Friday, May 23, 2008


Well, pholks, this it is: the last May Movie Month Peverett Phile Extra for 2008. This afternoon Logan and I went to see Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. And was it worth the wait?


Indiana Jones is a franchise of moments. Some die-hard fans may recall the precise steps the hero took to locate and procure the Ark of the Covenant (i.e. the plot), but damn near everyone remembers "Snakes... Why did it have to be snakes?" The series is defined and embodied by individual flourishes, images and icons that stubbornly refuse to leave fans' minds, and sometimes even get stuck in pop culture as a whole. As for which ones, well -- that may be different for different people. This is a list of moments that represent Indiana Jones for me: the moments that always evoke a knowing smile or elevate the pulse; the moments I look forward to every time I watch. Some are obvious, some are not, and some of the obvious ones are missing -- but hey, make your own list.
1. Raiders: "Start the engine!"
Oh sure, most people would probably list Indy and Satipo navigating the booby traps of ancient temple to retrieve the golden idol in Raiders' deservingly legendary opening sequence. And yes, that's cool. But what I love even more is a moment that comes a few minutes later: with Rene Belloq and the Hovitos on his tail, Indy comes barreling across a plain, hollering at his companion to "START THE ENGINE" of a waiting seaplane. It's intense, absurd, exciting, funny: everything everyone loves about the series, in the span of a few seconds.
2. Raiders: Indy Shoots the Sword-Wielding Henchman
Indy often resorts to elaborate stunts, but he prefers not to screw around. In the middle of the big Cairo melee, a Nazi operative confronts Indy with a bunch of elaborate and supposedly-intimidating swordplay. Indy rolls his eyes, takes out his gun, and shoots the guy; without giving him a second look, he turns around, having already moved on to his next task. Hey, no one ever said Indiana Jones had to play fair; he's obsessed with history, not personal honor. Yet another reason he's such a singular action hero.
3. Raiders: "Ha ha ha ha... son of a bitch."
"What a fitting end to your life's pursuits," Belloq sneers at Indy just before locking him and Marion in the Well of Souls with those pesky snakes. "You're about to become a permanent addition to this archaeological find. Who knows? In a thousand years, even you may be worth something." Indy's response -- a sarcastic laugh transitioning seamlessly into a muttered curse -- is priceless. Levity and a personal insult in the face of near-certain death: what better way to epitomize Indiana Jones?
4. Temple of Doom: The Dinner Scene
It's a perfect encapsulation of the films' ability to weave in humor -- often broad humor -- without betraying their tone or degenerating into camp.
5. Last Crusade: "That belongs in a museum!"
I relish the occasional moment when the movies acknowledge that its amazing action hero is in fact a college professor. I love the rare glimpse of Dr. Jones teaching one of his classes and, at one point in Last Crusade, even holding office hours. So too with this timeless line, delivered once by River Phoenix and once by Harrison Ford, about the legendary Cross of Coronado. It reminds us that Indy isn't fighting for justice or defending the weak -- he's protecting the integrity of artifacts. And that's awesome.
6. Last Crusade: "Poor Marcus"
This is a variation on the old Hollywood saw of having a character deliver an impassioned speech about how he will never, ever do X, or how X will never, ever happen, followed immediately by a cut to the character doing X or of X in fact occurring. When Elsa and Walter Donovan realize that good old Marcus Brody is in possession of the Henry Jones diary pages they desperately need to find the Holy Grail, Indy witheringly sings Marcus's praises: "He's got a two day head start on you, which is more than he needs. Brody's got friends in every town and village from here to the Sudan; he speaks a dozen languages, knows every local custom; he'll blend in, disappear, you'll never see him again. With any luck, he's got the Grail already." Cut to: Brody ambling down a Middle East street in a ridiculous white suit and hat, asking whether anyone speaks English. Hilarious, and a wonderful indirect illustration of Brody and Jones' adorable relationship.
7. Crystal Skull: Motorcycle Fight Scene
Here I'd rather not give too much away, but there's a point in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull when Indy hightails it out of danger on the back of Shia LaBoeuf's motorcycle, pursued by baddies in cars. Eventually, he climbs into a chasing sedan full of henchmen, throws a few punches, scrambles out the other side and gets back on the motorcycle that Mutt has thoughtfully pulled around. No sweat. Most of the theater applauded in appreciation. It's a moment similar to #1 on this list, and it's reassuring that the franchise can still produce this sort of gleeful action flourish.


Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
Starring: Harrison Ford, Shia LaBeouf, Karen Allen, Cate Blanchett, and Ray Winstone. So, Indy finds himself in the middle of a hunt for a mysterious magnetic object that will unlock a whole lot of secret knowledge and power. No, it's not the Ark again. I said magnetic. Anyway, he'll also cross paths with a former flame (Allen), battle a very wacky Russian (Blanchett), have a tag-along annoyance (LaBeouf), an untrustworthy sidekick (Winstone) and at least one run-in with — and you knew this already because it's just famously part of his ongoing story — snakes. Let's see if I can review this with no spoilery details. I mean, yes, I just told you about the snakes. But that's not exactly the same thing. How's this: It's exactly what you think it will be and exactly what most people will want it to be. It's got plenty of excitement and funny, over-the-top unrealism; the story is ludicrously entertaining; and Ford doesn't try to be 30 years younger (well, not much). If there's anything to complain about, it's that you've been here before, and so there's no real surprise coming your way. But again, for me, that's not much of a complaint. Look for the difference between digital and analog effects. Either digital stuff has gotten so good that it seems three-dimensionally real, or quite a few old-fashioned mechanical-style booby-traps were built for the actors to play on like a whole film's worth of jungle gyms. Either way, it's a blast to watch. You'll either love ot hate Blanchett, as the severe, she-wolfish, Russian clairvoyant. She fully understands the cartoon she's signed on to be in, and she leaps around and sword-fights her way into redefining what "over the top" means. And LaBeouf? Not nearly as much as you'd expect. In fact, it seems that this was anticipated by the filmmakers, so they went out of their way to make his character already sort of a tool that you begin hating and learn to not-dislike by movie's end. So that was a smart move. From one to ten, you know I give it a ten. Logan was mesmerized as he is going Indiana Jones nuts, collecting the Lego sets, and I even got him a book on the movies today. He said his favorite part was when Indy swung forward and then backwards. And he loves the whip. 

Well, there you go, phans. The Phile will be back next Thursday again. Until then, spread the word, not the turd and remember... Red carpet massacre, Don't want to hassle you, Red carpet massacre, Deathstalk papparazzi yeah, Red carpet massacre,
It's going to mess with you, We're in business, You're on the hit list...


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