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By Danny J. Gibson
"Knowledge Is Power" - Dr. Indiana Jones
The main weapon preached and fought for in the fourth installment of the Indiana Jones franchise is knowledge. Which, is also a big switch I had to tell myself to turn OFF in pre and post excitement and thought on "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull".
I've purposely stayed away from the hype machine on this movie. I wanted to go in fresh and pure and without expectations. Though, in the back of my gut I was a little worried, but tried to keep my childlike cooing cool. In recent months I've stopped feeling the need to schedule my day and thoughts around visits to media fan boy internet sites. I've stopped caring, so to speak, on trying to stay in the "know". I guess I'm more informed than some, but I just want to approach things like a kid again and I'm just tired of the over saturation of media, information and technology these days. I did watch the initial trailer or teaser. It drew-up giant goose bumps of nostalgia when the gorgeous simplicity of the Spielberg movie magic re-introduced Dr. Jones to me by way of the hat, and then the shadow on a car door of the hat going on the head of my instantly recognizable hero. WOW. Total brilliance, in my book. I'm a sucker for the classically, yet fresh, camera shots and lighting...and I was ready to take the wrapper from off my blue lolly pop to discover the indian chief pointing his bow and arrow at a five star Indiana.
However, three-quarters into the movie last night...and coincidentally right as the CGI started to look a little TOO computer generated...and just as a giant, cheesy pack of greased-back hair monkeys helped save the day...and just as I realized the ending was going to get extremely whacky...I found my giant grinned teeth crunching my lolly pop's core and crumpling a couple stars from off that wrapper. My naive, child-like black and white palette had now been splattered by the colors of my adulthood idiocy, the critic in me and one-too-many-hours logged behind the movie reel-wheel. And I hate that. I just now, fourteen hours later, turned my "stupid" switch back to OFF.
"Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" is just plain ON. It's AWESOME and some of the most fun I've had at the movies in a long time!
It's easy to drink from the information fire hose in today's culture-driven, mass-media buffet. It's easy for information on the pop-culture beat to be leaked in our heads in a distracting cloud of he-said/she-said so it must be true belief. It can sometimes be hard to be a human with original thoughts or ideas or emotions. And just like the effects from looking into the Crystal Skull that Dr. Jones and the Russians are searching for, thoughts and knowledge can be easily manipulated and go completely catty-wompus. The super highway of 2008 has one too many billboards to distract and dive into. Much different than the one that the horses hooves clopped on in 1989. Way back when we were treated with a third ice cream scoop, the flavor we thought was Indiana Jones' last crusade.
For almost 20 years now, we've heard the rumors of this and that with the whip and the hat coming back. And we've kept on watching the movie and media machines growing and have had high hopes and hearts for it. But, at the same time just didn't think it would happen and if it did happen, it just wouldn't be the same. We've watched Harrison Ford (aka, in this kid's skull: Han Solo and Indiana Jones) grow older and wondered how he could pull off the glory and gut punches of yesteryear. We've waited so patiently for this long, "Harry Potter"-sounding, almost tongue-twister of a movie title, "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull"
True, the tag-team filmmaking punch of Steven Spielberg and George Lucas is a little rusty, but you can tell they have a ton of fun and enjoy having the keys to real jobs as big kids playing in the cinema sandbox. They hold the keys that started up the summer blockbuster movie engines that we all get excited about. Even if their britches sag a bit these days, I must hand it to them, they know how to make an entertaining thrill ride (well, let's just toss out Lucas's "Star Wars" butcher block updates) and make me feel like a kid again. And, we can't forget that the whole original premise of Indiana Jones was fueled by the fluff adventures of the movie serials of the '30s and '40s, and of dime store paper backs and pulp comics.
Yeah, "Raiders of the Lost Ark" is considered filmmaking treasure, but the whole franchise I've always approached with the same imagination and thrill-seeking that I've found on the pages of my favorite comic books. In a sense, I see the films as what I imagine the good ol' days of filmmaking and going to the movies to be like. When you could tell that what you were watching was just a set or a painted veil or a moving screen. I imagine it a time when the characters and plots were bigger than life and much better than the characters and plots happening outside in the heated climate of the real world. I think of films of the golden days as taking a lot of interaction with the audience's imagination to fully bring it to life. And I see my childhood in a similar light...even now.
Like most things, technology has spoiled the movies. When used well or subtle, like in "Sin City" or "Iron Man", it can really help bring things to life or a somewhat believable vision. Though, lately a lot of CGI feels very roughly rushed, forced and even stale. And sometimes I wish that filmmakers like Spielberg and Lucas would just step the reliability on lavish special effects back a bit and let the audience's imagination pull the strings on what's behind the curtain. Then, the pay-off would be sweeter and possibly more mysterious. Some of my favorite films are the ones done with such classic camera effects or tricks that they add an allurement of mystery. They are so simple and have a purity to their art and aim, that they just make me wonder and inspired with giddy excitement...just like that shot of the shadow of Indy putting on the hat. Spielberg, I give you an A+ on scenes like that one. But, I guess I'll just have to take that "Crystal Skull" ending for what it's worth. It was big and wild and whacky...and I'm just glad the hat and whip are back in action!
As an adult and an avid eater of film, it's way too easy for the world to kick in and kick over my childlike mind. I try to pine for it as much as I can. I miss the days of feeling like a summer or season or a year was forever. I miss thinking that 29 would take a century to get to. I do still try my best at besting adulthood, but only in helpings of moderation and on a certain level and balance with responsibility. Heck, I still make silly so-called "art" stuff while hiding out in my clubhouse whenever I can. And I'd do it all day and night if I could (maybe someday)...well, when I'm not watching movies and doing LIFE stuff, that is. I miss the days of being a kid, when it was OK for my job to be Han Solo and Indiana Jones and John Rambo in one combined character and play in the creek or timber all summer long. I miss the days when every movie WAS my favorite movie and I would instantly start re-enacting it in any way, shape or form. Oh, and I miss the days when I didn't feel the need to feel like I had to share my thoughts and opinions with the world via myspace or email. And I'm surprised you've made it this far in my saga!
It's a sad thing to me when innocence becomes something lost or locked, when childhood is departed. I watched classmates and peers toss out their boxes of toys and Trix, only to tease and trick girls or cars instead of their imagination and inner freedom. Even the summer before my first semester of college I had not quite weened my play time. Actually, as I sit here, writing with my action figures at my side, and in my basement clubhouse...I extend my pledge to never fully grow-up or shed my childhood. I believe one can be a man and still hold to the formative yesteryears. Those are the most crucial and important times as they help shape and add definition to who and what we are today and it is sad to me that a lot of people have simply shed that aspect or deny it existed. And a major part of my foundation is made up of movie heroes and icons like Indiana Jones. One can be a man and still search for that buried treasure of childhood.
Sometimes you take the time out of a busy, exhausting day for a movie...pay for the ticket that seems to get taxed more and more, even while waiting in line for it...fill up on outrageously priced gas and food...only to sit for an hour and forty minutes (and some), anxiously waiting for the end credits to finally roll. It's not that we don't like going to the movies or have lost interest. I think it's easy to either get complacent with "stuff" or get the sticky duct butter of LIFE stuck in our eyes and be thinking about what's going …after the movie, or tomorrow or next week…instead of the big picture just right on ahead. We sometimes just can't enjoy what's in front of us, in the "moment". We just can't shut stuff OFF these days. And just maybe it's because we think we have "the movies" figured out, or because we can now have everything on demand and how we want it, even though we seem to fill our time with more and more than we ever did. Heck, we can even butter our own popcorn in some movie houses! Maybe we've become too self-centered, self-engineered and too man-made and too multi-tasking…just like the modern movies. We just can't sit and enjoy things without constant commentary, or buttering our own bread that is spewing out of our motor mouths and brains. Now we can make our own movies and music and whatever it may be and get them to anybody in the world in two seconds. Now we think we are all critics and writers and kings and philosophers and scientists and doctors and designers and blah blah blah.
Even though I love going to the movies, I too can get anxious and squirmy inside. And not just because I've been sitting still and quiet for a long period of time or because the groans and expressions of satisfaction spiraling out of the Men's room sound more authentic than the ones coming from the screening room. I believe that in today's 'Merica, we've got way too much pushed down our canals on one end, and on the other, no one of physical stature to put solid stock in to steer the boat from the choppy times and issues of the day. I'm probably not making much sense to you, but there is assurance (not insurance) found in pop-culture and trips to the movies. Pure escapism and entertainment is one thing, but heroes and leaders can also be found in imagination, fiction and play thru the lenses of movie magic. Just like the good ol' days of the pictures or comics, Indiana Jones is just what this country needs right now.
See this movie. It's not perfect and I'm positive we can all pick at it to death and could carry it to the cinema cellar like a giant pack of hungry South American ants. But, I'm positive that if you just turn any thoughts or even any pre-conceived film knowledge switches to "OFF" and let the magic of film light you up, then you will not be disappointed. You will want to sit in that seat, wishing for the Indiana Jones kingdom to never end.
Were Spielberg and Lucas, aka: "The Geek Gods" at play - CHECK
Was every man-child's hero back by way of Harrison Ford - CHECK
Was there stuff blowing up - CHECK
Were the punches extremely chunky sounding and awesome - CHECK
Were some of the stunts simply spectacular - CHECK
Were the bad guys defeated - CHECK
Were there tons of creepy crawlies - CHECK
Was Indy still afraid of snakes - CHECK
Were there great tie-ins to previous Indiana Jones movies - CHECK
Was there a past Indiana Jones love interest involved - CHECK
Was the always fantastic Cate Blanchett on top of her game - CHECK
Was Shia LaBeouf not getting on my nerves - CHECK
Was Shia LaBeouf still groomed to be the next Tom-Tom drum at the movies for film-goers to Cruise behind and give (t)Hanks to, but with a much more difficult name to pronounce so we aren't thinking, "Oh, it's Tom Cruise or Tom Hanks just playing that character, rather it's that one guy whose name i can't figure out."
Was the janitor from "Scrubs" making a cameo - CHECK
Were there bad jokes and with great timing - CHECK
Was composer John Williams swinging his maestro stick like an axe - CHECK
Were goose bumps distributed - CHECK
Was I grinning for most of the movie - CHECK
Was it some great, old-time, action-adventure fun at the movies - CHECK
Was I a little sad when it was over, and in a good childlike way - CHECK
Will I go see it again - CHECK
Will I buy the DVD - CHECK