Indiana Jones: The Man In The Hat Is Back… Or Is He?

Everyone is going nuts for Indiana Jones and it is well on its way to earning huge bucks at the box office this weekend… except me. I wasn’t sold on this trip down memory lane, and here’s my evidence that this just wasn’t an Indiana Jones movie.
By  · Published on May 24th, 2008

So you’ve probably had enough Indiana Jones news, reviews, and information about The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull to fill a warehouse the size of the one at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark, right? Well, you’re going to have to make room for one more. While everyone out there from Harry Knowles to well, our own H. Stewart is espousing the glory of this film, I’m here to play curmudgeon and say that I really wish this movie was a lot better.

The biggest problem I have with this film is that it just fails to feel like an Indiana Jones movie, and when I say fails, I mean it just completely misses the target altogether. For one thing, the story is a complete mess. Now, the first third of the movie which I like to call “Indiana Jones and the 1950s” is great. Seeing Indy in that era was a lot of fun, and it’s always great to see Indy on his college campus, which is a bit ironic considering that he’s supposed to be an action hero. However, where Raiders and The Last Crusade only feature Indy on campus in talking head scenes, this one has a full-on action sequence that takes places there. This was probably the piece that had the most fun buried in it in the entire movie.

Wait, I have to backpedal for a second here. Remember how all the previous Indy films feature an opening sequence that isn’t quite related to the main flick? In Raiders he’s trying to get the golden idol out of the temple of the Hovitos tribe, in Temple of Doom he’s trying to get the Eye of the Peacock diamond from Lao Che, and in The Last Crusade (which has the longest opening) he’s goes from teen to adult trying to reclaim the lost cross of Coronado. However, in this movie it opens right up with the warehouse scene you’ve seen a billion times in the trailers. Why not give us some sort of a teaser, Spielberg & Lucas? It’s like opening a James Bond movie without one, when we’ve all come to expect it. Grumble.

Now *spoiler alert* you’ve probably read rumors about the mysterious origins of the Crystal Skull in this movie, and heard about where Indy might be visiting. Let me just say that yes, the rumors are true, and yes, this is the worst part of the film. I mean, the very worst… next to the final scene in the movie. You’ve got psychic alien skulls, John Hurt as one of Indy’s former classmates (hello age difference?!), Indy reunited with Marion and her offspring (hint, hint), and then finally the same sort of cheeseball ending that had us throwing our popcorn at the screen during the ending of Superman Returns.

Now, before you cry foul, I have to admit that there were some things I really enjoyed in this film. Indy in the *spoiler alert* nuclear bomb test was great, and the aforementioned college scenes were excellent. Even his meeting with Shia “Mutt” LaBeouf in the diner was great. Marcus Brody appears in different form in the film not once, but three different times, and there’s even a brief glimpse of Sean Connery. However, they toss Indy a new sidekick (a staple of Indy flicks… he has to have a different companion in each movie) named Mac, who he has apparently been working with for years, going on secret missions for the Army. The trouble is… you just don’t like him. Even Wu Han who only appeared for a scant few minutes as Indy’s sidekick in Temple of Doom was more likeable than this guy.

Now, I’m not saying I would have known how to fix the last 2/3rds of this movie, but what I do know is that it was too long, dragged in parts, had an extremely lame premise, and just… didn’t feel like an Indy movie. Part of that was due to the fact that I just wasn’t concerned for Indy like I was in the other three movies. Maybe the fact that the Young Indiana Jones Chronicles lets you know that Indy lives into his 90s had something to do with that, but at times it almost felt like Harrison was phoning it in. A terrible thing to say, I know, but I just didn’t feel the old Indy, and even his clothes just looked wrong.

Nitpicking? You bet it is. But I’m also the one shelling out my money to see this thing, and my brain is begging for a return to form of the old Indy films I’d grown to love so much over dozens of viewings, and it just didn’t get it. This isn’t to say that it’s not a fun and entertaining movie, it is. It just isn’t one featuring Indiana Jones. I will give them one big kudo, and that’s during the cheeseball ending, there’s a moment where it seems like they are hinting that Shia will be taking over as Indy… until Harrison steps in and leaves no doubt. That seemed to be aimed solely at the rumors that this movie was meant to launch “new Indy” and Shia’s action career. Thank god that didn’t happen. Yet.

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