I have no problem with him adding more creatures and f/x to the Mos Eisley Cantina scenes. I have no problem with him expanding the background of Cloud City in EMPIRE, or adding bigger fireballs and detail to the explosion of The Death Star. But I have major, major problems with him re-working the Greedo/Han scene, and I find it an absolute travesty that he replace Sebastian Shaw at the end of ROTJ with Hayden Christensen....why do that and then leave Alec Guinness in at the end of ROTJ instead of Ewan McGregor?
Well, after the prequels we know that Anakin never looked like the Shaw ghost, so it sort of didn't make any sense to leave him like that. Why would a ghost look like a person that never existed? I think having Christensen there makes sense and ties the trilogies together a bit. I understand people don't like films to be changed, but I'm not that precious and I can see the logic in that particular change.
My biggest, biggest problems with KOTCS were, and are: over reliance on CGI and pushing the edge of what was possible/probable for a movie action hero. For example, a lot of the stunt work in the previous three films was possible, even if not probable. Somewhere that axiom got lost on Spielberg and Lucas, because we went from getting Indy fighting a Nazi in, under, on top of, and around a plane about to explode to getting Indy being hurtled a mile into the sky, and a few miles away from, a nuclear blast, falling to earth, and just walking out of the refrigerator he was in without a scratch.
Well, he also rides both a massive statue through a wall and a U Boat across an ocean in Raiders. No, not as hard to swallow, I agree, but pretty outrageous. He takes on an entire platoon of soldiers in Raiders and beats them; in Skull it's only a duck full of them!
It's like Dr No and Moonraker being in the same series of films: one's bigger and crazier than the other, but the first didn't exactly start out as a kitchen sink drama and from this distance everyone's happy about them being in the same series.
Instead of the terrific tank/horse chase scene from LAST CRUSADE, we get a duck boat/tree cutter chase scene that, while filmed in Hawaii, ended up using far too many CGI elements, and is topped off with one implausible scenario after another; namely, Mutt swinging from tree-to-tree like a monkey to make up 2-3 miles worth of distance (conservatively speaking) to catch back up to the other people, and then going over three waterfalls without a single person drowning or even falling out of the boats. Please, please, please defend those scenes. I would really love to hear an intelligent, rationale explanation from someone, anyone, as to why those scenes are somehow as good, or better, than anything that came before it in the first three Indy films.
Those scenes aren't as good as they should be, no. I actually find the bendy tree a bit more annoying than those as it seems much more improbably than surviving a waterfall or swinging from a vine (and Mutt cuts the corner off; that's how he catches them up). But they're not superb sequences, no.
Doomtown is fab, however, and is the only time in the film that Spielberg manages real tension. And it's a very original scene. I have a fond spot for the Ants fight as well.
Like I've said, I'm not a professional Lucas hater, any more than I'm a professional Michael Bay hater. I only even became vaguely aware of the hatred for Lucas and ROTJ back in 1997 or 1998. Maybe later than that. But I just look at the all resources at this man's disposal, and look at the great stuff that came out from 77-83 with Star Wars, and the interesting collaboration on the Indy films from '81 to '89, and wonder: what the hell happened?
My gut instinct tells me that Spielberg carried the man for a long time until not only could Spielberg no longer carry Lucas, but Spielberg became weighed down under the burden of having been around such a hack director for so long. Lucas was the technical guy who could come up with some great ideas and new techniques, but Spielberg was the guy who could really tell the story and direct the actors. And then, as is often the case, the person weighing and pulling the other one down ends up destroying the better half. I could go back and look at just about every bad decision made in regards to the Indy series and you'd see where Spielberg originally objected, but then relented after being pressured from Lucas.
I just don't see any bad ideas in the Indy series (and I don't count the TV series!). I think it's the best thing Lucas ever did and, yes, working with Spielberg surely made that true. And Indy was
Lucas' idea. It's hard to say he's bad at what he does because, well, people love the things he made.
Even the bad things in Crystal Skull I can see looked good on the page; a lot of it was just let down in the execution. Mutt may have looked a bad idea perhaps, but in execution wasn't bad at all. Not great, but not bad.
I'll only defend Doomtown, which, for my money, was the best section of KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL. It's outrageous on a MOONRAKER-esque level, but there's some genuine creativity there, the spark of the old school, fun-loving Spielberg0. Doomtown providees an interesting setting, with a fairly suspenseful set-up. Sure, it leads to an outrageous kind of punchline, and overall is a bit too CGI-heavy when it could have been more practical, but then it gets it back for the sheer coolness of an image of Indy staring up at a mushroom cloud. I'm not opposed to silliness provided it's inventive enough. I do think the sequence could have been better-handled (earlier scripted versions of it had different details which made the sequence play better). The problem with CRYSTAL SKULL wasn't really its outlandishness, it was its lack of imagination and laziness.
I'v eonly read the City of the Gods version, and I actually prefer the film version to that. It's snappier; although I suppose the bit where Indy is running with the soldiers and then changes direction is neat. It's pretty much the only thing in the film that's snappier than the City script, but I think it is.