Like many Americans this weekend, I went and saw the new Indiana Jones movie, but to my own surprise I left the theater a little sore with George Lucas and Stephen Spielberg. I understand that I’m not a movie maker and never will be, but after watching the credits roll I couldn’t help feeling that Lucas and Spielberg missed it–they missed the point of Indiana Jones.
The greatest thing about the three previous Indiana Jones films is they were real. Technology in the late 70’s and 80’s (when the first Indy movies were made) wasn’t exactly what it is today, and movie makers were forced to use both their imagination and creative minds to create worlds and adventures we never thought possible. The sets had to be made by hand and built in such a way that the actors could interact with them and make it look real. Back then it wasn’t about digital artists who could make a spark look like an explosion–it was about really blowing stuff up. If the story called for a huge round rock to chase Indiana Jones, then they were going to have to figure out how to make such crazy idea possible. This lack of technology also forced the writers to write stories that captivated our hearts and minds. In the case of the first Indiana Jones films, they were both adventurous and funny. We loved Indy because he didn’t have a plan, but he was smart enough to figure it out as he went a long–and with a little bit of luck thrown in, he would somehow escape certain doom. The lines of fantasy and reality were blurred so far that we actually started believing that–if discovered–the cup of Christ contained a water that could make a man live forever. Unfortunately, George and Stephen apparently didn’t feel like repeating those great attributes, which is probably why the latest installment in the Indian Jones legacy lacked characters we really care about and lacked the believability factor that keeps me captivated.
The problem is we’ve seen it all and we know all the tricks. Any four year old can tell you what “CG” means and we know when were looking at something real or not. We also know when we’re being cheated or talked down to. Which is exactly how I felt when Shia Labeouf’s character was swinging like Tarzan through the jungle. Sure, not everything in the original Indy films was believable, but seriously–he starts swinging from tree to tree faster than monkeys can and just happens to swing fast enough to catch up with the cars he fell from to save the day. I’m sorry, but I’m not buying it George. I’m also not buying the fact that Shia Lebeouf’s character is sketchy at best. He just shows up on a motorcycle, through a thick cloud of train engine steam, with no context for his arrival, and proceeds to talk to Indiana Jones out of getting off the moving train (which is never shown) and going with him to a diner to sit and chat. Again, I’m not buying it George. I might be dumb, but I’m not stupid. The real Indiana Jones does whatever he wants and no punk kid is gonna tell him where to go or what to do–his own father could barely do that.
Dangit George Lucas! We wanted romance, we wanted action, and we wanted characters with personalities. What we didn’t want was a dumbed down Indiana who needs a sidekick kid to get the job done. We wanted the Indy who hates snakes and has funny conversations with people in the midst of wild action sequences. We wanted a believable story line and something a little more original–not something picked up by every other Sci-Fi movie in existence (minus Star Wars of course). We don’t care how good your “CG” artists are because we saw you make great movies before those guys were even born. What have you been doing for the past 20 years? Yeah, I know you made those “other” Star Wars films, but I thought maybe you would’ve gotten the hint from them too. We wanted something with a good story, but again…. you didn’t deliver. I’m sad, you’re sad–we’re all sad.