1. I'm not a huge Indiana Jones fan. I mean, I like the movies, and Raiders of the Lost Ark is pretty much one of the great all-time movies. We're talking pretty flawless filmmaking here. But I haven't seen the other two in a while (well, I saw the last 45 minutes of Last Crusade last weekend on the Sci-Fi Channel), and I went in with very few expectations. Actually, I kind of went in with negative expectations, because my persistent reaction to every single declaration of intent to make a fourth movie was "Really? We need this? Really?" And now it's out, and I've been hearing mixed reactions--everything from "THAT RUINED MY CHILDHOOD" to damnation by faint praise and then over to unqualified raves. What I'm saying, I guess, is that they could have thrown anything up there on the screen that wasn't The Love Guru and it wasn't going to bother me.
So, My Thoughts on Indiana Jones, Having Shown You Them: I thought it was a reasonably good, fun movie. Didn't blow my mind, didn't crush my soul.
2. Is there really anything to say about Harrison Ford at this point? All he pretty much has to do is show up, put on the hat, and not die doing stunts. Although, now that I think about it, he's probably at his best in the series when he's under pressure--translation: he makes really good agony faces--and I'm almost not sure there were enough of those moments here. He was a lot mellower than I expected. Hmm.
3. Cate Blanchett is, to borrow the words of one ONTD poster, Fierce As Hale. Now, y'all know I want to be Her Cateness when I grow up, so take any assessment from me with a grain of salt. But I was prepared for a cheerfully campy performance with a terrible accent (I'm pretty sure she wanders off for a while to hunt Moose und Squirrel), and yes, she clearly runs the Russian branch of the Department of Back Story when she first shows up. But by God, that is an actress who wanted to be there, and who was on like a klieg light every single moment she was on screen.
4. Remind me why real Russians are pissed off about Psychic Colonel Doctor Irina Spalko? Because, as villains go, she's rock awesome. Far more so than Elsa Wossname from Last Crusade--Germany needs to ask for a refund on that one. Be proud of a comrade who can kick Shia LaBeouf's ass sixteen different ways on three moving vehicles, y'all.
5. Speaking of whom, people kept worrying that Shia LaBeouf was going to be The Jar-Jar Binks of the Indiana Jones Movies OMG PANIC!!, but you know what? I'm not really even a fan of his and he was one of the best things in it. I'm not saying I want to line up for the Mutt Williams Trilogy or anything, but he gets a pass from me. In fact, now that I think about it, both my favorite action sequences--the motorcycle chase at the college and the extended car chase in the Amazon--pretty much lived or died by his involvement. (Speaking of the motorcycle chase, people in my theater actually cheered and clapped while it was going on. Interestingly? No subsequent scene got that reaction.)
6. It's a little weird to see Karen Allen back, because she looks like a real woman with actual lines on her face. I was both glad to see her and a little sad that having a genuinely aging woman in a movie looked odd to me.
7. The call-backs to the other movies aren't so bad, and there's a nice extended reference to the Pancho Villa episode of the Young Indiana Jones Chronicles. I was a little miffed when we randomly saw the Ark of the Covenant--not because it was blatant homage, but because they just LEFT IT THERE in a BROKEN CRATE. That is the FACE-MELTING RECEPTACLE OF THE LORD'S FURY, y'all, RESPECT.
8. Oh my Lord, the MONKEYS, y'all. I couldn't decide if Shia LaBeouf getting his Tarzan on was ridiculous or brilliant.
9. I'm pretty sure Cate Blanchett fighting off two dozen angry monkeys was the highlight of my day, though. And killing giant ants with HER KNEES.
10. So... uh... the aliens. And stuff. I can't really say how unexpected it was, because I knew from the moment I saw advance photos of the crystal skull itself that they'd be involved. It made about as much sense as the Ark or the Grail, I guess.
You know why I think the alien bit upset a lot of people? Because, before now, the Indiana Jones movies have always been about the past: Judeo-Christian relics and... whatever it was in Temple of Doom, the glowy stones or whatever. That is to say, religious artifacts that have either been around since time immemorial, or lost to it. When you bring in extraterrestrials, Roswell, and--to a tangential extent--the nuclear age, you're moving into the future; you're moving into the realm of science fiction instead of just adventure fiction. You don't have to believe in the specific religions themselves, but it's fact that these artifacts are important to other people. If the movie had been about Mayan religious artifacts--items important to ancient Mayans, who really did exist--I don't think it would have freaked people out so bad. It's when you reinterpret El Dorado as a city built on alien technology that you start to drift away from what people consider the series to be about.
That, and I'm... not entirely sure what the logic of that plot was supposed to be. Return the crystal skull and receive the power of the golden city... except that no one did, and in fact, the aliens pretty much destroyed the "city" (and all the artifacts they'd collected) when they peaced out into "the space between the spaces" or whatever. (Poor John Hurt. I'm trying to imagine the directions he got: "Just look dotty and wear this poncho. Again. Some more.") The aliens wanted to give the adventurers "a big gift"... but when Spalko stepped up to collect, Mr. Hive Mind got his bitchface on and vaporized her. I'm kind of seeing what Sister Girl was saying about the whole enterprise being "counterproductive." What did the aliens want, again? And who originally took the thirteenth skull? And how?
Eh. Like I said, it was a fun movie in an air-conditioned theater, and it didn't make me want to throw things, UNLIKE SOME MOVIES I COULD NAME.
(For the record: my mother was pleased. I knew she would be.)