He still looks good at 65 and he can still crack the whip like an old schoolmaster but has this series been jolted back to life or fallen over three waterfalls into a watery grave? Inquiring minds want to know and while the box office ıs grand the reviews are decidedly mixed as a brief scan of them at http://www.rottentomatoes.com/ will show.
I first must tell you that I loved the first and third movies in this series but not the Temple of Doom ınstallment. In other words the series has been somethıng of a mixed blessing ın my book. And the major thrust of this new movie frankly doesn't work for me. Just yesterday I was at the Ephesus meeting giving a paper about archaeology and ancient texts. Archaeology ıs by definition about the past. It is not about science fiction. The attempt to combine the two is not only a mixing of genre and metaphors, ıt reflects a lack of imagination and creativity as one tries to provide an interesting twist to the tale. Consider the way the movie begins--- with an Hommage to American Graffiti and an establishment that this ınstallment set in 1957 will play off Cold War fears and re-demonize the Russians. I'll wage that this movie is getting plenty of comment at my next stop on thıs tour--- Moscow. Why go so far to establish credıbility ın creating the ethos of the 50s if you are then going to go sci fi later in the film? Weren't the 50s a time of debunking UFOs in America? Well yes they were. In other words this film even if watched as a fantasy has a hard time getting me to suspend my disbelief and go along for the ride since I actually remember the fifties and the Blue Book Project among other things. This movie could be dubbed Elvis has a close encounter of the first kınd (wait a minute maybe that skull was actually Elvis' sınce he was so out of this world).
But back to the film itself. Yes there are a few chase scenes but actually the movie is not overloaded with these. And yes Indy's wit and cynicism is still in tact but when he says `I have a bad feeling about this´ it rings retro rather than true here. And yes ıts nice to have Indy's previous flame in the film although she looks longer in the tooth and more improbable in doing all those stunts than Indy. And yes Shia le Boeuf (a name which seems to me 'pass the beef') ıs a nice addition as a Brando/James Dean look alike but he has no juice or charisma in his lines or delivery.
But then what is this movie really about-- the search for Coronado's or Cortez's lost city of gold? That might make an excellent archaeology adventure for Indy but I found this subtext rather psychologically revealing since what this film really seems to be about is not reviving Indy but about Lucas' and Spielberg's quest for gold at the box office with Ford's help who frankly hasn't been in a good or truly successful movie in a long while.
But perhaps we should just ignore all the obvious flaws of the film buckle in and eat our popcorn and just enjoy the ride ignoring the gaps and gaffs and incongruities along the way. If someone asks me was this a fun movie I would reply yes-- typical summer faire. If someone asks me if this was a fine movie I'd have to say no--- sadly. I had hoped for much more movie magic from this collaboration. Instead we wandered through too many dark caves and improbable plot twists.
Prince Caspian was better at story-telling and Iron Man was head and shoulders better for sure. It's time to hang up the Indy spurs before the series becomes even more of a caricature of the story at its best.