I didn’t really want to discuss this. I specifically asked you, dear readers, in my last blog to not push me to the edge of reason and sanity by challenging my utterly truthful and unbiased opinion of the fourth Indiana Jones film, and you insisted on tickling the proverbial dragon’s tail by doing so. One person demanded that I get off my high horse, and to that I say no. I like it on my high horse. The view is good up here, and the altitude makes it easier for me to spit on your low-horsed opinions for comedic effect. If I got off my high horse, this blog wouldn’t be terribly entertaining, because as a general rule, humble people aren’t funny. Do you know any Amish standup comedians? No, you don’t, and you never will, both because they’re too humble to challenge the legitimacy of airline peanuts and because their religion restricts them from using an electronic microphone.
So let’s face the facts: Yes, I did imply that Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Egregiously Long, Overwrought Homage to 1930s Serial Adventure Films was more terrible than redneck humor and the worst nuclear disaster in history. I still stand by my opinion, even with full knowledge that as we speak people are dying from cancer brought on by Chernobyl or Larry the Cable Guy. Don’t take this to mean that I thought this movie was any better than Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, because I most certainly don’t. Temple of Doom is higher on the travesty list, just barely above those airport toilets with the sensor triggered flush that always flushes when you’re still going.* I can’t decide what I hate most about Temple of Doom - the overblown horror movie gore, Kate Capshaw as a bitchy and incompetent “heroine” who never quit screaming, or the fact that a streetwise treasure hunter/university professor maintains a close and apparently platonic relationship with a 10 year old Engrish speaking Chinese kid who also happened to be in The Goonies. No, you know what? I’ve decided what I hate most, and it was definitely Kate Capshaw. A few weeks ago, my friends a few doors down were watching Temple of Doom with their door open, and all the way down the hall I could hear her screaming. With my door closed. Here’s a fun fact about writing for the movies: Characters screaming is the result of the screenwriters being too lazy to think up any dialogue, so in as scream-heavy a movie as Temple of Doom, you’ve really got to appreciate the writers’ firm commitment to dicking the viewers in pursuit of a quick paycheck.
*Seriously, what the hell? Who thought that was a good idea? Because some people don’t flush the toilet, did society have to implement a haywire sensor that triggers the flush mechanism at any old time? Have you ever started using one of these and only realized once you’ve passed the point of no return that you’re on a toilet that decides for itself when you’re all finished? You wind up sitting perfectly still, poised to jump up at a moment’s notice lest you be treated to a highly unsanitary bidet experience. It’s like crapping on a time bomb! My theory is that a bunch of folks at some laboratory got drunk and said, “Hell yeah! Let’s put a laser on a toilet! Because we can!” Then somebody found it and marketed it so that people in airports everywhere could have The Bowel Movement Of The Future™, and now the whole world suffers. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why laser sensor toilets are such a travesty.
At this point, there’ll be a few spoilers about all this Crystal Skull nonsense, but for the record, I’d figured out all these plot points before the end of the first reel, so you could just read ahead and save your money.
So no, Crystal Skull didn’t have cute 10 year old boys or Kate Capshaw. On the contrary, it had Karen Allen, Indiana’s lover from Raiders and a particular favorite of mine in terms of spunky adventure film heroines. However, Karen Allen alone could not save this movie from three devastating problems:
1) I’ve had it with these motherfucking science fiction elements in this motherfucking fantasy based film series! - I’m not particularly enamored of fantasy, and Bible history ain’t exactly my bag either, but the two good Indiana Jones movies (Raiders and Last Crusade) managed to combine the elements into a perfect formula. If you watch these two movies, you’ll see that the bulk of the action consists of Indy and friends fighting Nazis and debating the ethics of hunting these Biblical relics, all within a fairly realistic tone. At each film’s climax, there’s a brief, graphic, and highly awesome scene in which God serves the Nazis, and then everybody goes home happy. That’s a great system and it made everybody rich; I don’t see why they had to divert from it by adding aliens to the mix. I mean, I love aliens as much as the next science fiction aficionado, but the Indiana Jones series has been primarily about globe trotting archaeology, not cover-ups and conspiracy.
2) MS Word Spellcheck hates your name, LeBeouf - Hi there, Shia, it’s me – Truman. Much like you, I am geeky and funny looking. However, I am not so fortunate to have made out with Megan Fox on the hood of a muscle car, which, in and of itself, is a Transformer. During the shooting of that scene at the end of Transformers, you achieved the high point of your career, and I don’t care if you go on to win an Oscar, because 1) Megan Fox is a modern day Baberham Lincoln, and 2) Transformers are awesome, and you had both at once! Let’s leave it at that, okay? You don’t make a very good greaser. I don’t believe that Indiana Jones sired you oh-so-many years ago. Watching you swinging from vine to vine, leading a charge of monkeys to attack a Communist platoon, all while combing your hair and wearing a leather jacket, I could only lament the fact that one dopey cinematic set-piece had not only tarnished my memories of the Indiana Jones franchise, but also Transformers. Good luck on Transformers 2, and give Megan and all the Autobots my love.
3) It beats screaming, but only just - This movie was poorly written. There are no jokes in the previous sentence because this is a very serious matter: The script for this movie was absolute caca. You can disagree with me about everything else, fine, go ahead, be my guest, but I’d like to think that I, as a writer myself, have a pretty good idea of what good writing is, and I can tell you that it most certainly wasn’t present in this movie. In Raiders, Indiana Jones is gruff, abrupt, and sort of a fuckup. That works. In that movie, Indiana Jones didn’t need witticisms or a sense of humor to solve his problems; for example, he didn’t say anything to that ninja in the marketplace, he just shot him and went on with his day. We have a word for that: Awesome. That shit is all the way live, and evidence that sometimes the best scripts know when not to be too talky. In Last Crusade, he’s a little more verbal in the fight scenes, but it’s quick. For example: “No ticket.” Once again, awesome. To be perfectly honest, I use either “No ticket” or “He chose… Poorly” on a daily basis, and that’s what makes Last Crusade’s script so great. But Crystal Skull just tries too hard. The writers obviously watched a lot of Indiana Jones and tried their best to mimic it, and they wound up overplaying every line to the point that this feels more like a bunch of people trying really hard to be in an Indiana Jones movie than an actual Indiana Jones movie. “They’re going to the space between spaces.” “The real treasure was knowledge.” “Stick around son,” “Why didn’t you, Dad?” It’s cheesy and hammy and corny, and if I were describing a sandwich right now we’d be in great shape, but sadly I’m talking about an installment in a highly popular film series with many devoted fans. Now I’m hungry.
The simple fact is that they should have left us with our memories. I mean, c’mon – the last movie was called Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, which is as about as final a title as you can get save for Indiana Jones and the Decision to Stop Having Adventures and Move to Florida. I didn’t want to see Indiana Jones as a family man, because this is the guy who built his image on being a tough as nails, globe trotting asshole. Watching Indiana Jones settle down and get married is a complete departure from the character we know and love – it’s like watching Han Solo stop being a dick long enough to express his feelings for Leia!
Oh, wait, I guess that happened too. One day we will discuss Return of the Jedi, and why I hate George Lucas.
Truman Capps hopes you’ve all learned your lesson about getting him started on movies.