Summer Movie Reviews

Speed Racer

Saw it in IMAX. Harmless family fantasy fare. We went in expecting an eye-candy homage to the cartoon and weren't disappointed. I can't imagine ever watching it again, but it entertained us.

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

My bar: "Was it good enough that they'll make Voyage of the Dawn Treader?" Apparently, yes - $96M so far. Yay.

The actual plot of the book itself is rather short, and unlike LWW or VDT focuses on atmosphere, character development, and parable. (In the lovely form of "If your friends didn't have the faith to jump off a bridge, why should that stop you?") It can be summed up as "the Pevensies appear in Narnia, note that it has aged a thousand years, meet a dwarf who provides details in flashback, and trump across the world being teased by Aslan. The boys arrive in time to rescue Caspian from some nasties in a cave, then defeat his uncle in single combat, while Aslan and the girls wake up the pagan gods. Then there's a lackluster fight, Narnia wins, everyone goes home."

While LWW stayed pretty close to the book except for some excursions into "WTF?" (I'm looking at you, frozen waterfall), Prince Caspian desperately needed to be expanded. Susan describes it as "they took the book and put it into the blender" - but that is forgivable as much of the book is a flashback. Throw-away elements of the book are expanded on in an enjoyable way - what happened to Cair Paravel, how Aslan's How came to be, the political intrigue of the Telmarine lords, the scene in the Cave, Sopespian and Glozelle, and so forth. Reepicheep played as well as I could have hoped. The Bridge at Beruna makes more sense in the movie than the book, when thinking of the lives of ordinary (Temarine) Narnians rather than drama of the restoration of True Narnia.

Two"WTF?" elements in Prince Caspian were forgivable additions. First, the assault on Miraz's castle seems somewhat out of place, but the movie needed more action (see the skimpy plot) and while the adventures of the adult Pevensies are hinted at they are never seen in the books (apart from The Horse and His Boy) so they might as well get it out of the way - we won't get to see Peter and Susan again for many years, at best. And then there's the Susan/Caspian thing... harmless, and cute. If they make it all the way to The Last Battle, though, let's hope they've got something better figured out for Su.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Incredibly predictable... it felt like an amalgam of Indy fan fiction from the last 20 years. (I assume, haven't read any.) But not necessarily bad...

The bad guys: Of course they're Soviets - that's been assumed in Indy games, comics, and so forth once you can't pin things on Nazis. However, the ESP-element fits in nicely with popular culture views on cold-war stealth ops.

The good guys: In Raiders we have Marion and Sallah. In Temple we have Willie and Short Round. In Crusade we have Elsa then Henry (oh, and Sallah and Marcus for comic relief). Here we have Mutt, Marion, Mac and Ox - which seems like a boat-load. This is quite a different dynamic than we've seen before. I think it makes it harder to follow the chase sequence... but otherwise it isn't bad.

The creepy crawlies: We've had spiders, centipedes, and rats. With a movie set in the Amazon, the logical answer is...

The comedy: In Raiders the comedy was subtle - snakes on the plane, drinking at Marion's bar, the basket chase/fight scene, Marion and Belloq drinking, in the cabin on the steamer. In contrast, Temple played up the comedy - most scenes with Short Round and Willie were far from serious. The laughs in Crusade were more subtle, but the film was much more lighthearted than Raiders - the train chase, escaping the sewer, Marcus in Iskenderun, "Tickets please", and pretty much anything with Sallah. Kingdom has some subtle humor (most scenes with Mutt), some smack-you-in-the-face (the statue, the jungle chase). And then there's the forgettable, obviously shot on a soundstage comedy/revelation scene.

Inside references: Indy rode with Pancho Villa. Indy was a spy during the war. The Ark. Marcus. Marcus. Henry Jones, Sr. Marcus. Oh, and Marcus. Marion. Presumably many others I'm missing.

The next-to-last 5 minutes were over the top - and did we really, really need those gears eating the stairs, on top of everything else? Sadly, the master has become the student - Indy doesn't need to learn from The Mummy or Tomb Raider, but apparently Lucas and Spielberg disagree.

So basically, Indy IV is a two-hour fan-wank. It doesn't add much to the series, and is my fourth-favorite movie in the series, but while that technically makes it my least-favorite, I didn't dislike it. It isn't as re-watchable as the others, but nor did it devalue the other films in the series.