Thursday, May 22, 2008

'Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull' is fun, but MAN am I tired of crappy CG effects...

So before I jump in I want to make 2 points:

1. I'm going to try really hard to make spoilers avoidable. Any time I bring up specific plot points I'll blend the color of the text into the background, so you'll have to highlight that text to read it (if anyone REALLY cares what I have to say).

2. This is going to read A LOT like my diatribe on CG and Jurassic Park...

You've been warned!

I don't like to review movies here. Other places do that, so I'll try to stay focused on the technical aspects of the film. That said, the movie IS fun, and while I have some issues with the plot, the larger than life characters are so much fun to watch on screen (Karen Allen and Harrison Ford!?!?! COME ON!!!). It's hard not to get amped about a film like this.

Seriously, I was 8 when the last Indy movie came out.

My biggest problem with the film is I happen to hate LucasFilm visual effects. They look fake. REALLY fake. They look like giant cartoons. They DON'T relate to gravity. They become hyper-kinetic, moving in ways that real objects don't. LF relies on these effects as front and center visual pieces, and they just don't hold up. They're glaringly obvious.
Indy movies were always fantastic adventures taking us around the globe to exotic locations. Most of this movie felt like it was shot on a sound stage.

The most egregious for me (spoilers, highlight following text):
-After the bomb goes off, we really needed a bouncing cg fridge? Were refrigerators in the 50's made out of rubber? THEY COULDN'T HAVE JUST DROPPED A REAL FRIDGE?!?!
-CG Monkeys looked like crap. CG ants not much better. CG scorpions even worse. Even Temple of Doom had real bugs...
-Aliens? Sigh... Aside from just being plain lazy story telling, one of the worst Aliens I've ever seen. Why not just use a puppet like in Close Encounters?
-People in the showing I went to laughed at how Blanchett's character met her demise. Looked silly, made little sense.
-Flying saucer? Meh....

I think the problem here is laziness. Movies like Epsiodes 1-3 of Star Wars, Speed Racer (talk about vomiting cotton candy all over my childhood), King Kong (Jackson's) and now Indy 4 have failed to learn the lessons of movies that have come before (Jurassic Park still looks awesome and was made 15 years ago).
You can't make the whole movie up in post. CG only works to augment what you've already shot. The only exceptions are highly stylized movies like comic book films, and even then this stuff shouldn't be front and center.
Iron Man did a MUCH better job of tackling that. Even after seeing it a second time, there were still several moments where I had a really hard time figuring out if it was a guy in a suit, CG, or both.

Directors are going to have to relearn their craft IMHO. CG makes it WAY to easy to have your characters perform the impossible. Not the improbable, or the fantastic, but the impossible. The take-you-out-of-the-moment-and -break-suspension-of-disbelief-impossible. That moment where you go from having fun to realizing you're just watching some silly cartoon in a movie theater, and it doesn't matter what happens to the characters next because it's just going to be even more ridiculous then what they've already done.
Imagine if the boulder scene in Raiders had just been a wash of CG bouncing rocks and motion blurring effects.There's no fun in that...

So, all that above being said, Skywalker Sound did an AMAZING job. This movie sounded every bit like an Indy film. Great score, incredible mixing and ADR (Barbara Harris knows her shit), and the foley was incredible. I have to say I got a little giddy when I heard the classic Indiana Jones"punch" sound effect (sounds like a shotgun going off while breaking a 2x4).

All in all the movie is fun, with great performances, and is totally worth seeing. It is Indiana Jones after all, and it's been 20 years since the last one came out, so that's reason enough right there.

Having seen it though, I don't think I need to see it again.

A friend of mine still hasn't seen Iron Man though. I think I might be up for a third viewing there...


  1. I agree with pretty much all of your Indy review. The only thing that got me through that goddamn ending was that MAYBE they weren't "aliens," but a lifeforce beyond our comprehension (more mystic than sci-fi). Note that the flying saucer didn't go up into the air, but disappeared in a flash of light. In a way, it gave a mystical, on-the-keel-of-holy-grail-esque-artifacts approach to what people perceived as science-fiction. Dimensions vs. Planets or something. Normally, it's the other way around.

    Oh, what the fuck am I talking about. They were aliens. I hate George Lucas and I hope "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" implodes at the box office.

    But I LOVED seeing Marian and Indy back on screen together. I loved the homage to Henry Sr. and Marcus. I loved the snake in the drysand. And, ignoring the autopsy and the UFO, a lot of the torch-lit, temple discovery was fun. Motorcycle chase was my favorite--it felt the most like the oldies. Probably because it wasn't loaded with shit-tastic Lucasfilm CG. How difficult is it to push a fridge down a hill? A. Looks better. B. Way cheaper.

    Point is, I'm tired of CG. Really, really tired. If I ever "make it" out here to the extent that we all dream about, a true goal of mine is to make a film with technology ONLY available in the 80's and before. No tom-dickery with post. I am saying that if it the tech wasn't available before '89, it wont be on the set or in the editing room. I know it's ridiculous, but I love that look and that feel, and it would be so fun to truly capture it again.

    Well, that's enough of that. Saucer-men are now canonized in the Jones universe and I'm still breathing.

  2. LOL! Agreed!
    The motorcycle chase was one of the best practical stunts I've seen in years!
    It's really too bad it was put into this movie...