Raiders of the Lost Ark was probably the last half-decent George Lucas film title. Everything since then – and by everything, of course I mean only Indiana Jones and Star Wars films – has had a rubbish title. RotJ, IJatToD, IJatLC, TPM, AotC, RotS and now IJatKotCS. Lucas has also now scandalously enclunked Raiders by calling it IJatRotLA on VHS and DVD.
Honestly, Indy 4 has an awful title. It’s true that a crystal skull is pretty much central to the storyline, but it’s such a neverending, pedestrian title. Would Jaws be seen as a classic if it were called Shark? Hard to tell; Forbidden Planet was a pretty blah title but nobody holds that against it (though Lucas would undoubtedly have called it Dr Morbius and the Invisible Space Monster). Bond titles like Goldfinger and The Man with the Golden Gun are pretty literal, but intriguing; Fleming also gave us You Only Live Twice and other great titles, including the upcoming Quantum of Solace (even if nobody else thinks it’s a good title, I do). And then you’ve got Snakes on a Plane.
I’m not sure what the point of that ramble is. Poorly titled films may be good or bad – AKA, don’t judge a book by its cover. Profound. I demand a PhD, or at least a GCSE in meeja studies.
Back to Indy. Indiana Jones and the Secret of Akator would, at least, have been an interesting and vaguely mysterious title. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull needs ultra-widescreen just to show the BBFC certificate.
But is the film any good? On the down side, nineteen years of development hell is never going to produce a masterpiece, and neither is George Lucas. On the up side, it’s Indy. You can forgive its faults.
The film naturally requires disbelief suspension dialled up to level 9, as did previous Indy films. There’s no point bitching about how Indy survives plot device A, as many people have been doing; in the Indy universe, religion is real – see RotLA and IJatLC – so maybe he just prays. All you can do is sit back and enjoy the ride.
It is a shame that, despite many stories stating how this would be an “old-style” film without heavy reliance on CGI, there’s an awful lot of it. For me, much of the drama was sucked out of the jungle chase set piece because it was so patently obvious they just weren’t there. Just because you can do anything with green screen or CGI body doubles, it doesn’t mean you should. You can make a film or a cartoon, not both (unless you’re, er, making both, like Mary Poppins and Bedknobs and Broomsticks). Oh dear, does that mean I’m turning into a film snob?
There is a plot to the film, though not one to tax the brain – place Macguffin A into Macguffin-slot B – but nobody’s expecting Memento, let’s face it. It’s all about the set pieces. Through the power of search-and-replace the by-numbers villains are Russians rather than Nazis this time, not that you’d notice any difference.
The film benefits in one respect, I think, from the near-twenty year hiatus: twenty years have passed in Indy’s life too, which gives the opportunity for some character progression (though this ain’t a character piece by any stretch of the imagination). And, of course, they leave open the prospect of a fifth film.
In another twenty years, when HoloLucas is churning out photo-real pure-CGI features using version fourteen of his computer-generated script software (version one having been beta tested on the Star Wars prequels), there’ll be plenty of room to fill in the gaps in Indy’s story. That’s assuming Harrison Ford Enterprises, Inc. licenses the star’s virtual self. There’ll probably be one film called Indiana Jones and his Amazing Adventures in the Pacific Theater of World War II, Episode One: OSS Recruitment and his First Astounding Mission to Save those Big Statues on Easter Island from the Rapidly Approaching Enemy Fleet. I may trademark it just in case.
Avaragado’s rating: one bad date