The Second Coming of Steven Spielberg: Indy Encounters of the Fouth Kind

There was the predictable mob scene as the media horde surged between narrow barricades, clamoring to get into Indy IV. I got in without being crushed and can report that the movie went over pretty well with the crowd. But some of those same journalists who fought so hard to get a seat began their exodus as early as 20 minutes before the end of the film—so they could beat the mob scene that would converge on the Indy press conference after the screening. I stayed to the end. I’ll save a full scale review for the eve of the movie’s May 22 opening. But in a nutshell I can say that I enjoyed first half hour, a pastiche of witty touches and old-fashioned chase scenes; I got a bit dozy in the middle as the plot churned through the kind of byzantine details that are de rigeur with this franchise; then I got re-engaged towards the end.

This Indiana Jones premiere marks Spielberg’s first visit to Cannes since he launched E.T. here 26 years ago. At the press conference he said the only two movies people have ever asked him to do sequels to are, in fact, E.T. and Indiana Jones. For some reason, he says, “No one ever asks me if I’m going to make another A.I or 1941.” As Lucas us yesterday, in pushing for a fourth Indy movie, “Harrison was the impetus. Steven was the one who didn’t want to do it. I was the one who couldn’t think of anything to do.” Or, as Spielberg explained it, ““I was the hold out. I was the person saying, ‘I don’t know, I’m in my dark period, making all these historical dramas.’ Then I made Jurassic Park and thought, gee that felt good. It took us a long time to find the story.”

The new sequel is set in 1957, and opens in the Nevada desert, at a nuclear test site. The background is the Cold War and the Red Scare, with Blanchett archly cast as a Russian villain. And without giving too much away, it can be said that there are aliens in the film, and they’re not friendly. Lucas had always wanted to work aliens into the plot, he explained. “The others said, ‘We’re not doing alien movie.’ We discussed that for about 10 years. Ironically I went off and did my alien movie. Steven went off and did War of the Worlds, his alien movie.” And in the end, everyone agreed aliens were a good idea.

The movie riffs on the ancient Mayan religion, but also indulges in obvious homages to Spielberg’s classic alien pictures—E.T. and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. It’s as if he satisfied the urge to make sequels to those films without having to go all the way. Yesterday I quoted Lucas saying, “When you do a film that’s this anticipated, people have a tendency to think it’s going to be the Second Coming. No matter what you give them, they’re going to be disappointed.” But in a sense the new Indiana Jones is the Second Coming—of Spielberg to Cannes, with shades of E.T., the movie that brought him here in the first place.

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