Monday, June 2, 2008

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Blah

Welcome to my first sequel blog! And you only had to wait one week. Normally, I don’t like to do more than one post per topic, but I have more to say about Indiana Jones. And unlike Steven Spielberg, I don’t have to take advice from George Lucas.

It’s impossible to say, exactly, from what perspective one should view Kingdom of the Crystal Skull since most of us are watching it through a lens of nostalgia for the other films. For some, this could mean accepting Kingdom despite all of its faults. My buddy, Mike, who liked the movie, wrote to tell me that while he had some of the same issues I did with the film, he felt it was on par with the rest of the series. He points out that both Temple of Doom and Raiders of the Lost Ark were full of “what were they thinking” moments. He points out that the mine car chase in Temple was just as outlandish as the vine swinging scene in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. “Those old films are not always as good as we remember them,” he says. And he’s right. (One could also point out that surviving a nuclear blast in a refrigerator is no more probable than surviving a plane crash in an inflatable raft.)

But others, myself included, associate the first three films with great childhood memories, and remember the films as epic adventure masterpieces. Admittedly, for those people, Kingdom had hardly a chance of living up to impossible expectations. And that’s a fair enough pro-Kingdom argument.

But I still think Kingdom of the Crystal Skull failed as an Indiana Jones movie. To me, it still seems overstuffed and unnecessary. It just doesn’t work on an emotional level, or on a story telling level the way it should. (See original blog.)

I think one of the problems with Kingdom, as well as with the new Star Wars movies, is that George Lucas has never adapted to the increased sophistication of today’s audiences. Ironically, this is something that he himself helped nurture by being a pioneer in special effects and then promoting himself and his methods like mad. Like never before, audiences scrutinize special effects. Bad CGI groundhogs just don’t cut it because you can’t wow audiences anymore with anything that looks fake. It’s sad in a way, because audiences are now in on the magic trick. And since Indiana Jones doesn’t seem to be begging for extensive CGI, when it looks bad, it looks really bad. At least the Star Wars films were consistently nothing but special effects.

It’s also possible that Lucas doesn’t understand his audience anymore. According to the Hollywood Reporter, the audience that went and saw Indy skewed older than your typical action film. The fan base are the ones who saw the originals in theaters, no longer teenagers. Yet, goofy groundhogs and Shia LeBeoff swinging from a vine seemed thrown in to satisfy Lucas’s kids. (He ran into this same problem by making the Star Wars sequels for children. But Lucas doesn’t have to learn from his mistakes anymore. He can afford to be lazy.)

Lucas must not go to the movies anymore because there are plenty of examples of big-budget, mega-successful genre films that are both commercially viable and appeal to hard-core fans and critics. Like Batman Begins. Or Casino Royale. People don’t want to see cartoons anymore. They want their fantastic stories to be more grounded in reality. (Iron Man played it perfectly.) It’s a fine line, the one between fantasy and reality, one that Lucas doesn’t seem to grasp. Or maybe he just refuses to grow up like the rest of us.

Of course, it’s not fair to put all of the blame on Lucas. Spielberg did direct the movie. He’s the auteur. But my theory is that Spielberg became annoyed with Lucas, decided he just wanted to shoot the movie already, and gave in. So don’t be surprised if the Howard The Duck prequel is on its way.


Anonymous said...

Other than gay porn, I don't think George Lucas has sat in an actual theater (other than premieres of his own movies) in 20 years.

Maybe you should take his lead and do a prequel blog of what you thought your childhood was before George Lucas ruined it.

Anonymous said...

Personally, I think Kingdom is in the running for one of the worst movies I've ever seen! 20 minutes into and I was already looking for the exit.

The movie just looked bad. What's the problem with using a film budget for location shooting and matte paintings anymore? Now we get fake CGI monkeys with ducktail haircuts!!! Lucas can't even give little people a job anymore!!

While the raft scene in Doom was outlandish, I don't think we'll see Mythbusters trying to find out if you can survive a nuke inside a Frigidaire anytime soon.

One good thing did come of Kingdom. Temple of Doom is no longer the worst film in the Indiana Jones universe. Now if only Lucas would go back and digitally erase Spielberg's nepotism and get rid of Kate Capshaw!!

Anonymous said...

Blasphemy! Temple of Doom is by far the best of the three.

Anonymous said...

Temple of Doom, the best?? I hope you're kidding. Kate Capshaw screeching thru the whole movie, the save the children vibe, ugh!! In the immortal world of WC Fields, never work with animals or children!! Raiders wins by a mile.

Anonymous said...

Look, the bad guy rips out hearts in Temple. What's not to like about that?

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