Indiana Jones and the Really Terrible CGI


If you were unfortunate enough to have dropped ten bucks on Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull over the holiday weekend, the last thing you should feel is alone: The movie has made over $150million in just five days. And the reviews have been okay, too: According to Rotten Tomatoes, the movie garnered a not-unimpressive score of 79%. Still, you might be one of those (brilliant and thoughtful) people who thought the movie was nothing short of dreadful. If so, you are probably asking yourself, How on Earth could this film have been well received by critics?

A friend suggested one theory to me, which is that reviewers were scared to dump on a beloved franchise. This seemed plausible, although weren't the three most recent Star Wars films rightfully trashed? Well, sort of: Although not as well reviewed as Indiana Jones 4, none of the moves in George Lucas’ second trilogy received the drubbing it deserved.

Anyway, this is a long-winded way of broaching my real problem with the film, which was its awful, awful CGI. David Denby, in an otherwise sensible review, actually seemed to enjoy some of the action scenes, including the big one near the end that looked to my eyes almost completely fake. Denby writes: "In a sequence like that, with wild improbabilities linked by speed and rhythm, Spielberg re-creates the spirit of Buster Keaton’s most elaborately synchronized gags, but on a much grander scale." This could be said of many Spielberg action scenes, to be sure, but not the one in question. In fact, the special effects are so bad that they make the scene the most ridiculous and ponderous in the entire film.

Critics who are so concerned about the dreck Hollywood produces every summer should be focusing more time and expending more ink on the CGI that is ruining action movies. If there was one series that should be have been immune to this kind of nonsense, it was Indiana Jones. But alas...