Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Aliens? Why the fuck is it aliens? The only thing I hate more than “it’s aliens,” is “oh, it was all just a dream.” I can even stomach the biblical mythology from Raiders and the Last Crusade, but this is going way too far. Thanks George Lucas for fucking up yet another of the treasured cinematic memories of my youth. Don’t worry, I didn’t give anything away, the movie starts out at “Hanger 51” in the Nevada desert, so you have two hours to think about aliens and fume.

In 1989 I was in the fifth grade, and I went on my two first dates with my first ever girl friend. One was to the roller rink where methed out junior high kids would while away the hours of a Friday or Saturday night twitching and picking at imaginary bugs. The other date, I don’t recall which came first, was to see Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Like many young men of my generation, much from my formative years is tied up in this series of films.

The movies were always ridiculous and over the top, that was part of the allure. I bought, and still buy, that Indy and Short Round can jump out of an airplane in a rubber raft and live and then drop off a massive cliff into a river and be fine. That doesn’t seem implausible to me in the least. However, I don’t buy that Indy can survive an atomic fucking blast that physically tears apart houses and buildings and cars simply by locking himself in a goddamn refrigerator that magically makes it out unscathed. That might be a little much, even for me.

Also, I think Shia LeBeouf (known to most of my friends as Stinky LeBeef for some reason) should be shot for crimes against cinema. We all know how cool Marlon Brando is in The Wild One, but you know what isn’t cool at all? Dressing a scrawny little pipsqueak up like Marlon Brando in The Wild One. You know who I don’t buy being any use in a fight? Stinky LeBeef. As soon he rides in through a wall of steam at a train station (yup), I started muttering to myself, “please don’t be his son, please don’t be his son, please don’t be his son.” Yeah, he’s Indy’s son.

They could have been merciful and cut about twenty minutes out of this movie. We get it, it was the fifties, people were paranoid about Communism and Communists. After a brief interrogation about his possible Communist sympathies, we never hear about it again, save the fact that the Russians are the bad guys. Oh yeah, did I mention that apparently after the war Indy, in addition to being a tenured professor, was part of the OSS, precursor to the CIA, and did a bunch of missions for them, including helping to recover alien remains at Roswell, New Mexico in 1947? Because that’s a bunch of bullshit on its own. Indy is so much more badass when he’s just an archeologist running around the globe having adventures. That is one of the most appealing aspects about the character, that he isn’t some highly trained government agent. He’s a nerd who likes to dig around in dirt and find old things, and that gives hope to all the other nerds of the world that one day, maybe they could fight Nazis and have kickass globetrotting adventures, too. It’s what I based my life on.

Anyway, because of the Red Scare, Indy is run out of academia on a rail. As he’s on his way out of town in a huff, Stinky shows up. Apparently some guy named Ox, who sort of helped raise Stinky in some way that is never really clear, has found a crystal skull (imagine that), and possibly the mythical city of gold, El Dorado. But he’s lost his mind and been kidnapped, along with Stinky’s mom, who turns out to be none other than Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen) from Raiders. She also happens to be the love of Indy’s life who he almost married before he ran away just before the ceremony, and every other woman since then has had the same problem, namely that they are not Marion.

There are some shenanigans in the jungle, a cemetery with some unexplained guards that are easily frightened away, a convoluted story, and a good guy who becomes a bad guy and turns into good guy again only to be ultimately exposed as a bad guy once and for all. I told you it was convoluted.

There isn’t really any tension to the story. No one ever seems to be in any imminent danger. Never once did I ask myself, “how the fuck are they going to get out of this?” Even when they drop over not one, not two, but three sequentially larger waterfalls, did I think there was even a chance that someone might actually get hurt. The heart tearing out scene in Temple of Doom was one of the most frightening, not to mention awesome, things I’d ever seen. Moments like that are completely absent in this movie.

I’ll admit that some of the chase scenes aren’t bad. None of them are great, but the one through the jungle is passable. It was even ok when Stinky and Kate Blanchet (I didn’t used to mind her, but now I kind of hate her) had a rapier duel while leaping back and forth between cars careening through the jungle. But seriously, Stinky swinging from vine to vine like Tarazan with a bunch of animated fucking monkeys? Again, too much, even for me.

It also bothers me that the guy who spent most of the movie being bat-shit crazy, all of a sudden recovers and gets lucid at the end. Cough, cough, cop-out. Oh, excuse me.

By the time the space ship takes off to return to whatever dimension they’re from, I was done. Couple that with the abundant CGI prairie dogs, and grumble grumble grumble, I could go on for days.

Did anyone else notice the woeful lack of bullwhip? I’m calling bullshit on the whole deal.

Thursday, June 5, 2008