Shockingly both I and Dante saw this in at the same time, in the same country, in the same building no less, so we bring you a mutual opinion, man and horse working in tandem, as it was always meant to be.
We had our insults carefully prepared. We had pitfalls carefully mapped out, places we knew that the film would fail. It was going to be another poor remake of a franchise that should have just stayed dead, another Rocky, another Rambo. Ford was past it, Spielberg was past it. Case closed.
Sometimes it feels good to be wrong.
Cate Blanchett hams it up perfectly and her gleaming ethereal features befit the role of stoic Russian leader of psychic weapons division. Her penchant for unnecessary swordplay and her ability to summon entire platoons of Russian mooks at any time, even in the depths of an unmapped jungle, proves both useful and entertaining. I actually lost track during the movie of what it was she had done wrong beyond dressing in a restrictive Russian uniform and sporting a curt and angry haircut, but whatever, she’s bad, Indie’s good. We’re all on the same page.
As for Harrison Ford – there were worries, though it pains me to say it, the man is getting on. Early posters saw him posing in the Indie get up, and there were concerns that maybe it just wasn’t going to work anymore.
The first confrontation. Blanchett glares intently at Indie, nobody says anything, a minute passes and she keeps staring. You realise then she’s actually trying to read his mind. Ford flashes his famous sardonic lopsided smile and makes a crack, and you know then that he’s still got it. As he telegraphs metre wide hooks, wading through whole platoons of uniformed evildoers you’ll still cheer for him. For all his years he can still deliver. Turns out Harrison Ford is the one treasure in Indiana Jones that doesn’t belong in a museum (finally! – Ed).
The plot is, well, it’s just nonsense. But do you remember the whole thing in the first film with the Ark of the Covenent? Remember when the guy’s face melts? Remember when Indie gets Hitler’s autograph? Indiana Jones has always been completely out of its tree, and the fourth film merrily carries on with this tradition, probably taking it to its farthest extremes yet. There are several occasions where it simply goes too far, and you can feel the audience around you wincing as this happens. A couple of grumpy sighs and raised eyebrows later and everyone can get back to watching the action, which is brilliantly frantic, explosive, and many other positive adjectives besides. It’s old school gung ho adventure with some great actors enjoying themselves immensely.
To everyone’s relief, Mud, Indie’s adolescent sidekick, manages to not be too annoying at any point, and rides a motorcycle more convincingly than perhaps Indie would. He’s for the most part silent, and singlehandedly kickstarts most of the action scenes by force of sheer impetuousness. Karen Allen’s in it too, and she doesn’t do anything except get herself into mild peril, but she’s there. Kudos, I guess.
You can feel free to check off the tropes as you watch, themetune – check, snakes skit – check, plane montage with red line travelling over sandy map – check. It’s good fanservice, and good fun besides. Spielberg’s direction is busily choreographed, inventive and colourful, the locales are lush, the explosions are big, the natives fierce. What more do you want, people? Something deep and challenging? Because the greatest revelation this film will bring you is that blowpipes work both ways, anything more and it wouldn’t be Indiana Jones. Now I’m going to get me a sweet hat and a whip and raid me some temples.