indy-4

Harrison Ford actually moves slower than this in the film.

One of the many benefits of having children is that your social life is dictated by the availability of family members / unwitting fools, making themselves available to babysit. So by the time I can make it to the picture house to watch the latest flickering thing of interest, early word is out and I can normally avoid the complete stinkers – though please permit me a moment to shake my fist in the general direction of Predators.

One significant bullet dodged was Indiana Jones 4. Although I wasn’t one of the thousands of people who staggered out into the summer sunshine of 2008 with levels of film-induced rage not seen since Richard Littlejohn watched a subtitled film about a man without a job, I knew that my moment of reckoning wouldn’t be too far away.

For the past two years it’s played on my subconscious like an upcoming visit to the dentist, reminding me that at some point in the not too distant future I’m going to have something horrible thrust down an unwilling orifice by an old man who appears happy and carefree but in reality is a joyless husk who gets pleasure from pissing on people’s (metaphorical) chips. And until I do, I’m never truly going to be happy.

Well this particular appointment was made this weekend, and like a visit to the dentist it left me with headaches, a slightly nauseous taste in the mouth and a feeling that I never want to go through the experience again. But unlike a visit to the dentist, I didn’t get a sticker afterwards to cheer me up. 

Age is undeniably the strongest theme in Indy 4, the protagonist is old, the makers are old and, like an old person, you’re not quite sure what just happened when it’s finished – though you can be sure that you’re not going to get that time back. Even more coincedentally,  the whole experience is akin to an OAP screening: relatively inoffensive but marked by a general lack of excitement and a curious smell of biscuits.

As famous ex-carpenters go, Harrison Ford is easily in the top 3 (between Jesus and Karen). Here he looks like he’d much rather be off planing a bookshelf than swinging a whip. Of course, it’s entirely possible that he’s been hanging around furniture so much that he’s adopted their way of life, like Kevin Costner in Dances with Wolves or that bloke from Avatar who makes for an unconvincing screen star, even when standing next to a 9ft tall, blue cat-alien.

Indy moves so slowly from the outset, an action scene set in the warehouse from the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark, that it’s like Spielberg used ‘lethargy’ as a motivational buzzword, then played the resultant footage back at half speed, but not before spiking Ford with Ambien, covering him in wet cement and filming the whole thing in a tank filled with treacle.

Even the return of Marion, Indy’s flame from Raiders, fails to raise the pulse of the star and the viewer, probably because the once former, feisty love-interest  now looks like she keeps too many cats. There’s barely an ounce of the spark that made her such a pleasure to watch all those years ago and that is a heartbreak in itself.

Indy and Marion’s reunion, which should be a cause for all-inclusive mutual celebration, only serves to remind of the passing of time, human frailty and the transient nature of all living things. Basically, the exact opposite of what you should be getting from a film featuring the ‘Indiana Jones’ prefix – unless of course it was followed by ‘and the 21 Grams’. And if you’re going to hand over the reigns to Alejandro González Iñárritu you’re going to need some piss-funny computer generated monkeys to distract you from the resultant misery.

Which brings us to another failing of Indy 4: the inevitable prevalence of CGI

For several years, The Berg and Ford told anyone who would listen (and that was basically EVERYONE)  that George Lucas was holding up the film because he thought that the script wasn’t ready. Well, anyone who’s seen a George Lucas film from the past 25 years would know that this theory doesn’t hold much water. It’s like Shymalan’s latest being credited to Alan ‘Night’ Smithee for having too many plot twists and decent performances. Unless of course the writers were receiving pages back from George with ‘Morr poo jokez’, and ‘Howard duck heer’ scribbled on the page in (computer-generated) crayon.

But like the poo jokes themselves, the evident reproach in any conversation featuring ‘George Lucas’ and ‘CGI’ is old hat and, despite a tidal wave of criticism, this emperor is not about to (digitally) alter his clothes – and not because checked shirts are finally hip again.

A few months ago, when conversing with a colleague about favourite films, he argued the case for Raiders of the Lost Ark. Even after I countered “but there’s no shark, or Rutger Hauer on a rooftop in his underpants”, he explained that in his opinion Raiders takes the mantle, not because it offers any semblance of a deeper theme but because it’s a well-polished piece of entertainment with every scene offering a perfect mix of humour, surprise, adventure and strong characterisation. If you took the film apart, like a stick of rock you’d find the same elements running through each scene. It’s deceptively simple and fulfills its obligations to the viewer spectacularly.

In Indy 4 you’ll find similar consistency but only in so much as nearly every scene offers an old person, rubbish CGI and more flapping than an episode of ‘Springwatch Nights’. If it offers anything resembling positivity it’s a tick in the box marked ‘Yes, I now agree with euthanasia’.

Age in itself isn’t an issue; it never stopped Pat Morita (well, until it STOPPED, stopped him) and Danny Glover made something of a career out of being too old for varying degrees of shit. The real tragedy with Indy 4 isn’t that he got old, it’s that he lost his dignity. And if you’ve ever fallen off a chair with your pants around your ankles, you’ll know that dignity isn’t something that can be easily regained. So perhaps it’s time for Indy to say goodnight for good.

My suggestion is for one last adventure. A flight across the map with the dotted red line leading to a nice little clinic in Switzerland. There, surrounded by his loved ones: Marion, ‘Shitty Beef’ and a comedy CGI rodent, he can lay in a private room and go to sleep, forever, with his hat on to avoid any unwelcome spin-offs. At least they won’t have to look far to find someone who could craft a lovely pine box.

Good night Indy. Please don’t come back.

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