He wasn't joking. And guess what? The movie lives up to its dreadful name. What a major disappointment...in so many ways.
To say I'm an Indiana Jones fan is an understatement. I saw Raiders of the Lost Ark when I was in 6th Grade, the same age as my daughter is now. It was the first film I saw multiple times in a movie theater. It was the film that inspired me to become a filmmaker. It was the film that made me worship a director known as Steven Spielberg and an actor known as Harrison Ford. It was a film, that if I watched it today, probably isn't as good as I remember. But it was a film that changed an industry, creating the summer blockbuster film and paving the way for National Treasure, The Mummy, Tomb Raider and more.
After 20 years, and with this much expectation, it's almost a given that I was going to be disappointed by the latest installment of Indiana Jones. How could any script possibly live up to my imagination? But I had high hopes seeing as all the key players (Spielberg, Lucas, Ford, and even Allen [the best Indy heroine ever]) were back on board. This wasn't a group of wannabe hacks raiding the Indy closet for cheap thrills -- these were the masters themselves. Which of course leaves me scratching my head in confusion after seeing their film. How is it that these folks don't understand their own movie as clearly as their fans do? Do they not understand the charm in the first one came from the originality and cleverness of the first script -- all of which have been turned into a silly video game mess in a SHITTY (yes, I said SHITTY) script by David Koepp. This is the BEST writer they could find?? One of the most coveted writing jobs of this century (yes, I would have sold my left foot for a crack at the script) and this dismal script is what they come up with?
Look, I'm not an action junkie. I don't need CGI to get my heart pounding. But I'll go along for the ride as long as it's fairly interesting and I care about the people involved. Where do I lose interest? I lose interest when our heroes are NEVER IN REAL JEOPARDY and go from one unrealistic, unbelievable obstacle after another as if stuck in a video game. Luckily, Harrison Ford still has enough charm to keep my butt in my seat. If this were National Treasure 8 or any Michael Bay film I would have walked out after 20 minutes. I went expecting to see an actual film -- not a stupid two-hour cartoon/video game. (SPOILER ALERT AHEAD)
Video Game moment #1: Indiana Jones escapes a nuclear explosion by hiding in a refrigerator. WTF?
Video Game moment #2: Indiana Jones is mocked by animated prairie dogs. WTF??
Video Game moment #3: Shia "Mutt" LaBeouf swings around the jungle like Tarzan or George of the freaking Jungle surrounded by CGI monkeys. This scene alone should be nominated for a Razzie.
Video Game moment #4: CGI ants devour people. WTF?
Video Game moment #5: The cast drives their boat down not ONE, but THREE GIGANTIC WATERFALLS and Indy never even loses his freaking hat!
I mean it just goes on and on and on. There's one ridiculous cartoon fight after another -- duels on speeding cars, bullets flying -- but never a moment when anyone is ever INJURED or in any kind of real danger. You would have thought that Geriatric Indy would have at least pulled a muscle swinging through the rafters like a Flying Wallenda. But there's not enough time in this movie to slow down and nurse a wound or have any conversation. Everything zips around so quickly because if it did slow down for even one minute then the audience would have time to figure out that the plot is pure monkey dung.
Besides the script atrocities, this big budget film also suffers from "crappy set design" syndrome. I did more with $1000 in set design on my no-budget TV pilot than this film did with millions. All of the sets looked obviously fake (ooh scary -- styrofoam walls covered in fake cobwebs) and looked as if recycled from National Treasure, the Universal Theme Park Mummy Ride, or the local high school's Halloween bash. Seriously, I never once thought I was actually in the jungle. It was obvious I was on a sound stage and could swear I saw a Production Assistant in the background putting some last minute cobwebs on a skull he bought from the Halloween Store down the street.
So why after 20 years did Lucas, Spielberg, and Ford finally greenlight this script and they move ahead on this dreadful mess? I'm assuming they did it for the payday. I'm assuming they knew it was "NOW OR NEVER." They had to cash in on the summer blockbuster phenomena they created before Harrison Ford was too old to use a whip. These guys are smart enough to know that an Indiana Jones film -- no matter how lame -- would bring in a boatload of money at the box office. They had to know that teens, and tweens, and kiddies are a lot less discerning than their parents and do enjoy the cheap thrills of video game entertainment. Because guess what? My kids enjoyed the film. And I found it mildly entertaining. It just wasn't what you expect from the BEST FILMMAKERS in the damn industry. Spielberg has proved he can make brilliant, relevant, and yes, adult films. This kiddie stuff is way beneath him at this point. He should have passed the directorial whip and let one of his own kids direct this fluff.
What was good about the film? I like that Harrison Ford's face is all wrinkly and scarred and hasn't been botoxed into some ridiculous grimace like the rest of his peers in Hollywood. I was surprised that I liked Shia LaBeouf as much as I did because I was expecting him to trot out his usual obnoxious, loud mouth, wise guy persona (the one that I hated in the dreadful Transformers movie). But at least, Spielberg and him showed restraint there.
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Dismal Sequels is one for the Hollywood producers -- and not the fans. It's a shallow moneymaking victory. There's no art involved. There's nothing memorable about this schlock. It reminds me of how Hollywood destroys the very things it creates. Take Pirates of the Caribbean for example. Like Raiders, it had a clever and original script that was way better than the audience expected. Unsurprisingly, its sequels were rushed into production in order to cash in on the hype. But the scripts were lame, the the films were annoying and unwatchable. However, nobody in Hollywood cares because they made a boatload of money. If they had taken a bit more time, they would have been able to satisfy the audience with good scripts and make money at the same time.
I'd be naive if I thought the film industry cares about entertaining the audience. If they did, they would want to create a film that had you coming back for more, not feeling gypped at the end of the night. I can guarantee that I will not sit through this film more than once. And I doubt my kids will clamor to watch it on DVD. It's disposable entertainment, nothing more.
And this is why I think TV currently has the edge on movies as far as storytelling goes. For example, I watch each episode of Lost at least three times. I will buy Lost on DVD and re-visit it again and again. At least on television, they know that you can't just hook 'em once and then follow-up with shitty scripts. You have to keep the level of storytelling up if you want to keep your audience. Filmmakers right now are lazy. They only care about luring the biggest audience on opening weekend, collecting their $8, and calling it a day. It's a crappy way to create entertainment and the reason I prefer to watch TV to films right now.
P.S. If anyone knows how to get a copy of Frank Darabont's version of Indy IV, I'd love to read it. Knowing that Lucas rejected it, tells me it probably had an actual story that made sense and didn't have any cutesy CGI animals in it.