Thursday, June 19, 2008

Indy, the Later Years

It took me long enough, but I've finally seen Indiana Jones. In pure fangirl fashion, this review will be like no other I've written. This kind of movie isn't about characterization and acting and story development. It's about how it relates to the franchise.

What keeps people coming back for franchise movies has nothing to do with the special effects or the amazing storytelling. It's the characters. Why do you think Ripley is in every single Alien movie? No one cares about the Aliens; people care about how Ripley handles the Aliens.

So, of course, after 19 years in hibernation, fans the world over went a bit giggly when the first teaser trailer of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull hit. We didn't care what Dr. Jones was after, we cared that Dr. Jones was going to be back! We wanted the signature smirk under that perfectly aged fedora. We wanted to see the whip in action, and we wanted to experience the deadpan comedy that goes with Indy and his various cohorts.

For the most part, that's what I got--an entertaining reunion with an old friend. Unfortunately, my old friend gets a little lost in an over-complicated plot with absurd (even for Indy standards) situations.

Please don't get in an uproar because I didn't fall head over heels in love with Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. I had fun. I was entertained. I just threw my arms up in the air and mumbled, "Oh please" a couple of times. One of those times was at the end. Yes, the ending that everyone's not supposed to talk about. I now know why! The doozy is Indy surviving something no one should be able to walk away from. Let's just say refrigerators were obviously made with airbags back in the day.

Enough about what I didn't like. Let's talk about what I enjoyed. I loved that the script acknowledged Indy's age without throwing it in my face. Greaser Mutt Williams (Shia LeBeouf) has one of the best lines in the movie, "What are you? Eighty?" It's exactly what the audience needed to stop thinking about how old Harrison Ford is and concentrate on the fact that he can still command a whip and kick the bad guys' asses.

I also loved, loved, LOVED the signature Spielberg chase scenes. We get treated to three in this movie, and I found myself smiling from ear to ear with each one. (Sidenote: the one in the Amazon had a few of those absurd over-the-top moments, but for the most part, they all worked.)

Thank you, Steven Spielberg, for bringing back Karen Allen. As I said before, audiences return to franchise movies because they are in love with the characters, and I've always loved--and dearly missed--Marion. The second she enters the scene, it's like we're back in that little tavern in Nepal. She and Indy haven't seen each other for 20 years or so, but their fighting picks up where it left off, with no qualms about the fifty or so Russians standing around threatening their lives.

The bottom line is that Harrison Ford can still kick butt, even if it's a little slower now. Shia LeBeouf's Mutt makes for a great sidekick--much better than (sorry, folks) Short Round could ever be. Cate Blanchett plays a decent villain, and Karen Allen's Marion is just as fiery as she ever was.

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