Been a while since I have taken the time to write or update this blog, but I have been busy enough to warrant an excuse. We’ve reached the point in British springtime when we can divulge whether this is going to be a nice summer or not, and considering the charmingly warm spring we have enjoyed so far, I think it is safe to say that we can look forward to a pretty grim summer. But it doesn’t have to be that way. We can now take off our thoughtful borguois tricorns and leave that arthouse cinema with the pretentious plush red seats and the expensive bar and head on down to the Multiplex, mess with the proles and thoroughly enjoy the mound of ostensibly fun blockbusters that require no appreciation of the ‘fine arts’ other than how to grin at an explosion.
To try and make this a slightly productive summer for myself in some capacity, I am going to try and write a few reviews for the big films I have seen, and maybe the smaller ones I see in retrospect or simply add to my Dvvduh collection. For example, my Iron Man ‘review’ – I prefer to call it a reaction considering my credentials – is now posted in the Eat Me Critics sect and having seen Indy IV for the second time yesterday, perhaps it is ripe to write up my ‘review’ to that. My reaction however, it something of a casual fan glad to see that Indy’s heritage has not been trounced upon. Scathing Cannes reviews were expected of course, but most press reviews have since been positive, although fan reactions remain mixed.
I liked Indy IV. It was familiar territory, led by a familiar old soul, into more familiar MacGuffin territory, through some familiar experiences set in unfamiliar ground. Yes, it is familiar. I don’t care. It is Indiana Jones, and if you take ‘I don’t care, it’s Indy’ as a reason rather than a cop-out, then you will enjoy it. I read Roger Ebert’s review after seeing the film for the first time and am glad to see he liked it. His reviews on films are so-so to me – sometimes I just plain disagree with the bloke – but his writing makes for a fun read and I can hardly doubt his integrity. In his review, he remarked upon a line that a wisened Ford makes; “same old, same old.” He is right of course; it is the same old stuff, and I loved it.
Most of the criticisms I have seen for the film from casual schoolboy critics remark upon certain ‘stretchings of belief’ that I feel I am not at liberty to divulge in case of spoiling the film for you. I just do not admire criticism such as that, especially when Spielberg (who I must say was certainly on form during this shoot – it shows) offers an olive branch to bridge the gap between what is happening on screen and the audiences suspense of belief.
Other criticisms fall before the way side of course, because, like any self respecting audience member, I can abide the reason “Its Indiana Jones!” While it has always offered fun and enjoyment to a large slice of the audience, Indy has always been a treat for those who really enjoy film. It is packed so full of cinematic references that it almost runs like a tour through cinematic history. From the exotic adventure films of Errol Flyn and Charlton Heston (‘must say, sad that he is now deceased. I wasn’t a fan of his ideals, but he left a lot of friends and his integrity as an actor is undeniable) in Raiders of the Lost Ark, to the musical and James Bond homages (Temple of Doom), the rip-roaring chases and stunts that reminds us of Stagecoach, Ben-Hur et al (evident in all the films) and the appearance of the noir femme fatale in Elsa Schneider, Spielberg and Lucas have packed these films full of their own love of film as a medium and cultural palette. It just offers a lot more than, say, Star Wars in that sense, as well as being undeniably less geeky.
The new film, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (the title has grown on me considerably sincd it was announced by the way) is no less choc-a-bloc in that sense. Dealing with a new era, although at first a tad disparaging for devoted fans of the 30s romps, allows for new intertextuality, in-jokes and homages. An American Graffitti reference, as well as a marvellous scene itself, was one of the highlights of the film itself for me. I’m glad that the script (although certainly not the best of the Jones scripts) allows for some cultural references worthy of a chuckle. 50s momism, the nuclear family and the suburban household are all given the nuclear treatment by Spielberg, being obliterated in the opening act with no mercy, as Indy wanders into a Nuclear test site filled with eerie plastic dolls posing as the 50s middle class. ‘I like Ike’ also shows its face with barbed wit from Ford and then as a motif during the nuclear explosion.
Of course, the Soviets rear their head as the pantomime-villains-of-the-era, partly to Spielberg’s admittance that there really is no one else with the villainous credentials. Obviously, this has angered members of Communist parties the world over, particuarly those in Russia, but again, to Spielberg’s defense, he lets us remind ourselves that he himself is of Russian descent. For me, the Soviet’s work to an extent in Crystal Skull. They seem to fit the mould of the Nazi replacement and Cate Blanchett, as usual, is amazing as the dangerous, sexless looking Soviet, Colonel Irena Spalko. But at the same time, I don’t feel the Soviet’s are half as threatening as the Nazi party. Perhaps it takes someone born on the eve of the Iron Curtain’s collapse to make that claim, but the Soviet’s fill the antagonising role in what I have always seen as a ‘grey area’ in history. Admittedly, David Koepp’s script certainly acknowledges this; even while pursued by the KGB on American soil, Dr.Jones, ‘even with his War record’ an investigator states, is under suspicion of treason by the FBI. A spectular chase sequence through the Dr.Jones’ University allows for protestors with signs such as ‘Red is Dead’ to run in terror as Dr.Jones’ (on motorbike) is pursued by KGB agents in cars.
Certainly, there is more to say for the film, its strengths and its flaws, but really, if you take ‘It’s Indiana Jones for god’s sake!’ as a reason, rather than an excuse, it won’t matter to you.