No Time For Plot, Doctor Jones

We saw Indiana Jones and the [place] of the [spooky noun] Friday night and were amused enough not to get up and leave so I guess it was alright. I had medium expectations going in and they were met. I stopped expecting artistry from Lucus and Spielberg ages ago and now settle for passable craft form them and their plug and play lackeys. All was in order. The Koepp Scriptwriting software turned out a by-the-numbers story with no surprises that weren’t on the “so dumb I can’t believe they did that” end of the spectrum. The characters were slightly more than two dimensional (ranging between 2.2 and 2.8) and the egregious CG effects were kept to the animal kingdom, so no real foul can be called.

Spielberg has mastered the skill of keeping you engaged in a movie just long enough to make it to the credits. Maybe this has always been his gift. Not genius or even exceptional craftsmanship, but just good enough cinema-making skills to make an entertaining way to waste a few hours. There are worse skill sets to have. Though it is kind of sad that the trailer for The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor looks more like an Indiana Jones movie than the actual Indiana Jones movie we saw.

But there’s no way for Spielberg to deliver on that sort of expectation. He, Lucus and Ford spent the last 18 years twiddling their thumbs and in the meantime, the movies changed. The audience changed. Some of that was Spielberg and Lucus’ doing but how sad is it that they were beaten at the game they invented?

I would have liked a better Indiana Jones movie but got the Crystal Skull instead. It wasn’t socks for Christmas but neither was it the BB gun I wanted. “That’s OK,” says Steven Spielberg. “A better movie would have just put your eye out anyway.”

Kate Blanchett clearly had fun with her Lulu wig and Russian accent. And hay, swords! Shia The Beef got to be in a movie with Harrison Ford. His Erdos-Bacon number just went up. Seeing Karen Allen again was great. Wish there had been more for her to do than drive a truck off a cliff but hay, I’m sure John Hurt wanted to be more than just a walking, babbling treasure map. No Joy, John. This is a Koepp script and there simply is no room for that much characterization.

There’s much to be said about the plot holes, the silly aliens and magic of magnetic crystal skulls, CG ants that look like killer M&Ms and those silly, silly monkeys. But why bother? See the movie. Enjoy your two hours and then try not to be bitter as you leave the theater. It is after all, only a movie.

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* He could be a world class pianist and Soviet History specialist put in charge of managing the foreign policy of the world’s only empire, fighting a pitched battle against an asymmetrical foe that is neither Soviet (or even Russian!) and wouldn’t know an F from a G sharp. Steven Spielberg is no Condi Rice, that’s for sure. George Lucus may be the cinematic equivalent of Donald Rumsfeld though. The case is still pending.

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