Indiana Jones movie review *UPDATED*

Indescribably stupid. I admit to going in with a bias, since I don’t like either Spielberg or Lucas movies but even Mr. Bookworm, a fan of both men’s work, thought it was a bad movie. Save your money. If you want to see it, wait until the DVD comes out. Then, you can turn the volume down on the sound, fast forward through the stupid parts, and keep replaying the minimal plot line until you can figure out what the heck is going on. Cate Blanchett, though, looks fabulous.

UPDATE: There has been some suggestion that I might not have liked the Indy movie because I am a girl. But for an unknown factor, that actually could have been a correct analysis. I’m definitely a girl, and I like girlie stuff — romance movies and novels, fuzzy doggies, pretty flowers, nice smells, etc. But here’s the unknown factor: I also happen to love cartoony action movies. I grew up watching the James Bond movies with my Dad and will happily see any of those movies. Give me bulging muscles, fantastic fight scenes, and manifestly fake blood, and I’m your girl. Hey, I do martial arts, after all!

As MKFreeberg noted in the comments to his own post about my negative review, I probably not alone. Women like manly man, and action flicks are pretty much the last bastion of manly men in Hollywood. The rest of Hollywood men are brutish or sensitive (okay, I really mean wimpy). What they aren’t (sadly) is flat-out heroic, with lovely rippling muscles. (And that may be part of the problem with the Indy movie. Harrison Ford, at 66, looks like a deflated balloon. I’m going out on a sexist limb here, but I prefer my action heroes a little more drool-worthy. This was action heroism for the Geritol set.)

I did confess in my original post that my real bias going into the movie is that I don’t like Spielberg or Lucas. This is not an argument about whether they’re good or not. Frankly, I dislike them too much to be able to see clearly whether they’re good. I also remember liking the original Star Wars movie in 1977, because it was so fresh, and the original Indy movie, in 1980 whatever for precisely the same reason: it was a wonderful surprise after the artsy, angsty movies of the 1970s.

This movie, though, lacked freshness and, instead, substituted frenzy. It was stupid, not because all these action flicks aren’t vaguely (or very) silly, but because it had a mechanical quality that never enabled one to suspend disbelief and just roll with the punches — and there were many, many punches. Indeed, the many punches were part of the problem. The fight scenes weren’t clever, they were just guys pounding on each other without actually scoring any points. It was like a Rock ’em Sock ’em robot, only the heads stayed attached at the end.

The “scary” scenes, which took place in ancient grave yards and mystical sites were labored too. I could easily imagine Spielberg, between Geritol boosts, telling the special effects department “do whatever you want,” without himself exercising any directorial vision. The result was that the scenes were over the top, without actually being atmospheric. Too much effort, too little to show for it.

Significantly, this wasn’t just me talking. My husband (who actually likes more refined, artsy movies than I do, but who is a huge Lucas/Spielberg fan) was even more disappointed than I was, perhaps because he went in with higher hopes. “What were they thinking?” he asked me as we left the theater. “That was just an awful mess,” he added. I, who have been saying that about the last decade’s worth of Spielberg/Lucas movies, agreed.

By the way, Gerard Van Der Leun, whose opinion I respect in almost all ways but for reviews of Indiana Jones movies, writes about the movie here.

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  • Ymarsakar

    Very funny post, Book.

  • LarryFaren

    The Wall Street Journal’s critic, JOE MORGENSTERN, has little positive to say either, BW. [May require subscription] He characterizes the flick as “very nearly interminable“, laments “its abuse of computer-generated images“, says Jones’ biggest problem is “movie fatigue” and yearns for the Indy who “watched and waited while the guy twirled his scimitar, then pulled out his revolver and simply popped him with no further ado.” [And don’t most folks recognize that as the first movie’s best scene?] Yep, think I’ll wait and put it in my Blockbuster queue in a few months.

  • Al

    For what it’s worth, I had fun watching the movie. Yes, there were repeatedly derivative scenes and predictable “plot” evolutions, but come on, it’s an Indiana Jones movie. We know the formula now. And it made fun of itself. That snake that was used to pull Indy and his once and future sweetheart out of the muck looked more like my dogs’ chew toys. And Indy was much more enjoyable than the eight, count ’em, eight overblown previews my son and I suffered through prior to the feature. I don’t go to the movies that often, and the previews reminded me why.

  • Mike Devx

    I think it’s impressive that Lucas was able to catch lightning in a bottle with ‘Star Wars’, and that he and Spielberg captured it again with ‘Raiders’. Sequels simply cannot duplicate that fortune.

    But I agree that the situation with these sequels is worse. There’s been something soulless and dispiriting in the creation of all of the sequels of both these movies. Partly, it’s just a fact that moviemakers have relied too much on the technological sophistication of special effects, to the detriment of story. Of all the sequels, ‘the Last Crusade’ came perhaps the closest of creating a compelling story with the great plotline of Prof. Henry Jones, and the Templars and the Grail.

    But Lucas in particular has seemed to lose all touch with story. And Spielberg’s still doing well only in non-fantasy, ie with ‘Saving Private Ryan’ and ‘Schindler’s List’. They’ve lost their ability to make the fantastic compelling and relevant. Have they lost their ability to grasp the myth? Or have they repudiated their own belief in the myths that drive the original movies?

    I believe that Lucas and Spielberg have changed so much since the late 70’s that they are psychologically incapable of making the same movies. Yes, it is their fault that the recent sequels have lacked so much vitality. They’ve abandoned the myths that drove the original movies.

  • Ymarsakar

    Star Wars was made great precisely because Lucas couldn’t get complete control over its production and story themes.

  • Ymarsakar

    I also tend to think your brain needs something to grasp hold of and consider, Book, when watching movies. The passive position of receiver of wisdom or even entertainment, perhaps does not suit your character.

    In this respect, Legend of the Galactic Heroes has fascinated me and grasped me with the power of its plot and the intricacies of the military planning and political subterfuge at effect.

    You can’t stop thinking when watching it and that’s part of the fun. When you have to shut off your brain and your brain is used to the wild world of blog arguments and debates, Book, you will find it much harder to fall back into the massively dumb entertainment formulas for the masses.

  • Zhombre

    Oh come on, Y. Lucas is a lousy writer — flat dialog and one dimensional characters — and an inert director but a great producer and would have best left the script and direction to other hands. Star Wars worked because of its energy and computer effects and the sort of robust, adolescent cheesiness that it exuded. It was the antidote to 2001: A Space Odyssey that had been released earlier. Audiences could understand Star Wars.

    I haven’t seen the latest Indiana Jones movie, am in no hurry to do so, and I think in middle age Spielberg has started taking himself too seriously. He wants to do “message”movies. And he’s made the great mistake of getting hooked up with the hysterical gay socialist Tony Kushner as script doctor. Kiss of death.

  • Ymarsakar

    Lucas is a lousy writer — flat dialog and one dimensional characters

    Which is why Star Wars succeeded because the people who made that movie didn’t go with Lucas’ actual writing.

  • Zhombre

    Beg to differ, dear Ymarsakar. The original Star Wars did have a script written by Lucas and it included dialog such as this:

    Admiral Motti: Don’t try to frighten us with your sorcerous ways, Lord Vader. Your sad devotion to that ancient religion has not helped you conjure up the stolen data tapes, or given you clairvoyance enough to find the rebels’ hidden fortress…

    Which seems from the Edward J. Wood Jr School of Screen Writing.

  • mkfreeberg

    In my defense, the “yer a girl” comment came from Gerard.

    And in his defense…heh…he did cite your remark about Cate Blanchett, which showed a charming cloistering into some virtual dwelling from which all the men must’ve been banished to the northern sea. I know your defense is “a girl is what I am,” and that works…but you need it, because if a dude said such a thing I’d grab his MAN-CARD and rip it into little tiny pieces.

    Great post. I skipped your update when you stop talking about me and start talking about Indy; looked like spoiler. I’ll reload the page tonight.

  • Earl

    Well, Gail and I just got back, and we both loved the movie…..but, then we’re pretty good at just letting the howlers go over our heads and enjoying the spectacle.

    I agree about the fights, though…some of that stuff seemed gratuitous. Gail’s a nurse and she has to work very hard at not losing her enjoyment of a movie (not just the latest Indy, either – Iron Man is terrible at this) because of the horrendous trauma dealt out, after which the protagonists get up and go right on! Please. But, then….it’s a cartoon, really.

    Funny thing is that it’s not so hard for me to get past that, but the whole “ant thing” in this movie almost did it for me — it was SO over the top, and so completely untrue to what “army ants” are about…..ah well. I managed to unhook and enjoy the last scene with the boots disappearing! But it is somewhat difficult to overcome my knowledge of Biology when they misrepresent something so totally…. Heh.

    By the way, my daughter also liked the movie — maybe this is something people learn as they grow up and enjoy (or not) movies with family.

  • Ymarsakar

    I don’t remember that line being in the original trilogy, Z. They had a scene similar to this, but they spoke of only the Force.

    Gail’s a nurse and she has to work very hard at not losing her enjoyment of a movie (not just the latest Indy, either – Iron Man is terrible at this) because of the horrendous trauma dealt out, after which the protagonists get up and go right on!

    That’s what I like about Target Focus Training. When you throw a man into the planet’s gravity well, he’s not going to come right back up, especially with a skull fracture. Which is often what happens when people fall on concrete after being thrown around.

    Trauma is scientific and objective, for anyone can look at a real injury and say “that guy’s leg is definitely not going to be working given that the knee is shaped like a dog’s hind leg”. Objective and requiring of medical attention. Hollywood, however, is purely subjective. Anything goes. Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible Two can turn his back on a villain like a macho tough guy obeying the law, wait for the villain to pick up the discarded gun, and then do a 180, draw, aim, and shoot the villain dead. In the real world, Tom Cruise would have had a small hole in his back and a very large hole on his chest if he had tried something like that with real violence.

    If a man said Cate looked good or nice, I wouldn’t pull his card. Of course, women use the word fabulous more often, but it’s not like men won’t comment on how a woman looked in a movie, either.

    Bookworm has a great defense for why she didn’t like Indy. Book has been listening to too much Conservative radio where being entertained meant being engaged in intellectual argument or considerations. She has also taken rather well to reading and in depth consideration/analysis of events from a strategist’ point of view. All of that is, of course, not present in action movies. Action movies don’t even sometimes have explainable tactics, let alone explainable strategy. Their strategy is “go to Point A, defeat Villain A, suffer plot twist, go to point B, defeat Villain B, discover how Villain B was mastermind”.

    Or in the case of terminator, it was endless sequences of “go here, temporarily defeat cyborg” and so forth.

  • Jose

    LarryFaren comment #2 refers to the best scene in the original Raiders movie being the one where Indy wearily pulls his revolver on the scimitar wielding villan.

    Of course it is a great scene. From what I’ve heard, it was improvised rather than scripted. Not surprising considering the poor movie scripts typical of the time, and ever since.