This summer has been a great one for fantasy/sci-fi...Iron Man, Prince Caspian. But I was honestly afraid that Indiana Jones would disappoint. It just had all the trappings of being another Temple of Doom....confusing plot and no real spark.
I have to say I wasn't overwhelmed by the film, but neither was it as dreadful as I feared. It was simply a fun ride for the summer with some old friends.
If you've missed the hype...the story takes place in 1957... well after the late 30s/early 40s settings of the earlier films. So we have homages to all things 50s ... soda fountains, the red meanace, the a-bomb, "I like Ike", and even aliens....yes aliens.
Therein lies the weakness of the film. I didn't have a problem with the introduction of Soviets as villans. It was the plain kooky idea of introducing interdimensional aliens as benign givers of ancient technology. This just seems to fly in the face of the precedent of supernatural powers in the great religious artifacts (particularly that of the Ark of the Covenant, which closely follows the Biblical accounts of its power). This felt absurd to me .... and thus the climactic scene was not breathtaking and cathartic as it was in Raiders or in Last Crusade. The climax simply felt....done.
Also, it seems that Indy hasn't learned much over his years of work. One would think that his hard nosed skepticism would be softened by his prior supernatural encounters, but at the beginning of the film, he's dismissing the tales of wonderful treasures as a "bedtime story".
He has at least learned something relationally....he reconciles with Marian, he discovers the son he never knew, he seems to have had a long and fruitful relationship with his father (after Last Crusade). And we get a sense of the academic friendships that have carried him in the new characters introduced to fill the gaping void left behind after Denholm Eliot's death (who still appears in the film in photo, painting, and statue -- apparently his character Marcus Brody, while a daft eccentric, was well loved at Indy's university).
All told, a fun adventure, but devoid of any of the spiritual content that we enjoyed in Raiders and Last Crusade.