Monday, June 16, 2008

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Red Herrings

IJ.pngLast week I went to see the 4th (and maybe final) installment of the Indiana Jones movie series.

Let me first start here: I think how much you like a movie is usually estimated by how well it delivers divided by what you were expecting from it when you went in. For example, The Incredibles knocked my socks off because I had heard almost nothing about it, but I loved every minute of it. "Great" divided by "almost nothing" equals "big winner". Transformers, on the other hand, came recommended as "the best movie ever made", but was only "pretty good" in my book, so in that case, "decent" divided by "best ever" only yields a mediocre rating.

Okay, back to IJ. To start, I'm going to skip over the biggest flaw -- the fact that this movie didn't manage to match the gritty "texture" of the originals. A lot could have been overlooked if they'd gotten that right. But they didn't, so I'll move on.

*Any* movie that's been this long in the works should have a fairly clean plot, right? Especially if it has George Lucas and Steven Spielberg's name attached to it. But no, oh no. This story is quite the opposite -- it's chock-full of non-sequiturs and red herrings, scenes that are carefully contrived and purposefully shown, yet seem to have zero connection to anything else in the movie.

Some examples:
  • What do the teenagers racing across the desert in the beginning have to do with anything? Absolutely nothing.

  • Indy manages to talk the Russians into throwing a whole bunch of gunpowder in the air that ends up flying to a central point where Indy could have used it to blow them all up! Cool! But does he? No no -- it just disappears and isn't heard from again.

  • In true McCarthyism style, the suits declare (roughly): "You are a person of interest -- significant interest." Lot of effort to include that scene, do we ever hear about that again?

  • Why did the boy take such deliberate efforts to haul the Harley to Peru? Does he ever even ride it there?

  • How about the rambling guy, why is he rambling? No obvious reason.

  • What happens to the main Russian girl again?
Some of the effects are neat, yes, but with dozens of plot leads that go nowhere, attitude inconsistencies (e.g. you just punched me in the face 2 minutes ago, but now we're friends and helping each other), rotten dialog, and sheer impossibilities (flying through the air in a refrigerator?), not to mention that the ending is a little ridiculous, this ends up being one of the worst assemblies of pretty-cool special effects shots I've ever seen.

I even half-expected the whole thing to be some sort of joke or Indy's dream or something. No such luck.

So save your money and just watch the trailer instead. You'll have a better and more memorable experience.

ps. FYI, some of the scenes appear to be built to remind you of the Disneyland ride (or vice-versa?).

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