Can there be more dependable visionary in Hollywood than Steven Spielberg? I am an ardent fan – and each movie of his is an experience that is delectable. And each experience is different – he has tackled literally every genre – and mostly come out with masterpieces in all of them. But his best movies (E.T., Jurassic Park, Close Encounters, Catch me if you can, The Terminal, AI, Saving Private Ryan, Schindler’s List, Raiders of the lost ark – even Jaws) have something that cannot be described in a word that exists in any dictionary. The closest word I guess, is “Magic”. And this magic is not a particular way of doing things, or extraordinary graphics or even a great script… this magic comes from moments and scenes where Spielberg displays extraordinary insight on what makes his audience (regardless of age or gender) skip a beat or two. Not all of his creations have these moments…and therein lies the greatness or the ordinariness of the creation. (Of couse his ordinary is still quite superb!)
A couple of examples. The scene in Jurassic Park – where Sam Neill and the rest are taking the first tour of the park in their range rovers – and the power fails, rendering them stuck. Its dark, its unknown…Jeff Goldblum is bored…nothing seems to be happening…suddenly the camera zooms in on a glass of water. The water is trembling. The audience cannot hear anything at first…but soon faint “booms” are heard. Of course soon the T-rex arrives and the rest we know is carnage… but the way he affects fear in the hearts of his audience is just – well – magic. Or in ET (that movie is full of magic!) where ET touches a plant and makes it come alive or the scene where he hides still in the toy cupboard pretending to be a toy so that the mother does not detect him… the audience is laughing crying and wondering – and really that is what movie making is all about.
Which brings me to his latest creation. When I heard a couple of years ago for the first time that Indian Jones was returning in a new movie – with the original cast and crew – I realized how the next two years are gonna go. Waiting very impatiently. I followed the progress very dilligently…till the day it was released. After that I didn’t read a single review and refused to talk to anyone who had seen the movie. I didn’t want to walk in into something I have waited for, for so long, with a bias. So when the movie started a couple of Sundays ago – it was my first exposure to the movie since its release date. First scene – a really old Harrison Ford being held captive by evil russian dominatrix type Cate Blanchett. Hmmm… very abrupt actually. No build up. Of course as the movie went on – I settled deep into my chair oblivious to the rest of the world – and enjoyed another Spielberg treat. The movie ended with an entire Aztec temple transforming into a spaceship and flying away…and with Spielberg having found his son – about whose existence he had hitherto no clue. Good.
I stood up and left the theater.
And didn’t think about the movie until after three days when I discussed it with a friend. It was then I realized that this movie didn’t have the Spielberg magic. It was very entertaining & innovative with adequate doses of sardonic humor that Indiana Jones movies are famous for… but no sir! No magic. (Yeah this vague talk is frustrating…but hey what can I say?!!) Even if I do not compare the movie to other Indiana Jones outings – this movie lacks something. Maybe it is because Mr. Ford is no longer in his 30-40s. (though really – he was still the best thing about the movie!) Maybe it is because – as my boss ably suggested – we are a generation still reeling from the drunken swagger of Jack Sparrow, to be impressed by an ageing archeologist jumping from jeep to jeep or fighting killer ants.
Last heard the movie had box office collections of $260 Mil already – much more that its predecessors. I guess lots of frachisee fans like myself, must be turning up hoping to experience the same magic of 19 years ago when Indian Jones had unearthed the book of secrets – with Sean Connery tagging along as his irritated (and irritating) dad. I wonder how many of them, came out wondering – like me – that maybe the Last Crusade should have been just that, for Indiana Jones.
But – hey don’t miss the movie! 😉 Total timepass!