My childhood was defined by Indiana Jones. Harrison Ford was most likely the very first crush I’ve had and his adventures shaped my first goals in life (yes, I did want to be an archaeologist). So even though I didn’t give it much credit, I had to watch another instalment about my favourite history professor.
There’s no way to write about this film without taking a road down memory lane. The Indiana Jones franchise was the one you’d watch whenever it aired. It was the series that stole my heart way before The Lord of the Rings or Pirates of the Caribbean. I adored this life of never-ending adventure, the life of excitement and mystery.
I am missing such films today. For some reason, they simply stopped after National Treasure and The Mummy. I miss the hunt for the truth with an artefact involved and based on actual history to raise its “authenticity”*.
These were my reasons to see the new (and old) Indiana Jones – the nostalgia, the chase of something that’s long gone. I wasn’t afraid to go but I’d stopped my expectations from rising way before. I simply wanted to have fun. And I did!
This Indiana barely resembles the Crystal Skull. They focused on embracing the time passing. The sequences with Indy doing “stunts” are thoughtful rather than “Haha, you’re too old to do so”. And I respect that. Getting old is no fun and dismissing this in popular culture won’t make it disappear. With this in mind, I do respect Harrison Ford for showing his body with all that came.
He never forgot how to play the character. He’s still the same Indiana Jones I’ve known my whole life. The only thing that changed are the problems he deals with now. Life finally caught up to him, it took turns he didn’t exactly expect and now he’s troubled with something different than fighting Nazis or discovering an artefact for a museum. They dealt with the residue from The Crystal Skull properly and sort of forgot the atmosphere of it. The jokes about ageing are very subtle and understanding. They don’t hide the truth but they aren’t making it more unpleasant than it already is. And I truly respect that.
With that said, the de-ageing motion capture is absolute magic. I bought it. The blast from the past sequence is a proper bow to the original trilogy – plenty of ideas were taken from what we’d already seen. Not sure if intended but it was a nice touch.
The story itself is solid. Of course, it has a handful of logic holes, but these are on the acceptable level (read: it’s not Fast and Furious nor surviving an atomic bomb in a fridge). It holds together, all the artefact-related histories and characters’ motivations. Maybe except one: Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Helena’s.
She’s the most annoying plot device of them all. Her mind is changing constantly, never setting her actual goal. I’m absolutely fine with her being unpredictable but the things she’s doing often don’t combine with what she said 30 seconds ago. I wanted to enjoy her but it was impossible to… get her.
Teddy – Helena’s friend in crime – is a quite similar issue, but his “devicing” is more understandable and acceptable. He simply was there to make it easier to explain. But I will never accept him as “a new Short Round”.
The action scenes are quite neat. Sometimes perhaps too long or not as smooth, but I enjoyed the level of complexity given to them. It was an easy way for backstories to connect to the present and be more than a few words. It gave colour to characters and their motivations.
Still, the best side character is undoubtfully, Mads Mikkelsen’s Nazi doctor. Yes, he plays the mix of your favourite previously used villains, but he does it with such grace, I can’t say no to him. I have this major soft spot for the guy and I’m game for all the villainy he does in Hollywood so when he gets back home he can play something completely different.
I’d like to remind myself of the thing he said while marketing Doctor Strange and Rogue One: he tries to encapsulate all the reasoning behind the villain and make him human. No matter where he plays, he always gives his 100%.
Also a shoutout to Boyd Holbrook, whose Corinthian shook my world last year. Here he’s utterly annoying in Indiana and it’s so beautiful. And he had a previous experience with the director on Logan.
Speaking of. James Mangold is currently one of my go-to people for taking over big budgets. Although he didn’t start his career recently (Girl, Interrupted was one of his firsts!), he did make an impression both with Logan and Le Mans ‘66. As mentioned, he lacks the smooth touch of Spielberg, but he does give the right pace for his sequences. And keep the story somewhat together.
Fifth Indiana isn’t a big deal. If Disney wanted it to be – they sort of missed the point. But it is an entertaining picture for Sunday afternoon. Similar to what the first trilogy used to be (before it grew into a classic). If it wasn’t based on the franchise – it would be ignored by haters and score a decent box office. But since it is – it will always get compared.
I honestly hope it will get some money because it isn’t a bad film. The people working on it did their job properly. The studios did have some say in it and we can’t avoid the problems in today’s film business, but it works just fine. I’ll sure go back to it without the fear I have of the Crystal Skull. Stop being mean and simply enjoy it. Criticising the adventure film for being an adventure film is truly pointless.
And after saying all that… I do hope it is the last one. And they won’t revisit this franchise ever again. Indy never needed anything but if it did – now leave it be. The ending was perfect, made me an emotional wreck and I don’t want anybody to change that. If this generation of films is over and according to the box office it is; please stop. Make it a nice memory instead of a stupid money decision. The world will certainly be better with it.
* Uncharted was such a disappointment in the subject.