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George Lucas, ruiner of movie franchises? 

The Arkansas Times Movie Club tackles ‘Indiana Jones 4.'

STILL SWASHBUCKLING: Harrison Ford returns as Indiana Jones.
  • STILL SWASHBUCKLING: Harrison Ford returns as Indiana Jones.

David Koon: You know, for the past couple of days, I've been sort of steeling myself up. In the past, whenever one of my beloved heroes of yore has returned for a reboot in a new film (Ang Lee's Hulk comes to mind in this regard), I must admit that I've been overwhelmed by nostalgia enough to give the film a better grade than it deserved. Let's call it the “Sex with an Ex” phenomenon — it might not really be that good, but it reminds you of all the times when it was fantastic, so you're bound to give that B-minus performance an A+.

It's a measure of how much I love “Raiders” (and to a lesser extent, “Last Crusade,” and still lesser “Temple of Doom”) that I really, really didn't want to do that with the new Indy flick. I'm just going to call it like it lays, I told myself. I'm not going to get all school-girl mushy the first time he puts on the damn hat, and the first time he hits somebody and it sounds like he just whacked them with a two-by-four, and the first time he breaks out the whip. 

Couldn't help it. Totally couldn't help it. From the first time we saw Ford onscreen in his rumpled shirt and Sam Browne holster, I was all Spielberg's. I really, really dug this film. It ain't “Raiders” good, but it definitely slots nicely into the middle of the Indiana Jones pack quality-wise. Some of that is, granted, my man-crush on Harrison Ford (Harrison, why oh why did you waste all those goddamn years making “Firewall” and “Sabrina” when you could have been cranking out Indy flicks, man?), but the truth is it's also really entertaining popcorn fare, just like “Raiders” was. 

By the way, I think we should pause here and say a little prayer of thanks to Steven Spielberg for keeping the bearded, childhood-dream-raping menace that is George Lucas as far away from this film as he could. One can only imagine the myriad ways Lucas and the Industrial Light and Magic ewoks could have screwed this up: 

Lucas: “Instead of Russians, how about we have Indy fighting a race of hyper-intelligent goldfish? Boys! Fire up the WHOPR computer!” 

Spielberg: “How about you shut your cakehole, Jar-Jar? The adults are talking.” 

 

Matt Reed: You can call me the AntiDavid. When I adore a franchise I tend to look upon its sequels with, if anything, raised expectations, and sometimes have to rein those in. In that vein, and while we're talking Jar-Jar, the sheer weight of my hopes going into “The Phantom Menace” crushed me at least as much as did the film's awfulness. So I walked into “Crystal Skull” with my +4 Helm of Guarded Optimism on.

If we had webcams, you'd see me squinching up half my face and tilting my head to the left as I ponder how to describe my reaction. Mixed, certainly. The movie had a lot of the fun of the sequels, and certainly Spielberg still knows how to pull off the physics-bending, impossibly dangerous chase scene like no other (I don't want to ruin it for the readers, but the refrigerator scene was both the simplest and largest-scale death escape in cinematic history). Yes, the punches still sounded awesome, yes, there was still room for a Wilhelm Scream, and yes, the whip cracked just as satisfyingly.

But, I don't know, I just didn't feel the magic like I did with the others. The adventure, for all its humongous scale, didn't strike me as all that adventurous. Maybe it was the quick leaps from puzzle to puzzle, maybe it was that he didn't have Marcus or the Indian guy or Connery along for the ride, maybe it was that we've shifted from fantasy to sci-fi, I don't know, but “Crystal Skull” didn't twinkle like the other films do. 

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