Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Chess Moves

From 2010, because DARK PASSAGE is now on BluRay...

One of the techniques used in suspense stories is something I call the Chess Moves or Chess Dialogue - even though you may find it closer to Poker because it involves bluffing. I wrote about it in the Fridays With Hitchcock about I CONFESS, and it recently popped up in the film DARK PASSAGE, so I thought it would be a good “blog filler” for the day. No actual chess is involved in this technique, so don’t worry if you only know how to play checkers.

The reason why I call it the Chess Move is that, like in chess, the player is several moves ahead of the game, and what may seem like a foolish move now is actually a brilliant move. You are watching a chess game, and one of the players moves his Queen into a very vulnerable position - and the other player takes the Queen. Now, that particular move may look stupid, but when the other player made their move to capture the Queen, they created an opening that two moves from now will result in their being checkmated. Now that stupid move where the Queen was moved onto a square where they were captured doesn’t look so stupid, does it? That player was thinking moves ahead of the other player, and without sacrificing that Queen could never have won the game.

In a story this technique is usually used either to create a trap or to look innocent when the character is, in fact, guilty.

Buy DP BR The trap version you’ve seen a hundred times and probably needs no explanation, but often a character will appear to be vulnerable in order to spring a trap. And sometimes a character will *actually* put themselves in a vulnerable position to spring a trap - they volunteer to be “bait” because it is the only way to make sure the adversary show themselves. Think of John McClane with that gun taped to his back raising his hands and giving up to Hans in DIE HARD. Or the Princess in John Woo’s RED CLIFF and her female archers fire on the enemy army even though they are outnumbered... and are chased into the desert... where the Princess’ much larger army awaits. You may think at first that it’s stupid for McClane to give up to Hans, but how else will he get close enough to attack him? How will he get Hans to let down his guard, thinking that McClane has lost? Though McClane *is* vulnerable - what if Hans just shoots him? - it is a calculated move where McClane is playing several moves ahead of Hans (who has no idea about that gun taped to his back). And even if the Princess in John Woo’s RED CLIFF ends up being killed by the enemy soldiers before they fall into the trap, she will have died so that the trap could be sprung on the enemy soldiers - and the plan still succeeds. Just without the Princess. Sometimes when you’re “the bait” the fish eats you - but you still hook them.



The other version of the Chess Move is also one you’ve seen a hundred times - it’s when a character does something that will make them look innocent when they are guilty. There’s a bluff involved in this - and a “poker face”. There’s a great example in DARK PASSAGE... Humphrey Bogart escapes from San Quentin Prison, and there’s a huge manhunt for him. Lauren Bacall offers him a ride - knowing that he is an escaped prisoner. She has a reason for this, that we won’t know about for several more scenes. Bogart doesn’t know her, but there are a million cops looking for him and this woman has offered to help him escape. When they come to a roadblock, Bogart hides in the back seat which is full of paining supplies, including a tarp. He’s hidden under the tarp when Bacall pulls up to the roadblock. A Policeman tells her there is an escaped prisoner, and asks if she has seen anyone on the road. She says no. The Policeman notices the tarp covering... something... in the back seat, and asks what it is. Bacall says it’s painting supplies, and if he would like to search the car that’s okay with her. That line is the Chess Move. Bogart is hiding back there, and she *encourages* the Policeman to search! Is she crazy? Is she double crossing Bogart? Does she want him to get caught? Why would she ever *encourage* the Policeman to search the exact spot where Bogart is hiding?

Well, let’s look at the alternatives...

A) She could jam on the gas, crash through the roadblock, and speed away! Okay, if that’s her chess move, what does the other player do? Well, now everyone will be chasing for her car and searching for her car and eventually she *and* Bogart will be caught.

B) She could *refuse* to let the Policeman search her back seat, tell him he needs a warrant or a court order or something. Okay, if that is her chess move, what does the other player do? Well, the Policeman will *know* she has something to hide and detain her and get that search warrant and find Bogart and then they both end up in jail.

If you can come up with a C that would fit a 1947 movie, post it in the comments section and we’ll look over what the other player would do in response. Stripping as a diversion isn’t going to work for many reasons, so skip that. I can’t think of any other good alternative that doesn’t make her look like she’s trying to hide something.

And that’s the reason why she has to make the Chess Move - she needs to look innocent, even though she’s guilty as hell of hiding an escaped convict in the back seat. She must do exactly what an innocent person would do, so that the Policeman doesn’t become suspicious, even though that puts her in potential peril. If the Policeman *did* search the backseat and find Bogart, she is in no more trouble than the other alternatives. But because she acts innocent and encourages him to search the backseat, the Policeman figures there must not be anything under that tarp. Why would she *want* him to search if there was someone hiding there? Guilty people have something to hide, innocent people do not - she isn’t trying to hide anything, therefor she must be innocent and not hiding anything. By *encouraging him* she is actually causing him to not search. Hey, still an element of chance, but this is a calculated risk.

Buy DP BR For me, this sort of Chess Move often results in a note from a Development Executive asking me why the character would be so stupid as to invite the Policeman to look in the back seat. Is she stupid? Heard that dozens of times, and I wonder if they actually think through their notes? Here we have a character - a fictional person - who is more intelligent than the Development Executive. The character is several moves ahead, the Devo is several moves behind. And if they looked at the alternatives, they would see that there are not any. The only way scenes like this can play is if the character makes that Chess Move. Because everything in a screenplay (and in life) is cause and effect, you need to be able to see all the way down the line - several moves ahead - and understand that the *best* possible move at this point might be one that seems stupid on the surface - sacrificing that Queen - but is clever when you see a few moves ahead.

There’s a great scene in THE GRIFTERS where the master con man played by the late great J. T. Walsh *insists* that a reluctant investor follow him to the back room to look at all of the expensive computer equipment... which does not exist! The back room is empty. But Walsh must make it clear that he has nothing to hide and that the computer equipment does exist - and no one would ever *insist* that someone look at it unless it were actually there, right? Again, calculated risk - what if the guy went back there to look? - but the worst case scenario remains the same no matter what Walsh does... but only by making the Chess Move does he have a chance at success. Often, the only smart move a character has is something that may seem like a dumb move at the time it is made... but the character is a few Chess Moves ahead and this is really a clever move.

When Devos are unable to see that it is a clever move is when those Devos should be replaced. Unfortunately in my experience, instead it is when the clever move is removed and the script gets dumber.

Pisser.

- Bill

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Indiana Jones And The Digital Danger

Since they announced another Indiana Jones movie, here's what I thought of the last one 11 years ago...

STAR TREK movies - even numbers, INDIANA JONES movies - odd numbers.

(Spoilers!)
Probably like most everyone else in the world, I couldn’t wait to see the new Indiana Jones movie. It opened on Thursday, but my friends and I saw it on the first Friday night. This was going to be the big event of summer, and I predicted that the film would still be playing by the time August rolled around - people would want to see it again and again. I knew the lines were going to be crazy, so my friends and I decided to go to the Arclight - where you buy a specific seat in the cinema. No reason to stand in line, you already know exactly where you are going to sit. I was in charge of buying tickets, and got absolutely perfect seats... a month before the film opened.

Now, I have to tell you there are movies that I liked so much I exited the cinema, stood in line, bought a ticket for the next available showing, and saw the film for a second time on the same night. And I wondered if we’d all want to do that with INDIANA JONES? Should I buy seats in the next available show on Friday night? Or maybe for the second weekend? Hard to plan a month ahead... I decided not to buy a second set of seats until after we’ve seen the movie. If it was great, it would be sticking around long enough to see it a second time. Heck, it’s a crowded summer - every weekend a new movie, and a bunch of them I want to see. So maybe a couple of weeks between INDIANA experiences would be a good idea.

Who would have guessed that none of us would want to see the new INDIANA JONES movie ever again?

OPENING - REVERSALS

The cinema is packed - everyone is excited - I’m excited. This is Indiana Jones! Now, here’s a strange little thing - if I were talking to my friends back home (the guys I first saw RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK with) this wouldn’t be INDIANA JONES 4, it would be RAIDERS 4. It’s a sequel to the first film. As much as Lucas wants us to think of the first STAR WARS as A NEW HOPE and the first RAIDERS as INDIANA JONES AND THE RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, that isn’t going to fly with those of us who saw the first films on opening night... We know what we saw and trying to revise history is pointless. So I’m here to see the latest RAIDERS movie.

And it opens beautifully with that prairie dog hill. Gets a laugh... then we get out introduction to Indy - and it’s the hat and the traditional silhouette - that’s still cool. We get a line reffing that fact the Harrison Ford is old, and that’s okay... But what is wrong with Harrison Ford’s dialogue? Is not just wooden, his mouth doesn’t seem to be moving very much - it’s as if he has bad dentures or something. The longer the scene plays, the more I wonder if they ADRed his dialogue - basically did a post production rewrite - then did some digital nonsense to make his lips move with the words. The end result looks like bad dubbing... actually, not *bad* dubbing, but *almost* good dubbing, where it’s so close you don’t think it’s dubbing, but it just looks a little strange. So now I’m focused on his lips...

In the first 3 films, Indy is sarcastic, witty, clever. Here, he just says stuff. Every once in a while he makes some reference to his age - which is funny for a while, but part of being an action hero - even a self depreciating one - is to say the things we wish we were clever enough to come up with. I have a notebook in my pocket at all times just in case I come up with one of those lines.

So, eventually Indy ends up in that 1950s town full of mannequins from the remake of THE HILLS HAVE EYES, and we know what that means. Indy runs around the town pointlessly for a while, then finds a refrigerator with a massive sticker that proclaims “Lead Lined!” - because come moving day, refrigerators aren’t heavy enough already - we gotta add a layer of lead for no reason whatsoever. Oh, wait - to give Indy someplace to hide during a nuclear blast.

There’s a massive nuclear explosion - houses disintegrate - but that danged lead lined fridge goes flying like something from a Road Runner cartoon, then bounces around the desert for a while until the door opens and Indy falls out... and you half expect little animated birds to fly around his head. It’s so cartoonish and impossible and silly.

And I know we’re in big trouble.

I also start to wonder if Michael Bay directed this mess.

Let’s compare this to the first movie - RAIDERS - where we had that giant boulder... but what we really had were a whole bunch of little things that create reversals in that scene. From the moment he swaps the bag of sand for the gold idol... and it’s just a little bit too heavy, everything that can go wrong does go wrong. Dozens of things. It’s not just running around some town pointlessly until he finds a fridge - it’s a few dozen different challenges where Indy thinks he’s going to get out of it... then there’s the reversal and it looks like he’s going to die... then he finds the solution to that problem which lands him right in the middle of the next problem. That’s what makes it exciting. The details. My favorite part of that great sequence - Alfred Molina swings across this bottomless pit (bottomless was legal back then) and leaves Indy behind. There’s a stone door slowly closing - it will trap them. Molina makes a deal - he’ll throw the whip (so Indy can swing across the pit) if Indy will throw the idol. Indy throws the idol, Molina drops the whip and splits with the idol. Indy looks at the pit... looks at the slowly closing door. He jumps. Doesn’t quite make it. His hands grab the crumbling dirt at the edge of the pit. He scrambles, looking for purchase as gravity pulls at him. Then he sees a vine coming out of the ground and grabs it, pulling himself up... but the vine starts coming out of the ground! Crap, he’s falling again! He lets go of the vine and grabs the edge, pulling himself up the side... and onto solid ground... but the stone door has almost descended all the way! Only a few inches before he’s trapped! See how cool that is - out of the frying pan into the fire - things just keep getting worse. And every time he escapes, he ends up in trouble again. It’s not pointless running around - it’s an exciting sequence of events.

This opening scene was more like that diamond kicking musical number from the second film... actually, much of this film was like the second film. More on that in a minute. By the way, had this been my film, Indy would have glowed green in every night scene after the nuclear blast.... in keeping with the Road Runner cartoon feel of the film.

VILLAINS & HEROES

One of the other great things about the opening to RAIDERS was introduction of Belloq. Not just a great villain, but a character who helps define Indy *and* sets up the theme. Belloq is the more successful version of Indy: suave, cultured, and ruthless...

BELLOQ
I know you despise me. We always hate
in others that which we most fear in
ourselves. You and I are very much alike.

INDY
Now you’re getting nasty.

BELLOQ
Archeology is our religion, yet we have both
fallen from the pure faith. Our methods have not
differed as much as you pretend. I am but a shadowy
reflection of you. It would take only a nudge to
make you like me. To push you out of the light.


The rest of the story will compare Indy and Belloq in scene after scene - how far will Indy go to get the Ark? And by the end, when Belloq will do anything to see what’s inside the Ark, Indy is able to curtail his curiosity and close his eyes. He can give up the Ark and Belloq can not.

In TEMPLE IF DOOM we get a cardboard villain - the head Thugee, but in LAST CRUSADE we get something different - a femme fatale. She uses her wiles to lure Indy into solving the riddle of the Grail’s location... then does a great double cross where she pretends to be in danger, but is really faking it to get Dr. Jones (sr)’s book. What’s interesting about this character is that she begins as a villain, realizes she is just a tool of the Nazis, and *doesn’t* scream for help when Indy confronts her at the Nazi rally. She ends up playing one side against the other to get what *she* wants - the Grail. Again, her character pulls drama and emotional conflict to the surface in Indy’s character. Behind her we have some evil Nazis and a Howard Hughes-like millionaire who also plays each side against the other so that he can get his hands on the Grail. The theme in LAST CRUSADE is faith and belief - it opens with Indy saying that the only thing that matters are *facts* and by the end he must make a literal *leap of faith* to get the grail. So having a villain who you don’t know whether you can believe or not isn’t just a great way to give Indy an emotional conflict - it’s a way to demonstrate theme through character.

But in RAIDERS 4, we get another cardboard character - a Russian scientist played by Cate Blanchett in a black wig. She wants the Crystal Skull for... what? So that she can read people’s minds... which may come in handy if you’re playing poker or on a first date, but how exactly does that matter to anyone in the audience? We must stop her before she finds out everyone thinks her wig looks silly! Even if she could *control* our minds - which we don’t really get any proof of - how would that help her control the world? I mean, what’s the plan? She runs around the USA forcing people to look into the skull’s eye sockets until she has all of us under her control, then she makes us communists? This isn’t a very good plan. Compare that to RAIDERS, where an army that leads with the Ark is *unconquerable*. The danged thing shoots bolts of lightning that fry anyone in front of it! Hey, if that fell into the hands of the Nazis, they could win WW2 and we’d all be eating bratwurst. LAST CRUSADE gives eternal life to anyone who drinks from the cup - which means Hitler can not be killed if he gets his hands on the Grail. Again, we’ll be eating bratwurst if Indy fails.

BANNED IN RUSSIA?

Some dude in the Russian government wants to ban RAIDERS 4 from their country because it’s anti-Russia. Before I saw the film, I thought that guy was crazy... but now I’m not so sure. The problem is, instead of some sort of actual demonstration of Soviet menace, we get a demonstration about Soviet menace - which means a whole lot of speechifying. All of these folks with signs saying the Soviets are evil and people making speeches that the Soviets are evil... and it’s just this big lump of crap in the film. I suspect it’s there to tell us who the enemy is in the film - but what it does is *tell* us. Instead of making the villain and the villain’s plan the enemy. Problem is - cardboard villain and pointless villain’s plan. So they use a bunch of script spackle to tell us that the Soviets are really really bad... but give us no reasons *why* they are bad. And we never really see them do anything bad. Sure, they kidnap Indy, but that’s what happens to characters like Indy. It’s expected. But no villain’s plan - and no *stakes*. No “or else factor”. If the Soviets get the crystal skull.... not much happens. They have no plans to use it in the cold war, nothing.

One of my favorite film is IPCRESS FILE - a Cold War spy movie. In it, the bad guys are kidnaping our top scientists... and erasing their brains. When we pay a bunch of money to get these scientists back, they can no longer function as scientists. “The brain drain” they call it. The Soviets can make all kinds of scientific advances - all kinds of high tech weapons advances - and our scientists can no longer *think*. At a time when the arms race was big news, the idea that they could incapacitate our scientists... after finding out everything they knew... was scary. If CRYSTAL SKULL had just had some sort of similar plan, some stakes, an “or else factor”, we would have known why Indy had to stop the Soviets and wouldn’t have needed a bunch of speeches about how evil the Soviets are. You know, it’s not that the villain is evil, it’s that they want to do something that will harm us, so our hero must stop them.

A *huge* problem with CRYSTAL SKULL is that it’s filled with huge chunks of exposition... and the exposition just keeps coming! They keep telling us stuff!

ACTIVE PLOT & PASSIVE PLOT

If the hero must stop the villain from doing something, we have an active plot. Our characters must do something. RAIDERS and LAST CRUSADE had active plots. But CRYSTAL SKULL seems to have lifted the defective plot from TEMPLE OF DOOM. One of the basic elements of an adventure story is a quest - a search. Whether we are looking for King Solomon’s Mines or the Elephant Burial Grounds, characters in adventure stories are *searching* for something. This is a basic of adventure stories. Heck, even the T&A knock-off PERILS OF GWENDOLINE had the busty leading lady searching for a rare butterfly in a jungle filled with topless Amazons. Adventure is about the quest, the search... and yet in TEMPLE OF DOOM there is no quest! They literally crash-land into a story where the plot is to return a sacred stone to a village. In CRYSTAL SKULL they get the skull in the freakin’ opening scene - and the story is about returning it... the same danged plot with the same danged problems as TEMPLE OF DOOM!

Because the villain has no plan, and there is no quest in the story, we end up with a kind of mystery style story about what the Crystal Skull really is. The problem here is that if we don’t know what the powers of the skull are, there is no threat of those powers - no or else factor. So we kill the story. The mystery has no real reason to be solved. Doesn’t matter what the skull is - same results no matter what it is. We end up with a pointless story. And the mystery format means people are always explaining things - exposition city! You can have a mystery that uses visual instead of verbal exposition. In fact, LAST CRUSADE has a swell scene where they are looking for Roman numerals in a church, and the number ten is the key to the mystery. They search - and we see many parts of the church - but no number ten. Then Indy climbs a stairway and looks down - and the light through the window has formed an X on the floor - the number 10. No one has to say it, we *see* it. But CRYSTAL SKULL gives us only people explaining things endlessly... which kind of brings the story to a dead stop (not a good thing for an adventure film).

One of the great things in both LAST CRUSADE and RAIDERS is that we get a legend up front, then we never have to explain anything. In RAIDERS we get the legend of the Ark... “The Bible speaks of the Ark leveling mountains and laying waste to entire regions. An army which carries the Ark before it... is invincible.” What’s more - we get *pictures*! They *show* us what the Ark can do! Once we have that legend, we don’t need to be told anything else. Same with the Grail - once we know the legend, we need no further exposition. Legends may be expositional, but they are designed to be fascinating. I’ve been watching a bunch of episodes of the old BORIS KARLOFF THRILLER TV show, and watched one last night starring William Shatner about a painting famous for killing its owners. Everyone who buys the painting has died a grisly death. When Shatner tells us this legend, it’s filled with entertaining grisly deaths... Each death is exciting to hear about. So in a brief and entertaining bit of expositional dialogue, we know people are going to die grisly deaths in this episode... and for the rest of the episode we don’t need to be told anything else. LAST CRUSADE gives us the legend of the 3 Knights... and that’s a very entertaining story, *plus* it gives us all of the information we need about the Grail for the rest of the film. When Indy gets to the “Grail chamber” and there’s a knight in there - we know exactly who he is.

In CRYSTAL SKULL we get a new chunk of explaination every ten minutes or so.

WHOLE LOTTA SCREAMING GOING ON

But the most annoying part of CRYSTAL SKULL is the characters. All they do is scream at each other for no reason. That’s another way this is like TEMPLE OF DOOM - a film that had the most annoying screaming woman ever put on film up until Dakota Fanning in WAR OF THE WORLDS. And Spielberg married her (not Dakota Fanning - that would be illegal - Kate Capshaw). Indy is reunited with the love of his life, Marion Ravenwood, and all they seem to do is scream at each other... about *nothing*. Pointless bickering. Doesn’t tell us anything about the characters or about theme or about their relationship. Just bickering. Compare this to the clever banter in RAIDERS between the same characters.

And compare the relationship and the scenes about the relationship. There’s a great scene in RAIDERS where Marion has been kidnaped and put in a wicker basket. Indy is chasing the basket to get her back - and we get a great rif on the Hitchcock Redcap scene from NORTH BY NORTHWEST (one of many cool scenes in RAIDERS swiped from great films - like the STAGECOACH chase scene) - where Indy is popping the tops off wicket baskets looking for her... and finally chases the basket down an alley where it is tossed in the back of a truck filled with explosives... that Indy causes to wreck and *explode* killing Marion. Wow! After that, Indy becomes a drunk. He’s an emotional mess. His eyes are teary. He’s sitting in a bar pounding down drinks. He killed the woman he loved. It’s *his* fault. And that’s where Belloq finds him and ends up accidentally nudging him back on course. But characters in RAIDERS have real emotions, and the story explores them. Hey, it’s still an adventure film - but the people don’t just bicker without reason, everything they do and say is about their relationships. Indy and Marion. Indy and Sallah (some of the greatest buddy exchanges on film).

In SKULL, when Mutt (stupid name - an in joke because Lucas’ dog is named Indiana) is revealed as Indy’s son, there is no real drama, no real emotions... just more pointless bickering. No real emotions. Hey - I find out I have a son, I’m liable to get a bit emotional about it - and get emotional with the kid. RAIDERS has real demonstrations of emotion between Indy and Marion - when he finds out that she’s alive, they have a big moment together... before he ties her back up and leaves the tent. Even their first meet at her bar is emotional - she slugs him. Then we get a chunk of scene about their past relationship, how she feels that he used her and dumped her... and he apologizes, and genuinely seems to feel bad about the way he treated her. They hadn’t seen each other for a couple of years in RAIDERS and they have this emotional relationship scene... in SKULL they haven’t seen each other in over a decade... and we get zilch. That’s not real human behavior.

Hey, Indy has a son... nothing emotional about that. Instead we get a quip about how he should stay in school or something. A gag, but no hug. Hey - I don’t want to turn this into some touchie-feelie chick flick or something, I just want the same level of father and son emotions we had in CRUSADE between Connery and Ford. Tender but prickly.

After that, the film turns into a film about a disfunctional family... when I paid to see an adventure film. Hey, you can do both... but SKULL doesn’t even give us a single real dramatic scene about the family... let alone incorporate the family into the adventure story (the way RAIDERS incorporates the Indy/Marion relationship into the adventure). We just get bickering. Cartoon characters and cartoon situations - no real people involved. You know, as a real person who paid real money to see this film, I want it to be about real human emotions. Hey, I want adventure, too - but I want to believe the people involved are real... not some sort of lifelike animation.

DIGITAL DANGER - DEATH OF ACTION?

Speaking of animation - I think CGI is the death of the action movie. First, I have to credit my friend Kris with the phrase “digital danger”. We were watching some movie - probably the second MUMMY movie (just to keep everything in the adventure arena) and he coined the phrase to describe that awful scene at the end where Brendan Fraser has to fight that CGI thing that used to be The Rock. Now, anytime the hero has to outrun a digital explosion or battle something that will be added later or deal with some sort of green screen terror, it’s digital danger. Not *real* danger. Danger that is added in post production.

The first three films were made before CGI existed. Everything you saw on film was “real” to some extent. That great STAGECOACH rip-off scene in RAIDERS where Indy on a horse gets involved in a chase that involves motorcycles and military vehicles and Indy ends up underneath that truck being dragged along the road... real stuntmen did that. Nothing in that scene seemed fake, because it was all real. Even that mine car roller coaster scene in TEMPLE OF DOOM was “real” - they build miniature mining cars on a track and filmed it, cutting to the real actors in real mining cars for close ups. But the miniature mining cars were real and only did what real things can do. Nothing fake. Nothing unrealistic. Nothing that pulls you out of the movie because it’s completely impossible.

Every action scene in CRYSTAL SKULL was just plain fake - impossible. Unreal.

Look, I’m an action guy - I love action scenes - but I don’t want them to be cartoons. You can create the most realistic CGI in the world, but if what that CGI shows is completely impossible, that CGI doesn’t work. Scene after scene didn’t work. It was fake because it just could not happen. We have very realistic looking people in a Road Runner cartoon. Instead of being excited by the action scenes, they bored me. I knew they were fake. Instead of being amazed at the stunts - knowing that a real person did them (a guy I know, Chuck Waters, did many of the stunts in the first 3 films) and knowing that there was actual danger - I didn’t care. What harm can post-production CGI do to a person? It was a cartoon.

This just shows you how out of touch Lucas (and maybe Spielberg) are with current films. These overblown and impossible fake action scenes might have played back in the early 80s when James Bond was fighting Jaws in outer space in MOONRAKER and dealing with whatever he was dealing with in OCTOPUSSY, but this is the gritty new millennium where every action scene in the Bond film CASINO ROYALE is ultra realistic - heck, Bond spends much of that film with his face ripped up. Didn’t they realize a little thing called BOURNE IDENTITY changed the way action scenes and action films work? Everything is gritty and real since BOURNE - even BATMAN is realistic! The action scenes from the first 3 INDY movies better fit what today’s post-BOURNE audience expects... Funny thing is, the producer of those realistic BOURNE movies is Frank Marshall... one of the producers of CRYSTAL SKULL (and all of the other INDY movies). You’d think he might have mentioned it to Lucas in passing. “Hey, George, big fake action scenes don’t play anymore.”

And the action scenes were also *meaningless* - they were junk action. That scene where they play hot-potato with the crystal skull will driving jeeps near a CGI cliff? Pointless. Just a bunch of CGI in a scene that has no story purpose and doesn’t explore the theme in any way.

Another thing about those action scenes - no “cool factor”. Okay - take the fist fight with the freakin’ huge guy in front of the out of control flying wing plane in RAIDERS. That flying wing plane was cool and a piece of real history. That scene also swipes from HITCHCOCK... the scene in THE BIRDS with the gasoline spill heading toward the fire. What was the cool and real thing in any action scene in SKULL? I got no feel for the Cold War era at all - nothing from the time period was integrated into the action scenes. These were bland, generic action scenes... that looked like cartoons.

Mark Verheiden (TIMECOP) and I once had a conversation about Jackie Chan movies, and what I call “action porn”. He’s a story guy, and wants the action scenes to be story related. I agree... but admit to liking “action porn” where the story makes no sense - and may just be an excuse for a bunch of cool action scenes. Jackie Chan usually tries to have a story, but some of the other Hong Kong stuff is just action without reason. But here’s the thing about those silly Hong Kong movies that are just excuses for action - they have amazing action scenes. Inventive action scenes. Maybe even high concept action scenes. You can watch those films just for the action scenes, because they are tremendous. If SKULL had scenes that amazing, it could be enjoyed just as a stupid roller coaster ride. But the action scenes are fake and unimaginative and boring and have zilch to do with story. They are crap action. And the characters are cartoonish. Actually, that’s insulting to Pixar - the characters in any Pixar cartoon are more realistic. In fact, the *danger* in INCREDIBLES is more real, and the characters and situations are more real, than in SKULL.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait for RAIDERS #5 - odd number, it will probably be great!

- Bill
IMPORTANT UPDATE:

TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: Exposition.
Yesterday’s Dinner: Pork Fried Rice at City Wok.
Bicycle: Yesterday I took an epic ride... by accident. I was going to ride to Priscillas in Toluca Lake and work, but there were no tables... so instead of just going across the street to the Starbucks, I rode down Hollywood Way, then across to a Starbucks in the Empire shopping center. Longest ride I have done so far. Then I rode back - Priscillas *still* crowded - and ended up at my local Starbucks for the night shift. My legs were fine yesterday - but this morning? They hurt. That was a good ride, though - and despite the sore legs today, I may do something similar tomorrow.
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