Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Indiana Jones and The Law of Diminishing Returns

I think two weeks ago, or something comparable (I have trouble keeping track of dates) I went and saw the latest Indiana Jones, the film once known as Indiana Jones and The Saucer Men From Mars which has since settled down into the more audience-friendly but conversely more misleading title of Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of The Crystal Skull. (Said Kingdom being founded by the Saucer Men From Mars..)

I haven't brought this up before now because the sole reason I went to see it was because I was in need of a film to watch to enter a Sydney Morning Herald competition to become an unofficial film critic, covering the Sydney Film Festival. Yes, although I would actually have to sit through the shit you can imagine being plied on semi-willing gawkers at the frigging Film Festival I was willing to do it simply to get some of my dashingly lucid strings of words in a place were people may find themselves actually reading them, even if it was via mishap.

But... I did not win the competition. My mind is still struggling to comprehend this most remote of contingencies, my ego telling me that the idea of somebody actually doing a better job is clearly utterly impossible, and thus the fault is either with the snobs adjudicating the competition being unimpressed by the mainstream nature of my choice of film, the morons adjudicating the competition being actually unable to read in the first place, or the lecherous wind-smears adjudicating the competition being unimpressed by my lack of DD-assets and/or willingness to blow them in the back alley after scrawling "I LIK3 CoOl Run1n6s!" on the back of a napkin.

As a result, I'm tempted to ignore Indiana Jones entirely, and simply review The Sydney Morning Herald itself, as a cabal of tasteless, philistine arseholes who simply aren't ready for a devil-may-care blogger of the 21st who tells it like it is and listens to Radiohead. (Obscure reference) But I guess I should digress and show my award-losing entry:

The opening of ‘Indiana Jones IV’ is promising - through use of the immortal line “What am I guilty of, apart from surviving an atomic blast?” and the introduction of Cate Blanchett’s bug-eyed psychic Soviet sword-mistress, it promises a demented thrill-ride that should be avoided at all costs by the lactose-intolerant. However, it also takes place in a locale briefly glimpsed in the very first film of the series, and seemingly throws us halfway into the story. This heralds the film’s two major problems, common among most blockbuster sequels: a staggeringly over-complicated plot and an over-reliance on gimmicky throwbacks to it’s own past. The references begin harmlessly enough, but steadily inflate in self-indulgence until one of Indiana’s old damsels springs from the woodwork, and things all get bogged down irretrievably thereon. And be prepared: this film’s ending breaks new ground in the ridiculous.

My mistakes were probably that I didn't make enough references to the fact that the kid from Transformers impersonates Marlon Brando and neglected to state that Indy's ex girlfriend appearing was Karen Allen as all other reviewers have - after all, we need to know Karen Fucking Allen is in the movie, being a titanic starlet looming over all Hollywood, an idol of the screen whose majestic career is matched only by the overly prolific Sean Young. (Note: this is sarcasm)

See the competition called for originality (which is why I didn't go down the list-the-actors-and-what-they-do path of 8 billion community news hacks take) wit, and memorability, all of which I thought I did very well, and in 150 words as specified. I'm so happy with that that I'm declaring myself the Greatest Film Critic In The World.

What's that? This is eerily similar to Larry Miles' recents bouts of egomania? No, my friend. This is different. I really am the Greatest Film Critic In The World.

Anyway, resplendent in my title and the throne I assume will come with it, I can tell you my real thoughts on Indiana Jones and The Implausible Series of Cold War Plots Set Against a Watered-Down Ed Wood Pastiche, that haven't been compressed into the amount of words that a Sydney Morning Herald writer can read without passing off from blood-loss to the brain.

As I said, the film has a great start - lots of absolutely ridiculous action, which isn't very clever and completely lacking in substance, but has become such a staple of blockbusters that we expect it in every film. It has gotten to the point where an adaptation of Lord of the Rings, one of the most stately and dour books ever to be written, featuring dwarves being thrown around like rag-dolls won't even raise an eyebrow. So... Indy is brought to the warehouse from Raiders and beat up until Cate Blanchett, still dressed as Bob Dylan just now in a figure-hugging Stasi jumpsuit, approachs.

Our Cate is batshit insane in this film, as is quickly demonstrated by her saying she will get her answers from Jones before holding her hand above his head... and then doing nothing. And THEN going all bug eyed and shaking as if she's just had a very 'special' moment. Yes, she's a frigging psychic.

A point of interest for me is incidentally that all of the Russian soldiers are played by actual Russians. This was, according to a Spielberg interview, because he wanted the accents to be genuine. This would probably be a view fit for me to champion save for a very important fact: the actual Russian soldiers get about 3 lines of dialogue - out of, what, 1000 of them? This means that effectively the only Russian character you ever hear is Colonel Doctor Ilena Spalko. Aka Our Cate - whose Russian accent rings with the same credibility of Lambert Wilson's French accent in The Matrix Reloaded (which led to me and my mates dubbing his character 'The Welshman')

Mind you, this seems pretty commonplace. Having seen The Chronicles of Narnia: Young Whitebreads Save the World Again - Now With Extra Allegory! (which is being released under the less punchy Prince Caspian moniker) I was surprised at the decision to make the Telmarines (read: bad guys) all extremely 'Euro Trash' mostly by getting them presumably from the agency that supplied the man-shaped French punching bags in both Sharpe and Hornblower, and yet Caspian himself, the one Telmarine who really plays a visible role in the story aside from Uncle Miraz, is played by an actor by the name of Ben Barnes.

No, there is not an accent missing from that e, nor is the 's' meant to be a 'z'. He's so Anglo he makes me feel exotic. And you better believe he essentially sounds like me impersonating Carlos Santana while drunk throughout the entire film. Man, this rankled me. Like - what the hell, haven't they invented young people on the other side of the Channel? They're just hiring unknowns for fuck's sake - are people coming to the cinema after seeing Ben Barnes' name on the poster? If anything they're coming for the massively misleading promise of Tilda Swinton and Liam Neeson (each get about three lines) featuring in the film and to check out whether the series has taken an inadvertent Harry Potter route with the girl playing Lucy becoming jailbait overnight. (SPOILER: She has not)

Between you and me, though, Eddie Izzard is in the film voicing Reepicheep and he alone is worth the price of admission. See it for him!

So, what was I talking about? Oh, yes, Indiana Jones is Here And Lucas Has Lost His Medication.

Okay, stuff happens and... well, you've all seen it. Indy has been captured to identify a crate in the Raiders warehouse that contains a dead alien. Curiously the Russians have chosen the most absolutely bad-arse of those present at the crash site of an alien UFO to bring in to show them which crate... and have also cleverly chosen somebody who has no fucking idea where the crate is. Think of maybe, I dunno, getting a double-agent who works in the warehouse? Rather than making Indy's fat bloke partner a double-agent instead?

So then a nuclear bomb goes off and Indy survives because he's in a fridge, then he meets the Janitor from Scrubs who won't give him his autograph and makes Jim Broadbent lose his job as seat-filler at the Oscars and just when it looks like he's nearly out of this zarking ridiculous film by going to England by train (it's a magic train) he gets cornered by the kid from Transformers, or possibly a younger version of the dad from Transformers Back to the Future-style because that would explain the massive age-differences, who is obviously Indy's son but we're not meant to realise this until the last 30 minutes, and he spews up exposition all over Indy's jacket about characters we haven't met or heard of before but luckily just when we're realising we don't care the Janitor from Scrubs starts off a massive motorbike chase threw a library and then I think I passed out from Fanta fumes and filled in the mental blanks later with details from some slash fic I read.

The film sucks. Screw this reviewing mularkey. I relinquish my title.

ANYWAY, the one truly interesting thing from the film comes from this site, wherein a fellow pundit (with some actual degree of pundicity) found, some time ago, a synopsis of Indiana Jones and the Saucer Men From Mars (Yes I am fucking serious) the original pitch for the film that Lucas loved, and everybody else hated.

The funny part is - from when Indy gets pulled out a boot [or 'trunk' if you will] onwards... is basically the film in cinemas, give or take a find-and-replace with Karen Allen's character. And the guy writing the article mocks every idea in the film ruthlessly, saying that it would be absolutely ridiculous.

And he has a point.


Youth of Australia said...


Sorry dude.

I've never really been big on India Jones. I've seen the third one a hundred times but can't remember... anything. It don't hit my buttons.

And yeah, I agree with your slagging off of Prince Caspians. Why they skipped Boy and His Horse beggars the imagination. They shoulda done Magician's Nephew too...

Jared "No Nickname" Hansen said...

Well, they're talking about doing them as prequels.

Or at least acknowledging the possibility.

But they also didn't want the kids to age between films, citing Harry Potter as an example.

(Which is very odd, because a lot of time passes between the Narnia books, so it would make a lot of sense for them to look older)

I should also add I'm not really massively bitter about the competition, it's just good comic material to behave that way.

OR I was massively bitter when I started writing the blog post five days ago.

I also intended to do a fuller review to prove my point but... you know. Apathy seeds in when I remember how goofy the film is..

Youth of Australia said...

I hear ya, man... My spoof of Rise of the Cyberman is halfway up on the site, and I'm struggling to finish it. Done everything except AOS description... apathy, though suffocating mistress...

Jared "No Nickname" Hansen said...

Oh, I need to compliment you on your clear capacity to trawl through the OG archives and find things that I can't remember saying and putting them in the "Viewer's Quotes" section.

You don't seem to have had to change much to make them sound weird, either..

Cameron Mason said...

Why they skipped Boy and His Horse beggars the imagination. They shoulda done Magician's Nephew too...

Maybe they're following publication order...


Jared "No Nickname" Hansen said...

Maybe they're following publication order...

That's probably part of it. As far as I know the plan goes for the big three - Caspian, Dawn Treader and Silver Chair.

Yes - just like the BBC series. But probably without Tom Baker (awww.)

My mum was really disappointed that they haven't done Horse as well. But, hey - Eddie Izzard is awesome, can we at least agree with that?

Youth of Australia said...

Aw, hell, I didn't already agree with that? Yeah, Izzard as Reepicheep won me over before I even heard him in the role!

Meantime, here's your latest quote...

"To say JR Ewing’s performance WORKS is to suggest he’ s a MACHIIINE. If you say that YOU CANNOT RESIST doing a crap Christopher Lee impression when getting a script like this... RESIST IT, OLD FRIEND! He is not "Old Skool" - but nor is he THE ULTIMATE UPGRADE! If he had appeared in The Phantom of Androzani, I suppose I’d feel obliged to say that he’d CRASHED THE PARTY, BWAHAHA!! Meet the new William Shatner. FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE!" - Jared "No Nickname" Hansen (2007)

Jared "No Nickname" Hansen said...

...fuck, I did say that.

And, I can't help but notice, you don't seem to be changing the quotes aside from the names...

Youth of Australia said...

Well... how do make things like that seem FUNNIER?

I mean, Steven Moffat got the exact same treatment:

Steven Moffat Speaks!
"I can’t believe the fans are complaining about Silver Finish. What are you TALKING ABOUT you mad, mewling fools?? If this story had shown up in the 80s (or the 70s, or the 60s) we’d all have fainted of joy on the spot! Whump! All of us! Every fan in the country - gurgle, whump, living room floor. Medical experts would’ve been flown in from all around the world! "My God," they'd have cried, "every geek in Britain is unconscious!! Quick, let’s pull their pants over their heads and draw moustaches on them!" The Elder Statesmen of Fandom, in their vast and mighty Council Chamber (in Mum’s bedroom), would actually have EXPLODED!! Into CLOUDS OF VAPOR!!! Every breath taken in the whole wide world wide would have contained a measurable quantity of IAN LEVINE!! And here you are, you lot, and you don't even know you're born. Some of us had to go to school the Monday after the Giant Rat!! No, REALLY! Think about that! Added ten years to my virginity, that did, Giant Rat Monday! Oh, I haven't forgotten! Kids today! Sheesh!"

Actually, most of the quotes in that spoof are unaltered bar names... I think only Mallet's was really altered. And that was shoving his critique of ROTC and his memoirs of "Mission to Mondas" into one paragraph.

Yeah. I used to be so imaginative...