Friday, March 21, 2014

Vintage Troublemaker: Indiana Jones & The Close Encounters of the E.T. Kind

First things first, Phantomaniacs - I still need your help to keep Needless Things running; mostly the podcast. You can read all about it here. Or you can go to Storenvy and buy stuff:

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I will be devoting all of next week to raising money to improve Needless Things. In order to show you – and all of the folks that you’ll undoubtedly be sharing these posts with – what Needless Things is all about, I’ll be revisiting the past few years’ worth of articles.
But Needless Things did not start here on Blogger (which I hope to be leaving at some point as part of this whole upgrade). It started on MySpace in June of 2008 when I was so utterly disgusted by the latest Indiana Jones movie that I had to write a review of it. That’s what started six years (so far) of writing about pop culture.
I have reposted a number of those MySpace posts here, but have been waiting for a special occasion to bring this – my first-ever internet article – over. I thought about saving it for Needless Things’ 1000th post, but I feel like that needs to be something a little more special. So here today, in the midst of my begging you good people for money, is the Special Edition of my review of the turd that is Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
Similar to my Scareglow review, I have cleaned it up a bit and added in comments where I felt it appropriate. While some of the grammar and rougher bits might have changed, the content is the same.
This review contains SPOILERS! Do not read it if you don’t want to know the secrets of sucking that this film contains!
If you decided to check this out, bear with me. I have never written a review before, and am not entirely sure it’s a good idea. This is severely stream-of-consciousness, so the format and the flow may be a little shaky at times.
I could post the first and last sentences of this paragraph at the beginning of everything that I post.
I’ve waited a couple of weeks to write this because I really wanted to let the movie sink in. I love the character of Indiana Jones and have thoroughly enjoyed most of his adventures. I just could not enjoy this one. I thought about going to see it again, just to be sure, but I decided that I was just fooling myself.
Many things about this movie are awesome. Parts of it even recapture the magic feel of the first three movies. The jungle chase scene is almost perfect in tone, matching the fun and edge-of-your-seat feeling of the mine car chase in Temple of Doom. The cemetery fight with the skull-face guys is also well-done, giving Indy a chance to show that age and cunning are assets he can put to good use.
The two problems that I have with the movie are huge and invasive, but if only one of them existed I might have been able to overlook it. Together, though, they were insurmountable. There were also a few nagging little issues, but that is to be expected with any film of this undertaking. Nobody’s perfect.
The first problem is the story. Know in advance that aliens freak me out. To this day I maintain that E.T. (which I saw when I was 7) scared me more than any movie I have ever seen. I can’t even watch Communion or Fire in the Sky. Regardless of that phobia, I feel that I am judging the story on its merits and how it fits in to the Indiana Jones mythos, not my irrational (hopefully) fear of grays. I really just don’t think an alien story works. Logically, I get where it can be justified. I personally believe in alien life forms as much as I believe in God, so a story where an ancient civilization worships aliens is not ridiculous to me (this is an unwieldy sentence – I’m saying I believe in God and in aliens; I do – seriously). It would probably make a great non-Indy movie. I’ve read other reviews where it was suggested that seeing the alien at the end was going too far and that if that had been cut all would be well. I disagree. The alien thing just doesn’t work for me. The other movies were about religion and mysticism, not technology. The other movies made me contemplate faith and man’s place in the grand scheme. This one just made me think about how much I hate inappropriate CGI.
Which brings me to problem number two. Everything looked fake as fuck! From the start of the movie where we are in front of the warehouse (which was an awesome plot point and great to see) meeting Cate Blanchett’s great villainess to the campsite to the marketplace to the cemetery. It all looks fake and jarring and it takes you right out of the movie. I wish that this could have been shot completely on locations. If you look at the first three movies, they are epic in scale and locale. Every shot is real and every location feels real. You just lose yourself in the cinematography. Here, though, you feel like you are on the back lot from the end of Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure. I hated the CGI monkeys, but thought the ants were pretty cool. The part where Blanchett crushes one between her knees is priceless.
I want to mention that the significance of the warehouse is that it’s the one where they stored the Ark of the Covenant at the end of Raiders. I couldn’t remember why I thought the warehouse was such an awesome plot point as I was reviewing this.
Which segues into my closing remarks. Cate Blanchett, Harrison Ford and Shia Lebouf were tremendous. I really liked the Beowulf guy (I am at work and can’t remember his name – Ray Winstead or something) as the back-and-forth traitor.
Yes – I enjoyed The Beef’s performance. And looking back, I think I still would. I liked him in that Rear Window rip-off. Er, homage. And to think there was a time when I wasn’t familiar with the man who would play not only the best Punisher ever, but my favorite GI Joe character. Crazy.
My only issue cast-wise was Karen Allen. I don’t want to pick on her, but she came across as someone who was an actress about twenty years ago but dropped it to be a mom. Which is apparently pretty much the case. I have no problem with Indy having a son or getting married and I loved the scene with him grabbing the hat back from Mutt. Unfortunately, the good in this movie just couldn’t overwhelm the lame. All of the awesome was moments or scenes, while the suck-ass was consistent and present throughout. After it was over, I called my wife and had to voice an opinion that seriously hurt me. Honestly, I felt that churning twist of the gut that is almost the exact opposite of the nerd-chills you get every time you hear the opening chords of the Star Wars theme as I uttered the dreaded words into my cell phone – “That was fucking awful.” Maybe it really wasn’t that bad, but lord it wasn’t good.
2 out of 5 Fedoras
I totally forgot that I used to pick an object from the movie for my rating scale.
I thought about watching the movie again so that I could maybe provide some new commentary, but I’ve tried to watch it a couple of times since that first theater viewing and all it does is piss me off.
Be sure to come back next week for what is basically going to amount to Needless Things’ Greatest Hits! You might find a few things that you haven’t read before or forgot existed. I know I’ve come across some that I either didn’t remember or didn’t recall how good they were.

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