Indiana Jones 4

6 07 2010

Seeing as this is my last entry before I leave for the rest of the month, I’ll do something a little different this time. I’m gonna do a sort of review/my take on Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. It should go without saying now that this is going to have spoilers, so if you don’t want to find out about things, you know the drill.

Believe it or not, it's actually good.

I’m sure by now everyone has heard the “twist” in this movie: there’s an alien in it. Critics, fans and everyone in between has reacted incredibly negatively to this, saying aliens have no place in an Indiana Jones movie, saying it’s too silly and out-there to be any good. Anyone who claims they can’t enjoy a movie simply because it isn’t 100% realistic and accurate is dumb. Plain and simple. Movies are, by their very nature, an escape. Movies were created as entertainment, for a way for people to escape their real lives and enjoy action, romance, adventure, whatever. People watch movies to be entertained. I wish I could understand why people can’t enjoy a movie just because it doesn’t take itself 100% seriously.

With that said, yeah, the movie isn’t the most realistic out there, and people far and wide have yelled and screamed at the movie. One of the most infamous scenes is in the beginning, where Indy hides in a lead-lined fridge to survive a nuclear explosion. They all say how that couldn’t happen in real life, how silly and insane it is. This IS the same series where a box was opened that melted and exploded people’s faces, right? The same series where a knight was sitting in a cave for a thousand years, waiting for someone to drink the right cup? The same series where voodoo dolls are used and beating hearts are pulled from a person’s chest? Yeah, Indiana Jones was never about realism. The sooner people can embrace that fact, the sooner we can move on.

When the movie first came out, I didn’t see it in theaters, I didn’t even see it until just this very day; July 6, 2010. Like everyone else, I heard countless people who were fans of the original series say how horrible this movie was. I’ll admit I too thought it was silly, the idea of surviving a nuclear explosion in a fridge or there being aliens and science fiction in the series. However, I waited to see it. I listened to other peoples’ takes on the movie, and waited. The Indiana Jones movies are constant homages to the past, particularly the pulp action films of the 1930’s. Why do you think the films were set in that time period? Adventure films were incredibly popular for their action, romance and larger-than-life events. They gave people who were suffering from the Great Depression a much-needed sense of escape to a world of fantasy and fun. Raiders of the Lost Ark was billed as “The return of the great adventure” and wore its nostalgia and homages on its sleeve. The two movies that followed built on that and were fun in their own rights. They dealt with known artifacts and mythologies (the first and third especially) and gave us our main villains in the always-fun-to-hate Nazis.

Crystal Skull, on the other hand, is set in the 1950’s. 1957 to be exact. People that know their film history know that the 50’s were a haven for sci-fi and alien movies, with countless stories of aliens and flying saucers attacking the planet. Knowing this, what better plot device for an Indiana Jones movie set in 1957 is there than aliens and flying saucers? Once more, the series is paying homage to the films of its time, and it does it incredibly well. The villains are even changed to Russians, which is very fitting given the Red Scare of the 50’s and 60’s.

On top of that, the alien mythology is, in my opinion, really fun. I mentioned in my entries on Assassin’s Creed that I’m a total sucker for the idea of aliens or advanced non-human races coming before us, being worshiped as Gods and then disappearing. The titular Crystal Skull is the skull of an alien that was worshiped by past societies, that helped them to create their temples and gave them the gift of knowledge before passing on. It’s a story that’s been told many times before, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s a fun idea (to me, anyway) and I love seeing it in movies and games.

Beyond the silliness, it’s an Indiana Jones movie through and through. Harrison Ford has aged, and so has Indy. Despite this, he’s the same wise-cracking professor by day, hard-punching archeologist by night we knew and loved. Sure, he’s matured some, but who wouldn’t in 20 years? Also, I’ll come right out and admit that I fucking hate Shia Lebouf. I think he’s incredibly annoying, he’s a bad actor and every time he speaks I just want to punch his smug face. Guess what? He does a good job in the movie. I still hated that he was Indy’s son, but I never let it ruin the movie for me, just like I never let the over-the-top sequences ruin the movie for me. There’s also enough twists, jokes and awesome fight scenes to keep you excited for the duration of the movie.

When it comes to reviews and critiques on movies, people are often far too reliant on others’ for opinions. The best thing you can do is decide for yourself about these things. I went in to this movie expecting to hate it and I ended up having a really good time. When you let someone else form your opinion for you, it’s hard to overcome it. Reviews are there as a guide, but it’s important to remember that it isn’t YOUR opinion. I just hope the next time something you’re excited about gets panned by fans and critics, you don’t let that stop you from at least trying to enjoy it. You may be surprised.


Headin’ on down to South Park

14 05 2010

Greetings, intelligent and well-coifed reader. *glances at calender* It’s been a while, hasn’t it? While I could make an excuse about how school, finals and my upcoming graduation have held me back, it’d be a lie. I’ve been busy playing Monster Hunter. You forgive me, right? Oh reader, you always know the quickest way to my heart.

So, if you can’t tell from the title, this entry is going to be about South Park. I can say without an ounce (or gram for anyone using the metric system. Can’t say I’m not open to new ideas!) of hyperbole that this is easily one of the smartest, most intelligent shows out there.

This man probably just fainted after hearing that.

Now, I’m not going to dive into the story behind South Park, its history or anything like that. But just sit back and imagine for a moment that a show that started out being made with cardboard could become one of the most powerful and influential pieces of media today. It’s pretty shocking. The show is infamous and best known by most older people for its derivative, child-like sense of humor; often with fart jokes, curse words and so on. However, underneath the child-like (at times) humor, there is often a deeper message. You see, one reason South Park is so controversial and hated by many is because it’s not afraid to tackle large, often intimidating issues like racism, sexism, the war in Iraq, religious matters and much, much more.

The best thing I can think of when I think of South Park is this: they don’t pick sides. It’s easy for someone watching who’s offended by what they say about the Catholic Church to say they’re anti-Catholic, or their infamous Scientology episode, it’s easy for people to say, “Oh, they just hate Scientology and think everyone who believes in it is dumb!” That’s not the point. The genius and beauty behind South Park is the show doesn’t take sides. What the show does instead is say, “Look, we’re all human, we’re all the same. We have flaws, we have beliefs, let’s have some fun with them.” I think that’s one of the most intelligent beliefs in the world today, and wish more people would think that way.

Like I said, it’s very easy to look at a rather infamous episode, “Red Hot Catholic Love” and say they’re anti-Catholic. The episode centers around the idea that the Catholic Church has lost its way, the Priests are all obsessed with having sex with boys and people start food with their butts, crapping out their mouth. So yeah, the crazy and infantile humor stands, but when you look deeper, you’ll see their point. At the end of nearly every episode, the cast will say some lesson they’ve learned. In this case, it has to do with people taking the word of the Bible too seriously. People think too much on it, they take these stories about how to live your life well seriously, and in the end, they start just spewing a bunch of crap out of their mouth. One of the Priests in the show, the Priest in South Park even realizes this and tries to stop it, having to consult the great Queen Spider of Catholicism to try and change the rules. The episode isn’t anti-Catholic, it’s anti-hardcore religion. It’s against the people that take those quotes and passages as absolute truth and end up ruining their lives because of it.

Recently, South Park had its 200th episode, which caused one of the biggest controversies the show has ever faced. The episode (a two-parter) began with them bashing on Tom Cruise, calling him a fudge packer (he was literally working in a fudge factory, packaging fudge into boxes). He gets outraged and threatens to sue the town, calling in all the other celebrities the show has made fun of in the past. Their ultimate plan was to get South Park (the town) to get the Muslim Prophet Muhammad to arrive. Now, obviously the town couldn’t do that, as showing Muhammad is forbidden by the Muslim way of life, so they were forced to come up with a plan to save their town from being sued, but also prevent themselves from possibly being bombed.

The show's way of showing Muhammad safely.

They did end up showing Muhammad, but behind a large censor bar for their own safety. In 2001, South Park aired an episode called “The Super Best Friends!” which mocked the Super Friends of DC fame. The Super Best Friends consisted of Muhammad, Jesus, Krishna, Buddha, Moses, Joseph Smith, Lao Tzu and Seaman (a joke on Aquaman, everyone calls him Seamen. I’ll let you figure out the joke. He even has a pet bird named Swallow!). This episode aired in July, 2001, a few months before the 9/11 tragedy. In this episode, the Prophet Muhammad was shown completely. He spoke, he flew around, he even shot fire to help defeat a giant John Wilkes Booth and the evil Blaintologists (see the episode, it’ll make more sense). While Muslim culture and religion has always been anti-symbolism and imagery, there was no backlash against this episode, at least nothing that amounted to anything serious.

Cut to the present day, where the creators of South Park had received numerous death threats for threatening to show Muhammad. What they were trying to do was not poke the proverbial bear or stir controversy as much as they were sending a message against censorship, against violence against others. Like I said before, we’re all human. One person may find something offensive, others may not. The show is great for showing this, but in this instance, they were unable to show their vision for fear of being killed. The network censored Muhammad for their own safety, and a major blow was dealt not only to free speech, but to freedom in general.

I know that sounds flag-waving, anti-Muslim, but I don’t mean it to be. I’m a huge fan of the show not only because it’s often quite hilarious, but because I truly support its message and what it tries to say. For every serious episode with a deep meaning and social commentary, there’s an episode that simply focuses on humor and being entertaining. A classic episode, “Scott Tenorman Must Die” is a prime example. There’s no commentary, just the story of Cartman getting his revenge on someone who wronged him.

This entry isn’t to persuade people to believe what South Park says, nor is it to slander any group of people. I simply support the idea that we’re all human and we should all relax and have a joke at one another’s (or your own) expense once in a while. It’s good for you, really.

Time for a reboot!

8 03 2010

Anyone who follows comics (or is at least semi-conscious of them) knows the deal behind reboots. After a story gets stale, you reboot. Maybe change up something, but generally start the continuity over. Comics have been doing this for decades to keep themselves fresh so it’s no surprise to see comic movies doing the same. However, of all the reboots, it’s painfully obvious the most common is the gritty reboot.

Ever since the critical acclaim of Batman Begins, comic book movies (and I suppose a lot of movies in general) have been fixated on the idea that people want grit in their movies. Perhaps games have something to do with it, seeing as a lot of games in this generation are a lot of grey and brown. Regardless, am I the only one turned off by the idea of gritty reboots?

Sure, Batman Begins was nice. It was excellent to see them shy away from the campy, cheesy styling of Batman and Robin (everyone knows what a pile of ass that was) and maybe even take it a bit more serious than Batman and Batman Returns, Tim Burton’s offerings in the early 90’s. Christopher Nolan is an incredibly skilled director who clearly knows what he’s doing, but when I heard the Superman reboot was turning to him, I sighed. The man is obviously painfully talented, but I feel like the studio is just piggybacking off the insane success The Dark Knight received. Didn’t Superman sort of reboot in 2006 with Superman Returns?

That brings me to my next point in reboots: the origin story. Despite how mediocre Superman Returns was, it did one thing right. It didn’t bother telling Superman’s origin story. Superman is one of the oldest comic book heroes. People know his origin story. Batman Begins was forced to spend an hour and a half developing the character when most people know how Bruce Wayne becomes Batman. After Sam Raimi fell out from Spider-Man 4, the studios decided to simply reboot the series.

Please, PLEASE do NOT make a gritty reboot, and PLEASE do not waste time on his origin story. If people want Spider-Man’s origin story, they can watch the excellent film from 2001. It’s possible for a movie to be serious without being gritty, and Spider-Man is a prime example. They”ll be using a high school setting for the new Spidey, which would make it a prime example for making the movie more light-hearted. Look at Iron Man (perhaps my favorite comic book movie, ever). Was that film bogged down with grit and seriousness? No! It had fun with its characters, and I only hope the new Spider-Man does as well. Just skip the origin story, would you?