CANNES – Indiana Jones received a hero’s acclaim from the public at his first perilous outing at the Cannes film festival, but some critics had the knives out for the latest episode in the saga.
Movie-goers at the red-carpet gala world premiere Sunday rose up to applause the fourth installment in the adventure series, the first in 19 years — "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
But influential industry magazine The Hollywood Reporter on Monday gave it a lashing.
"A wearying onslaught of action and effects gives Indy little chance to charm as he did of old," it said.
Film industry executives who daily attend the gala screenings described the public response as warm, though short of the applause a couple of nights previously for Woody Allen’s latest film, "Vicky Cristina Barcelona".
But as critics pondered whether Harrison Ford, now 65, was too old for the rollicking, thousands of fans waited hours in the sun to cheer the return of the whip-cracking archaeologist adventurer.
At a press preview, 2,000 media gathered in Cannes — a renowned Kingdom of Critical Knives — gave the 185-million-dollar movie a friendly round of applause and respectable reviews.
"The world can rest easy," said film industry mag, Variety. "The old magic still works … Mission accomplished."
Set in the Cold War of the late 1950s, the two-hour movie sees its swashbuckling archeologist hero racing against Soviet agents to recover a mysterious pre-Colombian skull in the wilds of Peru.
But neither the storyline nor the acting were to Hollywood Reporter’s Kirk Honeycutt’s taste.
The sequel to the three "Indy" movies of the 1980s was more like a sequel to "Close Encounters of the Third Kind", he complained. The story was swamped in stunts, the characters were charmless, it lacked wit and romance.
"This film feels like work, whether it’s poor Harrison Ford straining to keep pace with his younger self … or thrill-ride acrobatics that have only scant connection to the plot."
London’s Daily Telegraph critic David Gritten said Ford "doesn’t wear the fedora with quite the same jaunty angle, his bullwhip doesn’t crack as smartly."
And the Guardian in London said "some nice moments and everything is good-natured enough.
"But this is a moment for Harrison Ford to hang up the hat."
The new "Indy", agreed Germany’s Sueddeutsche Zeitung, "is unfortuneately not as good as the old."
The Los Angeles Times differed, saying fears of a geriatric addition to the Indiana Jones franchise were unfounded.
"It turns out it’s one of the good ones, and everyone involved can breathe a sigh of relief," it said.
Said Time magazine’s online edition: "Ford looks just fine, his chest skin tanned to a rich Corinthian leather; he’s still lithe on his feet, and can deliver a wisecrack as sharp as a whipcrack."
Ford insisted on doing his own stunts, saying audiences could tell the difference between an actor and a stunt double.
"It needs to be an emotional event, like every moment on screen needs to be invested with real emotion, or pretend emotion," he told reporters.
The question for Hollywood moguls Steven Spielberg and George Lucas is whether the movie will gross over 500 million dollars worldwide, given its hefty budget and the 150-million spent on marketing.
Whatever the reviews, the film has generated a buzz.
London’s The Times labelled it "pure gold" and Germany’s Die Welt said it was "knit from the same stuff" as the old.
"Spielberg’s most remarkable achievement is to retain most of the old-fashioned virtues of the original franchise," said James Christopher of The Times.
"Welcome back, Indy. Lord knows we’ve missed you."