and Spielberg’s collective contempt for their audience is evident from the opening shot, where the Paramount mountain dissolves not into a bona-fide peak, but a gopher hill. That’s right, a gopher hill with a bunch of bad CG gophers running around. (And if you think that’s bad, there are also bad CG monkeys in this movie too.) What the fuck is this? Caddyshack 3?
Typically, the opening Indiana Jones scene features an exciting set piece that sets up Jones as an ass-kicking protagonist and establishes a breakneck pace that the film must live up to. But not Indy 4. Instead, we get a bullshit cruising race between some Russians and some smarmy teens. Where the fuck is Indy? And then these Russians go to Area Fucking 51, shoot the men at the gate (with one of the big baddies leaning down to tie his shoe, a ridiculous visual) and are somehow able to walk through the entire base and into a warehouse containing some of the biggest secrets collected by the government without a single security guard around. (They can’t all be positioned at the gate.)
But where the fuck is Indy? Oh yeah. He’s in the trunk. He gets out, mutters “I like Ike” to prove that he’s American and all, condemns the Reds (in case we missed the “New Mexico 1957” title) and then there’s a ho-hum shooting scene before we venture into an hour of relentless chatter about geoglyphs and the like (although you’ll see the plot coming a mile away) and Shia LaBeouf as sidekick Mutt Williams, a character so bland that I actually longed for Kate Capshaw’s screams, which is something I’d never thought I’d do.
Should I tell you about how they turned Marion from a spunky, self-sufficient sidekick into a more or less helpless chick who drives the truck? Appalling. I’m sure the idea to put the hussy in her place (domesticated no less!) came from Lucas, and I want to punch him for it.
Should I convey to you the constant mimesis as marketing? At one point, Indy tells Mutt about an adventure with Pancho Villa he had “when I was your age.” And it’s nothing less than a plot summary for a Young Indiana Jones Chronicles episode. Something that has nothing to do with the plot. Someone knocks over a crate in the warehouse and oh ho ho, it’s the Ark of the Covenant! Harrison Ford pushes his hat down while traveling in the plane. The same way he did in Raiders! And it is this constant repetition of moments from previous films in which we are expected to be charmed. Harrison Ford even says, “I have a bad feeling about this,” the dreaded line from Star Wars. The constant recycling suggests to us that nobody really wants to create anything original, that Han Solo and Indiana Jones and Harrison Ford are all the same. So why care really?
Harrison Ford looks good, but seems considerably irritated to be in this picture.
Cate Blanchett gives the worst performance of her life, unable to sustain a convincing Ukranian accent. (Her Australian seeps through in every sentence. Didn’t they have a dialogue coach on this?) She juts her chin forward, wears a preposterous black wig in a bob, and spends most of her time pacing with her hands folded behind her back. This is what is considered a convincing villain. I longed for Honey Ryder.
The plot is preposterously pedestrian. Lucas wasted nearly twenty years and several screenwriters on this. And what is the end result? An embarrassing Chariots of the Gods premise that will surely earn David Koepp’s screenplay a spot on the Razzie longlist.
It’s not all bad. There’s one very fun jungle chase scene in which Mutt and Cate Blanchett get into a sword fight, each of them on a separate vehicle. I liked some over-the-top red ants that munched upon victims. This is largely due to Spielberg’s half-hearted attempts to make something of this crappy material. But none of this comes close to the tank scene in The Last Crusade, the wondrous mine chase in The Temple of Doom, or any moment of Raiders.
This was the first Indiana Jones picture in which I didn’t have much fun. Not content to simply ruin the Star Wars franchise with the last execrable trilogy, George Lucas has made a mockery of the Indiana Jones universe, and will be rewarded with millions of dollars for insulting his audience and cheapening his creations. He doesn’t care. He is Hollywood’s answer to Kenneth Lay, defrauding his audience of the pleasures he is now incapable of generating.
© 2008, Edward Champion. All rights reserved.