Saturday, May 10, 2008

Early Reviews of Indy IV


* 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.

-MM

10 comments:

Kevin Lehane said...

These reviews make my heart sink.

Craig said...

Ah, well: Armond White to the rescue!

Mystery Man said...

Be of good cheer, Kevin! It'll still be fun and fun to analyze regardless of how good or bad it may be.

-MM

Mystery Man said...

Armond White?

At this point, I imagine more positive reviews of Indy IV will surface and they'll thank Spielberg for what he's done for them, as all the fanboys try to save face with Mr. Spielberg and not get cut off from all the HW goodies they have grown so accustomed to receiving so that certain films get promoted to a large marketing niche. And these critical thoughts will be buried as quickly as they surfaced, but make no mistake, their true feelings are visible in full fanboy glory.

-MM

Carlo Conda said...

There was tonnes of dialogue that fell flat in Temple of Doom (along with its contrived romance plot) and The Last Crusade. It didn't make the movies bad, though. They were spectacular.

People are going to be looking at Crystal Skull more critically than the others Jones movies. Cheesy lines, which are accepted in the first 3 Indies as tone-setters and lovely bits of character, will instead be seen as bad lines alltogether.

Also, the retro feel of Indy, if still withstanding in Crystal Skull, may have an effect on how critics recieve it. I mean, action scenes from Indy 1 are somewhat slow compared to action scenes in today's movies, and the comedy, romance, villains, and plot, if all kept Indiana-esque and oldschool, may feel outdated to today's modern audience.

To fans, they may feel like the movie is a cop out -- like it is trying too hard to be like the other Indies. One must wonder what people would say about The Last Crusade if it was released in 2008 instead. Would people think they added the father into the story simply to spice things up? Would they find the ending a little TOO fantastical compared to Raiders of the Lost Ark? Would they be complaining that they disposed of Marion? Would they think there was hardly enough dungeon spelunking?

I mean, The Last Crusade had it's faults, but it was "all good" back then. The pros outweighed the cons. However, I feel that if this movie was released in 2008, it may be judged more heavily on it's negatives (which are basically a part of Indiana Jones's tone to begin with).

But I'll save my final judgement for when I see Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. :P

Craig said...

Armond loves, loves, loves Spielberg.

Kevin Lehane said...

I LOVE Temple of Doom and every time people lay criticism at it, it feels like an attack on my taste. The film is a HOOT, a HOOT I tells ya. Goddammit, just enjoy it for what it is ... BRILLIANT.

Mickey Lee said...

I'm right with you Kevin. Love, love, LOVE "Temple of Doom."

Just remember this:

Roger Ebert: four stars
Pauline Kael: four stars

And the action scenes in TOD STILL stand up today. The last hour of that movie has yet to be topped in intensity

Jim said...

LMMFAO! Armond White. Oh, yeah, White will dive headlong into the most foreboding hell to rescue his boy Spielberg from the judgement of all those ignorant and inferior colleagues of his and the sheep who read them.

David Alan said...

This news doesn’t come as a huge surprise. I figured they would screw the pooch on this one. Though, it wasn’t exactly hard to predict. I mean, you have Lucas running around telling us not to expect too much from the sequel. Then on top of that, Koepp is expressing zero confidence in his fanboy material. By the way, what kinda shit is that? How does he get work?

Anyway, I agree with you that he better cover his ass. After all, his fanboy approach will easily be the Hundred Million Dollar Mistake. And what constitutes a fanboy script? Well...

...bringing Marion back...
...having Indy swinging from the rafters like he’s fucking Tarzan...
...giving Indy a kid...
...bringing us back to the infamous warehouse...
...and having no original ideas or MacGuffin.

Yep.

They just switched hemispheres and bad guys. That’s it. Instead of European myths, they give us a Mayan (sp?) one. Instead of the Nazis looking for the supernatural artifact, they make it the Russians.

Man, I really wish they would have left the Indy franchise alone. Also, if they knew it was gonna suck big time, why make the movie? That’s what I don’t get. Do they not care? I care! And I’m not even a fanboy. I just want to see an entertaining movie.

But all this brings me to a question that’s been lingering in my head for awhile --

When did Spielberg and Lucas lose their balls?

Seriously, can somebody help me out here? Do they just fall off at a certain age? Damn. Spielberg hasn’t made a good movie since Saving Private Ryan (1998). Ah, and Lucas, can you make a film that has nothing to do with a galaxy far, far away? Don’t you think that that movie has run its course? It’s time to move on! And what happened to the magic these two had? These genius fuckers invented the blockbuster, and the Crystal Skulls is the best they can come up with? I think the problem is that they are too fucking rich. Yeah, that has to be it. If they were struggling, I think we’d be seeing a totally different movie this summer. A movie with balls! But no, we get the lazy fanboy version that’ll give us a sense of closure.

And this --

"The concept, action, characters, and storyline, which was created in collaboration with Spielberg and built upon years of treatments by other pros, will undoubtedly be superior to anything an amateur’s going to write or conceive."

-- is utter horseshit.

Everybody can do better than this. In fact, I’m going to bang out a story right now. Here we go...

Indy and Brody’s twenty-year-old daughter Maggie are taking a sailing trip to Singapore to spread Brody’s ashes. Indy’s taking care of her now that she’s lost both parents.

And while on the Celebes Sea, in dead of night, the R'ni attack. Indy and Maggie are quickly subdued. Next moment, Indy is awakened by a voice -- that of the leader. Indy is reminded he owes a debt to the R'ni. They hand him map fragments and snatch away Maggie. And in order to pay his debt and get Maggie out of hock, Indy has to go down to an off-the-map island and retrieve a fissionable mineral. This mineral will fuel an ancient machine that’ll lead Earth to its salvation. And if Indy doesn’t return within three days, Maggie will be enslaved to the R'ni services. So off Indy goes to --

Australia

When he arrives he asks a dock worker where he can find the owner of the only seaplane. The dock worker points to a repair shop. Indy arrives and goes to confront the owner -- a ne'er-do-well named Rachel, who is finishing up an argument with the mechanic over money. Just prior to leaving, Rachel grabs a set of keys, and ignores Indy as he asks for help -- but Indy persists.

And as they leave the building, a group of corrupt officers enter unbeknownst to Indy -- but maybe not to Rachel. Indy follows her into a Jeep. She tries to kick him out. No dice. The officers have spotted her. She takes off. Indy realizes. There’s a huge car chase. The officers wreck the jeep.

The officers pull Rachel out and leave one of their own behind. The officer draws his gun on Indy, and Indy flips him over hard on the ground. And with his face on the ground, the officer tells Indy where they took her. Indy grabs his gun and steals his car.

Indy is in the apartment building. The short of it is that a massive shootout erupts during which Indy is injured. They flee. However, two officers survived and chase the two of them on foot through the crowded streets to the docks -- where Indy and Rachel start the seaplane and fly off. And on the --

Seaplane

The two have a very friendly chat as Rachel tends to his wounds and Indy deciphers the map fragments. At the end of the conversation Indy identifies the precise location of the island. Next day Indy and Rachel reach --

The Island

A walkway leads them to an intact town. But bones are all over the place. The inhabitants appear to have simply lost the will to live and killed themselves by drinking the Kool-Aid. Rachel finds a journal from a body.

She gives Indy the journal that reveals a bunch of enslaved miners rose against their R'ni masters. The miners that survived, however, had nowhere to go and just committed suicide -- then Indy and Rachel go to where the miners made their stand, Sector 21, which is a dam.

Exploring the dam with Rachel -- and in the process passing a wall picture (a mining facility that’s situated over a quarter-of-a-meteor that’s imbedded in the ocean floor) dubbed Sector 8 -- Indy finds a mini-sub/mine-car (dubbed "The Cannonball" for the way it looks). The two of them then reactivate the dam.

The Cannonball rides along a tram-and-rails system and takes the two to Sector 8, deep within the ocean, where they find lots of fissionable minerals.

But the fissionable minerals carry a price -- a curse from the miners that mined the meteor: each one who owns the mineral will share ill fate through the elements and all things that fall.

Indy takes a chunk of mineral and puts it into his backpack. All is fine until the two of them go to leave with the fissionable mineral, setting off a mammoth quake inside the facility. Water starts flooding in. They then proceed to have an eventful escape from drowning and the island.

Seaplane

Back aboard in relative safety, Rachel punches Indy for endangering her, then declares her intention to leave him when she stops to refuel.

Okay, great. I think that’s far enough. So, what do you guys think? Not bad for off-the-cuff, huh?

Okay, so maybe I went a bit overboard with the whole "I’m better than Spielberg and Lucas" thing. But the main points come across, I think. This movie should’ve never been made. Actually, I’m just going to pretend Crystal Skulls was never made. Oh, hell. I’ll probably see it. But as George Lucas said, "One bad decision can undo a thousand good ones." Next time he should check himself.

-- David Alan