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Indiana Jones And The Search For More Money

May 27, 2008

***MOVIE SPOILERS BELOW***

Would a judge send me to prison for killing George Lucas?  I would like to see if it’s possible to get away with that murder.

Judge:  “How does the defendant plead?”

My attorney:  “We plead ‘not guilty’, your honor.”

Judge:  “Present your opening argument, counselor.”

My attorney:  “Thank you, your honor.  Members of the jury, my client killed George Lucas.  I admit that.  But in his defense, I would like you all to watch Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull.  The defense rests.”

Judge:  “Excellent argument, counselor.  Case dismissed.”

That’s how I imagine the whole thing would play out.  Once the jury saw the insanity of crystal alien skeletons with psychic powers, flying saucers, bowl-cut Commie bad guys, greaser punks fencing on the back of speeding vehicles, jungle vine swinging with hundreds of CGI monkeys in tow, etc., I’m guessing that not only would I be acquitted of all charges, but I’d be given the damn key to the city.

George Lucas is in fine form here.  Not content at just ruining Star Wars with his prequel movies, he set his focus on another beloved franchise, Indiana Jones.  I guess he wasn’t happy with the previous Indiana Jones suck factor of 33% (Temple Of Doom sucked).  He wanted to increase the suck factor to a full 50%.  Job well done, Mr. Lucas.  Now go eat a big bowl of C-3PO’s and pat yourself on the back for being the most overrated piece of shit in Hollywood.  Why does this man get a free ride from everyone?  Who the hell cares if he gave us Star Wars?  That was 30 years ago!  When was the last time he made a movie that made any goddamn sense?  Seriously, this movie is about goddamn aliens with crystal skeletons that come to life and pilot a giant UFO out of the jungle.  WHAT?  Is Lucas somehow channeling the full suckage of M. Night Shyamalan, acting as a conduit through which M. Night can further pad his resumé?

The movie opens with Russians (Nazis are passé) invading Area 51.  One of the vehicles pulls up to the warehouse, and the Russians pull Indiana Jones and his buddy, Mac, out of the trunk.  This is where we are bitch-slapped by Cate Blanchett, playing the Russian psychic, Irina Spalko.  Seriously.  She somehow manages to reach out from the screen and collectively bitch-slap everyone in the audience.  She does this through her mangled accent and Boris-And-Natasha hairdo.  In her best grade-school level Russian accent, she tells Jones to find a crate in the big warehouse.  Jones eventually concedes and tells Spalko that the crate is highly magnetized, so the only way to find it is for Jones to throw gunpowder into the air and see where the cloud goes.  Yeah, clouds of gunpowder are floating through the warehouse, attracted to the magnetized crate.

Once they find the crate, Jones and Mac attempt to escape, with some admittedly great action sequences (Jones running along that line of crates and swinging out on his whip was pretty damn cool).  Jones eventually gets the drop on the 20-odd Russians, but he’s double crossed by his friend, Mac.  Again, Jones manages to escape, and after a brief run, he ends up in a typical 1950s era town.  He hides out from the Russians in one of the houses, at which point he figures out it’s a fake town, full of mannequins, about to be blown up in a nuclear test.  What does he do?  He jumps into the lead-lined refrigerator and closes the door just as the blast goes off.  He is launched what appears to be several miles, crashing into the desert floor at top speed.  The fridge survives, and Jones falls out of it without so much as a scratch on him.  What was that, Mr. Lucas?  Shut the hell up and go eat another bowl of C-3POs, you filthy whore.

After all this, Jones is picked up by the FBI, who want to question him in connection to the Russian attack on Area 51.  They let him go, but they manage to get him fired from his teaching position at the college.  He decides to leave town and climbs on a train.  Now, let me stop here and say that the movie to this point was not terribly bad.  A little ridiculous with Blanchett’s over-the-top villainy, but not too bad.  Well, prepare to enter suck factor 9, Mr. Scott.  Shia Labeouf, that’s your cue.  Shia pulls up onto the train platform dressed just like Brando in The Wild One and yells at Jones through the train’s window.  He tells Jones that a good friend, Professor Oxley, is going to be killed.

Jones and Shia sit down in a cafe to talk about Oxley and the trouble he’s in.  Shia tells Jones that his name is “Mutt Williams”.  Mutt?  WTF, Mr. Lucas?  Now you’re starting to piss me off!  It was mildly amusing when we found out that Indiana Jones took his name from his family’s dog, but now you’re forcing us to accept some dumbass kid named Mutt?  Thank you for underestimating the IQ of everyone in the theater.  I’m not saying that people aren’t named Mutt, but it doesn’t change the fact that it’s a stupid freaking name.

Anyway, Jones deciphers a clue that Oxley left in a letter to Mutt, and Mutt and Jones set off to whatever-the-hell-South-American-country to save the man (played by John Hughes, phoning it in).  Jones and Mutt (sounds like a British buddy comedy…”Alas Mutt And Jones”) track Oxley to an insane asylum, which then leads them to a cemetery guarded by 4-foot tall indigenous martial artists with blow dart guns.  In this cemetery, they find the remains of an ancient explorer underneath which is the alien crystal skull.  On their way out of the cemetery, they’re captured by Spalko and the Russians again.

In the Russian camp, Spalko tells Jones all about the aliens and how their skeletons are pure crystal and how reuniting all 13 skulls will give you some kind of crazy power to control people’s minds.  Jones doesn’t believe her.  She needs Jones to stare into the skull’s eyes so that the skull can tell Jones where to go.  It turns out the Russians captured Oxley and he’s gone nuts because he stared into the eyes too long.  They need Jones to stare into the eyes just long enough to learn enough to understand Oxley’s mumblings (have we crossed over into Crazy Town yet?).

After staring into the eyes of the skull, Jones refuses to help Spalko until she brings out another hostage, Marion Ravenwood, the love interest in the first Indiana Jones movie.  It turns out that Marion is Mutt’s mother and Jones is the father (gasp!).  Jones, Marion, and Mutt all manage to escape custody in the back of one of the transport trucks and hijack it.  Jones drives the truck after Spalko to regain the skull and save Oxley (who sits around with a stupid grin on his face for longer than he should have in this movie).  The ensuing action sequence pinches a big loaf in the toilet of sanity.  First off, Jones and Spalko keep tossing the skull back and forth and jumping between vehicles (typical Indiana Jones action and pretty decent).  But then Mutt steps in and, for reasons known only to Lucas and Señor Spielbergo, finds some swords on the vehicle he’s in and begins fencing with Spalko with his legs spread between two speeding cars, all the while with Marion driving the car and giving him fencing instructions.  Yeah, he’s a prep school dropout who dresses like a motorcycle rebel and fences like Zorro (I can see the merchandising dollar signs in Lucas’ eyes right now…).

After fencing with Spalko a bit, Mutt gets caught up in some vines and gets pulled off the vehicle.  Spalko drives along side Jones and tries to push his car over a cliff, but just then (da da da DA!) Mutt comes swinging in on some vines, just like Tarzan, with a hundred CGI monkeys following him like he’s their leader.  Mutt swings in perfectly and takes out Spalko and saves Jones from going over the cliff.  Oh, and the hundred monkeys attack, following their fearless leader that they just met 2 seconds earlier.

Long story short, Marion, Jones, Oxley, the crystal skull, and Mutt all drive off the cliff and land in a giant tree branch that lowers them gently to the water below.  They then float through a series of waterfalls and find the entrance to the Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls in a skull-shaped outcropping.  Once inside, they’re again attacked by indigenous people protecting this secret place.  But one look at the crystal skull that Jones has in his possession is enough to get them to back off.

Jones and his gang end up in a circular room with 13 alien skeletons seated all around.  One of the skeletons is obviously missing it’s head.  Spalko tracks Jones and kills all the indigenous people and takes the skull.  She puts it on top of the alien skeleton.  The skeleton springs to life (skeletons do that…).  Suddenly, the ceiling rips away opening a portal to another dimension (their words, not mine).  The aliens don’t live in outer space.  They live in the “space between spaces” (yes, that’s actual dialog from the movie).  At this point, Jones gets smart and gets the hell out of the room with his entourage.  Spalko stays behind to get all the power that’s coming to her.  The 13 skeletons all start smacking into each other, joining together to form a real flesh-and-blood alien (fuck if I know how…).  Spalko obviously gets her comeuppance at the hands of this alien.

Jones and his team escape the temple and make it to the top of a cliff just before a massive fucking UFO takes off and zips away.  I don’t know where the “space between spaces” is, but apparently the aliens need a giant fucking ship to get there.  Now that the aliens are happy with their skulls back in place, Oxley returns to normal.  Jones and Marion get married (yeah, the bachelor adventurer gets tied down…what’s next?  Indiana Jones And The Adjustable Rate Mortgage?  Indiana Jones And The Quest For Pampers?).  As a final scene and final insult, a breeze blows the doors to the church open, knocking the signature fedora off the hat rack.  It tumbles along the ground, landing at Mutt’s feet.  He reaches down and begins to put the hat on.  Just then, Jones grabs it out of his hands and puts it on his own head.

Roll credits and begin vomiting.

Honestly, the only good thing about this movie was Ford himself.  He does not look like a 65 year old man.  He’s punching and running just like Indiana Jones should.  If you take out the alien bullshit and Mutt Williams, you’d have had a fucking amazing Indiana Jones movie.  Harrison Ford can still do this stuff.

Unfortunately, Spielberg and Lucas let marketing dollars get in the way of producing a good movie.  They are obviously trying to appeal to a young generation.  So, instead of making a movie for the fans that made the original three movies so popular, Spielucas decided to take a dump in their mouths.  They bring in fresh blood so that they can bring kids into the theater and spin off the inevitable Mutt Williams movies (Mutt Williams And The Bay Of Pigs!  Mutt Williams And The Space Race!)  They went with CGI animations for the jungle scenes instead of just filming on location like they used to.

Speaking of which, can I have an aside here and talk to the directors in Hollywood?  Directors, listen up:  STOP WITH THE FUCKING SHITTY CGI!  CGI should be used to enhance a scene, not ruin it.  If I can tell that your jungle is fake, you’ve ruined the whole scene for me.  Don’t make CGI Incredible Hulks.  Don’t make CGI Angelina Jolies.  Use the CGI to enhance footage you’ve already shot, not to make up new footage.  Seriously.  The uncanny valley exists and you people need to recognize that.  When shit doesn’t look real, it brings me back to reality and I remember that I’m just watching a movie.  It pulls me out of the movie.  That’s not what you want.  So stop it with shitty CGI.  Just because ILM can do CGI doesn’t mean they can do it well.  You want to make a light saber out of CGI, go for it.  Don’t make the whole Jedi CGI.  It doesn’t look real.  Wait until the technology exists to truly make realistic looking everything.  Then you can use it in your movies.

Anyway, back to the flick.  Harrison Ford was great.  Marion wasn’t offensive, but she wasn’t used like she was in the first movie.  There was no chemistry there like there was in the first one.  She was thrown in merely for nostalgia, and that makes it even worse.

Shia Labeouf should be taken off of every director’s speed dial list for at least 5 years.  He stunk it up in Transformers and he stunk it up here in Indiana Jones.  His character was stupid and worthless and brought nothing to the story.  You want me to care about Jones’ son?  Then show me that Jones cares about his son.  There were no scenes in the movie where Jones treated Mutt with anything more than a passing remark.  Make me believe that Jones cares about the kid.  Give me a scene where Jones has to choose between Marion and Mutt in a life or death situation.  Let me see that Jones gives two shits for the kid.  Otherwise, he’s only there for one reason: marketing ploy for the idiots who liked Transformers (wait a second…Spielberg did Transformers too, didn’t he?  Spielberg, you’re officially on my shit list…).

Cate Blanchett’s Irina Spalko was probably the worst character in the whole movie, though.  If you took every stereotypical rendering of a Soviet-era woman, you’d have Spalko.  I wasn’t kidding about the Boris and Natasha bit.  Spalko had the bowl-cut haircut, with black straight hair.  Her uniform was a typical Soviet villain.  Blanchett must have slept through some of her accent training for this movie because I’ve heard better accents in Saturday Night Live skits.

But easily the biggest offense in this whole movie was the storyline.  Fucking aliens.  Seriously.  Fucking aliens.  I know that the previous Jones movies weren’t super realistic.  I’m pretty sure that the Ark doesn’t shoot out lightning bolts to kill Nazis and melt faces.  I’m relatively certain that the Sankara stones in India don’t glow when you bring all three together.  And I can only assume that the Grail can’t pass the great Seal.  But those movies always dealt with earthly things and so therefore, they were 95% believable.  There was a certain degree of suspension of belief, but the movies all had a gritty, realistic feel to them.  Maybe this is why the CGI bothered me so much.  With the older movies, the CGI technology wasn’t available like it is today.  Movie scenes had to actually be filmed with real live stuntmen in real live locations.  Special effects departments made matte paintings and latex masks and other tangible items.  But with CGI, I think a large part of that realism is lost, and it really hurts a franchise like Indiana Jones.  The CGI works great in things like Iron Man or sci-fi movies.  But Indiana Jones is an homage to 1930s movie serials and Allan Quatermain.  It’s not Star Wars.  The CGI should be kept to other movies.  Give me the gritty dirty desert.  Show me Harrison Ford on location in Belize as opposed to Harrison Ford in front of a green screen.

The use of CGI got out of hand here.  Once Spielberg and Lucas were freed from the on-location shooting, they were free to let their coked-out minds wander.  And wander they did.  Right to outer space, which is where Lucas’ mind spends most of it’s time nowadays.  People need to learn to stand up to Lucas and tell him that his ideas are stupid.  But, when Indiana Jones makes $150 million over Memorial Day weekend, no one in Hollywood is going to speak up.  Money is the only thing they’re interested in.

I hope Harrison Ford has one more movie in him and I hope they don’t let Lucas anywhere near it.  Do it right next time.  Please don’t leave us with this shitfest as the last example of Indiana Jones.  Don’t pull a Rocky V on me, Harrison.  Don’t leave me with that bitter taste in my mouth.  Come back for the gritty, back-to-basics Rocky Balboa.  Come back and finish off the series right.

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