As you know, much excitement surrounded my anticipation for Indy IV, so what's the verdict having finally seen it? Err, not sure. Very mixed feelings. I went to see it with my bro, and our immediate conversation went something like this:
Him: It wasn't very goood.
Me: No, but it wasn't really baad.
Him: Yeah, but it wasn't very goood.
Me: No, but it still wasn't baaad.
After these ruminations the discussion got downright intellectual. This reaction seems quite typical, as many reviews I've seen are similarly split. While expectation was heavy, there was always an underlying knowing it would disappoint to some degree, and so to be given a film that is almost a good Indy film, it seems something of a relief that it's not as bad as our imagination tell us it could have been.
So, detail. The start was kind of shaky - Ford initially seeming a shadow of himself, even his voice seeming unlike the Jonesey we remember, but he quickly settled in and reemerged as, yes, Indy! The escape from the nuke test site was a great moment, and the gradual emergence of the plot (ah yes the plot, more on that later) was nicely paced. There followed some more great set pieces; the motorbike chase across campus was particularly fun and reminiscent of old Indy, and Shia was a pretty likeable character from the off. More typical indianana ensued, maps with red lines on, charming peruvian villages, spooky crypts, jungle chases, familiar faces, man eating ants, burly ruskies up for a fist fight; it was all here.
And there perhaps was the problem. You can imagine George and Steve standing on set with a list on a clipboard, ticking them off as they went. At least they resisted a swordsman vs gun/no gun/some gun gag. Ultimately though, the actual plot, ie the mystery underlying the story was so wafer thin, and well, stupid, that it rather undermined all the good work. Ok, so the other films were pretty silly too, but the mythology they were based on was always compelling. Here though, the titular relic and its origin was just kind of lame, and as the quest played out, you didn't really feel anyone was solving anything, or that there was any kind of point to what anyone was actually doing. The mystery was decidedly un-mysterious from the off, and every semi perilous situation was escaped by frantically waving said skull about. All the nonsense about psychic warfare was never properly resolved, and come to think of it what the hell was supposed to have actually happened at the end anyway??
All that aside, believe it or not, I did enjoy the film. A good romp, it most certainly was, even with the excessive 50's tv obsession determined to make Shia a latter day Errol Flynn (down Lucas), and the cgi heavy money shot finale was genuinely impressive (good Lucas). I suppose it was naive to think they might best any of the previous films, and the question remains as to whether it really needed to be made at all. My feeling is while it didn't really add anything to the legacy, it didn't really take anything away either. But then again, all those beloved characters riding off in to the sunset at the end of Last Crusade was a much more fitting end for our hero. "Close your eyes Marion, don't look at it" is always an option I suppose.