Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Indiana Jones and Ehhhhhh

As much as he tried, George Lucas did not completely ruin my childhood this weekend. In Entertainment Weekly a few weeks ago, Lucas complained about the fans who wrote him saying their childhood memories of Star Wars were ruined thanks to his crappy prequel trilogy. In the interview Lucas, perhaps shocked that the fans didn’t just bow down and kiss his feet for being gracious enough to deliver three new Star Wars films, actually shifted the blame to the fans for having impossibly high expectations. Never mind that if Lucas had delivered even a half-way decent series of films, the fans would have been ecstatic. And never mind that if Lucas had just put his ego aside and hired a real screenwriter and a real director for the new Star Wars movies, it would have been hard to screw up Darth Vader’s story. No, according to Lucas, the fans just expected too much. These statements were in reference to Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Lucas, sounding uncharacteristically insecure, was warning that expectation for a movie we’ve all been waiting twenty years for should be subdued. And if I’ve learned anything in life, it’s that when George Lucas tells you his own movie is going to suck, you better listen.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull begins with the Paramount logo morphing into a small mound of dirt. A groundhog pops out of the mound and scurries away. My first thought was “Why couldn’t they just get a real groundhog? Why did they have to use CGI?” I soon discovered that this was because the fake groundhog had to match the family of fake groundhogs seen later in the sequence. And that family of groundhogs had to respond with human expression as Indiana Jones crawls out of a refrigerator he uses to survive a nuclear blast.

I’m not going to bore you with plot details; you can let the movie do that for you. I will say that Harrison Ford is great, and the movie at least serves as a reminder for those who saw Firewall that Harrison Ford can still carry a movie. And of course, there are some great action sequences including a car chase through the jungle that actually feels like an Indiana Jones movie (at least until Shia LeBeouf plays Tarzan with some CGI monkeys).

The plot is explained using a lot of mumbo jumbo about the titular crystal skull and beings from another dimension. This being an Indiana Jones movie, mumbo jumbo is expected, but if you compare it to the simple and straight-forward way the exposition is delivered in Raiders of the Lost Ark, you see the main problem with this movie. There’s just too much. The movie is overwhelming, loud, and never seems to settle into a tone consistent with the other Indiana Jones movies. There are way too many “What were they thinking?” moments.

Ridiculous CGI, too much talking, moments that are over-the-top even for Indiana Jones standards. Sure sounds like George Lucas to me. (At least the aliens don’t look like Jar Jar Binks.) My biggest complaint was that Lucas was notoriously picky when it came to the script . Frank Darabont wrote the original version of this movie, a draft Spielberg was ready to shoot before Lucas decided that he had ideas that he wanted to incorporate instead. We now know that George Lucas wasn’t looking for a great script, he was just trying to stroke his own ego. Thanks George. Thanks for the gophers.


Anonymous said...

George Lucas should be institutionalized.

If it wasn't for Harrison Ford this movie would've been one of the worst of the year. I don't know what was more insulting, the writing or the fact that Lucas just assumed everyone would hate and didn't even try to match the sequels.

Anonymous said...

Bravo. My own manifesto on this movie would probably be three times as long, but I agree with all your points. And was it just me or were the blacklisting subplot and the triple-crossing CIA agent completely superfluous elements in the story? And, oh yeah, WHY exactly did they need the "artifact" recovered from Area 51? As near as I can tell it doesn't add anything to the story.

Anonymous said...

Forget about Indiana Jones, when are you going to blog about the fact that there are two players, one with the first name Nathan, the second with the last name Jordan, most likely to be drafted in the first round of this years NBA draft. This is momentous. You should throw a party to celebrate.

Anonymous said...

As soon as the Paramount-ain dissolved into the mole hill, I knew not to take any of the film seriously. That's exactly what Spielberg wanted (I don't think Lucas is sharp enough to have come up with that gag). That opening logo tells us not to make a mountain out of a mole hill and to have a good time.

I fully agree with the SPFX. WTF?? Eighteen years ago they would have MADE Shia straddle those trucks for real. The green screen work was atrocious, and Karen Allen was wasted as Marion. It wasn't enough just to get the two of them back into the same film frame, we needed some good writing and perhaps some romance, maybe, huh, maybe some romance, you know, like in Raiders, perhaps...?

I'd read "Chariots of the Gods" as a boy and found it an interesting theory, that aliens taught the world civilization, so I delighted in that angle. I had to smile because after Last Crusade opened, several of us were sitting around the movie theatre we worked in discussing what else Indy could go after, now that he'd found the Grail. I suggested extraterrestrial intelligence having built the Nazca lines in Peru. Everyone rolled their eyes. Lucas should perhaps ask movie theatre employees what a good plot is...

Anyway, I enjoyed the film but will never see it again. A second viewing would only set my teeth on edge.

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