Saturday, June 28, 2008

Double Reviews!!! Indiana Jones and The Incredible Hulk

So apparently this place is evolving into Movie Review Central. I've been meaning to get to this for some time now, and now Archie has kind of thrown down the gauntlet. I think I'll start with...

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Turd Skull

The last good moment in this fucking movie. And it's about ten minutes into the film.

I have not been so disappointed since I lost my virginity. Much like that experience, this film was very much anticipated, I had relatively low expectations, and even those low expectations were not even met. I sort of steadfastly avoid reading reviews before seeing a movie I'm really looking forward to. I like to go in as fresh as possible and form my own opinion without being biased by what some asshole from The New York Times or the Village Voice thinks about the movie. Having said that, I did go into the movie with two fears:

  1. That Harrison Ford's oldness was going to be distracting as to make the film shitty.
  2. George Lucas's involvement was going to make the film even shittier.
Let's face it. George Lucas might be the most massively overrated filmmaker in Hollywood. He's made maybe ONE good film on his own. I'm not bothering with George's filmography, but if I've overlooked something, let me know in the comments. Anyway, as it turned out, Harrison Ford's age was the subject of a couple of mediocre jokes but it was surprisingly not distracting at all. That said, the rest of the film was shit.

There were three terrible signs right away. First, the fucking CGI prairie dogs. What... the ... fuck? Next the pointless sort-of-drag race with the army trucks and the teenagers over the opening credits and Elvis. Elvis is fine. But what the fuck? Raiders opened with dudes in the jungle, which was cool. Temple of Doom opened with a musical number in a dinner club, which was kind of lame, but still not sucky and set the atmosphere for the opening bit of the movie. And Last Crusade opened with Young Indy in the desert being a bad young dude. This had absolutely nothing to do with anything except to tell us, Hey it's the fifties! Which you could have done with a fucking caption anyway!

Finally, the ultimate terrible sign of unfettered badness: Story by Some Dude & George Lucas. This was when I realized, oh shit, this might REALLY fucking suck.

And it did.

Grade: F-minus-minus.

The Incredible Hulk

Here's a hint, Hollywood: if you're doing a movie that was a beloved 1970s TV show first, it probably won't be a bad idea to try to evoke it in your film.

A few years ago, when Ang Lee's Hulk came out, I was legitimately enthused. Hulk is probably my favorite character of the Marvel Universe, which probably says something about me being pretty passive aggressive. Anyway, I was looking forward to it. In fact, when I saw it with my girlfriend at the time, we left the theatre trying desperately to talk ourselves into it. Has anyone else ever done this? You leave the theatre knowing deep down that a movie was terrible, but because you were so amped to see it, and you paid 10 bucks a pop, you start making excuses. Excuses like, "The special effects were alright. It wasn't distracting or anything." and "The Hulk jumping around was kinda cool." and the ultimate excuse of all, "Well, the sequel will be alot better because they got the boring origin stuff out of the way." It actually took about two months before we were admitting to ourselves and each other, "Yeah it was garbage."

That said, I went into The Incredible Hulk with relatively tempered expectations. I didn't even expect it to be good. Just okay. I went in expecting the Hulk to look a little fake-ish, and I didn't anticipate much more than a big dumb summer popcorn movie. My expectations were actually surpassed.

What did this film do right? First of all, the casting was pretty spot on. Ed Norton just works as Banner, and Liv Tyler, gorgeous as she is, just seems to work better as a scientist/nerdboy-dream-come-true than Jennifer Connelly did in the other film. Secondly, and I think this is a major problem with most superhero movies, The Incredible Hulk serves as a reboot to the franchise but doesn't rehash the origin story except briefly and with no dialogue over the opening credits and through some dialogue throughout the film. There's so little of it and it's so subtle, that you barely even notice that it's there. Let's face it, folks, if you're going in to watch a movie called The Incredible Hulk you either already know the backstory, or you're going with someone who can sum it up in three sentences. Incidentally, I went with a girl who didn't know ANYTHING about the Hulk before the movie, and after a very brief explanation early on (along the lines of "Bruce mad, Bruce change, Bruce smash") she seemed to enjoy the film quite alot.

Someone on some blog somewhere (sorry to whoever it is that I'm ripping off here; if you know who it is, mention it in the comments and I'll link) mentioned that The Incredible Hulk is basically a remake of Spider-man. In a way, I think this is correct. It is a movie about an ordinary man who has uncontrollable god-like power accidentally thrust upon him. Much of the film is about the hero refusing to acknowledge the power as his and actively looking to get rid of it. In the end, Banner realizes that with great power comes great responsibility, whether we want that power or not.

The Incredible Hulk succeeds not because it's a particularly good movie. It isn't really. It's just very competent. It knows what kind of film it is and doesn't try to be anything more or less. Unlike Indiana Jones, The Incredible Hulk doesn't try to blow you away; it just doesn't fuck the easy things up.

What does it say about the state of movies that the standard for "good movie" is basic competence?

Grade: B+

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