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December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas and Happy Pizza Rolls: Harry Plinkett's Hour-Long Review of Kingdom of the Crystal Skull Now Up
Bumped: How Indiana Jones Is, Or Is Supposed To Be Anyway, A Sword & Sorcery Hero

George Lucas didn't ruin my childhood. Polio did.

And when you're done with that, there's an adorkable female Harry Plinkett doing a similar style of long-form comedic reviews; for example, she attacks Ronald Emmerich's disaster movies in two parts. Other videos here.

Good as Plinkett? Nah, of course not. But then I've never tried to psychically will Plinkett's bra-strap to shift an inch to the side.

Watched It: Not super-good. He has some good insights, as usual, but it's not the devastating, incisive critiques he laid on the Star Wars abortions.

Couple of points: He seems to tentatively rap the movie for its political correctness regarding the Russians. The film bows to political correctness to paint the US as "just as bad" as the Soviet Union, despite the fact that this makes absolutely no sense in the movie. The movie needs the Soviets to be bad. And, in fact, actual history says they're pretty bad, so the movie's need would dovetail nicely with history.

But Spielberg and Lucas nevertheless stuff the film with pro-Soviet Union/anti-US messaging just for the sake of "balance."

Who the hell wants "balance" in an action movie?

I'll tell you who does: George Lucas, an ignorant, spent simpleton whose previous three horrific films (the Star Wars ones) also tried to portray both sides in the galactic conflict as having both good and bad sides.

Oh okay, good. In that case, it really doesn't matter to me who wins. But I wish you'd advertised the movies with the tagline Because nothing of consequence is at stake so I would have known I could skip them.

Plinkett's good at noticing things which are simple and obvious -- once they're pointed out to you.

Like: How many people does Indiana Jones actually kill in the terrible fourth film?

One, and it's not even clear he killed the guy at all. If the film didn't seem particularly exciting or gritty, well, maybe you didn't notice at the time (I didn't) but maybe you noticed something missing.

Like a hero who takes violent action to get himself out of jams. Bad guys (but are they so bad?) may be killed indirectly, or accidentally, or by comic coincidence, but Indy never actually kills anyone. Except one guy. And who knows if he dies.

And Plinkett's probably right that that's Spielberg's and Lucas' maturity at work. But maturity is sort of boring in an action-adventure movie. They made a movie that's safe for kids and it turns out, gee willickers, it's tame and boring and fake. And kids don't like it either, I'm guessing, as they like the stuff they associate with adults.

This is probably also a request of Harrison Ford's. He got criticized for always holding a gun in his movies. Then in Clear and Present Danger, he never picks up a gun, except briefly, and I think he loses it pretty quickly without killing anyone. Then back to ambling around in a safe, mature manner.

If you really want to geek out, check out this long essay on the line of demarcation between Tolkein-style "High Fantasy" and Howard-style "Sword & Sorcery." The most important distinction is between what type of fantasy is being attempted -- a fantasy that appeals to mature, settled older readers who like a sense of community and appreciate moral values like pluck, loyalty, and dedication?

Or a fantasy that appeals to more juvenile, unsettled younger people who like the sense of freedom from obligation and duty and who don't care so much about moral virtue but only skill with a sword or axe and excitement for the sake of excitement?

If it's the former, it's a Tolkein-eque fantasy. If it's the latter, it's Conan.

Are you saving your homeland, or are you looking to score a sackful of jewels?

Are you looking to preserve the honor of the princess? Or despoil it yourself?

Oh, and if this fantasy divergence is too dorky for you, there is a broader, non-fantasy term for a story about roguish hero who's out for excitement: the picaresque.

Both of these are obviously enjoyable. But a book, or movie, needs to understand what it wants to be and what it must be.

The Indiana Jones movies have always clearly been in the Sword & Sorcery camp. The second film essentially was a dungeoncrawl with some modern weaponry in the beginning and ending. In the middle, it's all, literally, swords and sorcery. Indy loses his gun and if not for the 30s dress there'd be nothing that would place it outside the Dark Ages.

Indiana Jones was not a moral paragon. The films go out of their way to suggest a darkness to him, an amorality. (Yeah it's kind of bullshit, because he's not a very dark character, but they nod at that.) Like any good Sword & Sorcery character, he wasn't out to save the world. He may have wound up saving the world incidentally, but his motivation was avarice (collecting those sweet, sweet fame-bestowing artifacts) and a juvenile love of excitement.

Oh sure Indiana Jones bitches and complains when he gets shot at. But he keeps on putting himself into gunfights, doesn't he?

And of course he taps ass. In the second and third movie especially, he's depicted as something of an ass-chaser, and it's not about "love" or romance there, either. Just pure Conan-esque sexual conquests.

The last Indiana Jones movie was almost as if Professor Tolkein tried to write a Conan story, and began thinking, "Okay, well now our hero will need some family and an extended community of friends, and oh dear, we'll have to marry him off and domesticate him..." Well, okay, Professor Tolkein never would have written something this bad, but if he did, he'd start giving the heroes strong loyalties to each other and some family connections.

Sure, Indiana Jones is older now, and the film had to make nods to the fact that he was older.

But did that mean he had to stop shooting people? Did getting older mean "completely losing his balls"?

Apparently so.

Even if we had to gesture towards him being older and settled in the beginning, couldn't that have made a nice arc, when, say halfway through, he gets a sense of the old zeal for excitement and starts kicking ass?

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posted by Ace at 07:09 PM

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