* Minor Spoilers *
Koepp said shortly after the Indy IV announcement in Jan ’07, “I’m going to get my ass handed to me on some level, even by my fellow filmmakers or the audience.” Well, fanboys have pulled out their long carving knives, and Koepp better cover his ass. There have been some early screenings, and three reviews of Indy IV have hit the web.
They're not just bad – they’re scathing.
I'd like to highlight the reviews without revealing any major plot points, because it was interesting to read the various story-centered complaints from the fanboys, of all people, about high-brow things like lack of tension, under-developed or under-used characters, and too much dialogue, if you can believe that. First, ShogunMaster declared this to be the “Indiana Jones movie you were dreading:”
…I was kind of worried that (the trailers) seemed to be missing 'something'. That something was tension. During the whole of the movie, there was not a single moment that I thought our hero Mr. Jones was in any sort of peril or even significant inconvenience. In most cases, you were so many steps ahead of the characters that it was really just an arduous wait for them to get through it…
…The big problem with the movie is that the traps or perilous moments are completely ass-inine and ridiculous…
…Once Indy figures out Beef's heritage, he is non-stop complimentary towards every non-screwup thing he does (they would pause for mugs of adulation; just horrible)…
…Marion was actually really great when she was first introduced (about half way) and she and Indy have some good banter. But after that five minutes, she was sporting a big muggy smile as they continued on their adventure and she was never scared, worried, or nervous, even with the stupid moments that she tries to help (duck in a tree; you will cringe when you see it...)…
…And then we have Indy himself. He has a few lines that work and a million that don't. He just never shows signs of worry or distress. Again, no Tension…
The second reviewer, Languatron’s Bane, basically said “Yeah, that first guy who said the movie sucks? I see where he’s coming from.” He was nicer about his criticism, but then he tore it to shreds and waxed poetic about Rocky Balboa, of all films:
...the problem is that Lucas, Spielberg, and Ford are trying far too hard to give everyone what they think that they want. Look! It’s XXXX! Look! It’s XXXX! Look! It’s XXXX… The harder the film tries to cram in as much nostalgia and clever references to what’s gone before, the more achingly clear it is that this movie is an empty exercise. It’s all about trying to recapture lightning in a bottle. Nothing about this film stands on its own – it’s constantly leaning on the past, hoping we don’t notice that it doesn’t bring anything new to the franchise.
Ironically, the movie I kept thinking about as I watched it was Rocky Balboa, which I consider the best of the recent returns to the long-abandoned franchise wells. Stallone used nostalgia to further a new story – Rocky’s obsession with the past allowed the audience to relive some of their favorite moments, but it also showed us who Rocky is now – lonely, lost, a little pathetic. It used old story elements to tell something new. It showed us how an ancient, weary Rocky adapts to a new world, and in the process, it deepened our appreciation for the character and capped the franchise perfectly.
Crystal Skull goes in exactly the opposite direction. Ford is given plenty of asides and one-liners that acknowledge his age, but they’re just obligatory and have no bearing on the story. Indeed, Indy delights in showing up his Wrath of Khan-style Instant Son every chance he gets. And he absorbs more punishment in this thing than in all three of the previous movies combined, which just gets silly after awhile. He’s like Roger Moore at his View-to-a-Kill pruniest – no man of any age could withstand the crap they throw at him, and it’s even goofier to assume a geezer like this could.
And where Rocky Balboa succeeded by stripping the thing down to its essence, Crystal Skull bloats everything far beyond what this plot or these characters can sustain. Set pieces just sort of appear out of the ether, and each is bigger and more bombastic than the last, and none of them matter, because you don’t really give a rip what happens to anybody. Which is really sad, when you consider what an iconic character they’re throwing away.
Then a third positive review hit the web, said it wasn’t the worst in the series, maybe third on the list, and despite praise about “Spielberg magic” and some of the action scenes, was still full of sugar-coated complaints about plot points I won’t reveal.
It’s always interesting what the fanboys think. I will certainly be there like everyone else on opening day. I’ve been trying to bite my tongue about things I’ve heard and read, which were not good. Let me just say - my prediction is that we’ll be seeing for the first time what happens when a glorified fan script actually gets produced.