Friday, May 23, 2008

Movie Review - Indiana Jones & the Crystal Skull - Just DO IT!!!

Well, Indy opened in theaters yesterday. I saw an early matinée yesterday afternoon. I purposefully went into the movie relatively "blind" having avoided as many spoilers and reviews as I could. As you may or may not know, I'm a big Indy fan and have been since I first saw Raiders years and years ago. I've always loved fedoras, whips and general adventure. I remember playing Indiana Jones at a friends' house. He had an automatic garage door (one of the only ones in the area) and we built a tomb and booby traps around his garage with the automatic closing door being one of the traps we had to escape.

Anyway, the movie itself was fabulous and remained fairly true to the Indy franchise. It took a few turns to the extreme that I'm still a little iffy on, but I think they worked out alright. There were also a few scenes that were a little too over the top cheesy, even for Indy. I think part of the appeal of Indy is that despite his amazing and extraordinary adventures, there's an element of reality in them. Yes, in the end, there generally turns out to be something of the supernatural, but even that is downplayed to an extent to leave it feeling "real." This 4th Indy installment I think went just a touch too far to the extraordinary side and left the believable reality a time or two.

My two main worries going into this film were:
  1. Indy's too old
  2. Shia is a punk kid

Both of my fears played out in the film.

There wasn't much they could do about Harrison Ford's age as far as making him young. Sure, they could've plastered him with age-reducing makeup or prosthetics. Fortunately, they didn't. In fact, I was relieved to see them playing up his age a few times...making him presented as getting older and having a little trouble. At the same time, Indiana is the hero and I would've been sad to see him as a sort of whimpering ancient bumbling along the adventure. So even though sometimes it was a stretch to see him doing the kinds of acrobatics and fighting that he did twenty years ago, I think it was presented well and came across perfectly, especially since it was occasionally juxtaposed with humorous remarks or actions to his age. I think I would've liked to see him get winded or have to slow down a little more often, but in order to keep the pacing accurate for the film, it needed to be played the way it was played.

The punk kid Shia LeBouf was a bigger problem and more difficult to overcome. I'd heard rumors as to who his character was supposed to be and I was a bit worried they might play that up poorly, but I was relieved that it came across as fairly natural and believable. When I saw trailers for the film with Shia involved in some action bits, I was more worried. Sadly, those fears were well based. I've enjoyed many of the films I've seen with him, but I cannot acknowledge him as a superior actor...and I definitely can't condone him as an "action-adventure" actor. His motions and his delivery are too stilted and distracting to be believable. The only counter to his poor performance was that his character was played up as being a wannabe punk, so in that light you could sort of call his performance accurate to an extent...sadly, I call it type-casting.

I'm not saying the "Mutt Williams" character should have been removed from the film. On the contrary, I think it was a good addition and a nice way to bring plot elements into play. I just feel that young Mr. LeBouf was the wrong choice for the part. Who is the right choice? I'm not sure yet. If you have ideas, let me know.

My biggest worry with regards to Shia/Mutt was that Spielberg/Lucas were going to try and officially pass the Indy mantel to him. While that possibility is still open, I personally think that part of the staging in the final scene of the movie actually speaks to the contrary...saying that only Indy can be Indy and Mutt isn't allowed to try.

Despite a few stretches on my conscience about Mutt/Shia and a few scenes where believability was pulled a little too thin, even for this franchise, I still absolutely loved the film. So much so that I'll be going to another showing tonight...and hopefully at least one more after that prior to it leaving the theaters.

Where does it stand in terms of the rest of the films? That's a difficult bit of stack ranking that I'm still having trouble with. Honestly, I even have trouble stack ranking the earlier films. There are elements of each that I absolutely love and that continually cycle them to the top of the list in my mind...and at the same time, there are elements of each film that pull them back down lower in the list. All things considered, I think Raiders is still my favorite of the series, but in many ways Temple and Crusade are fighting for that top spot as well. Skull is locked in tight combat for the top place too, but Raiders still beats it out overall. If anything, I'd put Raiders on top and have the other three tied in a tight race for second place.

4 stars for a solid and enjoyable movie

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