Alarming News: I like Morgan Freeberg. A lot.
Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler: We were following a trackback and thinking "hmmm... this is a bloody excellent post!", and then we realized that it was just part III of, well, three...Damn. I wish I'd written those.
Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler: ...I just remembered that I found a new blog a short while ago, House of Eratosthenes, that I really like. I like his common sense approach and his curiosity when it comes to why people believe what they believe rather than just what they believe.
Brutally Honest: Morgan Freeberg is an intriguing guy...[he] asks great questions and answers others with style, flair, reason and wit. On the blogroll he goes. Make him a part of your regular blogospheric reading. I certainly will.
Brutally Honest: Morgan Freeberg is brilliant.
Common Sense Junction: Misha @ Anti-Idiotarian never ceases to amaze me. He keeps finding other good blogs. I went over to A.I. this morning for my daily Misha fix and he had found this guy named Morgan Freeberg in Fair Oaks, California, that has a blog, House of Eratosthenes. Freeberg says its "The Blog That Nobody Reads" but it may now become the blog that everybody reads.
Jaded Haven: Good God, Morgan, you cover a topic from front to back with a screwy thoroughness I find mind boggling. I'm in awe of your thought proccesses, my friend, you're an exceptional talent. You start by throwing in the kitchen sink, tie in someone's syphilitic uncle, bend around a rip tide of brilliance and bring it all home in a neat, diamond dripping package of an exceptionally readable moment of damn fine wordsmithing. I love reading you.
Mein Blogovault: Make "the Blog that No One Reads" one of your daily reads.
Philmon: When Morgan meanders, stick with him - he's got a point and it'll be worth it in the end. He's not a hit-and-run snarky quip kind of guy. The pieces all fall into place like tumblers in a lock and bang! He's opened a cognative door for you.
Rightlinx: Morgan at House of Eratosthenes is one of the best writers out there. I read him nearly every day because he manages to provide an interesting perspective, even though I don't always agree.
Poetic Justice: Cletus! Ah gots a laiv one fer yew...
I was chagrined that Bookworm thought it was stupid but reassured when Gerard sang it’s praises, albeit with some reservation. Yesterday morning I commented that “we’ll figure out which side of this hot controversy is swelled by my one vote.” And…
Well, I’m going to have to go between the two. I can see why Bookworm opened the can of whoopass, and I knew in advance I’d be able to understand this. And I do agree with Gerard’s summation that it “flags but does not suck.” Writing this up on Memorial Day morning, I’m pretty sure everyone who’s planning to see it before it comes out on DVD has already seen it. So it may be silly of me to shoulder the burden of calling out warnings while keeping spoilers reverently under wraps. But for the sake of tradition, shoulder it I shall.
I’m going to have to support Bookworm’s criticisms and pile on a little bit further still. I do think the word “stupid” is a bit harsh, but at the same time, there needs to be a warning for people who are expecting to waltz in and see Indiana Jones fully restored to his 1981 glory. It isn’t happening, folks. What you have here is a great deal better than Temple of Doom, and it’s running neck-and-neck with Last Crusade. But this is no match for the original.
You have not heard otherwise. But you have heard indications, more than a few, that this is going to be a wellspring of creativity and original thinking. Sorry. That’s not happening either. Let me get this out of the way, because Crystal Skull is richly deserving of high praise in some areas. But there’s bad stuff to report too, and it needs to be said because it directly contradicts the first-impression people have been given about this film.
The worst thing I can say about it — almost all out of anything negative I can say about it — is that when you strip away what was built up using tried-and-true formulas, and plot points and character developments that were stolen wholesale from something else, there isn’t an awful lot left. Practically nothing, really. That sounds like a heavy whallopin’, and I don’t mean for it to because overall it’s a fun experience. Harrison Ford is in great shape, and believable as a rugged and capable, but though somewhat weary, action hero. Shia LaBeouf does a more than serviceable job, and seems to have an impressive career laid out in front of him. Karen Allen, to plagiarize from girly-girl Bookworm shamelessly…looks fabulous. Better than Harrison. Really, check her out, she’s amazing. Next installment, “Indiana Jones and Marion Ravenwood’s Mysterious Hidden Fountain of Youth.”
Cate Blanchett: Sorry. I don’t like her in this. I know her character was built for this film and includes a lot of what the filmmakers thought was original stuff. It isn’t so. She’s just a female version of the guy with the moustache tying the damsel to the railroad tracks before the guy with the broad shoulders beats him up. She knows how to fence, which is mildly interesting. But as a villain, she is flat. Completely. There is no backstory to her and you end up not the least bit curious about what might be in one. She has no motivation, other than to GET the SKULL — there are no sinister superiors or rivals threatening her position within the Soviet power structure, no jealousies among the bad guys, no…well, no nothing. She’s just there. In a black wig. Looking bad. Trying to get the skull. And, when the time comes for her to (spoilers follow — highlight to read) bite the big one, it’s just a re-hash of what happened to Belloq in the first movie, and Donavan in the third. In fact, I wasn’t the only one who noticed that when all the good guys file into the Chamber Wherein It All Comes To A Climax, and Blanchett follows them in, it was essentially a carbon copy remake of Last Crusade. Not just plot-point-for-plot-point or event-by-event; more like second-by-second, or frame-by-frame.
That last bit up there, is an ugly, black mark. There really is no excuse for it. The fans deserved better.
What else can I bash? Not really very much. There was another thing that kind of grated on me, only because it’s not my cup-of-tea, but I can’t really call it a sin of movie-making or any kind of weakness with the product because others might think it’s just fine. Remember when Nicholas Cage made that movie, National Treasure. Cage’s character would figure out they all need to go somewhere; the entourage would go to that place wherever it was. There’d be a clue there. Cage would find the clue. Cage would figure out what the clue said. Cage would then decipher the letters. And then Cage would figure out what it meant. From that, Cage would figure out where to go next. Repeat.
It got to be so painful they started making fun of it halfway through the movie, which was National Treasure’s saving grace. The roles were typecast so rigidly that one guy was doing all the work while everyone else was standing around, and you couldn’t help but wonder what in the hell they were doing there — but at least it didn’t take itself too seriously.
Well, you have the same thing going on here. And Crystal Skull doesn’t take itself too seriously either. Plus, in the film’s defense, you have to expect some of this. It’s really about the character of Indiana Jones, right? So all other players are going to do a lot of standing around. And, that isn’t really all they do…everyone chips in and helps some.
But it falls far short of the original here. Marion, and Mutt, and Oxley do not go off and have mini-Marion adventures or mini-Mutt adventures or mini-Oxley adventures. It is National Treasure — a movie built for little kids. The group stays together, just like a third-grade class going on a field trip. When one is abducted by the bad guys, they all are. When one tries to escape, and fails in the attempt, they all fail and they all are recaptured. When one chases the bad guys, they all do the chasing. Remember when, in Return of the Jedi, Luke and Leia got in a speeder-bike chase with the stormtroopers, after which Leia was missing? Here, you don’t even get that.
Had this been done differently, it would have been much better, and stood a real chance, however remote, of reclaiming the glory of the first film. But this doesn’t ruin the movie. Just makes it a bit thin for my tastes…again, someone else will like it just fine, and wonder why in the world I’m complaining.
It all just seems so unnecessary to me. Indy could easily have been taken captive by the bad guys, leaving Mutt free to put together a plan to rescue him. Or…Indy could figure out how to get to some amulet or ornament, which then only Mutt would know how to read. But this is about Indy. Indy finds all. Indy reads all. There’s really not much reason for him to keep everyone else around, except he has to, becasue they’re already there. So it ends up being a field trip with communists and really big snakes & scorpions.
Now for the good stuff.
Well, there is some…but it’s all spoilers. Every single speck and crumb of it. With minor exceptions, I suppose; like the ants. Oh, now that was original, and mighty cool. Amazon ants. Do not mess with the ants.
All in all, an enjoyable Memorial Day outing for the kiddies. For the folks my age who are looking to revive the excitement from 27 years ago, prepare for disappointment. If you think of Indiana Jones as an old friend, perhaps you’ll find what you seek here — you get another nugget or two about from whence he came, and a few more about where he’s going. But he places a distant second in the “It’s Nice To See You Again” sweepstakes, alongside the lovely Marion.
The story between them has been done before. It’s lifted, like a car engine with nary a bolt or a washer removed for the purpose of the transplant, without the courtesy of even obligatory levels of confession, apology or shame, from Superman Returns; particularly, hint hint, the Oh my goodness he’s my son well golly I didn’t mean to be a deadbeat dad but I guess I are one. So there’s no originality there either.
If you still haven’t seen it and you’re still planning to, it would probably help you to read up on what we know about crystal skulls. It’s mostly a faithful treatment of that particular world mystery, “mostly” meaning 51% or better. And it offers some interesting theories, although highly fantastic and improbable ones. Again: Expect no originality. That is the overall theme, and bottom line, here. Expect nothing original, and you won’t be disappointed.
Definitely doesn’t suck. I did expect more, but these implied suggestions that there’d be a lot of creative thinking going on here, were implied and nothing more. That means it’s mostly my fault. I’d like to be able to say more than that it does what it’s supposed to do, and it isn’t stupid. But que sera sera.
Update: This isn’t so much a knock on the movie itself, or the Indiana Jones franchise, or even the production of movies. It’s part of a much larger problem in our culture and I think it needs some attention; this part of the film just helps to draw some attention to it.
It has to do with the “Red Scare.” The fourth Indiana Jones movie boldly confronts it, because Indiana’s career as a tenured professor is threatened when he is connected to the Soviets (the events of his latest adventure occur within his administrative leave from the university, under pressure from the U.S. Government when they look at him and see red).
Our latest Indiana Jones movie, therefore, has some valuable commentary about the unfair things that are supposed to have taken place a half a century ago.
Meanwhile, the Soviets, plainly, are standing in for the Nazis as the latest Army of Darkness. Steven Spielberg, himself, doesn’t seem to think too highly of Nazis. So if the Soviets are adequate stand-ins for the Nazis, those Soviets really must be some Dirty Rotten Creepy Jerks (DRCJ).
The Government officials, meanwhile, who blacklisted Indy — are also a bunch of DRCJs.
So the DRCJs are trying to destroy our government and our country. They are trying to infiltrate us (and they were successful in this, too; it’s fact). But waitaminnit, the government officials trying to ferret them out were also a bunch of DRCJs. We know this because they’ve set their sites on this fictitious character called Henry Jones, Jr., and we think he’s a great guy. Or would, if he really existed. That’s the movie’s way of telling us there were DRCJs on both sides.
Well, you can’t cut it that way. The Soviets are a danger, or else they’re not. To dispense the message “yes they are a danger, but there is no morally upstanding way to deal with them if we take any measures at all to defend ourselves from them” is to dispense the message — defense is deplorable. And we’re not talking defense against phony threats. We’re talking about defense when tne threat is real, and inside the gates.
There’s no conclusion to draw from that, than that we simply aren’t worth a vigorous defense.
Whether that was the intended message of the film or not, I respectfully disagree. I’d disagree even if today wasn’t Memorial Day. But it seems to be a particularly futile debate in which to engage right now.
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