Thursday, June 19, 2008

Saw it last night. Actually took the kid to a sitter for once and went out for a nice date with Mrs. Ditchman. She stayed awake for the whole thing. There were plenty of commercials before the film, but no cel phones. I had my box of Red Vines. We sat below the stadium section so I could look up at the screen and have it fill my field of vision. I enjoyed the volume. It was the first movie we'd been out to see since some Harry Potter flick in November of 2005, before the Little Ditchman was born.

Roger Ebert's review said plainly, "I can say that if you liked the other Indiana Jones movies, you will like this one, and that if you did not, there is no talking to you." That sums it up. Who in the world sees the title and thinks, "Well, that sounds like an interesting flick!" and then after viewing: "Hey that was fun! I should check out those other 'Indiana Jones' movies on video!"? No one does, unless maybe you're eight. And unless you've been stuffed in a lead-lined refrigerator in the Amazon or the vacuum of space on another dimensional plane entirely, the trailer is here (If you can find it behind all the commercialism.)

The first one is still easily the best, but yes, I liked it. It was fun. It was no genius, life-affirming tract that I could wrap myself around, but it was satisfying. Good movies always leave me with nothing to say about them. They're just, well, good. I have to digest them for a long while and then compare/contrast them with something similar. Bad movies I could talk about forever. You can judge how I feel about a movie by how much I have to say about it, more or less, and this movie I could talk about for maybe 15 minutes. (That's a good sign!)

So, yes, Indy is older now. We've seen this shtick before and I was mostly worried it wasn't going to work, but they pulled it off, somehow. There are actually a few nice moments where Indy reflects on his age and it works great, but when you think about it, the age thing was always an issue, even back to Raiders. Remember Marcus Brody commenting on how he misses all their old adventures and he wishes he could join Indy on this one but he's getting too old for it? And Indiana's famous line, "It's not the years, honey. It's the mileage." rings true throughout the films and reminds one that Indiana Jones is just Indiana Jones -a driven man at any age. Thankfully, Harrison Ford didn't die his hair for the film, so the gray is there and it's real, but I would've appreciated it if he had put a little bit more effort into his acting -some scenes are just phoned in. (And in some cases, teleconferenced -where whole scenes are poorly acted by everyone on camera.)

But it's Indiana Jones! There's Cold War Russians and the Atomic Age, and rainforest natives and spooky caves and magic relics and, yes, (oh God, no) even space aliens -but it all has that Indiana Jones feel to it. The sets are colorful, terrific, and the camera swoops around the car chases with some inventive Spiebergian shots. The effects are great and there's some real stunt work and the CG is kept to a minimum (only a third of the movie, according to press notes). And then there's the music. That music! John Williams is the best thing in the movie.

Side note: the Communist Party of the Russian Federation has called for the film to be banned, accusing the production team of demonizing the Soviet Union. Awesome. I mean, how dare you demonize a government that brutally murdered millions?

I noticed that each of the Indy films has a slightly different feel to it, but they all basically work. I think I liked the first half of this movie better than the second, and in trying to ascertain why that was, I came to the conclusion that there were no sidekicks in the first half. The success of the first Raiders is partially that Indy has no sidekick throughout. He's a lone hero, mostly working on his own, with no one bringing him down but his nemesis. This one has sidekicks, sidekicks, and more sidekicks -seems they've added to the number of sidekicks with every sequel- thus diminishing Indy's stoicism and inflicting comic relief on Jones and, really, all of us. That laws of physics-defying slapstick and "comic relief" I have been very critical of in the Indiana Jones sequels, but forgive me, I thought Indy was a man who never got any relief? In Raiders, Marion actually says, "We never seem to catch a break, do we?" No! That's one of the reasons it is so bitchin and he is so badass!

And, you're not going to believe this, but in what was probably the second scene, Indy's hat comes off and rolls over. How clean was the underside? VERY CLEAN. Man, it bugged me. And then it happened again a few scenes later. And then again! And then again! I got over it two-thirds of the way through the flick and thought, "Aww, well." And then, amazingly, in the very last scene, the hat rolls over for a final time, and Indy picks it up and puts it on -and it was totally clean inside. I must say it seemed a tad bit dulled, but clean nonetheless. Perhaps Indy has it professionally done after every adventure, eh? Probably. But I'm sure it was Steven Spielberg himself, cornering me and staring me down, "None of this is real, kid. It's a movie. Now go home. Live out the adventure of your own life." If you've seen the movie and know what happens in the final scene, you know what I'm talking about. Indiana Jones is not coming back for any more adventures.

Walking away from the theater I commented to Mrs. Ditchman that I didn't really have that magical Indiana Jones feeling that I got when I was a kid. I mean, I felt it a little bit here and there, but...

She said, "Well, you're older now."

I guess I am. But it doesn't make me want my Adventure Spoon any less.