File this under: Things I really, really want to own even though it’s kind of tacky.
I found this 13×19-inch limited-edition print by Dutch artist Patrick Schoenmaker at the new online Indiana Jones Shop (which, incidentally, is like my own personal Internet heaven). It’s gorgeous, don’t you think?
Seeing this makes me want an Indiana Jones cartoon or series of full-length animated movies. Maybe that’s the future of the franchise? I’d be okay with that.
It is, it can, and boy does it ever!
Those are the answers to the burning questions I had going into Indy 4:
- Is it any good?
- Can it live up to the hype?
- Does it add anything new to the Indiana Jones mythos?
Put another way: I thought it would be good, and yet it was even better than I thought it would be. While you chew on that, HERE COME THE SPOILERS!
Just like the previous movies in the series, Kingdom of the Crystal Skull opens with a shot of the old Paramount logo that quickly fades into the live-action scene. But just as we’re beginning to feel like we’re in familiar territory, Spielberg changes the game with an opening sequence that plants us firmly in a time and place wholly unfamiliar to the Indy universe: The 1950s.
Nevada, 1957, to be exact.
What happens next is about 20 minutes of sustained brilliance, as Indy is literally dumped into the scene by Russian agents who’ve kidnapped him from a dig somewhere in Mexico and brought him to a U.S. miliary base in the American Southwest. Why? To help find a certain artifact he helped recover years earlier.
My first thought: It’s the Ark of the Covenant! The warehouse looks the same, the musical cues from John Williams’ score harken back to Raiders, and if the Nazis wanted the Ark why not the Russians, too?
And this is where Spielberg played me like a fool, because while the Ark is there, it’s cleverly thrown into the scene as an in-joke at the end. No, the artifact the Russians are after is something much different: Alien remains from the Roswell crash. (Say what?! How cool is that!?)
I stopped trying to guess after that and just sat back to enjoy the ride.
Here’s what I took away from my first viewing.
- The man with the hat. Harrison Ford plays the aging Indy just right. This is the same guy we last saw riding off into the sunset in the Canyon of the Crescent Moon, but he’s older and a little more world-weary. Ford fully inhabits the character. You feel like he’s earned every gray hair under that hat.
- The references to previous adventures. The screenplay carries on a time-honored tradition of hinting at Indy’s off-screen exploits, i.e. the adventures we didn’t get to see. He was a colonel in World War II! He was called in to help investigate the Roswell crash! He practically left Marion standing at the altar after Raiders!
- Speaking of Marion… Karen Allen is great. Though their scenes together are too few, they still have great chemistry. The instant bickering when they first meet in the jungle is vintage stuff.
- The tribute to Marcus Brody. Marcus performs a brilliant stunt from beyond the grave. Nice touch.
- Mutt. I feared he would be the next Jar Jar. Instead, young Henry Jones III turned into a great sidekick. (He’s still no Short-Round, though.)
- The Macguffin. I appreciated the way the screenplay kept giving us hints and nudges in the direction that the Crystal Skull might be of extraterrestrial origin. By the time we finally learn that, yes, this thing was left behind by aliens interdimensial beings, we and Indy are a little more willing to accept it because a solid foundation has been laid to get us there.
- The stunt work. There are some amazing chase sequences here. The best bit is actually Mutt’s swordfight with…
- Agent Spalko! Cate Blanchett gives us the best Indy villain since Toht in Raiders. She’s a scene stealer.
- Young Indy! When Indy mentions he rode with Pancho Villa, it’s a reference to the Young Indy TV series. Another nice touch.
- Area 51. So that’s where they stored the Ark. An absolutely inpired idea. Genius!
- Monkey business. Did we really need that Tarzan scene with Shia? Probably not. Then again, I laughed and it reminded me not to take this stuff too seriously. But I’d still have left that on the cutting room floor.
- Ray Winstone. I suppose he did as much as he could with the character, but Mac really served no purpose after the opening sequence, and the whole traitor-among-us bit was done already in Last Crusade. Actually, this is part of a larger gripe…
- Too many characters. By the time Indy starts dragging Oxley around with him, there are just too many characters holding him back. When I think back to the best action scenes from the previous films, they all feature Indy getting by on his own. I wish they could have found a way to have Indy take on the final challenges in the lost city alone.
- Not enough whip work. After 19 years, I wanted to see more whip action. I just did.
And that’s it. Notice how I didn’t include the aliens interdimensional beings in the not-as-good category? Personally, I loved it. It fits the vibe of the 1950s setting, and having Indy be involved in the Roswell recovery was brilliant.
So welcome back, Doctor Jones. It’s been far too long!
Saw it. Loved it. Grinned like a 10-year-old the whole time. More later.
Today I’ll finally get to see Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. My full-scale media blackout has been a success—I’m going in mostly spoiler-free beyond what I could figure out on my own from the trailers anyway, and as for reviews I’ve read not a one. This is as close to a blank slate as I could possibly be given my 10 hours a day spent on the Internets. Ready or not, it’s time for Indy 4!
When Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menance hit theaters nine years ago, the build up to it was immense. I’ll never forget clamoring around a computer monitor at work (first with my fellow geeks at Marvel in late 1998 and then with my fellow geeks at Wild Web during the spring of ’99) to watch the trailers and marvel at the sheer awesomeness of them. Nowhere, not even in the deepest, darkest, remotest recesses of my mind, was there even a shred of doubt. Phantom Menace was going to be AWESOME.
Well, we all know how that worked out.
I had tickets for opening night, but I still had to make it through the day at work, and I wasn’t particularly careful about avoiding reviews. While most were overwhelmingly negative, I clung to this one by Roger Ebert, who called it “an astonishing achievement in imaginative filmmaking.” (WTF, Roger?)
Still, doubt had sunk it. Was Jar Jar really that bad? Was Anakin really such a little twerp? Was the acting really THAT wooden?
It was all I could think about waiting in line later that night. Then the movie in front of us got out, and people started walking out of the theater. They were quiet. Most looked defeated. A few were shaking their heads. Not a good sign, but still I held out hope. It couldn’t be that bad, could it?
It could, and it was.
The worst thing, though, was that I started checking my watch about an hour into the movie. I wasn’t angry, I wasn’t sad—I was BORED. I mean, there were some cool things in there. Darth Maul’s double-bladed lightsaber was and still is pretty awesome. (Okay, actually that’s about it for the cool stuff—though as I discovered just recently, there was actually a halfway decent movie buried in there). But overall, I have never been more disappointed by a movie than I was while leaving the Liberty Tree Mall that fateful day in May 1999.
All of this is a long way of saying I’m terrified of Indy 4.
Rationally, I know that there’s no way it will give me the same kind of thrill that Raiders and Temple and Last Crusade did, because I was a kid then and kids see things through a different lens. Yet I want it to, anyway. I want to spend the two hours in that theater on Saturday with a stupid, silly grin on my face, and I want to walk out feeling like I’m ten years old again.
You can’t turn on the TV without seeing Indy these days. I think SCIFI and USA are showing the original trilogy in a perpetual loop or something. So I see these movies, and I love them, and I forgive all of their many flaws without even blinking an eye. But still I’m scared Indy 4 will let me down.
So what to do about Kingdom of the Crystal Skull? How do I enjoy it in a post-Phantom Menace world? Do I temper my expectations and hope it doesn’t completely ruin the originals for me by virtue of its overwhelming suckitude, or do I go in with childlike expectations and hope against all odds that it somehow delivers the goods? Is it fair to put those kinds of demands on any movie?
As Indy himself once said: I don’t know, I’m making this up as I go along.
I guess I’ll find out on Saturday!
At least, that’s what the Boston Globe calls it. I know this because, despite my best efforts to remain spoiler- and opinion-free going into Saturday’s matinee viewing, reviews are starting to pop up everywhere online.
Today I saw a review summary at the frickin’ top of Boston.com’s homepage. My only consolation: It looks like a very positive review. Not that I’d know for sure, of course, because I… will… not… click… on… it. But oh, boy, do I ever want to.
It’s going to be a very long week.
Photo taken at Mystery Hill, New Hampshire, circa 1985. Note my authentic Indiana Jones hat and somewhat-less-authentic pleather jacket. How long have I been looking forward to Indy 4? Only all my life.
Before it completely fades from the national consciousness, I want to point out one thing about this whole “Spygate” nonsense that no one else wants to discuss: namely, just how widespread the illegal video taping practices may have been throughout the league. In his recent interview with the New York Times, former Patriots video assistant Matt Walsh shared this little tidbit of information:
There was one time that I was filming and another team had set up their third video guy right next to me in our stadium. And when our team was on defense, I looked over at him, and he was angling his camera toward our sideline. I didn’t ask him about it, because I was doing the same thing he was. But after the game, I went and told Romeo Crennel, “The next time we play this team, you may want to change your signals, because I think they’re doing to us what we do to them.”
Catch that? They’re doing to us what we do to them. Shocker! the Patriots weren’t the only ones doing it. Now, call me crazy but if I’m a New York Times reporter and Matt Walsh lays that on me, my next question is probably about the identity of that other team. Where’s the follow up? It never comes, because everyone already knows that everyone else was doing it.
You wanna say the Patriots broke the rules? Fine. It happened. They did it, they got caught, they got punished. End of story. Or so you’d think. Instead everyone outside of New England has taken on this ridiculous holier-than-thou attitude about it, as if their teams are beyond reproach.
And that’s fine. You can take that stance, as long as you’re not a fan of:
1. The Miami Dolphins, who in December 2006 purchased audio tapes of the Patriots offensive play calls and then used those tapes to pick up quarterback Tom Brady’s cadence and audible calls so they could scheme their blitz packages around his protection calls and pick up his audibles. Where’s the outrage of over audiogate?
2. The Super Bowl champion San Francisco 49ers of the 1980s, who cheated the NFL’s salary cap structure in order to get Steve Young, Brent Jones, Lee Woodall, and Jim Druckenmiller under contract. Think those players made a difference?
3. The Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos of the 1990s, who also circumvented the salary cap between 1996 and 1998 in order to keep superstars John Elway and Terrell Davis under contract. With those two players leading the way, the Broncos won two championships. I demand an asterisk!
4. The Carolina Panthers, who had three key members of its 2004 squad get nailed for steroids within two weeks of their Super Bowl appearance—against the Patriots, no less!
5. The mystery team identified by Matt Walsh as also violating the league’s video taping rules. Hey, sports fans—you 100 percent sure it wasn’t your team?
Point is, everyone’s doing something in the NFL. The Patriots got caught and paid the price. That ought to be the end of it.