Sunday, May 25, 2008

Indiana Jones Rides Again For The Last Time, Maybe. Or Maybe Not.

On the spur of the moment, Karen and I took The Kid to see Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull last night. While I had some mild worries about whether we'd be able to get in, they were misplaced. We walked into the cineplex at 7:50, found no line at the ticket booth, got tickets for the 8:00 PM show, and had time to hit the concession stand and load up on popcorn and bevvies before finding perfect seats in the nearly empty theater. The lights went down at 8:00 PM sharp.

Wall-E looks pretty good. Kung-Fu Panda looks like it will turn children's brains to feta cheese. The newest remake of The Incredible Hulk looks like a complete waste of time, energy, and money. The Kid got excited by the Get Smart! trailer, but I both fondly remember the original TV series and can't help but remember that Don Adams flopped repeatedly trying to sustain the concept at feature-movie length. Hell Boy II should be fun. I've already got The Dark Knight scheduled on my calendar. They very wisely did not run the trailer for The Mummy Returns Yet Again, or whatever they're calling it. You Don't Mess With the Zohan looks great, but it's an Adam Sandler movie, and I've yet to see one of those that didn't make me want to gouge out my own eyes with a plastic fork after half an hour. But the trailer looks great! But it's an Adam Sandler movie... I'm torn.

Oh yeah, the Indiana Jones movie. That finally started at around 8:30, and it was both pretty much everything I was hoping it would be and a few things I was hoping it wouldn't. To be honest, I mostly laughed through the entire thing. It was a two-hour thrill ride, seguing from one wildly improbable stunt to the next even more wildly improbable chase scene and stunt, with the occasional break here and there to let you catch your breath, but there was never for a moment any sense of real jeopardy, tension, or mystery, or even the sort of ick! factor you got in the first three movies in the scenes with the snakes, bugs, or rats. The tombs were all strangely dry and well-lit; the rotting corpses were all remarkably unfrightening; the menacing primitive natives weren't; the hordes of killer ants were obvious CGI (no insects were harmed in the making of this film!); and vast volumes of automatic gunfire were unloaded without anyone except a few redshirts here and there getting hit, and they died instantly and bloodlessly. (As The Kid pointed out in one scene that was supposed to be tense, "That M1 carbine and that Thompson would be a lot more threatening if they had magazines in them." That's my boy!)

All the same, it was wonderful to see Karen Allen back in the series again; Marion Ravenwood was always my favorite Indy babe. It was definitely worthwhile watching it on the big screen and not waiting for the DVD, because there are lots of little bits of business and sight-gags scattered throughout that you'd otherwise miss. (Watch for the Ark of the Covenant to make a momentary appearance in one chase scene and be completely ignored!) It's a shame they couldn't get Sean Connery back for one last cameo; it's good that they chose to set this movie 20 years after Raiders and acknowledge Indy's age, although still wildly improbable that any man, much less one his age, could survive any of the action in this movie without subsequent months of hospitalization. I'll confess there were moments when I thought I'd accidentally wandered into a revival showing of The Mummy Returns, and in those moments, this movie seemed the weaker of the two by comparison.

But in the end, sticks got slapped, prats fell, and Harrison Ford delivered the goods one more time. In this respect, IJ4 (which is what it said on my ticket stub) is most like a late-period John Wayne western; say, Big Jake. Spielberg and Lucas missed the opportunity to deliver any real meaning or poignancy, as Wayne did in The Cowboys, True Grit, or The Shootist, but the old guy proves he can still get up on the horse and put on a good show one more time, and they definitely left the threat of yet more sequels to come hanging over our heads.

Overall grade: 4 out of 5 stars. Definitely worth seeing in the theater. Buy lots of popcorn.