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Indy Strikes Back!

Sunday 1st June 2008 by profwagstaff

So, everybody seems to be hating on Indy these days. What the fuck’s up with that? Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull is NOT a perfect movie by any means. It certainly has its problems. Jonathan laid them all out for all to see a couple of days ago…and I can certainly agree with just about everything he said.

Just about…

But first, let me tell you what I thought. This may be total blasphemy, but I thought it was better than Temple Of Doom. Maybe not by a longshot, but by enough for me to enjoy it more than that black mark on the Indy totem pole.

What’s wrong with TOD, you might ask? Well, I’ll tell you.

First off, it was FAR too dark for a series that was, first and foremost, a throwback to the classic action heroes of yore. Sure, the pulp novels that Indy was sort of based on could get dark, but we never expected there to be child slaves or heart-ripping Thugees in an Indiana Jones movie. (Yeah, yeah. There was only one before it and it included melting faces…but even THAT wasn’t as gory or dark as ripping hearts out of chests, showing it to the still living victim and then burning said victim alive in the pits of a volcano…or hell…or whatever the hell it was.) Steven Spielberg had never directed a movie that was as dark as Temple Of Doom. Even Poltergeist (which he wrote and produced) wasn’t as dark, really. More frightening, sure. That movie kept me up for weeks…and that was just a couple of years ago when I saw it again.

Of course, we all know that the PG-13 rating was created because of Temple Of Doom. THAT’S how dark it was. It probably could have been rated R and people wouldn’t have been surprised. The only reason it was PG was because Spielberg complained to the MPAA. (A trick that has continued to work for him. Why else do you think Saving Private Ryan was rated R instead of NC-17?)

My second problem was the depiction of the Thugees. These guys were a pretty horrible sect of Indian/Hindu culture. They robbed and killed unsuspecting travelers all in the name of the goddess Kali. They were wiped out in the early parts of the 20th Century, but who knows?

The Thugees in Temple Of Doom seemed to have come from a more sadistic version of the Beatles’ movie Help! They were cartoonish and historically completely inaccurate. The real Thugees killed people with yellow sashes. No heart-ripping involved. But that wouldn’t have made a very compelling movie, so Spielberg had them do horrible things to the people as they killed them. There is one guy who tries to kill Indy with a sash, but that was such a small thing that it was barely noticed.

This is why the movie was banned in India for years.

And my third problem was the fact that Indy was suddenly a superhero. In Raiders (and Last Crusade after it), Indy was human. He never really did anything that a human couldn’t survive. A very strong human, sure. Perhaps a human with the strength of Pat Roach. But a human, nonetheless.

In TOD, he and his friends jump out of an airplane that is still a thousand or so feet up with only a rubber rescue raft to break their fall. Yeah. That’s right. Even Short Round survives. (Yeah, he’s cool, but he’s SUCH a stereotype.) Hell, even Willie The Annoying Bitch survives. How? Not a clue. She was sleeping with the director. That’s the only explanation I can come up with.

Then they manage to survive a roller coaster ride on a rickety old mine train system going about 60 mph with no breaks. Plenty of breaks in the tracks, though, that they jump over and survive. And Indy stops them with his feet.

Whatever. TOD is the worst of the four. But I digress. On to Crystal Skull.

I did have a problem with the end of the opening sequence. Not the introduction to Indy. That worked for me. In fact, I thought it showed him to be just as much of a bad-ass as the first movie did. We see him only in silhouette for quite a while and, yeah, he’s getting the crap beat out of him, but he’s incredibly hard as it’s being done. He’s taking it and looks ready to give it back.

No, it’s the nuclear blast and his apparent survival that got me. Now, he’s not just any ol’ superhero. He’s fucking Superman. He climbs into a refrigerator (lead lined, apparently) that is pretty close to ground fucking zero and then proceeds to be blasted about five miles away. The fridge is thrown HARD. He hits the ground hard enough to do some damage, not just to the ground, but to the fridge. The door flies open and he stumbles out, basically unscathed. No broken bones. Maybe a few scratches on his face…but were those from the beating he took?

Whatever. I’ll buy the three waterfalls towards the end better than I’ll buy that.

Jonathan had a problem with the introduction to Mutt. He said that no hero should be introduced sitting down. Well, he was sitting down on a fucking motorcycle. I think that pretty much nullifies any “pussy” comments. Remember, his hero, Marlon Brando, was introduced sitting on a motorcycle. No comparisons to Mr. Brando here. Just saying that he was obviously pretty heavily influenced by The Wild One, so why not introduce on a motorcycle?

As for the argument that Mutt didn’t change throughout the movie and never seemed to become a hero because he was a “cool guy” throughout…that’s wrong. He was a poser at the beginning. Yeah, introduced on a motorcycle and all, but he was a poser. He wasn’t cool and he knew it, but he tried his best to put on a good face. By the end, after showing some pretty good sword skills, he was nearly ready for the hat…nearly. Indy stole it away from him at the last second. If everyone has their way, maybe by the end of the next one he WILL be ready for the hat. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

By the way, Mutt=Indy. Remember, “We named the dog Indiana!” Yeah, it’s dumb, but there’s a reason for it. And for the 50s, that was probably a pretty cool name. They had dumber nicknames back then. Jughead? Come on!

The Crystal Skull was definitely used too much as a cure-all. I will certainly agree to that. And the villains weren’t as bad-ass as they should have been…but I never really got the impression that Irina Spalko had any powers, only that she studied them. She did not have the guts to actually look into the eyes of the skull. That’s what Oxley was for. He was the guinea pig. Since he didn’t fare so well, she had not done it yet. That whole Vulcan mind grip that she almost did to Indy was all for show and he never looked like he believed it. Of course, neither did she, really. I think it was more for effect than for any kind of scare tactic.

By the way, Jonathan, your idea to have Indy forced to nearly kill Oxley by Spalko’s psychic powers is too much of a Temple Of Doom thing. Sure, it could be chalked up as an homage, but why homage something from TOD that no one really liked. Did we LIKE seeing Indy slap a little boy around? Hell, no.

The animals didn’t bother me that much. In fact, after they were off screen, I forgot about them. There are animals in the jungle. And I could see Mutt getting the idea to swing from monkeys. Whatever. Not a big deal. Plus, it was kind of cool to see them all gang up on the one Ruskie in the jeep. Fuck him. And the groundhogs? Meh. Take ’em or leave ’em. I kind of liked having the Paramount logo turn into a molehill in this one. Certainly better than going into a bad musical number. No, Willie. Anything does NOT go.

So, yeah. I had fun with The Crystal Skull. Jonathan’s version would have been better. I agree. He’s a very good writer. But I also think that he still feels burned from Episode I (editor: “I do”).

And just so you know where I’m coming from, this was written by someone who thought that Episode I had its moments, but was ultimately kind of boring, Episode II was fun, but not great and Episode III was nearly up to Jedi standards. With a few writing/directing tweaks, it could have been the best of the bunch.

I also realize that Spielberg doesn’t make these kinds of movies anymore. The last “fun” movies that he made was a stretch of Minority Report, Catch Me If You Can and The Terminal. Only Minority Report was an action film, but it was pretty serious. The other two were light dramas. And War Of The Worlds was pretty deadly serious. He had to try to reteach himself how to direct a light action flick. And he did a fairly decent job. Hopefully, if they do end up making a fifth like they’ve always wanted to do since the 80s, he can do a better job. I’ll be in line for it.

You can find more Professor Wagstaff reviews and opinions at Professor Wagstaff’s official website: www.profwagstaff.com. Just be ready to disagree with everything he says… like Jonathan’s been doing since highschool! But really, check it out. He’s the self professed Geek of All Media!