Monday, June 9, 2008

Hoodwinked by Hollywood Again

Okay, here's my take.

While watching it, it's fun, but a cartoon. Yes, the Tarzan bit pushed it too far but I found the fridge bit perfect -- for a Bugs Bunny Cartoon. The prairie dogs were irrelevant and overly cutesy -- Lucas at his worst -- but more importantly failed as a set-up for the monkeys, one of dozens of instances of writing chances ignored, dropped, or muffed.

After watching the movie, during what Hitchcock called the Refrigerator Logic period, I realized how abysmal the movie is. It's so badly written as to be inept. There are endless set-ups that never pay off or follow through, the FBI sub-plot being but one glaring example. The entire movie is derivative. I was reminded of THE SIMPSONS and their vicious satire of Lucas, in which his character says at one point: "I feel like writing: Quick! To the video store!"

They have him pegged.

By seeing INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULLS, we also saw parts of the movies THE AVENGERS, HITHCHHIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY, STALLION GATE, TARZAN, AMERICAN TREASURE, X-FILES: FIGHT THE FUTURE, KING SOLOMON'S MINES, CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND, and STARGATE, among others. There was not an original moment in the whole thing unless it was some clumsy attempt at humor or some mistimed, poorly phrased punch line.

As for that fridge, by the way: It was the only thing hurled intact from the site, everything else having been vaporized. Okay, Bugs would have made it work. But no refrigerator is lead-lined. And it wouldn't have mattered had it been. So adding that detail was egregious nonsense that shows how far up their own irreality they are. They're trying to convince us of Wile E. Coyote's pain here.

They pulled back from the third waterfall descent -- absurd, by the way, for its passivity and in the movie solely to set up the eventual thrill ride -- to reveal A FAMOUS WATERFALL IN AFRICA. This would be fine had we been in Africa, but we were in Amazonia; or had they altered it sufficiently with CGI to make it unrecognizable; but instead they relied on viewer ignorance. They'll never know, hee hee.

At the end of the destruction of the huge stone machine / temple ruins protecting the saucer, we see an ocean coming in to flood it. Now, remind me, would you? Exactly which ocean is it that's located at the heart of Amazonia? Don't tell me it's another instance of They'll Never Notice, hee hee... There are a lot of such moments in this movie, showing contempt for the audience and sheer apathy on the part of the film makers.

The Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls, by the way, is a huge set of ruins open to the air. This means it's easily visible from the air. And if it's supposed to be on a coast, then even the stone age peoples of 1957 would have found it and cataloged it by now. Here they seem to be using the past as a handy reference meaning Before Anyone Knew Anything, and it's more contempt, or stupidity. Hard to tell which.

The crystal skull used for most of the scenes looked like a molded 2-liter plastic bottle stuffed with crumpled plastic wrap. None of the actors even bothered trying to make it look like it had any heft or weight, as quartz that big sure would have. I was at once reminded of another famous McGuffin, the Maltese Falcon. That was a movie prop you could have crushed some skulls with.

The skull was shown to be magnetic with inert metals, but only when convenient. Other times, nothing. And it was never as wildly magnetic as the one in the hangar. Nor were the skeletons. And please note, the one in the hangar attracted iron, not other metals, according to Indy's dialogue. Despite this, aluminum dog-tags were shown being drawn to it -- and dog tags weren't worn by Russians... and later the skull attracts gold and other non-ferrous metals... and... why bother?

This plot device, this set-up, is yet another in a long chain that adds up to nothing and has no follow-through, or consequences. It's as if Indiana Jones could survive an atomic blast without so much as a bruise or scratch...

And some of the action scenes drew on so long I wondered if they weren't filler. Their absurdity had time to sink in, too: Why stop and fight it out when you can keep fighting and drive headlong at high speeds blindly through uncharted jungle along the side of a cliff? Talk about stacking the deck. Where were the flying dinosaurs? Well, there were monkeys... which were to reference the greasers from the soda shop fight earlier... but which did not because of ineptitude and a breathless rush to get to a piece of schtick that Johnny Weismuller would have refused to bother with.

At the end of the movie the torch is almost passed, then snatched back, as if Harrison Ford, knowing he doesn't have another Indiana Jones film in him, can't stand to see anyone else play the character while he's still alive. Either that, or he was doing Shia LeBeouf a huge favor and saving him from a fate worse than typecasting.

Altogether, it was a pretty concoction of mindless ideas woven into a very loose hugger-mugger plot. If I watched it again it would be too preposterous for me to enjoy and I'd end up taking it apart piecemeal.

Ultimate take on it? Wasn't worth the money it cost us to see it. Typical Hollywood post-literate cheat and knockoff. And I so wanted to like it, too. And yes, I understand it's supposed to echo the 1930s cliffhanger serials. Sad part is, it does, in all the wrong ways. Sorry Steven & George, you guys have both had it.

Churlish bastard, aren't I?

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Terry said...

The only reason I liked this one better than The Temple of Dumb was because at least it wasn't so obviously written by a 10 year old boy still in his "girls are icky and stupid and afraid of everything and can't be trusted" phase. I walked out of The Temple of Dumb, furious, and if its makers had been in the lobby I probably would have gone to prison on assault charges.

You've articulated the dissatisfaction I felt all through this newest mess, but couldn't put to words. Shame on them.

Gene Stewart said...

Shame on them indeed, and shame, I guess, on us, at least a little, for allowing ourselves to be suckered again. Then again, you can't blame us for holding out a little hope in this hopeless, pitiless world.