Versus: 'Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull'

Harrisonford_indianajones4_240 …in which Misfit Andy wonders why Misfit Ryan isn’t sufficiently excited by the prospect of seeing the newest Indiana Jones movie…
Andy: Ryan, I’ve been shocked lately by the number of people (such as yourself) saying they have low expectations for the fourth Indiana Jones movie. Why is that? I can’t wrap my mind around it. Admittedly, I’m biased. I grew up with the first three movies; I had Indy games on platforms from the Atari 2600 to the XBox; for God’s sake, I once named my dog Indiana (and then repeated ad nauseum in an awful Scottish accent, “We named the dog Indiana!”). In high school, I made a bad fourth installment of the series on video with fellow drama students.
Ryan: You know, Andy, no one’s more surprise by my relative apathy than myself. Honestly, I wake up every day, shower, brush my teeth, look in the mirror, and hum the classic Indy theme in an effort to drum up interest. I’m not much younger than you, and had a blast with the first and third installments, with the second the biggest reason I refuse to work in mine shafts. They weren’t seminal viewing experiences, but films I recognize as classics all the same. And yet, I’m not feeling it this time around.
Andy: You’re going to point here to George Lucas and his tinkering with “classics” (plus Spielberg’s minor changes to E.T.), but I submit two things: First, the Star Wars Special Editions — with the exception of Greedo shooting first — were superior to the originals. Second, the Star Wars prequels were Lucas gone wild, something that won’t happen with the tempering effects of Steven Spielberg and Harrison Ford. Yes, Lucas overreaches now that he can afford to indulge, but the previews so far show plenty of two-fisted action and tableaus that don’t look like the entire movie was shot in front of a greenscreen.
Harrisonford_shialabeouf_indianajon Ryan: Whoa, whoa, whoa, I’m sure I read this wrong, but I could have sworn you just said the “Special Editions” were superior to the original trilogy. That’s crazy talk, unless you enjoy jarringly modern CGI interwoven with the original, hand-crafted effects and the end of the trilogy suddenly and inexplicably scored by Enya’s less talented cousin. As to your prequel comparsion: I’m not worried that Shia Lebouf is going to scream, “Yousa people gonna die?”, and yes, the action feels about right for an Indy movie, but I honestly think the trailers have been oddly cut and leave me confused as to what I’m actually looking at. Trailers are supposed to do one of two things: leave me breathless with excitement, or leave me feeling like I’ve already seen the darn movie and don’t have to waste my hard-earned cash. These do neither. That’s not good.
Andy: Don’t tell me it’s because Last Crusade was such a great capper to the series. Great movie, yes. But did any of us then say, “Well, that’s it for Jones, then”? No. Heck, see above — I personally made an awful no-budget sequel. Indiana Jones has adventures galore playing in our minds. We always want to know what happens to him next, and that won’t stop until the character is dead. And even then, considering the mystical nature of his adventures, Indy would probably find trouble in the underworld.
Ryan: Nothing about Last Crusade spoke of finality to me, personally. That last shot seemed to be the series waving goodbye, but the Indy flicks were always about ongoing adventure, as you correctly point out. There’s no overarching story connecting each film to the other; there’s just Indy, his fedora, his whip, and his wit as the connective tissue. But maybe what’s different between then and now is not so much that we want to see what Indiana’s up to next so much as, “Does Harrison Ford still have it?” That’s a big, big difference.
Andy: I’m excited. I hear John Williams’ iconic march from the series and get chills. I watch the trailer scene of Indiana in silhouette picking up his hat and adjusting it on his head, and turn into a kid staring wide-eyed at the screen. I have confidence that I’ll walk out of the theater humming the theme song and wishing I had a bullwhip and not regretting dropping twenty bucks on the movie, popcorn and cherry Coke. Because, see, it’s fun. That’s all. It’s not going to make me vote a certain way or donate to a cause or resolve to clean up the planet.
Ryan: Fine, you litterbug, have your chills and thrills and your overpriced beverage. I can get all of those from Raiders of the Last Ark. (Well, except the overpriced beverage, I guess.) And you’ll never ever hear me decry a movie for simply wanting to entertain. Lord knows I wish more movies knew when to stop preaching and start entertaining. But as I alluded to earlier, I think the decades between Last Crusade and Crystal Skull have yielded a society obsessed with nitpicking every film on a meta-level, rendering the film less about the characters and more about the producer, director, and stars. I’m guilty of being part of that culture, and don’t worry, I don’t feel great about that. But there I am.
Harrisonford_indianajones4_240_3 Andy: I get enough of those adult issues every day. For two hours and change, I’m happy to suspend disbelief and let a man with a leather jacket and a smirk turn me into a wide-eyed kid again.
Ryan: And believe me, I want that smirk and wide-eyed look on my face when I leave the theatre. Because I will go. And I will want to believe. I’m just not as sure as you that I will. But we’ll both see, won’t we?

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