Well, I enjoyed the new Indiana Jones movie.

I don’t have anything particularly intelligent to say about it, but then… the movie doesn’t particularly give you any reason to say intelligent things about it. It’s like a big bowl of one of those horrible sugar-cereals you used to love as a kid but haven’t thought about in 20 years. Except now all the frankenberries have tiny microcomputers in them that project holographic CG prairie dogs all over the kitchen as you chew. It’s kind of distracting and you wonder why they bothered, but you know what? The frankenberries taste just like you remember, you’re getting a nice nostalgia kick, and that’s what you paid for, goddamn it. I mean, sure, maybe you can’t slam the entire bowl of sugar-sludge the way you did 20 years ago, but, um.. but…

(Honey, is that box of bran flakes still on top of the fridge? I like the flax bits.)

I think my enjoyment of Indy 4 was strongly enhanced by having watched the entirety of that Indiana Jones marathon they had on the Sci-Fi Channel last week. It reminded me what those movies really ARE, warts and all, so I wasn’t just riding some sort of dewy, soft-focus nostalgia train into the theater last Sunday. This has always been a goofy, cornball kind of series. Raiders of the Lost Ark is clearly head and shoulders (and chest and groin and legs and feet and several miles of empty air) above the rest, but Crystal Skull certainly isn’t any sillier or less engaging than the other two. It fits in pretty well, actually. Yes, Crystal Skull has Shia LaBeouf Tarzanning it up with CG monkeys, but if you recall, Last Crusade had Sean Connery destroying a Nazi fighter plane by riling up pigeons with his umbrella. (The birds weren’t CG though, so I guess that’s okay.)

I was kind of surprised, watching that marathon the other day, by how much I liked Temple of Doom. I used to be pretty adamant that Temple of Doom was the worst one, but looking at them again I think it holds up ever-so-slightly better than Last Crusade. Maybe I’ve just endured Kate Capshaw’s character often enough to build up a tolerance at this point, but I dunno… The mine carts… the monkeyheads… that whole first scene in the nightclub… all that stuff is as good as anything in Raiders. (That shish-kebabbed puppet shooting wildly in the air is maybe my favorite thing ever). Mostly, I think I just appreciated how different Temple is from the first one. I mean, Last Crusade is great, but sometimes it really does feel like they just slapped new labels on all the old Raiders stuff and called it a new movie.

The villains in Last Crusade are kind of forgettable, too… Some people mentioned the bad guys weren’t very good in this new movie, but I dunno. To be honest, I thought Irina Spalko was maybe the best villain since Toht and Belloq in Raiders. It’s kind of hard to go wrong when you give somebody like Cate Blanchett a thick Ukrainian accent and an inexplicable set of rapiers. I thought she was all kinds of neat.

The Beouf didn’t bother me the way he bothered other folks, either. After Constantine and I, Robot, I went into Indy expecting the guy to be in full “Scamp, the Lovable Wiseacre” mode, but it wasn’t like that at all. I figured his character would be all “Lay off, Pops! I ain’t got time for all your science museum mumbo-jumbo! I gots pomade to spread all over my hot rod at the rock-n-roll malt shop sock hop, Daddy-O!” There was a little of that, yeah, but I liked that Steven Spielberg, etc. largely avoided any kind of culture clash nonsense between the two leads. Mutt was pretty much on board with smart being cool right from the start.

I do agree, however, that the double agent guy was kind of pointless. And John Hurt’s performance was, as I read over at CHUD, sorta Lassie-like. The movie was maybe 15-20 minutes too long, went “too cutesy” a bit too often (ugh, that quicksand scene), and the last scene is kinda limp. And yes, fakey CG continues to be the slow death of Big Hollywood.

But still, I enjoyed the movie. The atomic blast shot, the jungle chase, the weird capoeria-spinning skull-masked grave-guards, the motorcycle slide through the library…. men dragged to their death by ants (ugh, ants)… Harrison Ford still being all cool… It felt like an Indiana Jones movie, and that’s all I wanted.

It’s kind of odd, a couple weeks ago I admitted to enjoying another critically derided movie, Speed Racer, on the grounds that it was a bit of silly fun that was at least trying something different. And now here I’m telling you I liked Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull because it’s a bit of silly fun that wraps me in a warm blanket of familiarity.

Oh, wait… that’s not odd at all, actually. That’s called “having fun with different films for different reasons.” Nevermind.