Friday, May 23, 2008

That Indy Feeling: A Roundup of Indiana Jones Knock-Offs

I just watched the new Indiana Jones movie, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. The film, which is pretty ok if you want it to be (I did) but which you could also consider utterly wretched if you wanted to, is the first attempt by George Lucas and Stephen Spielberg to recapture that old Indy magic since 1989's Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. But it's not the first attempt at capturing that magic. The Hollywood adventure genre, once a varied and exciting thing, has basically been nothing but a bunch of Indiana Jones pastiches over the last twenty years. The result has been, quite frankly, turdtacular. Care to walk down memory lane? Let's look at Hollywood's (mostly pathetic) attempts to replicate Indy's success.

Film: The Mummy (1999)
Indy Stand-In: Brendan Fraser as a mercenary turned reluctant treasure hunter. Actually inspired casting - one of the few movies to use Fraser's goofiness to good purpose. 0 Turds
Critical Turditude: Rotten Tomatoes gives it a 53/100. For an adventure movie that's not bad, but it still gets a turd. 1 Turd
My Thoughts: I actually love this movie - it's got a plot like Raiders but not totally derivative of it, good special effects for the time, classic one liners, and the right mixture of fun and violence. 0 Turds.
Overall: 1 Turd. If you want more Indy, this is a good place to look
Sequel: Much Turdier. Avoid!

Film: Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001)
Indy Stand-In: The good news: she's a woman. The bad news: Although her being a woman seems progressive, Lara Croft is an embarrassing Indy-rip off created originally as a video game character to sell video games by virtue of having big boobs. Angelina Jolie sucked at the time, and she's just gotten worse since. 6.5 Turds
Critical Turditude: 19/100 from Tomatoes. That's worth 3 Turds
My Take: I caught part of this for about 10 minutes on TV. I was bored but couldn't tell what incredibly bland movie I was watching, till I got a peek of Angelina. 2 turds or so.
Total:11.5 Turds. Not good!
Sequel: More of the same? You'd have to watch it to know.

Film: Hellboy (2004)
Indy Stand-In: A giant red demon raised by US operatives, Hellboy is played by one of my favorite actors, Ron Perlman - the ugliest man in Hollywood. He's got Indy's wit and one-liners, and he globe-hops, but is in no way an Indy ripoff. -2 Turds
Critical Reception: 79/100 from Rotten Tomatoes - unprecedented for an adventure movie! Another -1 Turds
My Take: God I love this movie. I'd never say it's a masterpiece, but it's a pleasure to watch and so much fun. I actually misted up watching Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull, because watching John Hurt in an Indy movie made me remember his Hellboy character so strongly. Another -2 Turds.
Overal: -5 Turds. Probably the best adventure movie Hollywood's ever made in the Indy mold that didn't have Indy in it - and better than at least 2 of the 4 Spielberg movies. Rent it!

Film: National Treasure (2004)
Indy Stand-In: I like Nicolas Cage, and his character, Benjamin Franklin Gates, is a kinda interesting attempt to explain why someone would be an Indy-style adventurer by linking his quests to American history. But, ultimately, pretty stupid. 1.5 Turds
Critical Turditude: 41/100 Tomatoes. 1.5 Turds
My Thoughts: Sean Bean plays a great villain in this movie, but most of the cast is wasted, the rest of the cast is just bad, and the story makes no sense and isn't interesting. I want to like its historical references...but don't. 1.5 Turds
Overall: 4.5 Turds. You could do worse, but seeing this movie isn't a great idea.
Sequel: In some ways worse, in some ways better. Bout the same.

Film: Van Helsing (2004)
Indy Stand-In: Legendary vampire hunter Van Helsing is played by badass bearer of Dr. Cox's ire, Hugh Jackman. A cool, classic character, reimagined by an excellent actor - but unfortunately given too many gadgety things to play with in a Bond, not Indy, move. 0 Turds
Critical Turditude: 22/100 Tomatoes: 2.5 Turds
My Thoughts: I've never seen this all the way through, but everytime I catch part of it the momentary sense of intrigue I feel is stifled by the movie's overreliance on CGI and the bad, bad, bad, absolutely dreadful presence of Kate Beckinsale. 2 Turds
Total: 4.5 Turds. I'd probably rather see this than National Treasure, but they're both Turds

Film: Sahara (2005)
Indy Stand-In: Matthew McConaughey, who is actually Hollywood's ugliest man, plays "Dirk Pitt," an intrepid adventurer from a series of crappy Ludlum/Indiana Jones ripoff novels by hack Clive Cussler. Dozens and Dozens of Turds roughly the size and shape of Matthew McConaughey- but probably more attractive and better at acting.
Critical Turditude: 38/100 on Tomatoes. 2 Turds
My Take: I would never watch a second of this piece of crap. More Turds
Overall: Too many turds to count. Do not watch!!

Film: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)
Indy Stand-In: 60-Year Old Indy/Shia LaBeouf. Both of them have promise, but Indy's just too spry for his age and Shia's character is uninteresting and overly-pompadored. 1 Turd for each.
Critical Turditude: Lo and Behold, they like it: 79/100 Tomatoes. -1 Turds
My Take: I enjoyed it, especially whenever three excellently cast actors were onscreen: John Hurt, Ray Winstone, and Jim Broadbent (who directors, Spielberg included, seem to forget can do things besides be mild-mannered. See: him as a fascist in Richard III (1995), operetta writer Gilbert in Topsy-Turvy, or the over-the-top master of ceremonies in Moulin Rouge (2001))
On the other hand, the plot made no sense, the set pieces were ridiculous, and the witticisms and family dynamic which powered Last Crusade are back, with no Sean Connery to make them enjoyable. That comes out to about 1 Turd
Overall: 2 Turds. You can get your Indy fix, but it ain't even as good as The Mummy.

Ok, that's all I can think of right now. Surely there are some more? If you think of any, remind me and I'll try to get an entry in on them.

Updates:

Made for TV Movie: The Librarian: Quest for the Spear (2004)
Indy Stand-In: ER's Noah Wyle plays a mild-mannered librarian who becomes transformed by a quest for a mythic spear. 2 or 3 turds? Maybe even 4.
Critical Turditude: Nobody really reviewed this made for TV piece of crap. 1 Turd for critical indifference.
My Take: This is one of TNT's most successful TV movies ever, so successful that it spawned a sequel. I've never seen it, but I'd kind of like to. Because it looks so unrelentingly terrible. 2 Turds for the commercials I saw.
Overall: Somewhere between 5 and 7 Turds. Probably the most comically bad Turd on this list

Film: The Middle 3rd of King Kong (2005)
Indy Stand-In: Two of them, both pretty good. One hero is Adrien Brody, an everyman turned hero when his paramour Naomi Watts is in danger. The other is Kyle Chandler, the likable everyman from Early Edition who plays heroic adventure characters in films but turns out to be heroic in real life BUT (Spoiler Alert!) turns out to actually be heroic. Fun. -1 Turds total.
The Critics: 84/100 Tomatoes. Wow. -2.5 Turds (although that is for the whole movie...)
My Take: The Indiana Jones middle third of the movie on Monster Island is by far the best part of the movie, with lots of creepy crawlies and giant monster battles. But like the rest of the movie, it suffers from every scene going on too long, Naomi Watts doing terrible vaudeville routines, and Jack Black really sucking. And you have to watch roughly an hour of movie to get here, which has even more Naomi tumbling. All said, 1 Turd.
Overall: -2.5 Turds. It's a pretty good third of a movie, but it won't help you get a straight Indy fix, since there's all that other stuff in the way.

1 comment:

Sarah said...

this post sounds somewhat influenced by chad...