Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Indiana Jones And The Digital Danger

Since they are casting the new Indiana Jones movie, here's what I thought of the last one back in 2008...

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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?

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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.


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...

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

Now you’re getting nasty.

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.


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!


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.


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.


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


Unknown said...

Excellent review/analysis, thanks.

There was only one moment in the film that evoked an emotional response from me: the instant in which Marion and Indy are re-introduced.

The camera pushes in a bit, the love theme from "Raiders" swells -- it was only a moment, but I relished it.

And then I leaned back into my seat and grit my teeth for another hour.

James said...

Completely agree with your assesment on CGI and special effects films/action/ films.

I do have a question...

In an age when people look at actual 9/11 footage of the planes going into the WTC and their response is:

"At first, I thought it was some special effect"

How can filmmakers even begin to "fool" people anymore?

CGI is so prevalent in today's films that scenes that are ACTUAL physical and optical SFX are believed to be CGI.

Many from the younger generation can't tell the difference between the miniatures in TOD, from the cliff scene in Crystal Skull.

To them a special effect is synonymous with CGI.

wcmartell said...

Okay - this is going to sound realy weird... I think the FX stuff in IRON MAN looks "real" and the FX stuff in SKULL looks "fake" - though both are fake. I think it's what you do with the FX... and part of that is our writing. Just because anything is possible with CGI doesn't mean anything is possible in the real world. We have to match FX to "reality". Yes, Iron Man was flying, and that isn't real... but the *way* he flew seemed real.

- Bill

Jonas Ussing said...

Hey all. I'm a 3D guy, so I have to take a stand to defend CGI here. :)

Now, I also think Indy 4 overused CGI, and I would've preferred the old-school stunt look. But I have to defend my job against the "CGI is bad" school.

Basically, I think any technique that gets the job done, will get the job done. Everything is fake anyway. Miniatures are fake, too. Sets, props guns, death scenes, love scenes, lighting, music. Movies are fake!

Some exceptions are when stunts are like going to the circus. Jackie Chan and Jet Li movies are the obvious example - we come to see what these insane artists can do with their bodies. I saw that Romeo and Juliet Jet Li flick, that had a shot where they digitally morphed Jet Li from one kick position to another, because the move would be impossible to do in real life.

THAT'S bad CGI. I only saw the movie to see Jet Li's moves - and they CG him! Boo!

Also, remember that 360 degree spin bridge jump with a car, in Live and Let Die. That's cool, ONLY because we know it was a real stunt. That's a circus factor, too. That would just be irrelevant in a Matrix 2 style movie with CG cars. A CG car can do anything.

So, back to Indy... I guess you can consider the truck chase from Raiders as a circus scene.

But I always saw Indy as visual effects movies (lightning, fire, and that water tank shot where the sky opens for the Ark), so I'm not against CGI in an Indy movie at all. I'm not even against CG bugs - what I'm against is that they don't look remotely real! They had them be CG so they could do all this insane stuff that's not real - or the other way around, I don't really know.

Take the CGI T-rex in the rain, breaking through the fence in the Jurassic Park. That was only four years after "Crusade", and that STILL looks friggin real.

So anyway, that was it. :) CGI is just as fake as miniatures (debatable, I know - miniatures are at least filmed in-camera), so I refuse to agree that CG is bad. BUT! CG is too often used as en excuse to do "anything", just because the technique makes is possible, and THAT takes you out of the movie.

Leif Smart said...

The real problem I have is that with the box office performance, will there be any lessons learned? Will Lucas and co even think they have made a bad movie and need to change things if they make another?

More likely they will see the box office return and say, hey everyone really loves what we've done, lets do more of the same!

ObiDonWan said...

I agree with everyone on this, starting with Bill and to Leif. I hated the sloppy CGI work in the latest Indy; I felt no thrills. I guess for Ford it was a way to recap what he did before, and I think Lucas lost his way in movies when he cast that dumb kid as Anakin (and the older dumb kid as Older Anakin) and couldn't get real acting out of anyone, but Speilberg at least should have known better. Someday we'll get memoirs from all the principals that will explain all this...or make us more confused.

Oasis said...

"Speilberg at least should have known better. Someday we'll get memoirs from all the principals that will explain all this...or make us more confused."

Happens sometimes that
(maybe they have just lost it)
they simply lose it.

I watched a news show, and they actually showed Lucas, Spielberg, Ford, and LeBouf...waiting in the wings to plug their movie.

Why the special effects guy wasn't there...I don't know.

I looked at their faces. They went to commercial. I knew right then and there...this movie is not good. And they know it.

Emily Blake said...

"In CRYSTAL SKULL they get the skull in the freakin’ opening scene - and the story is about returning it."

Actually that wasn't the skull they had to return. I mean, it was a skull, but it was a defective skull. It was there because... um.... because....

It was really stupid.

Jim Endecott said...

I think our perceived quality of the CGI is tied in with our thoughts on the film as we are watching it. If I am enjoying a film and really into it the CGI can be a little off and I don’t care. Your right about Mummy 2 though. That scorpion CGI really slid that movie off the table for me.

IJ4 was just plain tired. How many minutes did we spend watching Indy throw metal crap in the air to find the crate? The moment he does it the first time I shoot his ass and do it myself.

I checked out at the fridge scene. That was just plain stupid. Dropping down multiple waterfalls and living was not even a stretch but a gaping hole.

Hi, we are the Indians that have lived here for centuries protecting the city. Let’s walk on by them and then kill them all a few minutes later with no recourse.

Just not a good effort and I am surprised Mr. Spielberg and Lucas didn’t give us a better product.


crowmagnumman said...

I'm glad you finally reviewed it. Indiana Jones 4 was the biggest disappointment ever for me. And yet most people seem to love it. The other three were my favorite movies ever, but the fourth was awful.

Of all people that would understand why it sucked, I figured you would, and I was right.

Unknown said...

Most of these criticisms can be applied to "Last Crusade" as much as to "Crystal Skull". What was the story purpose of the lame gag-filled tank chase? Henry Sr. gets captured briefly and they rescue him. Pointless. What was inventive about the incredibly stupid boat chase? And the cruciform sword guy spends the whole scene trying to kill Indy, and then when he finds out his real purpose just says "Oh, sorry, then god be with you on your quest". Pointless. The lame dogfight scene looked far more fake than any CGI, and was crammed with stupid gags. Crap action. They need to find the grail before the nazis why, exactly? "The armies of darkness will march all over the face of the earth." Why? Dunno. Never explained. So why should we care? Where's the urgency? "Temple of Doom" is the most tightly plotted of the Indy sequels, and "Last Crusade" is easily the worst. "Crystal Skull" falls somewhere in between.

I feel like you didn't even pay attention during this movie, because you make a lot of statements that are flatly false (such as them finding the skull in the opening scene--no, they did not). The quest made perfect sense to me, and I'm not sure why it didn't to you. Did you not pay attention to Spalko's speech during the tent scene when Indy is being interrogated? She lays out her intentions pretty obviously. It's all "crystal" clear if you're paying attention.

Unknown said...

This is why Spalko wants the skulls, and why the quest in this movie is urgent. The strongest quest, in face, since the original Raiders:

"Imagine... to peer across the world and know the enemy's secrets. To place our thoughts into the minds of your leaders. Make your teachers teach the true version of history, your soldiers attack on our command. We will be everywhere at once. We will change you, Dr. Jones. All of you. From the inside. We will turn you... into us. And the best part: you won't even know it's happening."

Way, WAY stronger than the quest in "Last Crusade".

Emily Blake said...

Okay Bright, but I think you're forgetting one very important detail: Last Crusade was awesome. Crystal Skull sucked.

Emily Blake said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

On the contrary. "Last Crusade" was the weakest of the series (so far). Only Sean Connery saves it from being a total wash.

Oasis said...

"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."

That's real good Bill. Keep it up!

wcmartell said...

Speilberg thinks TEMPLE OF DOOM was the worst of the films, and CRUSADE and RAIDERS are the best. Argue with him.

- Bill

Wallfly said...

Raiders 4 was not so much a movie as much as it was a transition piece connecting dust covers (closing one book and opening another). Harrison is the past and Shia, unfortunately, is the future. Thankfully, I sense an "Affleckian" curse in Shia's one-dimensional acting abilities.

As to opinions, to which I have a few, I felt Temple of Doom to be terribly transparent and goofy. I think SS's other head was at work when he cast KC as the constant damsel in distress.

Lastly, just as I don't consider Star Wars 4, 5, and 6 as sequels to the original three, I don't consider Raiders 4 as one either. Nothing but lame, rehashed bits of stolen glory.

cassandra said...

"Lastly, just as I don't consider Star Wars 4, 5, and 6 as sequels to the original three, I don't consider Raiders 4 as one either. Nothing but lame, rehashed bits of stolen glory."

I know. Right?
So why is it people can't wait to see more?

Bryan said...

The Darabont draft of Indy 4 has finally leaked on the net. Holy crap, Batman!!! Sweet revenge, than you very much. It finally proves once and for all that Lucas has his head up his Star Wars cloak and can't tell a good story from a rotting hunk of cheese.

The "good" Star Wars was derived from Joseph Campbell's heroic journey and the attachment of a brilliant screenwriter. You'd think Speilberg would have lobbied harder for FD, who did such a bang up job tightening Saving Private Ryan. How could David Koepp have won this job? I'm surprised Indy's fedora wasn't traded for a Red Socks cap!

Bill, I agree with you all the way down the line on this. I have NEVER felt more insulted at a movie than with Indy. There have been worse films, but not when the principles have so much clout. They could have made any movie they wanted to -- and they turned out this clunker?

I think they know they flubbed. Just look at how fast the Darabont script took out some major script sites! was a true comer, and now it's a question whether they will continue to exist, all over Indy. There are some bigwigs who don't want you to read what this could have been.

It's out there, though. God bless the internets!

James said...

Bill -- I totally agree there should be thought put into CGI shots. It can be done well or done poorly.

I think one of the biggest detriments to film is that anything that can be imagined can be recreated.

This wasn't true, hell, even 15 years ago.

JAWS is a better movie because the mechanical shark sucked ass. Filmmakers have to think of creative ways around limitations. With CGI there are no limitations.

But that wasn't really what I was getting at --

"Also, remember that 360 degree spin bridge jump with a car, in Live and Let Die. That's cool, ONLY because we know it was a real stunt. That's a circus factor, too. That would just be irrelevant in a Matrix 2 style movie with CG cars. A CG car can do anything."

That's exactly what I'm talking about.

Stunts were cool at one point in time for stunt's sake. It's a big part of the appeal of action movies.

But now everything is fake.

I think, we are going to see Action movies, actually moving away from action based set pieces -- toward more character driven ones.

MaryAn Batchellor said...

The list of my Indy disappointments in this film is too long but the coup de grâce for me -- no wait, that actually doesn't work here because a coup de grâce is technically a merciful end to somebody's suffering -- okay the ultimate betrayal for me as an Indy fan was not the cardboard characters, not the lack of witty dialogue, not the fake action, or even the absense of anything that resembled tension or suspense, but for me, the most nauseatingly annoying part of the whole film was that big fat cliche' at the end.

This is INDY!!

Yeah, a wedding during a swordfighting melee on a ship in the middle of a mailstrom has been already been done but even Jewel of the Nile came up with a unique wedding in a tribal setting. Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves had a surprise appearance by Sean Connery as King Richard.

How about a quicksand wedding? Dogfight nuptials? A wedding officiated by a gorilla? Oh wait. George of the Jungle did that. Sad day when George of the Jungle has a more interesting wedding than Indiana Jones.

SinlessTouch said...

I have to agree that Indiana 4 was a big letdown from the 1st 3 movies. Anyway, its quite nostalgic for me to see Harrison Ford in his classic adult costume and fedora cap. Well at least we could look forward to his successor if ever there's a next Indy movie.

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