15 February 2011

Five (Six) Films That Geeks Give A Free Pass To

Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade

The only thing more disheartening than the mediocrity of last summer's Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull was suffering through the nerd rage that got hurled at it for "not being as good as the originals". 

"Originals",  plural.  Meaning not only the true classic, Raiders Of The Lost Ark, but also the trashy, galumphing Temple Of Doom, and the even more slapstick and slapdash Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade.

Last Crusade's been given a free riding for far too long,  now.  All the "Crystal Skull sucks" hysteria really brings it home, because ... ready?... they're the same freaking picture!  

The two films share literally every flaw in common: clumsy star insertion (Connery, LaBeouf), bafoonery in the secondary characters, a complete disinterest in creating atmosphere or building tension, large amounts of slapstick, unconvincing visual effects, and a cheapness in tone, especially at the end.  Sure, nobody's swinging from any vines in Crusade, but does anybody remember Harrison Ford infiltrating a Nazi stronghold with his hilarious Scottish accent?  Anybody?

What people like about Crusade a) Connery, and b) they don't remember that its crummy compositing was easily as bad as any of Skull's cheesy CGI.  And, of course, Crusade never had to emerge after a couple of decades wait.
So let's be clear.  Crystal Skull is another weak-ass Indy pic, not the weak-ass Indy pic.

The "Even Numbered" Star Trek Films--Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and Stark Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.

I remember seeing Star Trek IV in the mid eighties when I was thirteen or so.  Even then it felt heavy-handed, lacking in action, and stuffed with cheeseball comedy.  It really benefitted from coming out after the tepid Star Trek III: The Search For Spock.  Everybody kind've understood that III had been a pretty flat follow-up to The Wrath Of Khan, and that its seeming attempt  to create Star Trek as a grand ongoing space opera wasn't going to work if Paramount was headstrongly dedicated to the notion of financing the operation with a maxed-out gas card.

At the time, the idea of a more self-contained adventure was hailed as a step forward.  But the  "adventure" was really more of a Season Three type deal (original Trek fans know what I'm talking about).  Luckily, after Shatner directed a film that got laughed at (justly so), they released Star Trek VI--- a film basically every bit as laughable as the Shat's -- but by then people had developed this "even numbered ones are great" theory and they wanted to keep it going.  To help them out on their insane quest, the new flick was directed by the guy who made Wrath Of Khan, so we're golden, right?

No, that was an unrelentingly stupid movie, too, just like the Star Trek franchise has been releasing ever since. 

Return Of The Jedi

All that stuff I said about Last Crusade above?  Same deal. 

Basically, the only thing that differentiates Jedi from The Phantom Menace is the presence of the original cast and all that holdover affection from the audience.  If Harrison Ford had showed up, drunk, for a few days filming on Phantom Menace, would Menace be better, or it would it just be Jedi?

Like Menace, Jedi is passable entertainment that ischock full of rehashed moments, bad slapstick, overt pandering to kids, toy market decisions, clumsy dialogue, weak acting, bizarrely off tone moments and contradictory Jedi mystic mumbo jumbo.  Sound familiar?

The New Star Trek

The writers of the new Star Trek are the guys who write the Transformers movies.  They wrote the new Star Trek movie in exactly the same way as the Transformers movies: with relentless action beats, endless gags and nothing resembling logical thought.

But, you say, one was directed by Michael Bay and the other was directed by J.J. Abrams.  Well, that's true.  One was directed by a guy who loads up on the fancy angles, the hyper editing, the meth-head pacing, clunky gags, and T&A whenever possible... and the other was directed by... for crying out loud, do I really have to type that all out again?

I think Star Trek is a little better than Transformers, but for the life of me I'd be hard pressed to tell you why.  And it's only a little better, so why stress my brain?  I mostly wonder why people loved, loved, loved this new Star Trek instead of, say, "kinda liking it", when they're capable of rightly hating the Transformers movies.

(Must be the robots.  They were utterly impossible to follow or distinguish from each other.  The Star Trek ships are... well, they're over-designed, too, but there's never more than two of them on screen at any given moment.  Could that be all of it?)


Hey, I finally saw this. 

It was ridiculously weak. 

Not bad.  I wouldn't call it that.  It played by all the rules, and never ineptly.  But my sweet, merciful blue booty, who couldn't anticipate every single moment in this film before it happened?  Seriously, I felt like Medium watching this.  And that's disconcerting.  I usually feel much more like The Mentalist, even if I look more King Of Queens-y.

I'm not just talking about seeing the ending coming, or recognizing all the Dances With Wolves s**t, but feeling in advance every single beat of this film, feeling them vibrating in your skin like a bothersome itch.   Knowing exactly what the bad guy's gonna say, knowing when they two leads are gonna start falling in love, when the complications are gonna show up and what they'regonna be.  Even if you only see five movies a year and are only ten years old you still had to be ahead of this flick.  Amish kids are ahead of this flick.

The effect of that must not bother some people, cause it renders a movie just this side of unwatchable to me. Either that or this must have been something on the big screen.  Like really something.  Cause I can't honestly surmise why anybody would give a flying lizard.

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