Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Don't look Marion, whatever you do, don't open your eyes!

Please note that spoilers are contained within!

With a combination of trepidation and optimism I decided to go with a few friends to see the new Indiana Jones movie. The intrepid Dr. Jones' adventures had always captivated me during my childhood and I'm sure his unique brand of archeology made many a child say to his parents, "I want to be an archeologist when I grow up." Because really, who wouldn't want to learn history by shooting at Nazis and riding in mine carts? Alas, I have yet to meet an archeologist that has ran away from a humongous rolling boulder, or tripped a booby trap in a cobweb-filled ruin. Perhaps I'm not moving in the right social circles.

It's been a while since a good old adventure story has come around and I was looking forward to seeing if Lucas and Spielberg could dust off Indy and bring him back to life again. There is a real chance that Indiana Jones' time has come and gone. I'm not even talking about Harrison Ford's age; it's a steep challenge as the number of adventure movies have dwindled in favor of more action-centered fare. In fact, the only adventure movie I could think of in recent memory was National Treasure and I didn't even see it.

Their answer to entice the younger crowd to go see our aging Indy was to bring in a kid -- and not just any kid, Indy's kid. To me this is warning sign that a series is ending. Name one sit-com or movie series that was saved from the specter of low ratings by introducing a kid. Usually shows or movies opt for an adorable kid with pinchable cheeks and a sassy personality and in this case, Shia LaBouf fits the bill nicely. He's a great actor and I absolutely loved him in A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints, but he wasn't enough to save this movie.

(Don't even get me started on the awfulness of the kid's name -- Mutt. If that is not a poor parallel to Indiana being named after his dog, I'll be surprised. Seriously...Mutt?)

It was nice to see Indy back on the big screen. The iconic silhouette of the man in his fedora filled me with the same amount of awe as it did when I was a child. The sounds of the punches and the well-timed Wilhelm screams was like music to my ears. However, even after all these clues and Indy-iconography, the film just didn't feel like Indiana Jones. That dusty feeling you get when you watched him take a punch just wasn't there. It felt too clean, scrubbed, and deliberate.

While Harrison Ford did a lovely job dusting off and bringing Indiana back, the writing just didn't meet the challenge. Instead of witty remarks and charming personality we got long-winded exposition that came across flat. I understand that the movie was trying to show Indiana turning more and more into his father and Ford did a great job of channeling Sean Connery's Henry Jones Sr. However, there were too many of these little moments that mimicked something that happened in the earlier films but instead of making the viewer all warm and fuzzy with reminiscence, it came across as desperately trying to recapture what worked in the past and regurgitating it at a drop of a hat.

(Too many sequels do this, and it drives me nuts. If I wanted to see the same joke over again, I would see the original movie. Please, for the love of all that is good in this world, write something original! Perhaps, the reason a joke works the first time around is because it was original. If that originality is already expended, it's not that funny to see it again.)
Another very telling cue that they were trying too hard to capture a much younger crowd was the repeated appearance of silly groundhogs and swarming monkeys. I just watched the original trilogy and there were no snakes mugging for the camera, no insects popping up for comedic effect. There was actually a moment where I groaned out loud in the theater when Mutt swung from vine to vine like Tarzan with the aforementioned monkeys who then descended on the Russians, aiding his escape. It was cartoonish and ultimately felt superfluous. (And dare I say it, it broke my immersion!)

Overall, I think the movie tried too hard to achieve certain "Indy elements" but not hard enough to ensure quality. (Like mentioning fencing classes off-hand early on in the film to explain the unavoidable and overdone sword fight that turned from interesting to slapstick and too long.) I could go on, but the list is rather extensive. If you really loved Indiana Jones because of its witty dialogue and sweeping adventure, you may not like this movie. I wanted to like it but it lacked what I looked for in this series...that inherent Indiana-ness that charmed and wormed its way through my childhood.

Let's just end with one word, one question: Aliens?

No, really... Aliens?

Review Summary

Overall: 57/100

Writing - 8/15
Cinematography - 10/15
Acting - 12/15
Entertainment value - 12/15
Indiana Jones-ness - 15/30

*Values weighted based off of genre.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

She's alive!

Like back from the dead, my pen rises up (figuratively at least) to rejoin the world of the blogging masses.

It's been around two years since my old blog, "Machinations of a Wandering Mind," was retired due to professional circumstances. Now that the opportunity has dumped itself at my feet, I can't resist its charm, and thus "Contrariwise" was born.

In my mind, a little voice says, "We can build it better, stronger, faster."

Well, I'm not so sure about the faster, but I definitely plan to try my hand at least some regularity and a heck of a lot more focus.

I can only hope that my little mini cooper-esque blog will be enjoyed by those fellow truckers passing their way through the InterTubes...and I think I just murdered that analogy. Oh well, it was a noble try but in the end, its passing probably was for its own good.

Here's to seeing this project through.