I vividly remember thinking as a kid, "I can't believe there are no more Indiana Jones movies. How can I even g on watching movies, now that there are no Indiana Jones movies. There will never be any movies as exciting as those." It seems strange that I thought that, because they weren't my favorite movies, even at the time. And I saw them all on video.
I guess I just got such a rush from them -- well, Raiders and Last Crusade at least. I saw Temple of Doom last, after all my friends in school played it up, talking about how awesome it was -- or rad, or gnarly, whatever word we used those days. I think seven-year-old boys just liked seeing people eating eyeballs and getting their hearts pulled out of their chests. I was not as much of a fan, except for the opening series of scenes, which are fantastic.
I liked Last Crusade slightly better than Raiders, maybe because I saw it first, but perhaps also because it seemed cleaner and more polished and more accessible. And I liked the ending better in Last Crusade -- the ark frying everyone at the end of Raiders freaked me out more than the guy getting his face melted off in Last Crusade did, perhaps because in Last Crusade I was comforted by the presences of that kindly king in the cave ("you have chosen wisely").
Anyway, I now have a new least favorite. When I went to see the new Indiana Jones, I vowed not to join the chorus of people I talked to who spouted the cliche, "Harrison Ford is too old." But from the very beginning, something was off about him. His voice felt very unfamiliar -- maybe because I haven't seen a new Harrison Ford movie since "Air Force One" in 1997. I kept thinking his voice was being dubbed, since they kept cutting away from his face in weird ways. Even in closeups, his mouth didn't match his voice and he didn't open his mouth that wide. Botox? I dunno. Maybe it was just that his voice has changed. But something felt strange. Then of course they kept cutting away during that stunts. You rarely got that anguished look on his face that's so memorable.
Further diluting Indy's presence in the movie was Shia Labeouf, Indy's younger sidekick. I usually like Shia, and he was fine, but the chemistry between him and Indy -- and I usually hate talking about chemistry because I never care about that kind of stuff -- felt a little stilted, it wasn't all there. Indy also had little chemistry with Marian. They got so little emotional mileage out of these -- spoiler alert, sort of -- revelations (which I won't give away, but which even I, who is unable to predict movie plots, saw a mile away) regarding Indy, Marian and Shia.
As for the action scenes, my brother Nathaniel pointed out that the CGI effects here made things seem less real than in the not-as-CGI-heavy previous films. For instance, he noted, the car driving along the cliff, and, even more so, the lackadaisical way in which Indy, Marian and the kid were fleeing from the huge gears that were destroying the path behind them at the end. Very true.
Some things just felt downright unreal, and I know they can be unreal in Indiana Jones, but these went off the deep end. Like Marian drove her car off a cliff and into the river far below, saying "trust me," and I thought that was because it was it was half car, half boat, which it is, but it turned out that she also knew the car-boat would fly into a tree, that would bend and then place it nicely into the river. Yeah, right. Indy could do that, maybe. But not Marian.
Plus, there were random obstacles that felt inorganic or purposeless, like all those natives with bones through their noses that kept randomly appearing. And the waterfalls that they had to go down -- ok, we get it, they're going to go over the big waterfall and survive. I know, I know, we always know they're going to survive, in every action sequence. But this sequence was weird, because it felt somewhat exciting to watch, but afterwards I just felt manipulated, it felt too easy. And that skull that was so magnetic at the beginning was conveniently not-magnetic for most of the movie.
The movie was a bit too self-conscious. Some self-consciousness is ok -- like how the mountain in the Paramount logo morphed into a molehill at the very beginning, paralleling how in Raiders the Paramount logo morphed into a mountain (which my brother Ezra, when we saw this on video for the umpteenth time, on Cape Cod when he was some ridiculously young age, somehow remembered would happen). I like how they went back to that warehouse where they put the ark, but they could have done that reference better -- I (and I imagine many other fans) got that reference when they first when into the warehouse, and then they beat it into our heads by later showing the ark peaking out of a box, which felt like a cheap gag and didn't acknowledge that we had realized that the ark was in that warehouse all along.
Also -- aliens? It didn't turn out to be as horrible an idea as it sounds, but I like how in the previous films the mystery came out of the ancient civilizations themselves. I guess Da Vinci Code had beaten that to death? Either way, I wasn't really into the story and at every point I kept wondering "so where are we and what are they trying to do now?"
Overall, I never felt excited by the exciting scenes, or a sense of mystery from the mysterious scenes. And my contact lenses felt weird for most of it -- I guess that's not Steven Spielberg's fault. Whatever it was, I was just bored.
P.S. No more talk about Cate Blanchett! So she spoke with a Russian accent in a vaguely cryptic manner. Big deal.