@synth_cinema: Review Roundup - Exposition of Doom


Review Roundup - Exposition of Doom


It's hard to admit it but in life most things come and go, often never to return. The past will only ever be part of long term memories that should be reminisced about occasionally, but never obsessed over. Remember when Indiana Jones was in a rollicking adventure series during the heyday of Spielberg, Lucas, Williams, and Ford? It's still one of the best trilogies of all time, with perhaps some of the best action and music ever done for the big screen. But you can never go back to that era and re-experience it. Trying to live in the past will only make you miserable and bitter, which is why it's hard to be upset that this sequel exists. It's no good at all but in the end it was never going to be.

'I don't believe in magic,' says Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) in what is meant to be an emotional moment. But while it's a mystery how the man who drank from the Holy Grail could make such an odd statement, it's a bigger mystery why the film-makers seem to agree with him. This is a film missing any sense of magic whether it's things like actors with charisma and screen-presence, action adventure antics, or even a few memorable musical cues. Things like clever editing, good pacing, and even simple levity are often bizarrely absent. The previous sequel was never this much of a dry slog despite its own obvious problems. Why make another if everyone involved seems to be so detached?

Ford himself seems annoyed throughout whether the plot demands it or not. He yells a lot and not in a fun Temple of Doom kind of way. He's annoyed by his neighbours in 1969 New York, he's apathetic to getting a retirement gift from his academic colleagues, and he's irritated by the underworld life his god-daughter Helena (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) has chosen. When he's not being grumpy, which might have been amusing in the right hands, he's just kind of sad thanks the way his own life has turned out. Why is he living in Manhattan? It's not clear. His original cosy house from Raiders, and his position as Dean of the school in Crystal Skull, have vanished for some reason, along with his mojo.

That previous sequel was not a good movie but it did at least attempt to offer a good time. Here the jokes and silly moments have been replaced by bloody murder and depression. Someone must have thought that audiences wanted to see a clear course correction. But by doing so it robs the story of its identity as a Raiders follow-up despite some attempts to ape the original trilogy. The best they have to offer is a CGI laden prologue in which a de-aged Indy and his friend Basil (Toby Jones) try to rescue some artefacts from a military train. It verges on being an old school adventure but it's sunk by so many wonky visual effects shots and recycled ideas.

You can't just use music from The Last Crusade and expect it to be as good. You certainly can't use computerised characters and expect them to look and sound like real actors. Didn't anyone have the sense to say this during pre-production? It wouldn't be so bad if the story - Indy and Helena chase the Archimedes Dial across the globe - had any reason to exist. Will old Indy get his groove back? Will Helena forgive her father and learn some humility? No and no. Instead it just sort of rambles along through a mindless, and mind-numbing, two and a half hours. The likes of baddie Voller (Mads Mikkelsen) and young side-kick Teddy (Ethann Isidore) exist only as analogues of previous characters who were actually engaging.

In terms of action there's the train scene, a tuk-tuk chase, a horse-back sequence, and even a diving set piece... but it's all very underwhelming. There are no time-extending Spielberg-ian moments in which suspense and spectacle come together in that classic way. There are no exciting traps or memorable fist fights. John Williams apparently worked on this but it's hard to be sure. There are also no signs of what they spent all the money on in a film with a considerable budget. All of these chases feel like padding in between scenes of people talking about the macguffin before the villains magically show up on cue to push things forward. Indy often has little to do during most of the scenes due to his age, making this all feel more pointless.

Which in the end is the major problem here; it often seems like a film that nobody asked for and a story in which the protagonist doesn't want to be involved. He never regains a spark of his old self and in fact during the obligatory third act special effects sequence he decides to give up fighting altogether. Basic character arcs are always a problem for action heroes who should remain unchanged by such events. But when it's a yarn like this it's bizarre that such obvious cues were overlooked. Was this made out of obligation? Did anyone want to see a desiccated epilogue like this play out in such a dour fashion? Its existence is a bigger mystery than anything left behind by a long-lost civilisation. But that's okay, it's time to remember the wise words of Henry Jones Sr. and let it go.



Speaking of films that are overstay their welcome, the latest Mission: Impossible movie is nearly an hour too long. Do you want to sit and hear a lot of dull exposition about artificial intelligence and magic keys? People talk a whole lot (without really saying anything that makes sense) in a baffling amount of scenes, it's not exactly gripping. Which is odd when it's all so simplistic: someone made a self-aware computer and there's a key to controlling it that everybody wants. Not a key-card or a passcode; an actual door key with ornate metal parts. Something with two halves that looks like it came from Operation Condor. But that's not the only odd detail lifted from another movie in a story that cribs from several James Bond films and even the Uncharted game series.

It opens with Russians on a new submarine like the Red October. It continues with the handcuffs from Tomorrow Never Dies and the tiny car from For Your Eyes Only. Even Tom Cruise's much the talked about cliff-jumping stunts and train top combat will be very familiar to spy movie fans. Not everything is perfect, particularly during some obvious green-screen and CGI aided moments, but generally it's fast paced and fun; when things finally get a move on. Of course in the meantime it has all the usual face-swapping nonsense and high-tech banter thanks to a familiar ensemble, even if these kind of moments between the likes of Simon Pegg and Ving Rhames have been done many times already by now.

New additions fare less well and unfortunately there's nothing to repeat the likes of Henry Cavill's performance last time around. Big bad Gabriel (Esai Morales) is supposed to be part of a Ethan Hunt's past but it's never convincing, in yet another attempt to humanise the hero via a past tragedy. Which would be more forgivable if it wasn't all so baggy during so many of the slower moments. It takes nearly thirty minutes to reach the opening credits theme which is pretty odd to say the least. Still, hired thief Grace (Hayley Atwell) and assassin Paris (Pom Klementieff) are enjoying themselves, which makes it engaging elsewhere. It never reaches the (often literal) heights of the glass tower ascent or the aerial stunt work from previous instalments, but it will be interesting to see what part two has to offer.