“You get to monkey-swinging and things like that and you can blame it on the writer and you can blame it on Steven [Spielberg, who directed]. But the actor’s job is to make it come alive and make it work, and I couldn’t do it. So that’s my fault. Simple.“
While on press tour for Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps, Shia LaBoeuf offers a public mea culpa for the misfire that was Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. “I feel like I dropped the ball on the legacy that people loved and cherished…We [Harrison Ford and LaBeouf] had major discussions. He wasn’t happy with it either.”
Here’s an interesting read, particularly for those similarly underwhelmed by Kingdom of the Crystal Skull: The famed Darabont draft, Indiana Jones and the City of the Gods, leaks (If that link’s dead, G4 has a review, and Google should also be able to help.) For those who didn’t follow all of Indy 4‘s development woes, this is the draft that, apparently, Spielberg and Ford loved and Lucas singlehandedly vetoed.
To be honest, I’m not much of a Darabont fan: Yes, The Shawshank Redemption is a true TNT New Classic, but The Green Mile was inert throughout, and I thought his take on The Mist was ham-handed and shoddy. Still, City of the Gods is worth a look-thru, if nothing else than to see how a project like Indy IV evolved over time. There’s no Mutt, Mac, or Agent Spalko here, and both Marion and Indy are more dynamic and well-rounded characters in this version. But there’s also a lot of fan service (in its broader sense) here, and most of the really egregious moments from Crystal Skull are in this draft too. Oxley does the Tarzan instead of Mutt, and the rubberband tree, atomic fridge, and waterfalls are all still present. Plus, Indy gets eaten by a giant snake. No, really. So…this would’ve probably made a better film than the one we saw, but this script needed some work too.
Well, I enjoyed the film slightly more the second time, particularly its first forty-five minutes. And in both viewings, I found the movie a decently diverting thrill ride, with a few very brief glimpses of real Indy grandeur. Let me be clear: the film isn’t Attack of the Clones atrocious — It’s more on the order of a cable-grade Indy knockoff like National Treasure (and, in fact, it’s probably better than Temple of Doom, although I guess that jury’s still out.) But, given its two decades of gestation, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull still seems a remarkably shoddy enterprise, despite yeoman’s work by Harrison Ford, Cate Blanchett, Shia La Boeuf, and the rest of the cast. The main problem is neither the years nor the mileage: It’s the sloppy, patchwork script. (The screenplay is attributed to David Koepp, but it went through the hands of a slew of writers first, and definitely bears the fingerprints of George Lucas.) Overstuffed with midichlorian-style exposition, random acts of slapstick, and useless, one-note characters, Crystal Skull makes very little sense, even if you manage to make allowances for the arbitrary, Looney Tunes physics that now seem to hold sway over the Indyverse. As it is, Crystal Skull seems so haphazardly scripted at times that one wonders why they greenlighted this version of the film at all…unless, of course, Spielberg and Lucas just figured we’d all go see the movie regardless. (Alas, they’re probably right. I mean, I’m mostly hating on it and I saw it twice.)
At any rate, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull begins in Nevada, 1957, with a clever fade-in to a US Army convoy, an impromptu American Graffiti-style drag race (Old Lucas), and the first of three reaction shots by CGI prairie dogs (Sigh…New Lucas). Said convoy approaches a checkpoint, guns down everyone in sight (They’re Russkies!), and stops outside a top-secret military hangar, a.k.a. Area 51. These Soviet ne’er-do-wells then pop out of a trunk two captives they grabbed in Mexico: The one and only Henry Jones, Jr., Ph.D. (Ford, with a long-missing gleam in his eye) and his current sidekick, Mac (Ray Winstone, woefully underused). After the requisite introductions are made, Jones and Mac meet the Lady in Charge, the black-bobbed, blue-suited psychic scientist Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett, playing it broad…but, really, how else does one play a Ukrainian dominatrix?), who demands that they help her find a hypermagnetic treasure somewhere in the hangar. This box is found, shenanigans ensue, Indy pulls off easily his most death-defying stunt yet (I have to admit, I kinda dug it)…and we’re at Marshall College, where Professor Jones has now found himself on the wrong end of the blacklist. (In 1957?) Just as he’s looking to go adjunct in Leipzig, Indy meets a young greaser-adventurer, Mutt Williams (Shia LaBoeuf, fine), who says that both his father-figure (and Indy’s old friend) Prof. Oxley (John Hurt) and his mother Mary (guess) have gone missing in Peru. What’s more, it all seems to have something to do with a mysterious Crystal Skull…
So far, so good. Not only do Ford and LaBoeuf have a nice, easy rapport, but Ford seems like he’s shown up to play for the first time since, I dunno, Air Force One? One reason why Indy 4 is — and will likely remain — more satisfying than the Star Wars prequels is that this is in fact the “real” Indiana Jones here (and he even gets to channel Han Solo at one point.) Watching Ford reawaken his long-dormant scoundrel edge is a kick in and of itself, and he has a few fun, iconic moments here. (See, for example, Atomic Age Indy in the early going. The second-act quicksand scene is a poorly-scripted non-sequitur, but Ford almost sells it, and I love the way he lights up so goofily when you-know-who emerges.) But, while Blanchett is both good pulpy fun and very easy on the eyes as Agent Spalko, the rest of the cast suffers mightily with too little to do. Jim Broadbent does passable, if unnecessary work as the Ghost of Marcus Brody, I suppose. But Ray Winstone (a.k.a. Sallah meets Elsa) and John Hurt (the voice of the Maguffin) in particular are given thankless, underwritten parts, and both are too good at what they do to be wasted as plot devices, as they are here.
Underwritten characters are only part of the problem. Another aggravating fault of Crystal Skull is that it compels the audience to forsake the reasonable suspension of disbelief that has usually undergirded the series and instead treat the movie like a full-fledged cartoon. Now, obviously, there are elements in the earlier films, even in the estimable Raiders, that fly in the face of established reality. (One of the quintessential fanboy conundrums, akin to “Why didn’t Frodo just fly an eagle to Mordor?,” is “How the heck did Indy survive that ride on the Nazi sub?” And Temple of Doom in particular is rife with goofiness.) Still, Crystal Skull strains credulity time and time again. I can forgive the end of the opening scene, even if it’s arguably the (second-)dumbest moment in the movie, just because it is particularly fun (and, as I said, it’s capped with a great money shot.) I’ll even give the two-car jungle swordfight a pass, as I suppose it’s in the tradition of Errol Flynn and the old-school serials. But that rubber-banding tree? “Three times, it goes down“? And, don’t even get me started on the ghastly trainwreck of the senses that is Tarzan Mutt.
Even if you’re willing to roll with the Wile E. Coyote/Road Runner rules Crystal Skull lives by (as I tried to the second time), the script is chock-full of continuity errors and moments that irritatingly don’t make any sense. [Spoilers] Why doesn’t Indy know Spalko’s name or identity when being debriefed, when he just called her out in the previous scene? If KGB are stalking Indy at work, wouldn’t they also stake out his home? Who or what are the native folk protecting the crypt and temple? (If they’re living, why do they all pop out of the walls at once? If they’re dead, why are they affected by poisons and machine guns?) What kind of “help” would Indy expect “the Ox” to get? Doesn’t Indy carry a whip for situations exactly like quicksand? What causes this film’s creepy-crawlies to go their collective separate way? How can Indy or anyone else not notice the transponders? How would the baddies be able to follow Indy et al past the disappearing staircase-and-spike trap? Nobody’s ever noticed this gimongous Amazonian basin of temples from the air? One or two minor quibbles are simply grounds for fanboy nitpicks, sure. But the lazy scriptwriting here is off-putting and distracting in its sloppiness, particularly when you factor in all the Basil Expositioning we have to sit through in the middle going.
One reason Crystal Skull seems so disappointing, I think, is that most of its best moments occur in the first hour, while all of these streams of lousiness I’ve just listed converge with a vengeance in the last twenty-five minutes or so. Everything after the nod to The Naked Jungle (and the beside-the-prop-plane fight in Raiders) is silly to the point of being near unwatchable, as Indy and his four sidekicks (think Team Indy Power Rangers) wander around the temple talking about watching stuff happen. I don’t begrudge Lucas and Spielberg’s turn toward 50′s pulp sci-fi here — in fact, I think that was a very clever way of rejuvenating the series — and I think the final reveal might’ve worked really well. (Granted, it’s not much of a reveal — They’ve been toting around that damn skull for 90 minutes.) But the incoherence of Crystal Skull‘s last act only underscores how much more work needed to be done before this pic ever got filmed. Even by the laxest of standards I accorded this movie the second time around, the final act is an unsatisfying mess, right down to its last few moments.
So, did I hate this fourth installment? No, I wouldn’t say that. Even the first time ’round, I usually had a smile on my face throughout. Crystal Skull has its moments here and there and, like I said, it’s no worse than one of the Mummy sequels. If anything, I’d say it’s Mostly Harmless. But, even after the humbling experience of the prequels, and even after lowering my expectations to suit both my and the franchise’s advanced age, I still find I expected more from Kingdom of the Crystal Skull than what we have here: namely, a dopey-but-diverting, nostalgia-heavy advertisement for a forthcoming thrill park ride. Spielberg, Lucas, and Ford haven’t embarrassed their franchise here, I guess. But — thanks mostly to the poorly-conceived script, they sadly haven’t contributed much of import either.
In the weekend trailer bin, Will Smith is legend, whether we like it or not, in the full trailer for Peter Berg’s Hancock, also with Jason Bateman & Charlize Theron. And last week’s Indy boot goes legit: Behold the trailer for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. (I dunno…Is it just me, or does Cate Blanchett seem hammier than a drunken Anthony Hopkins?) Also, The Dark Knight trailer follows suit tomorrow.
Update: The Dark Knight trailer is now up. Also, Aaron Eckhart seems to let slip a pretty major plot point in an interview with the LA Times. If you’re staying spoiler-free, don’t read this one (or Moriarty’s telegraphing of the same here.)
Indiana is May 6. Indiana Jones is May 22. And, while WB’s cadre of lawyers try to lock down various versions of the Dark Knight trailer, the new Kramerized Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull trailer has also popped up online. I’m still of 2 minds about Indy 4. It could be a great throwback, it could be Attack of the Clones…but at least we only have to wait a few weeks to know the score. (In fact, Indy IV will close out four weeks of Fanboy May(hem), beginning tomorrow with Iron Man, followed by Speed Racer (5/9) and Prince Caspian (5/16).
Regarding much-anticipated projects further down the pike, Guillermo del Toro has been confirmed for The Hobbit, as has Ian McKellen. “‘Yes, it’s true,’ he said. ‘I spoke to Guillermo in the very room that Peter Jackson offered me the part and he confirmed that I would be reprising the role. Obviously, it’s not a part that you turn down, I loved playing Gandalf.’” I’m obviously hugely excited for this project, but, still…that second filler movie attached to The Hobbit sounds like it could end up being a colossally bad idea.
In the trailer bin of late, veteran comic writer Frank Miller (possibly soon of Hardboiled) jumps to the silver screen in the new trailer for Sin City…uh, The Spirit. And Steve Coogan spreads the Gospel of Sexy Jesus in the recent redband trailer for Hamlet 2, i.e. one of the South Park guys’ take on Waiting for Guffman. This looks like it might try too hard, but I’ll probably see it for Coogan (and that scene with the cat.)
Also up as of the weekend, courtesy of NY Comiccon: lots of spoilers for Indy 4 and a description of the next Dark Knight trailer. (I’m trying to avoid them both, although I may have snuck a peek at the latter.)
Henry Jones, Jr. imparts a life lesson in a new TV spot for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. A lot of the overlap with the teaser here, but worth a look for the opening exchange.
“We have top men working on it now…top men.” The powers-that-be release the final poster for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, and it’s in keeping with the classic Struzan look.
If adventure has a name this morning, it must be the teaser for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Cate Blanchett’s channeling of Maude Lebowski is going to take some getting used to, but otherwise this looks better — and more iconic — than I envisioned. Update: But, please, don’t point any guns at him.
In the trailer bin, Keanu Reeves gets all Training Day up in here in the trailer for David Ayers’ Street Kings (formerly The Night Watchman), also starring Forrest Whitaker, Common, The Game, Hugh Laurie, and Chris Evans. (Perhaps more importantly, it’s penned by James Ellroy of L.A. Confidential.) And Jet Li and Jackie Chan join forces to train a fish-out-of-water apprentice in the trailer for Rob Minkoff’s The Forbidden Kingdom. Um, even notwithstanding the Mortal Kombat cheese here, didn’t Jet Li say he was done with martial arts epics after Fearless? I guess it’s a Jay-Z thing. (By the way, our first look at Indy 4 will be Valentine’s Day.)
Well the Ukraine girls really knock him out, they leave the West behind… Cate Blanchett makes her first official appearance as the (presumably villainous) “Agent Spalko” in this new Vanity Fair article on Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. The Jim Windolf piece also offers some sizable spoilers on the MacGuffin and tone of the fourth Indy outing : “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull will apparently nudge our hero away from his usual milieu of spooky archaeology and into the realm of (spoiler Code Red) science fiction. ‘What it is that made it perfect was the fact that the MacGuffin I wanted to use and the idea that Harrison would be 20 years older would fit,’ Lucas says…’So instead of doing a 30s Republic serial, we’re doing a B science-fiction movie from the 50s. The ones I’m talking about are, like, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, The Blob, The Thing. So by putting it in that context, it gave me a way of approaching the whole thing.’” Hey, that could work.
If nostalgia has a name, it must be Drew Struzan. It looks like the famous poster-painter survived The Mist after all, as he’s turned in this throwback teaser poster for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, making the rounds of the coming attractions sites today. Not bad at all. I assume there’ll be a later version, of the floating-head variety, with Shia LaBoeuf, Ray Winstone, Cate Blanchett, John Hurt, and Karen Allen…
Quite a few new movie images popping up on the grid today…Then again, it’s that time of year, when the mags roll out the 2008 previews. Here, it appears to be Take Your Son (Shia LaBoeuf) to Work Day for Henry Jones, Jr., PhD (Harrison Ford). Steven Spielberg’s Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull is slated to arrive May 22, 2008, and it, like The Dark Knight, should have a trailer kicking around relatively soon. (A few more pics of Indy looking suitably grizzled are over here at AICN.)
In a move sure to enrage the Lucas/Spielberg empire, a chatty extra spills the goods on Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, including who the Big Bads are and how Marian Ravenwood (Karen Allen) will fit into the story. Oops.
Indy IV gets a title: If adventure has a name, it must be Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull? Well, better than Attack of the Clones, I suppose.
“Indiana Jones. I always knew some day you’d come walking back through my door. I never doubted that. Something made it inevitable.” Careful Cate…Dr. Jones’ original inamorata is back on the scene, and she’s got a mean right hook. Official word (and picture) comes down that Karen Allen is returning as Marion Ravenwood in Indy 4, which is definitely a welcome inclusion. Update: More pics, and a Comic-Con presentation rundown, here.
Professor of archeology, expert on the occult, and how does one say it? Obtainer of rare antiquities…Via AICN (and in case you missed the pic a few weeks ago), Harrison Ford suits up as Indy once more, this time on video (and George Lucas seems to fess up — finally — that Han shot first.)
Indy III is a greaser? Pics emerge online of Harrison Ford and Shia LaBoeuf in costume at Yale for Indy 4, and LaBoeuf looks like he’s angling for Olivia Newton-John more than he is mythical artifacts. Is this Indy IV or Even More American Graffiti?
It’s not the years, honey, it’s the mileage…lots of depressing news about the sorry state of our government today, so here’s a mental sorbet of sorts: Steven Spielberg and the Indy 4 powers-that-be have released an official still of Harrison Ford back in costume as America’s favorite crusading academic, Henry Jones Jr. (a guy who, it may be remembered, also tried and failed to get this government to cough up its secrets. From the Ark of the Covenant to Abu Ghraib and Cheney…sigh.)
Dr. Henry Jones, Jr. garners some more distinguished colleagues for Indy 4 with announcements that John Hurt has joined the film (some sites say as Albert Einstein, others as Abner Ravenwood), as has Jim Broadbent (in what’s likely to be a Marcus Brody-type role.) Already on board: Cate Blanchett, Shia La Boeuf, and Ray Winstone.
As closure to the Indy 4 casting rumors posted a few weeks ago: It turns out that Shia La Boeuf is in fact in for Dr. Jones’ fourth adventure (as is Cate Blanchett and Ray Winstone, but sadly, no Sallah), likely as the prodigal son. La Boeuf seems like a solid actor, all in all, but as I said before, I’ve got a bad feeling about this.
He is the monarch of the sea…? Word hits that Ray Winstone of Sexy Beast, The Departed and The Proposition has signed on for Indiana Jones IV. “Although the film’s plot is being closely guarded, sources said Winstone will play star Harrison Ford’s sidekick.”
Also breaking during my west coast sojourn, the lovely Cate Blanchett will apparently star in Indy IV, I’m presuming as Dr. Jones’ love interest. Well, Blanchett definitely adds star wattage and acting chops to the ledger. But, really, doesn’t Jones have unfinished business with Marian Ravenwood? Act your age, Indy.
Also in fanboy casting and Spielberg news, Shia La Boeuf — confirmed by Variety only yesterday — shoots down rumors that he’s been cast as the progeny of Indiana Jones. “Would he deny it if offered though? The IESB says according to him ‘depends on what the script is about, he doesn’t want to go in as just a sidekick character’.”
If adventure has a name, it must be…Shia LaBoeuf? AICN and others report a rumor that the Transformers/Bobby actor is set to play Indy’s son in the forthcoming Indiana Jones sequel. Nothing against LaBoeuf, but the idea of an Indy Jr. running around with Ford and Connery sets off red flags for me, particularly given George Lucas’ recent track record.
We’ve heard it a few times before, but apparently this time it’s for real: A Steven Spielberg-directed Indy 4 is a go, with a David Koepp script and a planned May 2008 release.
“The committee concurred that Dr. Jones does seem to possess a nearly superhuman breadth of linguistic knowledge and an uncanny familiarity with the history and material culture of the occult. However, his understanding and practice of archaeology gave the committee the greatest cause for alarm.” One sad note amid all the excellent election news: Despite the best efforts of Dean Marcus Brody, Indiana Jones has been denied tenure at Marshall College. (By way of The Late Adopter.)
“It costs about $1,200 for a print and about $200 for a digital print. So what you do is charge the distributor the same $1,200 they would ordinarily be charged, and $1,000 of it goes into a pot that eventually pays for all the projectors and everything. In about five years you would basically reconvert the entire industry.” TIME‘s Richard Corliss discusses Indy 4, the Star Wars TV show, and the future of cinema with a “retired” George Lucas.
Moving a long-awaited project closer out of development hell, George Lucas approves the new Indy IV script. If Harrison Ford also approves, Indy IV could get a 2006 start, after Spielberg finishes both Vengeance, his Munich Olympics film with Eric Bana and Daniel Craig, and his Liam Neeson Lincoln biopic, based on a forthcoming book by Doris Kearns Goodwin.
A good deal of movie and fanboy news came down the pike this weekend. First and most importantly, the new Batman Begins poster is out (and a new trailer is rumored in front of Ocean’s 12 this Friday.) As one AICN wag put it, it’s very Passion of the Bat. In other news, Harrison Ford says Indy IV is moving again, Chris Columbus is directing Sub-Mariner (uh, oh), and Kevin Spacey is seriously considering Lex Luthor. Finally, the teaser posters for Mr. & Mrs. Smith (a.k.a. Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie in War of the Roses meets True Lies) are now also floating around the ether, along with the new trailer. Update: The international poster for Batman Begins is now also online.
Has the success of LotR cleared the way for stalled sci-fi film projects? Casting for the long-awaited Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy has already been noted here, and now there’s finally movement on an Ender’s Game movie: Director Wolfgang (Das Boot, Air Force One) Petersen is already signed, and apparently the writers of X2 have come aboard for a rewrite. Hmm…that’s good news. Now I wonder what’s up with Morgan Freeman’s take on Rendezvous with Rama? It seems the only fanboy project in the tank right now is Indiana Jones and the Wrath of Lucas.
Troubling news on the fanboy front today: Indy IV is on hold until 2005…apparently George Lucas is down on the Frank Darabont script. Um, George, have you read any of the swill you’ve been churning out lately?