PavCo Multimedia Synergistics Weblog

May 23, 2008

Passing the Hat

This is the hundredth post of the the year for this blog, and takes me 1/3 of the way to my goal for the year. In thinking about it, I’ve been juggling a number of potential subjects for this post, from an official statement of who I’m supporting for in the Presidential race (for those of you blind squirrels that still haven’t found that particular nut) to a comment on Senator Clinton’s “assassination” comment today (or, more to the point, the commentators’ obsession over it), to those three movie reviews that I keep promising (for movies which, let’s face it, aren’t even showing any more).

But I figured I’d go back to the basics, and the reason that I started the mailing list which became this blog all those years ago.

Before the advent of videotape and dvds, before cable tv, I spent one teenaged summer in the dark of the movie theater, repeatedly watching Raiders of the Lost Ark, the first in a trilogy of action movies created by Steven Spielberg and George Lucas and starring Harrison Ford as the globetrotting archaeologist Indiana Jones. All told, I saw Raiders thirteen times though, interestingly, I don’t know that I’ve sat down and watched it in its entirety since.

So it is that I’ve been waiting in great anticipation for this week’s debut of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. I’m man enough to admit that when I first saw the trailer, I teared up a bit. But after that first trailer, I tried not to see the additional ads, tried to avoid spoilers and summaries and reviews. I wanted to go into it with some of the same unknowns that I had when first I saw Raiders more than a quarter century ago.

I took the kids to a late show last night. I was ready to enjoy it, but braced myself to be disappointed. Though I hadn’t read any reviews, I could tell by the headlines that they were coming across as mixed. I was just hoping that I wouldn’t be forced by my basic honesty (yep, imagine that: a basically honest politician) to join the mixed bunch.

I wasn’t.

The movie starts off with the now-traditional fade-in from the Paramount mountain logo to some sort of mountain in the setting of the movie (in Temple of Doom, it was an engraving on a gong), and we’re off to the races. Ford’s Dr. Jones doesn’t show up for a few minutes, and in my opinion, his first appearance was mishandled by the usually sure-handed Spielberg, but that’s quickly forgotten, as Jones and a comrade face down a group of Russian soldiers (led by Cate Blanchett’s Dr. Colonel Irina Spalko), looking for a particular crate housed in a government warehouse. (No, not that crate)

It’s 1957, and Jones finds himself caught up in the Red Scare, attempting to elude both the FBI and the Russians, and doing so for the most part, aided by Mutt Williams (Shia LaBeouf), a Brando-esque young man (think Wild Bunch Brando, not mummu-wearing Brando) whose mother has sent him to Jones for help.

Before long, Jones and Williams are off to South America, where they battle natives, Russians, and the obligatory swarm of creepy crawly critters, and reunite with mutual loved ones (in the form of John Hurt’s “Ox” Oxley and Karen Allen’s Marion Ravenwood). Everything speeds forward with the breakneck pace that’s expected of an Indiana Jones movie (and the slew of imitators that followed), before wrapping up in the de rigeur pyrotechnic spectacle.

There is much that is largely familiar about Crystal Skull, and that’s fitting for an Indian Jones movie. The originals harkened back to the Saturday morning serials of the 30s and 40s, and this movie harkens back to the earlier ones, as well as other Spielberg and Lucas movies. Those so inclined will pick apart this movie and point to specific scenes from earlier films and say “well, this is a ripoff of that Raiders scene”, or “That one was done in Empire Strikes Back, without acknowledging that the scene in Raiders owed a debt to Flash Gordon and Empire was only doing what Stagecoach did thirty years earlier. Nineteen years has passed since the last movie (the same amount of time that has passed in real life), and as a nod to the times, Crystal Skull has undertones of early Sci Fi (Indy was brought in to consult on the Roswell incident), as well as the more overt Red Scare references.

A couple of scenes push the envelope of suspension of disbelief (Mutt and the monkeys), and ever-so-briefly strain the audience’s good will, but by and large, the movie is a rousing thrill ride, and serves to possibly pass the fedora to a new generation of adventurer. I started off the movie with an ear-to-ear grin, and it didn’t leave my face for hours after.

The 300 Project: 25/100

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