Saturday, 7 June 2008

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Played Out Franchise

Contains Spoilers for Indy 4.

Bearing in mind the middling reviews that IJ4 has already received, I went along to my friendly, local multiplex not expecting to experience a landslide of narrative coherence. I mean, the words ‘Story by George Lucas’ is enough to make anyone spontaneously combust, but I was prepared: just entertain me, goddamn it! With a big marquee film like this, I don’t expect anything more than that.

One thing I just wasn’t prepared for was just how damn boring the whole thing was.

Mystery Man lays into the whole thing here better than I could, but the one thing he seems to miss is just how frickin’ dull it all was. The first fifteen minutes are a case in point: Indy and his chronically underwritten double/triple-dealing sidekick Mac find themselves prisoners of the Russian Army, forced to search an American military warehouse for the body of an extraterrestrial (don’t bother asking how half the Russian army have somehow ended up in the United States; you won’t understand – or even care about – the answer). OK, that much I can buy – it’s the heavy handed set up that really starts to grind. The three previous films hit the ground running – this one sort of limps out of the gate and has a lie down for fifteen minutes whilst it tries to figure out where the hell it wants to go. What’s more, the entire opening of the film is effectively made completely redundant by the fact that the narrative starts again with the arrival of Mutt (another crap sidekick). The scene in the diner is where the film actually begins, albeit with a landfill of boring and confusing exposition thrown in for good measure. Add in some pointless sub plots, far too many underwritten characters and a narrative that makes absolutely no sense whatsoever, and there you have it: the worst film of the quadrilogy by a long, long way – which brings me back to the whole problem of coherence.

I get positively autistic when faced with a narrative that doesn’t make sense, although I was quite prepared to temporarily suspend this debilitating condition in order to be entertained. Didn’t happen. Now I know that narrative coherence is not a luxury to be sacrificed in favour of spectacle: if you’re confused, you’re not involved - you spend half the time fretting away at a confusing narrative detail and not emoting, which is probably why Indy 4 has no discernible emotional intelligence to it at all. The first step should have been to make the thing actually make sense – everything can then follow from there. But then again, coherence is not something we’ve come to expect from George Lucas, bless him.

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