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Indy review - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
Indy review
Well, I'm going to see it again tomorrow, which means this is the last chance for first impressions. :)


I don't know what's going on with Lucas's ability to come up with titles. The Phantom Menace was pretty decent, with lots of relevant shadings. Attack of the Clones was as bad as I thought a title could get, with little room for imagination, but then Revenge of the Sith was worse. These, at least, were easily memorable titles, if not particularly inspired. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull? Uncle George, what are you doing to me? I heard it a dozen times before the publicity started to hit, and until there was finally a media saturation, I kept fumbling when people who know of my fannish tendencies asked. Indy and the, er... Skull Thing, I think? Something with skulls, anyway.

It filled me with grave trepidation, but it was undeserved. The movie is perfectly good summer popcorn fare, with no misguided attempts at being meaningful. It's an Indy movie! Three cheers, man. When Shia LeBeauf joked on SNL that "I star in the one where he dies," I have to admit, given my run of luck with characters, that I had a moment's doubt. Hey, why not? Other series have turned into bloodbaths, why not Indy?

Thankfully, no. No ruminations about the good death.

Not many ruminations at all, but as far as I'm concerned, for an Indy movie, that's largely a plus. Blockbusters should yield meaning only after they've been enjoyed, and the good guys cheered, and the bad guys beaten. Then we nerdy types can settle in and start looking for subtext, which is a fun game in and of itself, but one better played without the interference of the director, producer, or even writer. (Didn't you know that Speed is "really" about the depersonalization of the modern world as it spins out of control? Or that Twister is a rumination on the random destruction of the family? And ID4 was about the breakdown of social communication? I'm sure that's totally the thought of the creators.) I like coming up with these things for myself, thanks. What can I say? I read Danse Macabre at an impressionable age, and just loved the reading of The Amityville Horror as a direct hit on America's psychic pressure points about the lousy economy of the Carter administration. I'll probably do some of that after seeing Worst Title Ever a second or third time, when it starts to offer up interpretations related to faith and reason and the meaning of kinship.

For now, let's just deal with the movie, shall we? :)

What works
Harrison Ford works. Thank you, Harrison Ford. Indy is as Indy has always been, even if he did get a Star Wars line ("I have a bad feeling about this"). With a recurring character like Indy, you have to walk a fine line--he has to have some growth, but you want him to stay the same lovable guy you wanted to watch in the first place. Harrison Ford walks it well.

I'm sure there's probably some argument about this--I'm staying well away from fandom--but I love Mutt. I'm just putting that on record. Shia LeBeauf is terrific. I love all the tics--he's not a copy of Indy, but you can definitely see the kinship. The swordfight with Cate Blanchett was awesome. I'd watch Mutt movies, if Lucas and Spielberg happen to want to make them. But he has to get the Brando cap back. The Jones boys need their headgear. I also loved the scorpion scene.

Welcome back, Marion. I read a few reviews before going that said she "didn't have much to do" once she was brought back, but she didn't strike me as having any less to do than any other secondary character. She did very well in the escape, and Karen Allen looked like she was having a blast. I loved her giving Mutt fencing instructions while driving.

The Russians replaced the Nazis as villains as easily as they did in popular imagination. Good on Lucas and Spielberg for taking a '50s point of view. It's the only thing that could work in a situation like this.

Among little things, I especially enjoyed:

  • The reference to Marion as "Abner's little girl" when Indy was trying to get Ox to help
  • The statue of Brody stopping the car in the Yale chase. (I think he'd dig that.)
  • The whole interchange about school, and how it changed as soon as Indy found out that Mutt was Henry Jones III.
  • For that matter, his colleagues calling him Henry.
  • The sarcastic interchange about Marion getting herself kidnapped again.
  • Hints dropped about Indy during the war--that seemed like a pretty realistic thing for him to do after so many pre-war (from the American perspective) encounters with the Nazis, though you'd think that would make it hard for him to pass as a double agent!
  • Ark cameo!


Meh
I'm really lukewarm on the plot. The artifact isn't especially interesting. I read the article in Archeology about the skulls, and it didn't pique my interest any further. And while I don't have any belief issues about extraterrestrial/extradimensional life--probably exists somewhere, whatever--I don't find myself feeling any awe about it, as I did about the Ark, the Sankara Stones, or the Grail. That may just be me and my own taste quirks, but I didn't feel like the script really sold any awe about it, either. It was fine as a device to hang other things on--had to be something, right? But I didn't feel like it had any real resonance for any of the characters, any more than it did for me. Even when they found the cave, they were more interested in the artifacts the aliens had collected from Earth cultures than in the actual alien artifacts.

The FBI vs. military plot. Very 50s, so appropriate, but not very interesting.

The opening. Not really "meh," but a mixed reaction. I loved the action, but it didn't feel like an Indy opening--the Indy openings have traditionally been only tangentially related to the plot. The first served to introduce Indy, Belloq, and Indy's trouble with trustworthy allies, but the idol had nothing to do with the plot. The second got Indy, Willie, and Shorty into trouble, but had nothing to do with the Sankara Stones. The third gave some back story and introduced Henry Sr and the Grail Quest, but the Cross of Coronado--the object of the action--had nothing to do with the search for the Grail that took up the main plot. This, on the other hand, pulled in the main villain and the main plot, but popped in extraneous action just to establish the temporal setting. I really assumed that Cate Blanchett was looking for the Ark, and Indy was using the magnet thing to locate a weapon, which he'd use to get out without giving her anything. (On the other hand, Indy always loses in the opening sequence.) That said, the shadowed Indy form, the fight, the peek at the Ark, and the weapons test (over the top though it might be)... they definitely got me in the mood for a good action flick. And I loved the "I Like Ike" line for a "defiant last word" bit. By the time it was over, I really had a sense of having moved into the '50s.

The wedding. I'm really glad that he married Marion, but the wedding felt more like the '90s or '00s, with the nontraditional text, than it felt like the '50s. They'd been doing a really good job up until then.

Secret son. I wouldn't want them to dwell on it--summer popcorn movie--but the whole "I'm not going to tell you about your son and I'll let him think someone else is his father and use that person's name" just was sour for me. They had to do something if they meant to introduce Indy's son as an adult, but it just seemed sort of mean for a fight that seems to have largely been about pre-wedding jitters more than cruelty on anyone's part. But they needed it to be something, and it may as well have been that, and since it was, I'm glad we didn't go into all the angst that would actually cause a family. Because, you know, summer popcorn movie. I don't really have a better suggestion.

:wince:
The Indy-Marion dialogue when they discuss the end of the relationship. They have such a good dynamic. Surely, they could have done better than, "They were never you, sweetheart."

Really, that's the only complete wince factor.

Things I wanted, but they didn't give me, the bastards
What happened to Shorty and Willie? I know a lot of people didn't like the second movie, but it happened, and I liked the friendship between Shorty and Indy. Would it have been too much to mention a letter from Willie, or a picture of Shorty in a WWII uniform on the mantle? Or in a doctoral graduation robe? Something? Just an Easter egg, man.

Huh. That was pretty much it. ;p

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threnody From: threnody Date: May 25th, 2008 07:10 pm (UTC) (Link)
I haven't seen it but will at some point.

Willie needs to die a thousand painful deaths, I'm sorry. She was so freaking whiny. I wanted to smack her. And I was like, nine.

I loved Shorty, though. I was so miffed when they just acted like he never existed after that. Pah.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 25th, 2008 07:12 pm (UTC) (Link)
That's exactly it. But for an acknowledgment of Shorty, Willie would have to exist, and a whiny letter would work to establish that the characters existed! I was always annoyed in the third film that we didn't at least hear about Shorty. I assumed he went off to live with Willie somewhere, since he wasn't in Indy's house.
rabidsamfan From: rabidsamfan Date: May 25th, 2008 07:25 pm (UTC) (Link)
I would have liked to see Short Round too. He was one of my favorite things about the second movie.

On the whole I enjoyed it. Even the hokey "they weren't you," line. *grin* And they can make more movies with Shia anytime they want to!
lollapulizer From: lollapulizer Date: May 25th, 2008 07:39 pm (UTC) (Link)
I just saw it last night and I agree with you. I'm not really all that familiar with the previous movies, but I have seen one of them (can't remember which, it was a couple years ago) and I know where you're coming from. I think the biggest disappoint for me was that Lucas resorted to aliens and the similarities to National Treasure II.

I loved Mutt though, and I hope they make another with him.
From: blue_sky_day Date: May 27th, 2008 01:58 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Indy 4

I haven't seen National Treasure II yet. What are the similarities?
alphabet26 From: alphabet26 Date: May 25th, 2008 08:05 pm (UTC) (Link)
I liked Mutt, too. He was really good, and I especially loved how even after he connected with Indy, he still didn't forget about Ox. His expression when they found him in the Russian camp and he seemed to be crazy. Well done, Shia.

I was ok with the secret son thing because they resolved it as quickly as possible. I mean, Marion couldn't have said something right away, in front of the Russians, but as soon as there was a chance (and, of course, they thought they were dying), she told him about it. It wasn't like they'd been in touch all these years and she'd kept it from him, you know? So it worked for me. Although the timeline is pretty screwy, IIRC. She probably didn't know she was pregnant when he ran away "a week before the wedding," but maybe a couple of months along? Then he sent her a letter "a year later" but she started dating Colin Williams when Mutt was "three months old"? Or did I mishear and she married Colin when he was three months old? Eh, whatever, I don't really care, I still loved it.

But Shia did a good job of being both Indy and Marion's kid. The fights with her when they found her, the way he watched out for her, helped her while they were running down the stairs, the "it's a rope!" they both shouted in sync, very nicely done. And, like you said, he had some of Indy's tics. I wonder if he watched some of the Young Indiana Jones Chronicles (couldn't believe they mentioned Indy riding with Pancho Villa! I squealed, I can't lie) to get some of that, too.

you'd think that would make it hard for him to pass as a double agent!

Eh, he did it a little bit in WWI, so why not WWII, too? ;)

I agree with you about Shorty and Willie. Maybe there'll be something on the DVD.

So, wow, I hit a teal deer here, sorry about that!
From: (Anonymous) Date: May 25th, 2008 08:06 pm (UTC) (Link)

Indy 4

I really enjoyed the movie. I liked how they switched to the 1950s by using all sorts of pop culture cliches (atomic bomb, the Cold War, girls in poodle skirts with ponytails). I agree that the skull wasn't really interesting, but it kept the story moving, which was the point. All Mutt/Indy/Marion interactions were great (the change from "Grandpa" to "You're a teacher?!?")

I also liked that Indy was a bit mushy with Marion. I thought it was a nice indication that he was older and appreciative of a particular woman rather than having his IQ drop a few points at the sight of *any* pretty lady (Elisa Lund). Monogamous Indy!

RM
tree_and_leaf From: tree_and_leaf Date: May 27th, 2008 09:04 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Indy 4

Not to be pedantic, but Ilsa Schneider. Ilsa Lund is Rick's ex in Casablanca, and would probably have cause to feel insulted by the confusion ;)

But the idea of either Rick having to deal with Dr Schneider, or Indy coming into contact with Ilsa Lund amuses me. Come to that, there's got to be a potential crossover where Indy and Rick team up to fight Nazis, hasn't there?

... er, maybe that's just me, then.
Re: Indy 4 - (Anonymous) - Expand
From: daphne_23 Date: May 25th, 2008 09:17 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think I pretty much agree with your assessment - great fun, but completely silly :) I have seen Raiders of the Lost Ark and Temple of Doom, but so long ago I'd forgotten them, and I've never seen the third one, so anything related to the previous films went completely over my head...

On the alien element, I did find it a bit much, although suitable for the 1950s (I realise this is a fairly ridiculous PoV to take when I have no trouble accepting ancient curses and whatnot, but never mind). I would have been happy with the traditional ransacking tombs for ancient artefact plot. Ransacking tombs, always good :)
darth_pipes From: darth_pipes Date: May 25th, 2008 09:59 pm (UTC) (Link)
I saw it twice already and I loved it. Harrison Ford was great and the movie rested on him. Although the addition of Shia LeBeouf really made it work. I liked the character a lot and it's the interaction between him and Indy, as well as Indy and Marion that is the real heart of this film. I'd see a Mutt film myself.

I really dug the transition from 1930s serials to 1950s B science fiction films. It definitely works and I like how they captured the whole 50s vibe itself. But I've always been a fan of alien storylines of this kind.

There are some strong little scenes too, like Indy mourning the death of his father and Brody. Jim Broadbent filled in the role of Brody nicely here and I'm looking forward to him as Slughorn in Half-Blood Prince. The references to his WW2 service were pretty cool and it's the role I always thought he would play. Though I agree it might be hard for him to pull off spying in Germany. I also liked the reference to the Young Indiana Jones Chronciles when he told Mutt about his time with Pancho Villa. While the Nazis were into the occult, the Russians were into psychic and alien stuf so that worked. And I just dug the greaser/jock fight.

I liked the "They weren't you, honey" line, complete with Marion's theme from Raiders. The wedding was probably my all-time favorite Indiana Jones scene. Although I'm not sure if they could actually get married in a church, considering their illegitmate son was present. ;)
tree_and_leaf From: tree_and_leaf Date: May 26th, 2008 01:13 pm (UTC) (Link)
Although I'm not sure if they could actually get married in a church, considering their illegitmate son was present. ;)


Uh, yeah. Why on earth should that be a problem?
(no subject) - (Anonymous) - Expand
inkykate From: inkykate Date: May 25th, 2008 11:51 pm (UTC) (Link)
I have to admit: I loved it when Indy said "I have a bad feeling about this."

And, yes, it was a cheap way to get laughs, but... considering the whole alien plotline it seemed oh so appropriate. (And in hind-sight, Marion is a bit of Leia, and Mutt was a bit of a Luke.)

I wasn't crazy about the plot. Indy, and everyone else, probably would have been a bit more interested in something homegrown (and it wouldn't have been hard to come up with, honestly). It fit with the times - kinda - on the verge of the race for the final frontier, and Roswell, and all that. But it also made it feel like watching 'Stargate SG-1' and 'X-Files' (new movie this summer!).

And as for Indy/Marion, well... at least it wasn't Anakin/Padma (Episode III).
verdenia From: verdenia Date: May 26th, 2008 12:34 am (UTC) (Link)
Hee. Yes, I liked Marion and Mutt and the flick in general. It's been a long time since I had an uninterrupted viewing of any of the other ones--this is the first Indy film I've seen in a theater--so a bit tough to compare for me.
I did like the "they weren't you" line, cheese though it was!
"I like Ike!" Hee. Loved seeing it on the bomb too.

I'm into multi-dimesionality and stuff, but yeah...not as enthralled by these aliens as some other ones. ;p

Non-traditional text: I just assumed it was a more casual denomination, the church was so bright and simple. Or maybe it is at the college campus and the pastor is a colleague? Didn't bother me too much. I thought her wedding outfit was great. :P
tree_and_leaf From: tree_and_leaf Date: May 27th, 2008 09:11 am (UTC) (Link)
Non-traditional text: I just assumed it was a more casual denomination, the church was so bright and simple.

The thing is, it starts off sounding vaguely like the Book of Common Prayer (Anglican) and then veers off into something else entirely. The church itself just looks indeterminate low-church Protestant - it could be Presbyterian, Methodist, Unitarian, whatever (even if it is the college chapel, it would still have some denomintional affiliation).

The only character in the films I can think of where there's good evidence for their religious views is Marcus, who pretty much has to be either Roman Catholic or a very high church Anglican. Henry Jones Sr could be just about any variety of Christian (though I suspect that a hard line Calvinist probably wouldn't be all that interested in the Grail!), and Indy doesn't exactly give much indication of any sort of piety at all.
(Deleted comment)
darth_pipes From: darth_pipes Date: May 26th, 2008 03:43 am (UTC) (Link)
I wouldn't want to name my kid Abner.

Maybe Marion could have called him Abner Severus Jones. Or better yet...Abner Belloq Jones. ;)
marikenobi From: marikenobi Date: May 26th, 2008 05:03 am (UTC) (Link)
I loved Shia. I thought he fit right in. Some of the stuff was hokey, but I was expecting it to be.
tree_and_leaf From: tree_and_leaf Date: May 26th, 2008 01:08 pm (UTC) (Link)
And while I don't have any belief issues about extraterrestrial/extradimensional life--probably exists somewhere, whatever--I don't find myself feeling any awe about it, as I did about the Ark, the Sankara Stones, or the Grail. That may just be me and my own taste quirks, but I didn't feel like the script really sold any awe about it, either. It was fine as a device to hang other things on--had to be something, right? But I didn't feel like it had any real resonance for any of the characters, any more than it did for me. Even when they found the cave, they were more interested in the artifacts the aliens had collected from Earth cultures than in the actual alien artifacts.

Absolutely. Contrasts strongly with 'Close Encounters', where - though I don't have strong feelings about aliens one way or another - it did feel like it mattered to the people involved.

The FBI vs. military plot. Very 50s, so appropriate, but not very interesting.

I thought it had potential to be interesting, but it would have needed too much space to make it so - and it wouldn't really have been an Indy movie. I don't know if this makes sense, but it felt more like the premise for a fanfic....


The wedding. I'm really glad that he married Marion, but the wedding felt more like the '90s or '00s, with the nontraditional text, than it felt like the '50s.

I was wincing at the liturgy, but what really got me was Marion being married in white. I don't know about the States, but I can't see a widowed mother making that choice (and not being looked at really oddly) in the 50s in Britain.

fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 26th, 2008 03:36 pm (UTC) (Link)
I was wincing at the liturgy, but what really got me was Marion being married in white. I don't know about the States, but I can't see a widowed mother making that choice (and not being looked at really oddly) in the 50s in Britain.

Yeah, I seem to recall it being drilled into my brain that a second wedding would be in ivory or bone or something. (My grandmother's third and fourth have been in blue; I don't know about her second. Or first, for that matter.) On the other hand, Marion may not mind odd looks. It wasn't, at least, one of the lacy, frilly, long dresses, just a business-length white dress. Probably used just for visual shorthand of "It's a wedding." Since the LITURGY DOESN'T TELL US.

Wiki says that Ford and Spielberg argued with the concept of the skull as a plot device, but doesn't give the reference--who knows if it's true, right? But I can believe it. Apparently, the crystal skulls are New Age-y popular symbols, but as sjepstein says above, it might have been nice to have an artifact that resonated outside the Bay Area. I hadn't heard of them before this. The Sankara Stones appear to have been made-up artifacts, but Indy wasn't deliberately going looking for them, and they were sacred objects in one small area of India, which made it believable and awesome, because they were objects of faith. I guess aliens are objects of faith for some people, but, er... for me, not so much. If they exist, and they probably do, they're just Creations, like us.

ETA: I don't mean to imply that I can't see sacrality in faiths I don't share. I can find awe in Shinto altars, Hindu temples, Native American vision quests, all sorts of things. In a sort of general way, I'd say I'm pan-religious. But there are just a handful of things that I can't seem to connect to as religious objects, and that includes aliens and Elvis Presley. Interesting and talented (respectivley), but not really worshipful, per se. (Heh, the movie started with Elvis. Maybe the next one will be Mutt Jones and the Cradle of the King...) Nothing against people who do--whatever floats your boat, numenistically speaking--but neither is likely to work for me as a plot.

Edited at 2008-05-26 03:50 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous) Date: May 26th, 2008 04:16 pm (UTC) (Link)
well, I didn't really like the alien idea, but it is just a pretext for the movie, like all the other quests were, so I can live with it.

But nobody here spoke about the two scenes that I thought were horribly done, and a stupid copy of another movie. I'm speaking of the ants scene ("The Mummy") and Mutt-Tarzan with the useless monkeys. Those two things really spoiled my movie. And well, I've read a lot of interviews were the producers say "we wanted to do an old-style movie, we tried to use the minimum of CGI". So why put those 2 stupid useless scene that are both only based on CGI?

That was my big disappointment. But fortunatelly, Indy is still Indy and Mutt was a good surprise.
From: (Anonymous) Date: May 26th, 2008 08:59 pm (UTC) (Link)
Can I just say that it's so good to find another Indy fan? It seems to me from your review here that, unlike many who claim the same, you're an easy going fan who's not out to pull the new film to shreds. It's a fun movie and it fits well into the Indy formula, which isn't one of deep philosophy but rather fun and adventure and a damn entertaining time.

I agree with SO much of what you've said here but have found few others that do. On your list of little things you especially enjoyed I saw my own list! I'd add Indy's comment on Mutt's actions escaping from the camp as 'intolerable' because who didn't love Henry Jones senior saying that constantly to Indy in Last Crusade?

I too loved Mutt. I wasn't sure I would going into it but he was just such a fun character and totally in tune with the Indy universe. Shia did a great job. I loved his introduction, riding out of the fog on such a boss motorcycle. He was similar enough to Indy that it made me smile but different enough to make him a real character.

As for the plot, I'd agree that I wasn't crazy about it but I didn't have the same fight to pick as many. Okay, so there were aliens. Is that really any more unbelievable than someone ripping your heart out and then lowering your still living body into a lava-y pit? Or the Ark of the Covenant found and then the wrath of God smiting the nazis who opened it? It wasn't my favorite, but you can't say it was much more out of reality than the others.

I actually didn't mind Indy's and Marion's talk about the end of the relationship. The last line wasn't great, but the wide smile on Marion's face was worth it.

I cringed a little more at Mutt swinging through the jungle- not because of the swinging itself- a clear copy of Indy and his wip- but because of the little troop of monkeys that were swinging along with him. I thought it was a little much.
But I LOVED the sword fight on the trucks. That whole chase through the jungle was perhaps my favorite part of the movie, the sword fight being the highlight of that.

All in all, it wasn't perfect, it was never going to be, but it was better than a lot of people give it credit for.

You don't know me of course but as a big fan of Indiana Jones, I just had to comment because so many people I know were deeply disappointed in the film and weren't that excited about it to begin with. =(

I loved it the first time I saw it. I saw it again last night and for some reason it was even better.

(On another note, I also read a lot of your fanfiction and have to say that you have real talent! Your stories are so much fun and it's so clear that you enjoy writing them!)

Okay, I'm done now I think. There are just so many things I could say about the movie but you said it better I think. =)
From: (Anonymous) Date: May 26th, 2008 10:17 pm (UTC) (Link)

plot...

I didn't mind an alien plot per se, but I don't think this one worked because the characters, as you said, never seemed to engage in it. I watched IJatLC yesterday, and even though Indy intially gets involved only to find his father, he ends up personally engaging in the Quest in a way that never happened in this movie.

I also felt, as someone menitoned above, that some of the adventure scenes were straight from other Movies... I felt for the entirel last 1/3 of the movie that I was watching a Mummy Returns redaction... which shouldn't happen since Indian Jones made the Mummy movies possible!

But the characters were so very Indiana Jones, and that's what sold it in the end.

And the true title should have been Indiana Jones and the Message to Stay in School

~mary
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