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Indiana Jones and the Mistake of Making Part Fours

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Think Harrison Ford should follow the light at the end of this tunnel?
Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Memorial Day Weekend is always a big deal, pop culture-wise. And this upcoming weekend, there’s only one game in town: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

This movie makes me nervous. Don’t get me wrong: I already have a ticket. I re-watched the previous three films to prepare (in chronological order, starting with Temple of Doom). I bought a one-pound bag of Indy-themed M&Ms. I’m psyched and ready to go.

But trilogies are usually trilogies for a reason. There’s something mystically balanced about a story that’s told in three parts; adding in a late-period part-four throws off the mojo of the whole thing. With Crystal Skull, I’m entertaining the notion that there’s an ever-so-slight chance that this film could be terrible. I mean, last time they found the freaking Holy Grail — how can you top that?

To calibrate my Indy expectations, I looked up a bunch of part-fours to see how they fared. I tried to find some that were comparable to Crystal Skull in that they were completed trilogies that were revisited after a period of time. There aren’t to many of those, though, so I threw in some random part-fours and quadrilogy-enders for fun. I included their critical scores, compiled by master aggregators Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes, as well as the best word-of-mouth metric I could find, the domestic box-office gross, as supplied by Box Office Mojo. The resulting picture is pretty bleak:

Alien: Resurrection
Domestic Box Office Gross: $47,795,658
Metacritic Score: 63/100
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 53/100
Most Illuminating Pull Quotes:
“As a series of action set pieces, the movie is frequently gripping and always highly watchable. However, when the movie strays into weirder territory — where, one feels, Jeunet’s heart really lies — there’s a growing feeling of inadequacy.”
— Derek Elley, Variety

“The plot is more of the same old running and screaming, but Weaver is worth the price of admission all by herself, which is just as well in light of the less-than-fleshed out characters by whom she’s surrounded.”
— Maitland McDonagh, TV Guide

Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace
Domestic Box Office Gross: $431,088,301
Metacritic Score: 52/100
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 64/100
Most Illuminating Pull Quotes:
“I warn you, I’m gonna continue whining about the movie. Just keep in mind that I liked it.”
— Greg Burk, LA Weekly

“What I mean is that to watch The Phantom Menace as a lifelong Star Wars fan is to engage in constant, fragile negotiations between a cherished familiarity and the shock of the new.”
— Paul Malcolm, LA Weekly

Rambo
Domestic Box Office Gross: $42,754,105
Metacritic Score: 46/100
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 33/100
Most Illuminating Pull Quotes:
“Rambo isn’t dull. It is, however, often murkily directed, a real shortcoming in an action movie. In the big rescue-the-prisoners sequence, it’s very hard to keep track of who is doing what to whom where.”
— Mark Feeney, the Boston Globe

“The movie is neither cathartic nor entertaining. The action scenes (and there are many of them) feel mechanized and calculated.”
— Stephanie Zacharek, Salon.com

Saw IV
Domestic Box Office Gross: $63,300,095
Metacritic Score: 36/100
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 19/100
Most Illuminating Pull Quotes:
“He now imparts so many life lessons via his Rube Goldberg thresher devices that he’s starting to turn into the Rod Serling of severed body parts. Now that’s torture.”
— Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly

“One more small thing: Every other scene in Saw IV starts and ends with a potential victim pressing ‘play’ on a tape recorder, to the point where it’s almost funny.”
— Peter Hartlaub, San Francisco Chronicle

Batman and Robin
Domestic Box Office Gross: $107,325,195
Metacritic Score: 28/100
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 12/100
Most Illuminating Pull Quotes:
“Clooney fails to make much of an impression as The Batman, but to make an impression amongst all the garish theatrics, he would pretty much have to shout his dialogue in rhyming verse, backwards.”
— Keith Phipps, The Onion

“The current Bat cycle was already tired when Schumacher replaced Tim Burton behind the camera on Batman Forever. This chapter — so action-packed, yet so insufferably dull — makes it clear that there’s nowhere else to go.”
— Rita Kempley, the Washington Post

Jaws IV: The Revenge
Domestic Box Office Gross: $20,763,013
Metacritic Score: N/A
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 0/100
Most Illuminating Pull Quotes:
Jaws the Revenge is not simply a bad movie, but also a stupid and incompetent one.”
— Roger Ebert, the Chicago Sun-Times

Yikes! That is rough. I swear I didn’t try to sway the survey of part-fours one way or another. If anyone can think of a critically successful, bank-making part four, please let me know in the comments. But — and keep in mind that I like both Alien Resurrection and Phantom Menace — it seems to me that Indy 4 only has at most a 50/50 shot of being any good at all.

I’ll still be in the front row with my fedora on.

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