1. Okay, I'm going to put it out there. Shia La Beouf is shit. I don't like him. I liked him for precisely the length of one film - Holes. He had the advantage of one of the best youth theatre scripts out there for that one though. Shia was the worst thing about Indy IV at every moment. He was the thing that stopped me from accepting several of the scenes. Spielberg's slightly unhealthy obsession with the young man has seen him placed central to some set-pieces that would have done better without him.
Seriously - it was about the point where he was swinging through the trees like Tarzan, following a crowd of friendly monkeys that I thought "wow, I hope this little runt falls off and is devoured by flesh-eating ants". He made me angry, and the movie would have benefited greatly from less of his presence.
Oh - and the convenient plot devices utilised to make him more useful were pathetic as well. "Oh, I dropped out of school cos I'm a rebel but stayed just long enough to become awesome at fencing so now I can be in a big setpiece battle with Cate Blanchett before having a swing across some of the most conveniently places CGI vines of all time!" I'm sorry, but what? I bought him riding the motorbike, I bought him being a greaser, but it was about the point they left America that I stopped buying into the character and thought "Spielberg and Lucas, there's gotta be cheaper ways to make love to a young man".
And when that little bitch picked up the hat at the end, and Spielberg played that little moment where he started to put the hat on, as though taking on the mantle... I nearly vomited into my shoes and held my breath. Had he put it on his head and walked out wearing it, I would have sworn very loudly and angrily into the theatre. Thankfully, Indy reclaimed it. But it was very close for a moment there.
2. There was too much CGI. WAAAAAAAYYYY too much. This movie needed more practical effects. The thing with CGI is it looks glossed, not quite real, even at its best. That is why nothing ever feels very dangerous in CGI. The big car chase through the jungle was exhilarating, until the effects became too obvious, then it was just pantomime in front of a green-screen. The big fist fights between Indy and thug number one... well, it made me sad that the CGI surroundings took away the tension in their fight. I remember when Indy had the fist fight on top of the plane with the big Nazi in Raiders, and it was awesome because it was nasty - you could feel the punches. The fist fights here, I was never in doubt about the good guys' victory - and this in the film with an ageing hero where his mortality should have been even more emphasised! It did give a few iconic moments... the image of Indy standing in front of the mushroom cloud burned itself into my brain... but those moments were two few to really appreciate.
3. Finally... Aliens? The mystical artifact was an alien? This film felt like it was supposed to be named Indiana Jones and the Tardis of Doom. "Were they from outer-space?" "No, they were inter-dimensional beings - from the spaces between spaces." More like "was this exposition wank?" "No, it was friction-burn with wank - from the space tugging too much between wanks." Indiana has always encountered mystical artifacts from mythology and legend. The Ark, the Grail, the Shankhara stones... and to bring him back they used goddamn aliens??????? In the end, it sounded like a Dr Who and Indy crossover. This story belonged in fan-fiction, not on the screen. And that is far from a compliment.
I'm more indignant about this than maybe I should be, but I can't help it, it's made me annoyed! I used to want to be Indy, I very nearly studied History at Uni and worked towards becoming an Archaeologist all because of a life-long love of a hat and a whip (and making it up as I go). I've always loved the booby traps, the mysticism, the sense of lost civilisations and peoples. I was thrilled that Indy IV was going to South America, and was hoping for something exciting. INSTEAD they skimmed over the cool stuff to run with the silly stuff. Sigh.
Of course, all this implies that I hated it when I didn't. I actually enjoyed myself. Harrison Ford still has it, making the character all that I expected. Karen Allen was as sparky as I was hoping she would be, and seeing Indiana and Marianne back together again was great! Ray Winstone was ace (he always is) as was John Hurt (who also always is). SOME of the setpieces were very thrilling like the motorbike chase, and walking into the lost valley for the first time... and some of the character touches were also nice - shitty little Shia throwing a snake to Indy to use as a rope for instance was fantastic.
In the end, it was still a crowd-pleasing spectacle that referenced many of the right things, but was too in love with modern devices to really succeed as a return to the hey-day of the series. An objective score would be 6/10, but as I'm far from objective, and a lot of the nostalgia just worked for me I'm giving it...