I made the mistake of going to Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull with some of my younger colleagues. If I hadn’t I might have been able to convince myself that it was half decent. But I did. And I can’t. They laughed at its characters, jeered at its dependence on hokey computer graphics, and scorned its ridiculous plot devices. (He survives a thermo-nuclear device by hiding in fridge?? C’mon man, that thing’d be melted to nothing!) I did my best to turn the conversation to other things. One hates to give up on an old friend.

The cruelest cut of all came from those with a knowledge of what the original shows were about. (Hey, the originals were stories about the supernatural and the mythical, but they never got into science-fiction, did they?) No they didn’t. Yes, this one unfortunately does, and yes, it is weaker because of that. Another betrayal by George Lucas. Ho-hum.

The problem with this franchise is that twenty years have come and gone since the last one. Indy used to be a smart romp through exotic locales, but then Tomb Raider upped the ante on that with backdrops in Cambodia and Africa. Harrison may have been smart and hunky, but Angelina was smart and hot. The series was also known for its CGC, great for its day, but the Matrix series has come and gone and nothing in this show held a candle to that stuff. Indy also had some pretty good live action stunts in its day, but after the Bourne series, they look pretty slow and stodgy as well.

Oddly enough, for an action series, the strength of the original came down to the characters, and not just Ford’s laconic Indiana, but Denholm Eliot’s Marcus Brody, John Rhys-Davies’ Sallah, and of course Sean Connery’s Dr. Jones Sr. None of the current crop are convincing or even interesting. Even the remarkable Cate Blanchett,  seems lost in her black wig-helmet and is unable to project any serious malevolence. Shia Lebeof is a wuss with no presence, and Karen Allen, back as a motherly Marion Ravenwood is game, but lame. Her shots with Harrison Ford are difficult to watch, remembering their former sparkle, and their kiss at the end is actually painful to see.

I’m glad I went. Some things you just have to see. But I’m sorry they did it. I know you’ll see it regardless of my advice to the contrary. But then you’ll wish you hadn’t. Some things are better left in the past.

 

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