In Praise of Shia LaBeouf

Yesterday I watched Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, which was as mediocre as the name implies. When old auteurs return to much-loved franchises, they round off all the corners. All the blood, dirt and sex that made Raiders of the Lost Ark so great has vanished in the fourth installment. Steven Spielberg is still one of the finest cinematic storytellers around, but the story wasn’t quite up to the task.

But I digress. The fourth Indiana Jones movie was indisputably better than Transformers, which is where I first saw Shia LaBeouf. Er, check that, that’s where I first knew his name. He had some smaller roles in movies like I, Robot and Constantine.

In any case, I think he’s got a long career as an action hero in front of him. He’s not yet a particularly versatile actor (or he hasn’t had a chance to show his range). Still, he has that certain indiscernible quality that makes for a good male lead in modern action movies. He’s handsome, but not ridiculously gorgeous. He’s got a certain fallibility and a willingness to be goofy that I see in both Harrison Ford and Will Smith. And, having just watched the extremely busy trailer for Mummy 3, he’s got something of Brendan Fraser in him too. He also has a bit of John Cusack’s ineffable likability.

I don’t think he’ll Mr. LaBeouf will win an Oscar any time soon, but I’m guessing he’ll be entertaining us and avoiding computer-generated giant killer things for the next thirty years.

On a related note, I wanted to download the first Indiana Jones movie to watch it for, like, the twenty-fourth time. This doesn’t look promising:

Bittorrent Label Fail


  1. Ha! I dispute your statement that “The fourth Indiana Jones movie was indisputably better than Transformers” … at least Transformers didn’t have Shia survive a nuclear blast in a lead-lined refrigerator (while being hurled a couple of kilometers by the explosion).

    I think both movies were equally bad. Of course, that probably won’t stop me from watching them again sometime.

  2. Mike: In defending a movie about giant alien robots, are you sure that plausibility is the rhetorical leg you want to stand on?

    Briefly, here are the ways in which I think Crystal Skull was superior:

    * Cinematography – I always knew what was going on on-screen, and had a strong sense of who was where when. I think that’s the mark of a well-directed action scene, and I was frequently baffled by the action scenes in Transformers.

    * Story – At least Crystal Skull had a somewhat comprehensible plot and the characters had clear, understandable motivations.

    * Acting – Excepting Karen Allen, I thought the calibre of the performances in Crystal Skull were quite good. Kate Blanchett and John Hurt are fantastic, and Harrison Ford is no slouch.

    Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think Crystal Skull is a good movie–I just thought Transformers was very bad.

  3. Those of us with pre-teen kids know LaBeouf from his breakout role in the children’s TV series “Even Stevens.” It was a pretty silly sitcom, but LaBeouf and his surreal and hilarious take on a greedy and self-absorbed teen made it worth watching, even for adults.

  4. ‘In defending a movie about giant alien robots, are you sure that plausibility is the rhetorical leg you want to stand on’

    That is gold Darren.

    I will admit that I surprised myself by how much I enjoyed Transformers. I think Megan Fox was about 2/3rds of the reason why though.

  5. Jeff: +1 on Megan Fox, though that’s more for hotness than acting ability at this stage. But, like LaBeouf, she’s young. They’ll age (28 days should bea bout right for LaBeouf).

  6. LaBeouf does have a bit of range. I wasn’t a big fan of the movie but he’s good in a dramatic role in “Guide to Recognizing Your Saints”.

  7. I first noticed Shia in ‘Holes’, which is one of those kid movies that wind up appealing more to adults.

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