I saw the new Indiana Jones movie last night.
In general, I don’t have problems with aliens (the ones from outer space). I’m a gigantic fan of The X-Files after all. Having faithfully watched the seminal sci-fi series in the mid to late 90s, I know that there are, in fact, theories in the anthropological community that posit that an alien civilization came to Earth thousands of years ago to teach homo sapiens how things should be done. (Notwithstanding the Alien movies, Shamalamadingdong’s Signs, Mars Attacks!, and maybe Kang and Kodos and Morbo, aliens are typically portrayed as an advanced species trying to impart their knowledge to us puny earthlings. See: E.T., Superman, Roger, and heck, even Alf.) These anthropologists point to the marvels of the pyramids, the elaborate Mayan temples, and the Easter Island idols as proof that someone with a lot more grey matter was probably traipsing across our planet a few thousand years ago. There are also theories out there of entire civilizations completely vanishing (e.g., the Anasazi) because they, too, were probably aliens themselves.
In any case, that’s all fine and good… within the context of, say, Mulder and Scully’s weekly adventures. But as part of Indiana Jones’ canon of stories? Yeah. It doesn’t go so much.
Granted, there’s always been an element of the supernatural in Indiana Jones’ stories, the most awesome of which was probably the Ark of the Covenant in Raiders. But in that film, Spielberg and Lucas subtly injected enough mysticism into the legend of the ark that the payoff in the end (melty faces and all) was completely satisfying.
Compare that scenario with a literal close encounter of the third kind in the latest Indy flick, where the aliens were so heavy-handedly featured from the beginning that I lost any sense of wonder or astonishment when the aliens did in fact emerge from their hibernation later in the movie. (Hey, look at this alien crystal skull I have! It’s an insect repellant, a mind reader, and a handy flashlight too! Get the deluxe model and it can also be a flash drive and GPS! All for three easy payments of $29.95!)
I don’t have a problem with the aliens being the central part of the story. But the execution fell flat. There was so much that Spielberg and Lucas could have played with (the Cold War paranoia, threats of nuclear annihilation from the evil Russians) that would have made the alien storyline a lot more resonant. But they decided to opt for man-eating ants, Shia LeBouf swinging on vines, and Mel Gibson-approved natives instead.
(While we’re on the topic, I’m still on my pointless tirade against Shia LeBouf, whose manufactured stardom is grating on me a lot more than I thought it would. I wanted Megatron to just do away with him in Transformers. This time I hoped the ants would have gotten him.)
So much potential put to waste. This is going to be one of those movies that I’ll probably forget is part of the Indiana Jones canon. (Kinda like the three Star Wars prequels.)
My final rating: one star. For the creepily effective a-bomb scene at the beginning of the movie, which set quite a bar that proved too high for the rest of the film to follow.