Verdict: It was awesome!
For the use of this review, the word "Indie" refers to an Indiana Jones movie, not an independent film. ;)
I didn't really think I'd enjoy this movie. For one thing, I have an automatic distaste for franchises that outlive their maturity. For another thing, I just couldn't conceive of how they could follow Last Crusade. So I put off seeing it. But I knew elvinborn wanted to see it, and I really wanted to go out the other night, so we went.
I enjoyed it much more than I expected to. Lucas, who generally has the delicacy of a rhinoceros on steroids, has nonetheless kept his source material as intact as possible, with generous amounts of loving homage dusted all over the place. Shia LaBeouf is, um. Surprisingly yummy. *cough* But he and Harrison Ford play off each other great, too.
Watching Harrison Ford climbing all over the place wasn't quite as upsetting as I thought it would be. And I had to cheer when they brought Karen Allen back into the plot. She was always my favorite Indie girl anyway. Please god let's hope that the two of them getting married at the end means no more climbing through truck windows for Indie. And yes, let's have some Cate Blanchett, shall we? Yes I think we shall. Not to mention John Hurt!
But I did feel there was something lacking in the film, and it's similar to what was missing in Temple of Doom. By the end, I had made up my mind... it wasn't something lacking. It was just something that made it feel like less of an Indie film and more of... an awesome, but not quite, Indie film. And that was God.
Judeo-Christian mythos has a particular kind of oomph in our culture. It's what gave Raiders of the Lost Ark and Last Crusade that sense of the numinous that made them so... extra-special, beyond spooky and into the realm of awe. Those films appeal to something well familiar to our culture, the same way that so many Japanese movies appeal to a generally-accepted mythological system (that makes them seem odd and inexplicable to us once they cross the water). Temple of Doom had scripting (and casting) problems, sure, but at least a part of what was wrong with it was the fact that it was dealing with a lot of plot that would be far, far more terrifying if you had learned the mythos from childhood.
Alien conspiracy mythos also has its own oomph, but it's pretty different. So when all of the alien stuff started happening, I felt the power of the scenes, but it wasn't at all like what went on inside me in Raiders when they opened the Ark. Someone who believes in aliens the way I believe in God would doubtless have had a different reaction. But at that moment, I found myself admiring the special affects, rather than going, "Holy crap look at what's HAPPENING to those people!"
Let's face it... Indie doesn't need to always be about God. And in a way, it would be cheating to always have him dealing with God stuff, since it's an inexpensive way to borrow on a long-standing cultural cache. So I refuse to say it's a flaw. It was just different.
Changing the time period gave the whole thing a different feeling, too. I enjoyed every minute of the fifties shtick, I admit, and in fact... I think I enjoyed it to the point where it distracted me from the plot. *snerk*
Things that really, honestly, did annoy me: the fridge jumped the fucking shark. Also, I have a hard time deciding which bugged me worse: Mac's constant side-switching, or Mac himself (I was chanting to myself, "DIE ALREADY," by the end of the film, and was very upset that it took him UNTIL THE VERY END to do so). Other than that, I'm pissed off that I bought the boxed set already when this is such a worthy addition to the series.
elvinborn just got back from Alaska the other day, and she brought me back a necklace with a koru pendant made of caribou horn, with an abalone inset... it is made of win. :) Will post pic of me wearing it sometime. (elvish, remind me to bug you to take a pic of me wearing it.)