Saturday, December 06, 2008


Do you know somebody you had a whale of a time with the first instance you got together, but then, when you crossed paths on a couple more occasions over the years, it became increasingly apparent that the bloom was already off the rose as relationships went? Something like that must have happened at some point in your life, right?

Much as you found yourself going through the motions of trying to recapture that elusive first flush it didn’t take long to realise it wasn’t ever coming back. Finally, after a long absence, you hook again and after a couple of minutes in their company you think: What the hell am I doing wasting my time with this idiot? Well, that pretty much sums up Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

I only have myself to blame, going into this knowing that more than enough people have already lined up to blow raspberries at it, but nothing prepared me for how utterly lousy the film was. All the way through was I asking “Why?” Why had I rented it and why, during the filming schedule, had nobody on set raised a hand and suggested it was a bit rubbish? Surely, during whatever kind of crew screening was put on, people must have shrunk down in their seats thinking, Jeez, this sucks donkeys’ dicks!

Where do you start? Well, how about the very opening shot. Raiders of the Lost Ark mixed from the Paramount logo to mountains towering over the Peruvian jungle. In Temple of Doom it was a mountain embossed on a gong in the Shanghai nightclub. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade opened on towering buttes in the American deserts. In this rich scoop of poop, the studio logo gets replaced by a prairie dog burrow. I don’t want to make a mountain out of a molehill, but how pathetic is that?

Back in 1981, Raiders of the Lost Ark paid tribute to the wonderful old Republic Pictures serials with its relentless chases punctuated by breathtaking cliffhangers. This fourth effort immediately indicated it was going to settle on lazily parodying that first film, especially when the fucking prairie dog pops right out of the burrow and scarpers. If I had any sense at all I would have followed its lead and saved myself two hours of grief.

I’m not one of these people wailing about how George Lucas raped my childhood memories by stinking up cinemas with the dreadful Star Wars prequels. I was already gone from there once those teddy bears turned up. Kingdom of the Crystal Skull seems to be a perfect example of the business side of Hollywood; putting together films by a committee apparently more interested in the bottom line than pleasing audiences.

While I’m all for people making a buck, especially when someone like Lucas can amass an absolute fortune on the bare minimum of talent, but at least give something back to the audience handing over their hard earned cash. So long in the planning, obviously another Indiana Jones movie is going to end up arriving in the wake of its many imitators like The Mummy, Tomb Raider, National Treasure and their assorted sequels, most which it already stood head and shoulders above. So why the need to play around at their level, I’ve no idea.

Rather than pore over the faults, I might as well mention what part of the film I enjoyed. Unfortunately it came down to the sequence in the motorcycle chase through the university down when Jones is dragged off the bike into the car, scuffles with the occupants, then climbs through the other window back onto the bike. Out of two hours, thirty seconds or so of entertainment doesn’t amount to very much does it?

But everything else, from Cate Blanchett’s accent that starts wavering in her very first scene, the idiotic incident with the fridge, the kid, the monkeys and red ants that interrupt the stupid jungle chase that concludes with the DUKW tipping over the succession of waterfalls, through to the whole alien sequence was just godawful. When even Indiana Jones himself seems uninterested in the quest he gets dragged into, you know it’s going to be an absolute stinker.

Going back to that first appearance of the prairie dog – one of many awful CGI creatures that appeared throughout the film – it reminded me of the gopher grooving to Kenny Loggins in Caddyshack, but obviously less lifelike. In that vein, if only they had replaced Ray Winstone with Bill Murray, back in the role of Carl Spackler, that would have been a much better option for the thankless role of the sidekick.

What Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull ultimately boils down to is a catalogue of “Why...?” Why did they have the damn kid? Why didn’t they remember there’s a big difference between comedy and stupidity? Why didn’t they use Frank Darabont’s far better Indiana Jones and the City of the Gods script? Hell, why didn’t they drive up to Lawrence Kasdan’s house and knock on the door?

If there was one thing I did learn from idiotically pissing away two hours of my life, it’s this: I think I’ve figured out who George Lucas is. He’s the real life embodiment of The Haitian from Heroes. Any time he goes near creative people they instantly lose their talent.


At 4:44 am, Blogger Jaded and Cynical said...

Haven't seen it yet, and you're not exactly encouraging me to rush out and do so.

There was a guy on Newsnight Review on Friday who said that expensive hyped-up crap like Australia is killing the film industry.

He's right, but why has it taken the critics so long to notice?

I went to the cinema precisely once this year. And I stopped renting DVDs a while back.

Hollywood films have become an endless succession of creatively bankrupt remakes and sequels. And no one better exemplifies the trend than George Lucas.

Fuck the money. As you point out, it's the time spent sitting in front of this shite that we'll never get back.

At 1:45 pm, Blogger Good Dog said...

Yeah, I saw Newsnight Review as well and I think Ian McMillan made a good point there.

Back when Hollywood found television was stealing away it’s audience the studios came up with these mental great spectacle movies like How the West Was Won, which was filmed in three-strip Cinerama. Maybe, as McMillan said, this part of some exercise to draw people away from what’s being put out on the internet.

Of course if you want to show a story put out on an epic stage, it works better as an HBO miniseries which, while not cheap, certainly costs less than the amount of money pissed away on nonsense like Australia. If anyone wants to see a cattle drive movie, all they have to do is seek out Howard Hawks’ Red River. It can’t be done any better that that.

My trips to the cinema have tailed off dramatically over the years because everything else involved with watching the film itself has become so utterly tortuous and tiresome. If the flick turns out to be a real stinker it’s just a waste of time and money. I hardly ever rent anything either, but there had been a few times I’ve picked a DVD up in a sale and thought I’ll give it a shot only for it to be left, alone and unloved, on the shelf here.

From all the reviews, I had more than an inkling that Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was going to stink the place up, but I was still curious to see how bad it was. There was another movie I took out, which turned out to be just as bad. That will probably be revealed in the next post.

At 3:39 pm, Blogger qrter said...

I still say the fridge thing takes the cake. I mean, a nuclear bomb does one thing, one thing only and it does it very, very well - destroy everything in a blazing sea of fire and radiation and all that jazz..

I'll let films like the Indiana Jones series get away with a lot of propesterous developments for the sake of fun and excitement, but for some reason that particular scene just made my head turn into a big, fat "NO."

Maybe because it was early on in the film, perhaps.

What I don't get is that George Lucas at some point suggested that Jones' new enemies would be aliens and Harrison Ford very adamantly refused, said he would immediately pull out if they went into that direction. So what happened? Calling the aliens 'interdimensional beings' or whatever they were called made them non-alien enough for mr. Ford? Or was it just a case of a small avalanche of money.

At 5:29 pm, Blogger Good Dog said...

Actually, you’re right there. Even with all the other crap that follows it, that fridge incident takes the biscuit, the cake, and then goes head first into the sherry trifle.

Where were the fridges from the other houses? If more then one had bounced arse over tea-kettle over the rise, I guess we might have given it a bit of latitude. But given it was just that one.

And he manages to open it from the inside! Obviously that was so dumb they needed to drop in the line from his army pal that playing about in fridges is dangerous. Oh, tee-hee!

If you think back to Raiders of the Lost Ark there was a lot of daring do but it was pretty much within reason. I think the only thing folk complained about was how me made the trip on the submarine. But since it was still pre-war, most probably it would have stayed on the surface to conserve power.

Then the second film had them jumping out of the plane over the Himalayas with just an inflatable dinghy... yeah, that was silly. And the mine car chase had a few stupid, well over the top bits. At least the third film dialled it down a little.

The aliens thing... Lucas obviously wanted to go that route. There have been many scripts floating about over the years. Some were real, some made up. A revised draft of Jeb Stuart’s Indiana Jones and the Saucer Men from Mars that has been about for a while is dated 1995, so six years after the third movie beardy was already angling in that direction.

What a stupid title: ...the Saucer Men from Mars. Did Lucas suffer some kind of brain injury? Oh, and that script already has the sequence in the desert town where Jones hides in the fridge to escape the bomb blast.

“Interdimensional beings”... oh dear. Doesn’t John Hurt’s character talk about them living in the space between space, or something equally nonsensical? If someone said that to me I’d slap them.

Obviously they all took the cheque and prayed they wouldn’t burn in hell for it. I suspect they were swayed by the fact that, with the years passing, if they didn’t make a fourth film now they never would.

Shame, given that option, nobody decided not to make it.

At 8:39 pm, Blogger qrter said...

A bunch of those fridges propelling in every direction from the blast site would've actually been quite funny to see - hell, you could've even had one hitting one of the Russians!

You're right, things like that dinghy in Temple of Doom are ridiculous, but I can accept those, for some reason. I think the trick is to do a thing like that and then before the audience has a chance to think "hey, wait a minute.." you redirect their attention to something shiny like a rollicking action sequence. They didn't manage that with fridgegate. If you're made of organic material and a hydrogen bomb goes off near you, you either disintegrate or spend the last minutes of your life vomiting your guts out.

Wasn't Cate Blanchett disappointing? She could've been so much fun, as a character. She wasn't menacing at all, she should've been a lot more scary. I think they made a mistake in using the Russians - we can all agree the Nazis were evil, in a comic book way. When it comes to the Cold War Russians, they were hardly any worse than the Americans. It would've been a lot more fun to see a kind of Sterling Hayden/Jack D. Ripper paranoid US military type on the one side and the Russians (including a Rasputin-like mystic like Blanchett) on the other, Indy being caught in their insane crossfire.

At 9:44 pm, Blogger Good Dog said...

If a whole bunch of fridges had come crashing down onto the desert floor they could have had the prairie dogs sniffing around them – kind of like Indy trying to find Marion in the clothes baskets – and then, when they reach the right one... he opens the door and squashes the creatures flat!

Blanchett was bloody dire. Still, I hope she got a nice new kitchen extension or a long holiday from the cash she pocketed. Her accent was just slightly worse than her acting. The only decent performance I've seen from Blanchett was in Hot Fuzz.

Cold War Russians!? If you’ve been watching WWII: behind Closed Doors, the newly unearthed material shows that Stalin and his lot were the most evil bunch of motherfuckers on the face of the Earth, and far, far worse than people already thought. A Rasputin-like figure could have been better, but then Hellboy cornered the market on that one.

Certainly someone like Jack Ripper or Buck Turgidson, or even the odd “Bat” Guano, would have certainly livened it up. Actually, the Frank Darabont draft puts Jones in the middle of the Russians, the dictator of whatever South American country it is they’re in, along with the odd Brit or two. There’s probably far too many characters for the script’s own good, but it’s a darn sight better than what was put on film.


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