As Cool As A Fruitstand

…and maybe as strange. A movie blog.

Quick Thoughts about Indy

Posted by Hedwig on May 23, 2008

Ah. The hat that first gets tossed out of the truck. Then the man. We see the man’s shadow on the car as he puts on his hat, revealing his immediately recognizable profile. Then the camera swivels around like it does so much in this movie, we see the man’s back…and then finally, his face is revealed.

“Russians”, he says with disgust.

I really am easy. I had a grin pasted to my face from the moment the paramount logo dissolved into a mountain like in Raiders, only to be revealed to be a molehill instead, and things like the introduction of our hero above just made it widen. The familiar beats of it delighted me: the action opener, the betrayal, the ludicrous escape, the scene at the university…

Ludicrous really is the operative word here. But to explain that, I’ll have to go into SPOILER territory.

Spielberg knows his hero is an icon, and as such, immortal (see also: Arthur Conan Doyle). We know Indy’s not gonna die, that he’ll escape from even the most perilous situations. So what does Spielberg do? He puts him in the most ridiculously perilous situation you can imagine: an atom bomb is dropped on him. And he has him survive by hiding in a lead-lined fridge.

I’m telling you: at that moment, I thought the movie couldn’t fail. Controlling the tone like Spielberg does here isn’t as easy as it looks. And while he does resort to CGI for the destruction caused the bomb and the inevitable cloud, Indy’s escape is shown through old-fashioned, and purposefully transparent, editing tricks: we see Indy getting into the fridge. Cut, and we see the fridge bounce around. Cut, and we see Indy crawl out of the damaged fridge, bruised but otherwise fine.

I loved the whole first half in fact, was giddy as a schoolgirl. I love when Shia LeBeouf was introduced, dressed exactly like Marlon Brando in The Wild One: instead of attempting to create another icon of Indy’s stature, he just borrow another iconic image.

That’s the good news. The second half, however, had me understand the mixed reviews. It’s not the ending, per se: I didn’t like it much, but the supernatural, deus ex machina endings where “the Gods” solve Indy’s problems is as much a staple of the franchise as the hat and whip. And I like most of the chase through the jungle. My problem can actually be summarized by one word: Tarzan.

I love the idea of Mutt swinging through the jungle. It’s totally true to the action serial origins of the films, and in its ludicrousness fits perfectly with the tone of the film. But why to resort to CGI ten times lamer than in the first Spiderman? Why resort to CGI at all? Why not, as you easily could have done, do it the old-fashioned way: a shot of Mutt grabbing vine and jumping off, then a shot of him with a frightened look on his face swinging through the air, then a shot of him, clearly just standing somewhere, grabbing the next one… you catch my drift. It’s ok if it’s obviously fake – the back projection is some scenes is perfect. Just don’t make it obviously computer-generated.

The problem is present in some other scenes, too, and it’s probably not really justified, but I blame Lucas. I don’t want to get down on the film too much, though. I loved watching it, in the big auditorium of the Rembrandt cinema, with people hooting at Indy’s arrival, laughing at the one-liners and even clapping at some of the more out-there stunts. It was the perfect opening night experience.

P.S. Just in case you, like me, were bugged by this, the answer to “who is that one FBI guy” is “the janitor from Scrubs!”

P.P.S. Marion Ravenwood still rules. How refreshing to see Harrison with a woman more or less his age (it’s still a 9 year age difference, but we’re talking Hollywood standards here). And to see how beautifully – and naturally – she has aged.

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5 Responses to “Quick Thoughts about Indy”

  1. who is that one FBI guy” is “the janitor from Scrubs!” – and Lindsay Lohan’s father in one of my all time favs “Mean Girls.”

    Fantastic write up! It seems that we both had a very similar reaction to the film, and I am so glad the film was good, not that I really expected otherwise.

  2. “Why resort to CGI at all?”

    Hmm… someone’s name is coming to mind… And it rhymes with Borge Mucus. (Sincerely, though, it isn’t worse than the first Spiderman. I still remember how bad that CGI was.)

    I liked it a good deal, though, despite the flaws. It made me smile, laugh and enjoy myself. And, for some reason, now that I’ve seen it, I’m getting the sense that I’m actually going to like it some more the next time I see it.

  3. Lanchka said

    It sounds like a fun movie — this may be yet another one of those times when you convince me to go see something that otherwise I’d never have been interested in. Given, however, that most movie theatres don’t seem to welcome newborns, we might just have to rent the other Indy classics to watch at home. Which may not be a bad idea anyway, as I’ve never seen them.

    Regarding the overuse of CGI, The Guardian recently featured an article about “the return of old-style props in movie-making.” Apparently some directors are trying to be more judicious in their use of technology so maybe there is hope yet.

    http://film.guardian.co.uk/features/featurepages/0,,2281595,00.html

  4. sarcastig said

    Sorry, Lani, somehow the powers that be thought your comment was spam, and it was stuck in purgatory for a few days.

    I hope things are going well with Nicholas. And watching Indy at home definitely isn’t bad: I consider Raiders of the Lost Ark one of the best, perhaps even THE best adventure movie ever made. And trust me, you’ll finally see where The Librarian gets it all from.

    Nice article, by the way. I’m not against CGI: when used judiciously, it can be beautiful, even art, and it makes some things possible that otherwise never would have been. But the thing with CGI is: when everything’s possible, nothing can surprise you any more. You lose the magic, the charm that old-fashioned effects have, and I love that Michel Gondry still tries to do everything in-camera.

  5. Merijn said

    The janitor from Scrubs, of course. I knew I heard that voice before!

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