A brief time-out for shameless commercialism

I have to admit that, while I enjoyed the first Indiana Jones movie back in the day (making it the only Steven Spielberg movie I’ve ever liked), the sequels didn’t thrill me, and none of them are movies I watch now with any pleasure.  My kids, however, do enjoy the movies and I understand why.  Steven Spielberg’s approach to movies is to turn everything into a broad-brush caricature.  Because Indiana Jones is fact a broad-brush caricature (a 30s cartoon character brought to life), Spielberg’s technique is just right.

Which gets me to my point:  If there’s someone in your family who would enjoy what is, in essence, a series of flashy Saturday-morning matinée style movies, you can get the complete Indiana Jones set on Amazon for 60% off the regular price (the set was $99.98 and is now $39.99), including free shipping.

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.