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Movie Musings

Friday, May 23rd, 2008 | Posted by Managing Editor Howard Andrew Jones

First, I’m almost through with my once-over of Black Gate 12, which I’ll be sending back to John this weekend.

I’ve been looking forward to Indy IV for a while, but as reviews come in I’m less excited. Don’t get me wrong; I’ll probably go see it. Reviews have been fairly positive; the problem is that the descriptions make it sound like the things that bugged me in Last Crusade are to be found in Crystal Skull. My kids just turned old enough to watch the movies, so I borrowed the trilogy from my friend Brad. Crusade ended up being better than I remembered; Temple much worse. Raiders was nearly as good as I remembered it being when I was, what, 10, 12, and that’s saying something. Some of what I liked when I was 12 seems pretty execrable now.

For me, Raiders inspires a willing suspension of disbelief; Crusade only a grudging suspension of disbelief. Temple of Doom didn’t inspire much of anything at all except groans this time through. It was painful. I had remembered later parts of it being better, and while watching it with my kids I kept thinking, ah, well, after this groaner part is a good bit — but, really, not so much.

Temple and Crusade both seem to have lost their footing. Everything is more cartoonish. Take Marcus Brody. In Raiders, while Indy is packing to go after the Ark, Brody says something like “You know, five years ago I would have gone after it myself” and you believe him. He seems competent and seasoned and is played with gravitas. Come Crusade, he’s a goofy absent-minded professor and is scripted only for laughs. Contrast the ridiculous relationship between Indy and the Austrian beauty in Crusade — which is truly awful to watch — and the dialogue between him and Marion in almost any part of Raiders. It’s almost as though they got Raiders right by accident and never figured out how to do it again. The writing is several degrees sharper in Raiders. There’s no villain in the rest of the series who is scripted to be even half as interesting as Belloq, and even the “infodump” scene in Raiders, when Indy and Marcus are telling the American Agents about the Ark, is good. Rather than sounding like an infodump, it’s revealing of character AND builds interest and suspense. That’s just good writing. And acting. In the next two it’s almost as if they got the script to a certain point and said “ah, it’s good enough, let’s go.”

On the whole, I’d rather watch the first of the Brendan Frazer Mummy movies than either Crusade or Temple. It has a bad infodump scene early on, but after that it fires on all cylinders like Raiders, and unlike Temple and Crusade. To my mind, even a movie that is supposed to be “light” has to take itself seriously rather than going in with a wink and a nod at its own cleverness and the audience. I didn’t make it through the second Mummy movie, which seemed to have lost sight of what worked about the first one, but I saw a preview for the third that actually has my interest up. More fool me, probably, but I do love a pulpy romp done properly, and my hope springs eternal.

Now, though, the wife and I are heading out to see Iron Man this weekend. Almost every one of my friends has called or e-mailed to say that I MUST go see it. So we will.

Howard

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