A funny thing happened Friday night at the ‘plexes: an enticing Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull trailer materialized. At long last rhythm.

It was an encouraging end to a rotten week for Dr. Jones. Just a few days prior, the archaeologist’s fourth artifact-snatching foray screened for exhibitors, some of whom yapped to Ain’t It Cool News and other fanboy havens. Their verdict:

“In short, this is the Indiana [Jones] Movie that you were dreading. I remember seeing the two trailers and though I was excited to see the old man in action again, I was kind of worried that they seemed to be missing ‘something’. That something was tension.” – Shogun Warrior

“This is the ‘Free as a Bird’ of Indiana Jones movies.” – Languatron’s Brain

“It’s actually very good. Now, people will be mixed on this, though I have a hard time seeing how anyone could say it’s actually a BAD film… That Spielberg magic is still there. It feels like the Spielberg we know and love (well, except for Lost World – bleh).” – Harry Steele

“While I can’t profess to know what Indiana Jones movie people will be expecting to see at 12:01 on May 22nd, I can say this about the one Lucas, Spielberg and Ford have given us: I liked it, a lot.” – Derek Flint

“In fact, it would be possible, I don’t doubt, to call the whole picture just one long pious piece of deceit and self-deceit, embarrassed by hot flashes of talent, conscience, truthfulness, and dignity.” – James Agee

Two fer, two agin, one eloquently displeased with The Best Years of Our Lives. Problem is, The New York Times‘ Michael Cieply didn’t wait for the most vehement “fer” (from longtime AICN contributor Mr. Flint) to get posted before they ran a story proclaiming across-the-board negatives.

Though Cieply did little in the way of actual reporting (aside from securing a big shrug from Steven Spielberg’s publicist, Marvin Levy), there is a story here: the long-anticipated return of Indiana Jones has been plagued by bad buzz since January. Some of this stemmed from George Lucas’s dunderheaded comments in Jim Windolf’s parsed-beyond-reason Vanity Fair piece, but all of what CHUD‘s contributed to the gloom-and-doom has derived from conversations and emails with people who were <gregoryhines>in an excellent position to feed us accurate information</gregoryhines>. And their complaints were especially compelling because they came from a place of profound disappointment; these folks wanted one last memorable jaunt with Indiana Jones as badly as the rest of us.

So why use the geek-friendly sites to start a whispering campaign against the film? They didn’t, really. There was never an intent to harm the movie (as if early “meh”s could impact the opening weekend of the most anticipated summer movie since The Phantom Menace); mostly, they were seeking an outlet through which to register their disbelief. There was some anger (most of it directed at Lucas, a touch reserved for what was perceived as Spielberg’s almost wholesale acquiescence to Lucas’s whims), but the overriding emotion was one of sorrow. For them, this was a missed opportunity, and, given the age of the principals, there was no getting it back.

This isn’t a Titanic situation, where burned-out crew members and bitter studio employees were giddily attempting to end James Cameron’s career; and it definitely isn’t Cleopatra, where run-rampant egos and wretched excess nearly bankrupt a studio. But when credible people go out of their way to voice their frustration and disappointment with a high-profile film, there’s the beginning of a story. Cieply didn’t see fit to track it down, and lowly-ol’-Beaks can’t get a single on-the-record comment, but it’s early days; shit, the whole Hudson Hawk saga has yet to trickle out (though I’ll freely admit that I’m the only one who requires more than Richard E. Grant’s recollections in With Nails). Whether friendships have ended, or if they’ve merely been strained to the point of non-collaboration, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull could represent a turning point in the collective legacy of Hollywood’s two greatest mythmakers. There will be a time and a place to discuss this.

Even if I end up loving the movie. See ya May 18th.