Monday, May 26, 2008

On the Debacle That Is Indiana Jones

I'll try and keep this above the line, but it may be hard. "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" is terrible.. a disgrace to the franchise... and the epitome of everything that is wrong about special effects-laden spectacles that have insinuated themselves into the culture of modern filmmaking.

Right from the opening scene, the artificiality of the film's overwhelming CGI effects removed me the experience. For God's sake, this is a scene in the desert in front of a warehouse and instead of feeling or even looking real, Speilberg chooses to shoot the whole thing against a blue screen. Is it too much to ask for a film crew to actually go on location in front of a warehouse (or hell, build a set!) and do filming? From there, the artificiality of "Indiana Jones" grows exponentially, placing us (unbelievably) inside an Amazon rain forest where a sword fight occurs on two jeeps (complete with cutesy humor where plant shrubs whack Shia Lebouf in the groin) that never once feels dangerous. Then we're given an episode where giant ants carry off a soldier into their pit. And on, and on, and on... each set-piece growing larger and more uninteresting due to the fakeness of their creation. The days of location shooting, which created such a great atmosphere in the first 3 Indiana Jones films, have been replaced by digital technology that continually usurps human drama, craving the attention of "bigger and bolder" while minimizing any tension between real people. I hate it. I hate the direction that modern Hollywood blockbusters are going. I hate that we can no longer trust our eyes about the images being displayed on the screen before us. For all I know, one scene in a 50's cafe between Lebouf and haggard 65 year old Harrison Ford (who looks and feels just as disingenuous as the entire film) didn't include anyone but Ford and Lebouf and everyone else was digitized. When we remove living, breathing people from the experience, we're left with empty, soulless images. "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" is certainly soulless.

Beyond the overall artificiality, this is a film made for 4 year olds. Now granted, the kid in me always appreciated the attempts at humor in the first 3 films, but here we're exposed to some sort of "Caddyshack" gopher observing the opening set-piece, cute flying monkeys that help Lebouf swing like Tarzan through the rain forest, and quirky one-liners that serve as nothing more than to draw in the uninterested, casual movie goer who tags along for 'dumb-downed' commercial appeal. It's sickening, cringe-worthy and yet another example of the wayward intentions of Lucas and Spielberg to cash in on a franchise that is bankrupt on new ideas, existing only to transform a nice series of films into yet another over-produced, digitized lie that'll do 400 million dollars. This is one of the worst movies I've ever seen. Now, did I manage to stay above the line? Probably not.


Chris Allen Gaubatz said...

It would be difficult to stay above the line on this one (where have I heard that phrase, sounds corporate...). I wanted to like this movie, I just walked away wondering how to get the boredom out of my system. I went to a gas station and watched people look at the pump, sigh, and then pump away. That was much more emotional than the latest yawn-a-thon installment of Indiana Jones. I know why Spielberg and the like can keep making soulless, cgi based films- because there are enough sentimental types like us that will buy tickets to these films hoping to awaken our child within. If we keep watching junk like this, that child will die a slow, painful death. dude here.

Fletch said...

Amen! I agree 100% with your entire review. Mine will most likely look similar.

Evan Waters said...

So I take it you don't like animated films either. No living, breathing people there.

Joseph B. said...


Spot-on about the reasons why these films are made. And you know.. I bought into it too, buying a ticket and adding $9 bucks to the their pockets.

Evan, there are certainly some animated films that transcend the genre (namely "The Iron Giant") but with those films, at least you know what you're getting. Going into "Indiana Jones" which is supposedly about Harrison Ford and other flesh and blood characters, all we got was a fake experience and shoddy CGI. At least with an animated film, I understand that everything will be artificial. Huge difference.

Evan Waters said...

But not everything was fake. Heck, there was a lot more live action than most action movies these days.

I don't consider the picture "soulless" at all either, and the rhetoric about killing one's inner child- errant nonsense. It's one thing to dislike a film, but my inner child is feeling fit as a fiddle, thank you very much.

Joseph B. said...


With all due respect, how can you honestly say there was more live action than other films? The ENTIRE jeep sequence was CGI, the ending was completely CGI (facing off against some metaphysical aliens), the opening warehouse sequence was probably just 12 boxes or so piled on top of each other with the surrounding being CGI. I even doubt they were in that 50's cafe or that jungle camp where Marion makes her entrance. With films like "Iron Man" and "Transformers" I expect a CGI world because, well hell, its metal guys and robots flying around the city smashing things to bits. With "Indiana Jones" and the blah blah, its a franchise that has successfully, in the past, created enormously entertaining worlds with REAL people in eye popping location shoots. The latest is a huge digital representation of nothing but blue screens... and that's why its empty and "souless" as I called it.

weepingsam said...

I haven't seen the latest Indy, but I am leery about it, and CGI is a reason... the early ones worked - they are among the very few American action films I've liked in the last 30-35 years - and I think their human scale is a big part of it. Which may or may not be violated by the CGI - but it does tend to take the weight and resistance away from the action, and it's weight and resistance that gives them human scale. I like some CGI films enough - I liked Speed Racer way more than I ever would have imagined - but that's partly because it's substituting surface for weight. (Which is true of some of the other recent action films I've liked, like the last Bourne movie - it's all on the surface - everything is patterns and lights on the screen)... I liked the Indy films for the same reason I liked Hong Kong action films, or films like that French parkeur film, B13 - they're very much about things moving in space... So I worry about this.