Thursday, May 22, 2008
George Lucas and the Kingdom of Sabotaged Trilogies
The best that can be said of the new Indiana Jones move is that it is 100 percent unnecessary. It's not a complete desecration of the franchise, and it doesn't commit the sacrilege of trying to attribute Indy's wit to tiny bacteria in his bloodstream. But the whole thing hardly seems worth the effort.
When you take a property this esteemed off the shelf for another go-round, you have to make a pretty damn good justification for doing so. I wouldn't drag my 85 year old World War II hero grandfather out of bed to help me settle a dispute with my neighbor over the overgrown rhododendron bushes. There had better be fucking Nazis marching down our street, and they had better be running up on his lawn stealing his newspaper. So to dust off the Indy franchise, which had a perfectly holistic and satisfying conclusion in 1989, for what could be confused for a fan-fiction graphic novel incarnation, seems like Lucas and Spielberg are stubbornly unaware they are playing fast and loose with a film legacy.
Yes, Harrison Ford is old — and perhaps several years of making depressingly disappointing movies from K-19 to Firewall have taken their toll on his swagger as well as his prestige — but aging movie icons are big these days (see Rambo, Rocky, Adam Sandler). I can't help but think this movie might have been better if instead filling the 19-off-screen years with lots of super-secret government work and other off-screen exposition, we joined Indy as a retired adventurer, someone who has hung up the whip and hat and settled into a nice life of tenured professorship.
It would take a lot to pull him off the bench again, just as it should have taken a lot to pull this character out of the cabinet. Then we could see Indy reconciling with his past, rediscovering the emotional rush of adventure and paving the way for his own lineage to continue. There's hints at social commentary, but Spielberg and co. back off right away, opting instead for a narrative that chooses action over human connection but achieves neither.
Some good parts are still there: the punches still sound like hunks of thawing meat smashing into each other at 50 mph and Karen Allen's (Terp!) smile shines as the film's only other tie to its other chapters.
The mythology and MacGuffin of the movie could probably have worked if they didn't transgress from kinda weak to downright silly. In the end, it turns out the frustrating climax would have transpired exactly the same regardless of the previous hour and a half of CGI fights and monkey chases (yes, monkey chases).
There's nothing iconic about this film whatsoever, and I'll wager that even the oft-maligned Temple of Doom will stir up pangs of nostalgia among fans after seeing this clunker. (I have a soft spot for Temple after watching it 97 times on a taped-from-TV video as a kid, plus don't tell me you've never tried to rip someone's heart out from their chest or informed someone there is no time for love, Dr. Jones. I know you have.)
Instead, we got a collective feeling of: "Why bother?" Basically, someone should probably lock George Lucas in a room without any access to his previous body of work. Unless he plans to remake Howard the Duck, and finally give Jeffrey Jones his post-child-pornography conviction renaissance.
A commenter named Thumb from Slashfilm pretty much sums it up: