Get ’em before they’re gone.
In American cinema, old age is diagnosed as a sickness, and response to Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, both preproduction and post-release, is the perfect example of how media and public both exacerbate the condition. Harrison Ford diaper jokes began cropping up when the film was announced, and even now that the final product has hit theaters discourse generally hasn’t risen above the Space Cowboys level. Yet age isn’t merely tangential to the success or failure of this, the fourth installment of the Indiana Jones series—it’s as much an inextricable part of the film (its physicality, visual textures, narrative momentum, and editing necessities) as it was with David Lynch’s The Straight Story. In that film, the journey was set at the pace of Richard Farnsworth’s disabled gait; while Ford, at age 65, may not have been as old or infirm as Farnsworth, 79 at the time of Straight Story’s shoot, the comparison is helpful. Generous filmmakers must pitch their works at the tenor of all mitigating factors and all those involved—not an argument against auteurism per se, but a fair approximation of how the filmmaking apparatus is necessarily in thrall to the circumstances of inevitable outside forces. It’s up to Spielberg then to make vital what might seem past its prime, to harness those elements which call attention to the film’s datedness and bound past them with youthful vigor.
If Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull functions on the purest level as a nostalgia machine—a reminder of celluloid’s dominance as the twentieth-century’s most popular art form, of Spielberg’s position at Hollywood’s mountaintop, of film’s very intrinsic pleasures—then it’s also just as much an attempted confirmation of Harrison Ford’s continued vitality. Click here to read Michael Koresky’s review of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull in its entirety.
My issues with The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian are most certainly not rooted in concerns over fidelity to source material. I couldn’t tell you how true the Andrew Adamson–directed adaptation is to C.S. Lewis’s original novel, having read it well over a decade ago. Indeed, having cultivated little taste for the fantastical epic, I’ve approached none of the major fantasy franchises of the new millennium (The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, The Chronicles of Narnia) with a working knowledge of their mythology or characters. Unsurprisingly, the most personally satisfying of these films were those that convinced me to enter their mystical realms of spells, fantastic lands, and thinly veiled political/religious allegories through distinctly cinematic terms. I’m no Lord of the Rings fanatic, but the image of wizened wizard Gandalf seemingly falling to his death in The Fellowship of the Ring proved to be a piercing moment, both because of Ian McKellen’s irresistible performance and Peter Jackson’s visual construction of the character as vital, wise, and a pleasure to watch. One doesn’t have to be fluent in Elvish to feel the aching gap left by his absence.
In comparison, Prince Caspian is all shallow iconography: a parade of portentous images just nondescript enough to have Narnia newbies like myself wondering what exactly the big deal is. The narrative remains clear throughout, and its religious symbolism will be legible to anyone remotely familiar with Christian tradition. But rarely does the film make a compelling case for investing in its own mythology, as if merely presenting established elements from the books would be enough to inspire audience affection and sympathy.Click here to read Matt Connolly’s review of The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian in its entirety.