Saturday, November 1, 2008

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

I realize that most everyone has seen this monumental piece of dung well before I did, so this is not exactly a timely revelation. But I'm hoping to turn it into a larger "What's wrong with George Lucas/Steven Spielberg" rant as well, so bear with me.

Instead of playing hockey in SF during the downpour today, I decided to finally get around to watching the new Indy flick. I've had it on Netflix for the past two weeks and hadn't watched it, largely because most people I talked to warned me to lower my expectations.

I wasn't expecting much. What I got was worse than my greatest fears. I wasn't disappointed so much as I was angry by the time I got to the end of that mess.

Here's a list of stuff I hated about the movie (oh, and I guess I'll mention that there are spoilers here, but trust me, this movie's spoiled already):

1. The plot. Here's what I could discern, between yawns: This old archeologist friend of Indy's gets a crystal skull from behind the body of a Spanish conquistador, takes it to this legendary city, then brings it back. Then the Russians find out about it, and they want it. Apparently, the skull allows you to control people's minds from across the world...maybe. Or maybe it just burns your eyes out and disintegrates you. For some reason, Indiana Jones' son knows this old dude and gets a letter that is a riddle that only Indy can unscramble. The Russians bide their time until Indy figures stuff out for them, even though they try to kill him (badly) every other scene. At the end, it turns out the skull belongs to one of 13 aliens(?) and when it's put back on its body (I guess the old guy doesn't do this the first time he takes it to the city, although the movie never tells us), all the aliens(?) come together, create another dimension, and fly into it in a...wait for it...flying saucer.

I'm not trying to be obtuse. That's really all I could follow. I usually had little idea what was going on. I'm willing to admit that this could largely be that I was so bored during lots of the film that my mind started wandering to the election, the transport options for the concert I'm attending tonight, and checking the clock on the dvd player, trying to figure out when it would be over.

2. The CGI. I put this squarely on the shoulders of George Lucas. We've created a monster. Everyone loved the effects in the original Star Wars movies so much that he created an entire company to stay on the cutting edge of special effects. The CGI is one of the fatal flaws of the Star Wars prequels, and it sucks here. Allow me to list all the CGI that looked fake and annoyed me:
-The gophers
-The rolling, magnetized metal in the opening sequence
-The flying refrigerator (more on that absurdity later)
-The jet-powered tram thingee that also made no sense
-The waterfall stuff
-The red ants
-The scorpions
-The snake
-The aliens(?)
-The monkey army (we'll get to them later as well)
-The entire driving-through-the-jungle sequence
-The entire climax

3. The tone. Way to many silly/ridiculous moments and forced banter. Again, a list (with the ones that made Eileen and I look at each other and say things like, "This is so bad," "Are you kidding me?" and "Goddamn, this sucks" in bold):
-When Indy falls into the truck and makes a wisecrack before dealing with the Russian baddies
-That a 65-year-old man can jump along the rafters while dodging bullets
-Falling on the control panel and starting the jet-powered tram
-Indy hides in a lead-lined refrigerator during a nuclear bomb test and surviving when the blast hurls him (and the fridge) miles from the epicenter. Note: The rest of the film could've been Citizen Kane, and this would've been enough for me to dislike it.
-The diner fight between the jocks and the greasers
-When the Russian baddies hit the statue with their car and the head falls into their laps
-When the guy in the library asks Indy a subject matter question after Indy and Mutt skid into the hall on a motorcycle, and when Indy answers calmly.
-Those weird ninjas in the Peruvian graveyard- what the hell?
-Those savage guys who apparently live in the walls of that ancient fortress
-The unexplained Russian officer whom the guards at the gate recognize and call "Sir" before they are shot by his henchmen
-When Mutt straddles two speeding cars, fencing with Cate Blanchett while getting smacked in the balls by flora repeatedly, all while his mom shouts advice whilst driving.
-When Mutt swings like Tarzan through the trees with a monkey army. I had heard about this scene beforehand, and thought I had prepared myself for its awfulness. I was wrong. It's so terrible, I started imagining test audiences' reactions to it. I can't decide which was worse: that scene or when Jeff Goldblum's daughter uses gymnastics to beat the raptors in Jurassic Park II. You know what? Let's just call it a tie.
-Using a snake to pull Indy and Marion out of the quicksand
-Going over three gigantic waterfalls in a car without a scratch
-Indy repeatedly using his fists to beat down multiple Russians
-The Russians in general. They make stormtroopers look like the sniper in Saving Private Ryan
-The part in the end where Indy tries to rescue Mac, but he's stealing stuff, so he says he'll be ok, even though it's very clear he's going to be sucked into the vortex, which he is.

It comes down to this: That South Park episode was right: George Lucas must be stopped. At some point he started making movies for kids under the age of 10 and people who think Sarah Palin is an intellectual. All this jokey nonsense has got to go. This movie reminded me most of Attack of the Clones, but without the cool Yoda fight at the end to redeem it.

In fact, if you look at the parallels between the Star Wars saga and Indy, it's a little creepy. A revolutionary first film that breaks the mold. A dark sequel that many now regard as the best of the bunch. A third film with a feel-good ending that got a bit too cute and sentimental for the die-hard fans (right down to the reconciliation with the father at the end). Then a long wait...followed by CGI-heavy, clunky-plotted, overly-cryptic nonsense, replete with bumbling villains, annoying new sidekicks, and a dumbed-down tone to make things more "accessible."

Spielberg deserves his share of the blame, too, of course. But that fact that he still manages to churn out a halfway-decent film every now and then (Minority Report, War of the Worlds) trumps Lucas' one notable effort, Episode III (which would've been hard to screw up- it's that good a story).

Together, they are an unholy alliance. If stuff like the piece of shit I just wasted two hours of my Saturday on today (plus another hour writing this blog) is the best they can do, then they deserve a societally-mandated divorce.

One more thing: I realize there are lots of people who liked this film, and not just moronic teenagers. I was stunned to see it running at 76% on Rotten Tomatoes (worse than all the other Indy movies, but still pretty good). I can't explain this, other than to compare it to Transformers, another terrible movie that made a ton of money with a not-as-bad-as-you'd-think Tomato score of 57%. Oh, and Spielberg was involved in that catastrofuck as well, so he just dropped another notch.

Oh, and lastly, Taargus, Taargus, if you're reading this: You PAID to see this piece of shit in the theatre TWICE, and you complain about Cloverfield? I watched that again last night, and Cloverfield is about 1,000 times more realistic than this detritus. Explain yourself.