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Kino Korner May 24, 2008
 
Film Review: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
By Eileen Jones Browse author Email
 
Page 2 of 2
 

Just think about Jaws. (As a general rule, when you’re depressed about movies, or America, or life, just think about Jaws. It really helps.) Every actor in that film is perfectly cast, from Roy Scheider as Martin Brody down to the fat man on the beach. Remember the mother of the boy killed by the shark, wearing her black mourning veil that flutters in the breeze as she walks up to Brody and slaps him in the face? Of course you do.  It’s a great performance, in a great film. Jaws is a masterpiece that can stand up to cinephile scrutiny, every frame of it.  

Which leads us to the burning question: what happened to Steven Spielberg?

Nobody ever had a surer sense of camera movement, a more extensive arsenal of shots, better control over the editing process, fiercer dedication to Hollywood filmmaking practices. He was born to make great genre films. He’s enjoyed total creative control for decades. And he can still knock out a scene or a sequence that’ll rock you, usually at the beginning of his films, only to dash your hopes and break your heart when the whole thing runs aground. He’ll power up the supersonic engine of the D-Day sequence in Saving Private Ryan, then hitch it to the creaking, lumbering, ten-ton wagonload of lugubrious clichés that make up the rest of the film. He’ll take on a fabulous project like A.I. or Minority Report, and make it seem as if this time he’s really, really going to go for it….and then we’re back to the stultifying sell-out triteness, fake emotionalism, and CGI bloat that have come to characterize all Spielberg movies, as well as all Spielbergish movies by directors who’ve been imitating him for a generation. The monstrously synthetic Tom Cruise is now the perfect star for every Spielberg or Spielbergish film, and it’s impossible to make a more damning statement than that.

At the very end of Indy IV, Spielberg pays tribute to the 1963 Roger Corman sci-fi thriller, The Man With the X-ray Eyes. (In general, Spielberg seems to be in a tribute-paying mood in Indy IV. Lots of showy film references throughout.) It’s a painful comparison, because that film was made on a tiny budget and is a powerhouse of Cold War terror, whereas Spielberg’s re-creation of the X-ray Eyes sequence has no impact at all, other than providing the idle amusement of watching a river of money flow by in celluloid form. In general, that is the one consistent quality that Spielberg maintains in his films over the decades. Even when all his inventiveness fails, which it generally does a half-hour into each film, he’s still got zillion-dollar budgets to coast on.

And I guess we can assume that’s what happened to Steven Spielberg.  He’s too rich and famous to be good.


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