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Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

tn_lastcrusadelucasminusstarwarsINDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE is the third one, and it’s the one that deals with that Holy Grail of elusive treasures, the Holy Grail. We find Indy’s father Henry Sr. was after it his whole life and getting real close and has a notebook full of clues he’s found and now he’s kidnapped. So Indy has to find his pops and hide that book from the Nazis and also there’s some guys sworn to protect the Grail who try to stop him.

Sr. is of course played by Sean Connery, and maybe that’s an in-joke because Spielberg did RAIDERS when he wanted a Bond type movie to do, but Connery doesn’t play him like 007. He plays him as a dork. He kinda acts like a little boy and wears a bow tie and tweed vest and is often in comical positions like riding in the sidecar of Indy’s motorcycle. Whenever Indy has to fight somebody, his dad has a look of admiration. He had no idea his kid could t. c. of b. like that.

The lady this time, Elsa (Alison Doody, A VIEW TO A KILL), is much, much, much more tolerable than TEMPLE OF DOOM‘s Willie Scott, which turns out to be a bummer when (spoiler) we find out that she’s a Nazi. Not only that but she managed to bone both generations of Joneses (a plot point requested by Connery). Which is her right, but kinda gross, right? I personally don’t think she’s right for Indy.

But before she betrays him and she’s pretending to be a regular, non-Nazi type of person they have a good time doing first date kinda stuff like deciphering clues and puzzles and what not, finding a secret tunnel inside a library. This time there’s rats instead of snakes. They’ve done snakes and bugs and now rats and that’s pretty much it for creepy crawlies unless they wanna do bats. If they do another one there’s just gonna be a bunch of gerbils in my opinion. Why’d it have to be gerbils? And if it’s anything like this installment there will be a comical prelude where we learn about something that happened with his pet gerbil when he was growing up.

mp_lastcrusadeThere’s a good speedboat chase, but I’m a little disturbed to realize that the best gag (going between the two boats) is kind of how Gio Coppola died three years earlier. So maybe my favorite is when Indy stands on a wooden boat that’s getting chopped up foot by foot by a huge boat propeller. Giving it the ol’ German mechanic treatment.

Later there’s a battle on a tank speeding (if you can call it speeding) across a cliff in ways that defy time and space like the bridge in TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2 or the runway in FURIOUS 6. It’s pretty good, though, one of those complex Spielberg action sequences cutting between different characters doing different things, and there’s a bunch of cause and effect and eventually the old gag where they think he went over the cliff and they’re standing there sadly looking down and he walks up behind them and they look at him and think nothing of it for a second and then do a double take. You know, for laffing.

People get mad at me when I say this, but come on, people. There is no fucking way this one would be widely accepted if it came out today. It would be on the childhood offender list guaranteed. A minor reason is these broad jokes, like when the sound of Indy smashing the floor of the library makes the librarian stare at his rubber stamp thinking he has super strength. Or when Indy throws a Nazi out the window of a zeppelin and all the other passengers scramble to show him they have their tickets in order. RAIDERS didn’t really go for that type of cornball shit, and in my opinion it does not improve the series to add it.

But the major reason is the silly prequel opening scene, where River Phoenix (sporting 1989 skater hair) plays 13-year-old Indy on a boy scout adventure in 1912 and we learn that he got

1. his trademark hat
2. his trademark bullwhip
3. his hatred of snakes
4. the scar on his chin
5. the rivalry with one of the villains of this film

all on the same day and within a period of about 5-10 minutes. You’re telling me, Mr. Internet, that it still pisses you off that Yoda knows Chewbacca, but you have no problem with this at all? And you start swearing when talking about the brief sight of an animated prairie dog in KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL, but you’re totally down with a puppet rhinoceros that pokes his horn through the top of a train car and it goes between Indy’s legs and ha ha it looks like a weiner? Interesting.

So a positive way to look at it is maybe you could enjoy CRYSTAL SKULL and prequels and stuff a little bit if you were more open and accepting of their idiosyncrasies like you are when you watch this one. But I have to confess, some of this stuff does bug me, and this is definitely my least favorite Indiana Jones picture. It has less of the good shit to make up for this dumb shit. And I know this makes me a weirdo, but a big part of the problem is that I don’t find “funny old man” Sean Connery to be charming at all. I don’t really get that whole thing. In retrospect maybe I was too hard on Short Round.

I decided to go with George in the sweet Vistavision t-shirt. There was another good one with a very ’80s THX sweatshirt. As in the sound system, not the movie.

But I do kinda like the movie. Ford is still great as Indy, and the climactic sequence in the Holy Grail Temple is really good, and includes a cool greedy-treasure-seeker-turns-into-animated-ghoul shot in the RAIDERS tradition. (It looks like good old stop motion, but I read that it uses the morphing that ILM pioneered in WILLOW). The best parts are the clever tricks Indy has to figure out to get into the temple. Apparently those were added by Tom Stoppard in an uncredited rewrite (he also polished all the dialogue). The screenplay was started by Menno Meyjes (THE COLOR PURPLE, RICOCHET) and heavily rewritten by Jeffrey Boam, an under-recognized force of the ’80s who wrote THE DEAD ZONE, INNERSPACE, THE LOST BOYS, LETHAL WEAPON 2 and LETHAL WEAPON 3. He actually started his career rewriting STRAIGHT TIME and ended it by writing and producing THE PHANTOM, a movie that cleverly plays off of Indiana Jones (the hero steals treasures back from museums to return them to the natives they belong to). Boam was also the co-creator of The Adventures of Brisco County Jr. starring Bruce Campbell. Sadly he died of heart failure in 2000, only 53 years old.

Spielberg didn’t like Lucas’s idea of using the Holy Grail, but gave in after rejecting two more supernatural stories with ghosts and demons commissioned from Diane Thomas (ROMANCING THE STONE) and Chris Columbus (GREMLINS). The Thomas one is described as “a haunted mansion story” and Spielberg thought it was too similar to POLTERGEIST, so it’s hard to picture how Indy fits into that.

Lucas was heavily involved in Boam’s draft, giving him the setpieces and sitting with him for two weeks blocking out the story beat by beat. Lucas, unfortunately, came up with the young Indy idea (which Spielberg resisted). Lucas also had the father found only at the end of the movie, which Boam thought made no sense. Although I don’t really like the character of Dr. Jones Sr. I have to agree that that would’ve been weird. At least there’s that part where he causes the seagulls to crash the plane. That part was cool.

Going by Rotten Tomatoes, LAST CRUSADE is the most liked of the Indy sequels, and that seems accurate. This left Lucas on the good side of fans throughout the ’90s. After the small digital effects ILM had used in this and WILLOW, Lucas saw a new age on the horizon. He recognized the possibilities of computers helping filmmakers to create settings and sunsets and things without having to have a hundred million dollars and a crew traveling around the world. He was excited to start testing his ideas out on some smaller projects, and the fans couldn’t wait to see what he came up with.

This entry was posted on Thursday, January 21st, 2016 at 11:59 am and is filed under Action, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

190 Responses to “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade”

  1. Crushinator Jones

    January 21st, 2016 at 12:31 pm

    Huh. I consider this the best of the Indy sequels as well although I have warmed up A LOT on Temple of Doom. I thought Connery brought a lot of warmth to the role although the more I learn about him personally the more of a skeeze-bucket he seems to be.

    Honestly I’m ok with the cornball shit. If Temple of Doom is allowed to be dark then this is allowed to be corny. I think the problem with Crystal Skull – what makes it the odd man out of the series – is that it looks like it’s shot on a bunch of soundstages and green screens, at that hurts the authenticity of Indiana Jones. If you look at youtube comments under scenes from Raiders and the sequels people are constantly going on about how it’s NO CGI, that’s part of the “brand” of Indy and I think replacing the elaborate stunts with obviously fake effects (and yeah, the tank going over the edge of the cliff looks fake as fuck but everything else looks good) soured people on it. I think that’s why most people pick the University motorcycle chase in Crystal Skull as the highlight of the film: shot on location, almost entirely practical.

  2. I said it several times, but it’s my least favourite Indy movie too. Granted, I still like it enough to rewatch it once in a while without getting too angry at it, but man, those corny father/son sitcom bits REALLY bother me. This and that for any reason the effects look even by 1989 standards super dated (especially in the blue screen department), while so many shots of the previous two movies still hold up seriously well.

  3. I totally agree with you, Vern. Except that Indy handling that German Luger on top of the tank and fucking murdering three Nazis with a single shot means all is forgiven.

  4. I love this movie. I have nothing to back this up except we taped it off of TV and I watched it like every day for two years. Same reason I still like RETURN OF THE JEDI, DANCES WITH WOLVES and ROBIN HOOD PRINCE OF THIEVES.

    Vern that last line is beautiful and dangerous and makes this whole review series a narrative. Good job

  5. Yeah I’m not too big on this one either; as a kid I thought it was just a rote re-tread of Raiders (this time with a lame love interest and a lamer villain), and seeing it a few years ago, like Vern I was surprised how much stuff it has that the internet hates, even though the internet loves this movie. Yes, it was a pioneer, so alot of stuff can’t be held against it, but the aforementioned prequel-itis, the daddy-issues stuff that every movie has these days, the proto Jar Jar Binks scene with the seagulls, it’s all here and not very good.

    Plus I’ll go ahead and say it – the action isn’t quite as good in this one. It kinda reminds me how the train chase in Thunderdome feels more staged, less dangerous than the one in The Road Warrior; the camera angles feel like cheats and it seems to be at half speed. That’s how the big tank setpiece feels for me.

    And I may have mentioned this before, but I think it’s weird that all 4 of these movies are huge and beloved but I literally don’t get the endings to ANY OF THEM. I don’t understand how Indy knew to close his eyes at the end of Raiders. I don’t get how he knew how to chant that stuff to make the rocks hot in Temple of Doom. I don’t get why Cate Blanchett blew up in KOTCS (SPOILER). And here I don’t get why they’re not immortal at the end (I mean, I know the CUP can’t cross that line, but they can totally cross it, but I don’t think it was made really clear that they had to sit there in a dark cave with the cup to be immortal – great prize, by the way). It’s like all these movies hinge on a rule explained in a deleted scene or something.

  6. I’m right there with ya, Vern. By far the worst of all the Indy movies (although Indy’s worst is still superior to 80% of all similar action / adventure films). CRYSTAL SKULL is so much better. When that came out it was such a relief that Last Crusade wasn’t the final Indiana Jones movie any more.

  7. I was 13 when this came out in theaters, and nobody could’ve been more excited than me for a new Indiana Jones film. (I loved Temple of Doom, probably watched it a dozen times or more). And man, it had some great stuff, but the Young Indy stuff and the hokey jokes really pulled me out of it. It just felt “meta” in a way the first two didn’t, even though in their own ways they were just as self-aware.

  8. If I had to rank them:
    1) RAIDERS
    3) The first half of CRYSTAL SKULL
    5) The last half of CRYSTAL SKULL

    The movies get progressively more kid-friendly, but there’s almost no fierceness to the last two. Indiana Jones himself is a much softer character. I think LAST CRUSADE has isolated good moments (the “let it go” scene has a profundity that FROZEN doesn’t), but it’s true that its sense of humour is stale… Like, stop saying “Ah Venice!”

  9. I honestly don’t get the hate. Maybe it played better in the UK – the broad comedy went down great with 10 year old me, but I remember the whole audience getting into it, even for the “no ticket” zeppelin scene. There was a fair bit of Looney Tunesing in Raiders as well, lest we forget – Marion bashing the guy over the head with a frying pan, the seig-heiling monkey. Arguably Crusade goes too far having Hitler sign his autograph in the grail diary – at this point we are swinging with monkeys and nuking with the fridges, but as a whole I find it impossible to rate Crystal Skull higher than Crusade.

  10. Crushinator Jones

    January 21st, 2016 at 2:00 pm

    Indy knew to close his eyes because man is not to look on the wrath of God, like in the story of Sodom and Gomorra. Because Indy is a well-read knowledgeable guy, he knows that.

    Indy knew what to chant because he’s an anthropologist and archaeologist who understands Hinduism and realizes that Mola Ram has betrayed Shiva in the worst way possible. He didn’t know what was going to happen when he started his accusations but it worked out.

    The knight in the last crusade literally says “the Grail cannot pass beyond the Great Seal, for that is the boundry, and the price, of immortality.” He says right there you stop being immortal if you leave the shrine!

    Hope this helps.

  11. Crushinator – thanks! I mean, it’s all stuff that’s not hard to read between the lines and figure out over the years, I just figure it’s strange that all of these movies are almost Star Wars-level iconic but have kind of ill-defined/underexplained climaxes with no hand-holding, as if you were supposed to remember something foreshadowed earlier in the movie but they never foreshadowed it. (An actual example of this would be when Shorty just decides to burn Indy with the torch to wake him up from the spell in Temple of Doom; an earlier deleted scene showed him seeing a guard getting burned by lava and snapping out of the spell)

    Obviously Indy and his dad aren’t immortal (especially because his dad dies in the next movie) but I definitely remember there was a lot of confusion as a kid and most of my friends thought that’s how the trilogy ended – with them being immortal because yeah, it’s kind of confusing (I mean, by that logic, wouldn’t his dad drop dead once they passed the seal anyway?)

    Re: KOTCS, I think it probably has the worst script of the series by far, and series worst characters in Mac and Ox. I’d put it behind Last Crusade but I’ll admit the action sequences, as fake as they are, are more energetic and delightful than Crusade’s.

  12. Def. has to be gerbils, not bats. Spielberg and Lucas already sorta snuck in bats in Temple of Doom. Once when Willie accidently tries to put one on a clothelines, mistaking it for a shirt. And again when riding to the palace and Indy remarks that the flying things aren’t birds but are giant vampire bats.

    I couldn’t disagree much more about Connery and enjoying the father-son dynamic in the movie. Plus, the guy was James Bond! It just fits that he’d be the father of Indiana Jones. The banter was great between the two. It adds some more depth to Indy and explains who is he, but isn’t as obnoxiously telling as that prequel sequence at the start with River Phoenix (which doesn’t majorly bug me because it seems like a serialized origin story, but also feels completely unnecessary and ham-fisted, I’d agree.) Along those lines, yes, Connery is doing his thing and can come off charming, but if you listen to what he says, he’s a pretty big prick, justifying essentially ignoring his kid for his own interests and career or as he puts it “until you [meaning Indy] just started to become interesting.” But their reunion and the redemption of the father-son relationship works well enough imo.

    I’d agree though that it has the weakest set pieces and action scenes of the original 3. Temple of Doom for all it’s faults still has that great opening sequence at the club, the bugs and the trap room, the mineshaft scene, the heart pull, and an underrated Indy vs. the heavy fight scene. But it’s pacing is a little weird, there’s the racist stuff, willie and the romance is awful, and the dark/jokey stuff comes off sorta unevenly.

  13. There may be more cornball stuff in this, but there’s still a bunch of darker and more serious moments like
    -The Jones’ issues when they get brought up, like Indy’s mother hiding her illness from them, and Henry thinking he was actually a great dad because he gave Indy freedom and didn’t try to be a parent
    -Elsa not being a real Nazi, but still willing to align herself with them
    -Indy threatening to strangle a woman to death
    -the guardians of the Grail mounting a futile attack on the Nazi convoy
    -Henry’s reaction when he thinks Indy went over the cliff
    -the Nazis systematically sending helpless soldier after soldier into the first trap
    -Henry’s shooting being pretty grisly and stark

    Also, better head Nazi in this than in Raiders. Raiders’ Commander was a punk bitch, while Col. Vogel got to smack the Jones Boys around (including with a glove!) and didn’t run from a fistfight on top of a tank.

  14. Oh come on Vern, the near-miss-scrotum-piercing gag (by rhinoceros horn or otherwise) is part of a proud action-comedy tradition. I got no problem with it. But in your heart of hearts you know that peoples problems with KOTCS isn’t really about CGI gerbils or fridges or whatever, it’s that it has a shitty script that was haphazardly assembled from a bunch of other shitty scripts. KOTCS seems like a sad compromise that nobody really wanted to make.
    CRUSADE is a Swiss watch by comparison.

    Some of the more cartoonish gags in CRUSADE don’t sit as well with me now as they did when I saw it as a kid in the cinema, but I’m cool with Connery’s tweedy, eccentric academic as a contrast to Ford’s fantasy version of an archeologist. I guess he reminds me of some academics I’ve known in real life. I especially like that brief scene in the blimp where they argue about Connery’s absentee fathering. Says everything that needs to be said and then it’s onto the next action scene.

  15. Even though Temple of Doom is my favorite(because it’s the first one I saw and I identified with Short Round more) I’ve actually seen this a lot more because I bought the VHS and watched the crap out of it at home. I guess because it was less intense. I thought Sean Connery was hilarious as Henry Sr. and I liked that he was playing against type.

    The reason I think George Lucas came up with the young Indiana Jones segment was because he had the idea for doing a young Indy TV show later airing on ABC and probably thought it was a good way to get the public interested in it. The show he had in mind though was more educational than people were expecting, where each episode he would meet one or more historical figure from the early 20th century. He would then make an documentary supplement about that person and it would be used in schools to teach children about history. Unfortunately people were expecting the action adventure of the movies so it didn’t have a huge audience. There were some exciting adventure episodes but for the most part it was either 9 year old Indy learning about art from Pablo Picasso. If you’re REALLY serious about watching all ‘Lucas without STAR WARS’ things you’d have to include the 44 episodes that were later made into 22 movies. I would suggest only watching the two movies set in Africa during World War One. Both written by Frank Darabont. One is an action adventure movie with the pulpy title “Phantom Train of Doom” and the other is where Indy meets Albert Schweitzer in the Congo. Not a lot of action in the second but a lot of great philosophical dialogue.

  16. “People get mad at me when I say this, but come on, people. There is no fucking way this one would be widely accepted if it came out today. It would be on the childhood offender list guaranteed.”

    Exhibit A: Brody’s “The pen is mightier than the sword!”

    I still really like this one (or at least I did when I watched it like a decade ago). I also disagree with Vern on Sean Connery. I thought there was a great father-son relationship. I think there’s some clear truth that many father-son relationships are weirdly competitive, especially if, like Indy and his dad, they’re both in the same field of work. For me, it’s a great dynamic that points to a general truism.

  17. I have to co-sign the Crushinator, whose first post pretty much perfectly captures my feelings. Last Crusade is my favorite film of the series. I’ll concede that this is almost definitely a byproduct of my childhood: Crusade came out at the right time for me to be up for an Indy film, and so it kind of imprinted on me at the right time. But I do think it’s a legit good film, good bad guys, and the whole holy grail mythology and finale set piece are a lot of fun.

    My beef with the Crystal Skull is very much just the fakery of it. It looks very cheap and CGI. I know Vern likes to take the contrarian position that people are too knee-jerk hard on cgi and knee-jerk in favor of practical, but I swear I’m not just jumping on the “yay, practical effects! boo, cgi!!!” bandwagon. Truly, the cgi in Star Wars Prequels and Crystal Skull really, really bum me out and and take me out of the film. At many points it is just painfully, painfully palpable that these people are in front of a green screen (the whole Cate Blanchett on the jeeps, killer ants scene). I’m not saying that scene could have been done better with practical effects, just that the scene looks like a cheesy cartoon piece of trash that should not be. I’ll take Holy Grail guy claymation aging sequence over that any day.

    And it’s not just that, but it’s other things, like the fact that the crystal skull is supposed to be solid crystal, but then Indy and Shia are wielding it like it has all the heft of a hollow 6-oz plastic prop. Not striving for excellence.

  18. The Original Paul

    January 21st, 2016 at 5:09 pm

    I’ve always liked this movie, but I don’t think it’s as good as RAIDERS or as bizarrely compulsive as TEMPLE. The bickering father-son relationship never quite felt that it had the “gravity” that an INDIANA JONES movie needed. RAIDERS was a lot of fun but had a lot of gravity to it.

    What I do love about CRUSADE is the ending. “He chose… poorly.” It felt a lot more emotionally “epic” than any of the other Indy movies (well, maybe not more “epic” than the face-melting Nazis, but that was more of a “Holy shit!” moment than an emotional one.) Talking of which, shouldn’t Indy Sr. be immortal? Come to that, shouldn’t Indy Jr. be immortal because he’d never let his father taste the waters of the cup of life without trying them himself first to make sure it was the right cup? This and Indy 4’s aliens are the whole basis of my “Indiana Jones is Han Solo” theory!

  19. I would have liked to see Sean Connery be in UNTOUCHABLES mode and slap his son into shape. If you think about it, Indy should have been a huge disappointment to everyone especially his father, never having anything substantial to show for his outlandish exploits. I agree with you, Vern, a big let down, very disappointing the way Connery was misused. Although, I have to say, I do like LAST CRUSADE better than KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL.

  20. It’s too bad that this talkback thread has to be a LAST CRUSADE vs. CRYSTAL SKULL pissing match. It’s OK to like both (or neither).

    1989 was a helluva year for movies. It had the fantasy blockbusters LAST CRUSADE, BATMAN and THE ABYSS. On the arthouse side, it had DO THE RIGHT THING, ROGER & ME, and SEX, LIES, AND VIDEOTAPE. And somewhere in between it had FIELD OF DREAMS, THE ADVENTURES OF BARON MUNCHAUSEN and Vincent Ward’s THE NAVIGATOR. (OK, those last two were technically 1988 but they reached my town in 1989.)

    So I have enormous personal nostalgia for LAST CRUSADE, but that doesn’t automatically make it a great movie. It’s fun but pretty silly. And I remember it getting mixed reviews at the time for seeming like such a retread of the original RAIDERS. (Another reminder of the days when rehashing early-80s Lucas was considered lazy rather than the primary goal of all entertainment.)

    I don’t think I’ll ever completely understand CRYSTAL SKULL-bashing. I thought the fourth Indy film was nowhere near as good as the original RAIDERS but about as good as the other two, which if anything were more absurd and cartoony in their sight gags than SKULL.

    The silliest gag in LAST CRUSADE is in the early scene on the train, when the young Indy hides in the “magic” box, and when the box turns out to be empty he is suddenly outside the train. It’s a fun gag but it’s like something Daffy Duck (or Pee-wee Herman) would do, rather than a “realistic” action hero.

    I would also challenge the CGI-hating critics of CRYSTAL SKULL to name more than a couple effects shots in LAST CRUSADE that are in any way realistic. Even as a teenager I thought the animal puppets (rhino and giant snake) on the train were pretty fake-looking. The “invisible” bridge at the end was not only obvious CGI even by 1989 standards, but implausible in that Indiana Jones would have to have no depth perception at all for the illusion to work on him. To say nothing of the very obvious bluescreen work when the Joneses are in the fighter plane.

    Not that these “flaws” actually bothered me that much, then or now. Remember, back in 1989 people still liked and enjoyed movies, so a couple phony effects or corny jokes wasn’t automatic grounds for condemning an entire movie as an abomination. But it leaves me wondering what imagined standard of realism or seriousness the Indy films were supposed to have had in the 1980s that CRYSTAL SKULL failed to match. Maybe people were expecting it to be a direct sequel to RAIDERS while ignoring the goofier sequels? I dunno.

  21. You’re WAY OFF, Vern. It’s not that the rhino horn looks like a wiener. It’s that it almost DESTROYED his wiener.

  22. NOTHING in CRYSTAL SKULL looks as fake as many of the FX shots in CRUSADE. And it has nothing to do with their age. They were even by 1989 standards bad.

    Sorry for repeating myself, but I really don’t know how people can shit on CRYSTAL SKULL and justify it with it “looking fake”, when this movie has some of the worst effect shots in big budget film history AND Spielberg’s and Lucas filmography!

  23. CJ, Curt. It may be that you’re right about the relative believability or quality of the effects shots in Skull vs. Crusade. I can’t honestly say or prove why the Crystal Skull effects bother me or seem worse than Crusade, and it may be that if I went and watched them back to back with a (self-) critical eye, maybe I’d moderate a bit. I just know that there are scenes of uncanny cartoony cgi backdrops or entirely computer-generated objects or critters that are really hard for me to accept as real. For some reason that bothers me a lot more on an immediate, gut, visceral, perceptual level than is the case with little miniature models that we are supposed to believe are giant spaceships or weird claymation-type stop-motion sequences that we are supposed to believe are real-time transformations. It’s something about texture and movement and depth and interaction that gets lost in those movies where there’s a ton of green screening in of backgrounds or objects. I’m not saying it’s the morally or aesthetically proper position all must take, just trying to explain my gut response.

    I think there are films that can do a ton of cgi and fare okay. The Lord of the Rings films and the Matrix films do a pretty good job of integrating a ton of cgi and having it work out okay. I think a lot of it has to do with more forgiving color palettes and perhaps a sense that they exist in a magical, otherworldly place or something. Since Indy and Star Wars both imprinted on me at a time when there wasn’t a ton you could do with computers (like, you couldn’t literally create an entire background environment with computers), I expect there to be a lot of practical locations or at least a lot of sets where things like trees and ships are literal props and not mostly or entirely cartoon features. Switching over to more computer generated backgrounds or creatures feels discontinuous, like it’s not inhabiting the same visual world or visual language of the original world where I came to meet and love these characters. I don’t know. Best I can do.

    Also, I agree with Curt that it doesn’t have to be a Crusade vs. Skull pissing match, nor does it need to be a Star Wars originals vs. prequels (vs. Force Awakens) pissing match. I just so happens that there are movies that I think succeed in using a mix of really good cgi and really good physical props, sets, and practical locations to create a convincing world that has scope, texture, lived-in-ness. And then there are films that fail. And I think Skull and the Star Wars prequels both for me just fall short in terms of that balance.

  24. I think another positive example is Pirates of the Caribbean. I think these films generally do an excellent job of mixing real locations, costumes, sets, actors, make-up and a judicious and expertly executed integration of CGI. There is some ratio of CGI objects/characters to physical objects/sets/characters that needs to be in proper balance, and then wherever CGI is used, it’s got to be done very well to mesh with the rest of the environment. I think the Pirates films do this very well. When I watch these films, they’ve done enough of the due diligence in terms of scenes shot in actual water and even actual non-man-made bodies of water using actual ships or physical mock-ups of ships, that the overall net experience is one of this being a real world of substance.

  25. I guess what I’m saying maybe is that I have higher expectations for a more recent film. With all of the tools available in a post-T2, post-Matrix, post-LoTR world–tools that include but are not limited to incredible CGI capabilities– I think it is possible for the right filmmaker to convincingly realize just about any possible world he or she can imagine. If you can imagine it and articulate it, some combination of make-up effects artists, stunt people, set and production designers, location scouts, illustrators, and editors can bring that world to life in a convincing way where you lose and give yourself to that world and feel like you’re in it. Movies like Pirates, Matrix, LotR, and Jurassic World do it. Indeed, much, much cheaper movies like Monsters, Cloverfield, and Ex Machina do it. So, there’s really no excuse when an incredibly well-resourced filmmaker with all the tools currently available ends up churning out a major set piece (or in some cases an entire film) that just feels like a mediocre cartoon.

  26. Skani, in the case of CRYSTAL SKULL it seemed like the loudest complaint was not the overall CGI but the single gag of Indy hiding in a (lead-lined) refrigerator before it gets catapulted through the air by a (nuclear) explosion. People hate that gag so much they are determined to make “nuke the fridge” a universal term for … uh, something they don’t like.

    My main point was that TEMPLE OF DOOM and LAST CRUSADE have similarly cartoonish and unrealistic sight gags, and that it therefore made little sense for fans to suddenly be offended by something that was a regular feature of this series.

  27. Considering Jones senior must have been 12 when junior was born, I don’t think it’s strange that Elsa have been intimate with both of them. Indiana is only 39 in this movie, so Henry must be 51. Not much of a difference, really.

  28. The thing that bothered me about CRYSTAL SKULL wasn’t the CGI but the cinematography. Before the movie came out I was relieved when I read in AICN that Spielberg and director of photography Janusz Kamiński whom Spielberg had worked with since Schindler’s List had screened the previous three Indiana Jones movies to see the work the original DP Douglas Slocombe. Then I watched CRYSTAL SKULL and thought did they watch them to see what NOT to do? I think Kaminski is a good cinematographer but his style was all wrong for an Indiana Jones movie. The style Douglas Slocombe was this very straight forward, old fashioned look that was based on the serials the movies were emulating. Kaminski always does this washed out, overexposed, desaturated look that might have worked for movies like MINORITY REPORT and SAVING PRIVATE RYAN but really don’t in an Indiana Jones movie.

  29. I like that this movie furthers the implication that Indy is some sort of superhuman aqua-man.

    In Raiders, we never see how he manages to sneak on the German submarine. Spielberg cuts away when he’s on top, looking around for some kind of access that obviously wouldn’t be there once they sealed the hatch. Apparently he just grabs on tight and holds his breath for hundreds of miles once it’s submerged.

    And in his first scene in Crusade, he jumps overboard before the boat explodes, lucks out by finding a lifebuoy, but then…what? He survives the storm and is literally floating in the ocean for days or weeks before he’s found? Does he just paddle to shore like Hooper and Brody at the end of Jaws? I guess they never specific where they are at sea (maybe they’re just like a mile from land) but it still always bothered me.

    Anyway, nice to see the differing opinions in the comments. I side with the Crusade lovers: I think its action sequence rival the best of the previous 2 movies, and none its “cornball” comedy moments are nearly as bad as Willie Scott hanging up a bat like it’s a piece of laundry (remember Vern, they did bats already). I think the Young Indiana Jones opening works because it sets the tone for a rollicking fun, freewheelin’ time – sure, the in-jokes are a little excessive but we’re obviously meant to take them with a grain a salt. It’s all just symbolic of how Indy came to be the crazy adventurer we all know and love. If there were some portly kid on the train who helped him and said “By the way my name’s Sallah!” I can see how it would be as eye-roll inducing as Yoda meeting Chewbacca. But there’s nothing that offensive, or useless in terms of plot.

    Stu brings up some great moments that I think about when Crusade is mentioned. We definitely never got an emotional journey like the one that turns out to be about Indy “finding” his father. I defy any person of my generation not to tear up when Connery calls him “Indiana.” All power to those who consider transdimensional aliens as compelling as this, I am just not among your number.

  30. The Original Paul

    January 22nd, 2016 at 12:04 am

    Question: at what point exactly did “bad CGI” become the go-to reason to hate CRYSTAL SKULL, instead of Shia LaBeouf? (I agree with neither point of view by the way… to me CRYSTAL SKULL is just a dull, witless mess that isn’t bad enough to be interesting nor good enough to be enjoyable. But I’m curious.)

  31. CRAUSADE is simply just more enjoyable as an adventure romp than CRYSTAL SKULL. The story is better, the father/son relationship is better crafted, and makes it more relatable and the setpieces are so much better than most things in CRYSTAL SKULL. The bike chase is the only decent thing in it. And CGI or no CGI has nothing to do with it.

  32. I would recommend reading the Frank Darabont script that most of CRYSTAL SKULL is lifted from. Aside from no Mutt and more Marion, the finale actually engages Indy rather than having him as a passive onlooker. The Crystal Skull grants you your heart’s desire, but whereas the bad guys get ironically punished for their evil wishes (a la WISHMASTER), Indy realizes that all he wants is Marion.

    The script wasn’t perfect, but it had great potential and some wonderfully evil bad guys. The story goes that Spielberg loved it, but Lucas didn’t; he and Darabont didn’t get on, and the rest is history.

    For the record, I enjoyed CRUSADE because it was about something (letting your obsession get in the way of family) and liked DOOM and SKULL less because what they were about was somewhat murky. I loved the first half of SKULL (especially the fridge bit!) and all the mine chases and bridge snapping in DOOM, but they haven’t stayed with me the way the other two, especially RAIDERS, which is head and shoulders ahead of the pack.

    PS – I think (long time ago now) I also read the Chris Columbus INDY script. The ‘poltergeist’ part is the intro, equivalent to the idol scene/nightclub chase/young Indy in the others. Except it goes on for half an hour and is more akin in tone to ABBOT AND COSTELLO. Then it went To a city of gold or something and I think there were Nazis. It was not good, and I say that as someone who liked ABBOT AND COSTELLO.

  33. *as a kid… I haven’t seen any ABBOT & COSTELLO in a very long time!

  34. So Vern’s choosing Last Crusade as the worst Indy movie huh? Dammit, if only there were a handy quote from this movie that would fit in this situation… possibly even an image meme? Oh well.

    I place this movie between Raiders and Temple of Doom, and the silly stuff worked for me. Indy’s monologue about Marcus Brody blending in and disappearing followed by Marcus completely lost and helpless in a crowded marketplace. Hammy, hoary, sit-com-y, all those bad things, but it’s my favorite laugh in the whole series.

    I do remember not being convinced by the opening sequence, mostly because River Phoenix and Harrison Ford look nothing alike. That might be the one thing that did bug me initially that nostalgia & familiarity have helped gloss over. But I did like the content of it on first viewing, maybe because the “look at all these crazy coincidences” thing wasn’t yet as prevalent?

  35. I forgive the opening because there is something magical in that transition from kid Indy getting that hat to cutting to him decades later…and then SLUGGED.

    According to the Internet, Lucas had ideas for a young Indy film trilogy originally. River Phoenix had no interest, so Lucas went for TV.

    I’ll say this briefly about Young Indiana Jones: Good concept, but Lucas wanting people to LEARN! really for me usually undercut everything in those episodes. (Nevermind the other filmatic issues.) RAIDERS or LAST CRUSADE have never been accused of being historically accurate, but they knew how to stimulate the imagination by playing with such mythical plot devices. (Of course Holy Grail is an outright myth created during the Middle Ages, Ark of the Covenant probably existed for real, but why let such facts get in the way?)

    Let’s put it this way: STAR TREK. One of the most scientifically inaccurate programs ever put forward on TV. Yet how many of those Trekkies became scientists because Vulcans and Nazi planets fired up their imaginations in the first place?

  36. I think Lawrence’s point about cinematography is another good one. It does kind of remind me of Catch Me If You Can (go back and watch Catch Me If You Can and get a load of how much lipstick Christopher Walken is wearing…looks like Leslie Nielsen in that pistachio scene from Naked Gun).

    Two other things: As I think I’ve been pretty clear, I’m not pronouncing that “bad CGI” is the official reason Indy IV is bad as determined by a congressional committee. You are free to love it, I’m just pointing out one significant element of the film that really messed up the suspension of disbelief for me. When Steven Spielberg making a huge budget, high-stakes sequel to a beloved franchise in 2008 turns out something that looks visually cheesy and unambitious, that’s just a sad day.

    And let me clarify: As I said above, it’s not just scenes of unconvincing CGI, it’s other aspects of the look and feel of the film, all the way down to the damn crystal skull itself being held like it’s a large whiffle ball, not, you know, a big honkin solid crystal skull. In the other Indy films there are points where you really feel that the cast is in vast, exotic locations. In part IV, I almost never believe that they are anywhere other than a backlot or a soundstage. The film’s look is discontinuous with the previous films (per Lawrence), and it generally looks much cheaper to me. It smacks of a group of tired baby boomers cutting production corners because they’re getting too old, busy or whatever to actual go out to real locations to give the film the sense of grandeur, intrepidness, lived-in-ness etc. that you will find in other films, like Pirates of the Caribbean, Mission Impossible, etc. Or they just believe, wrongly, that in a post-CGI world, you don’t have to do that stuff–Lucas convinced them you can just paint in that stuff in post and it’ll look just as good or better than if you actually built it or went there.

    For my part, I don’t mind the nuking of the fridge (it was a fun scene), Shia (whatever you think about him, I think him and his character work), or the performances in generally (I think everyone is competent and pretty fun to watch). I don’t mind the shift to a universe where Aliens visiting earth is a thing. I’m fine with all of that. I think it’s a decent Indy film that feels like it had the budget and shooting schedule of a top-tier TV movie, and that makes me sad. And I’ve pointed to numerous similar, contemporary big budget films that serve as counter-examples.

  37. Probably around this time, Vern or someone will show up with some youtube clip or statistic that proves that Crystal Skull did go to some actual locations or that it did this just as much as the previous Indy films, and although I find it hard to believe that’s true, my point stands: Whatever it is they did, it looks cheap to me. Compare all the jungle scenes in IV to the jungle scene with Alfred Molina a the beginning of Raiders. The latter actually looks like they were in a forested area of some kind.

  38. If memory serves, they DID shoot on forest locations but added in a lot of CGI vegetation because the existing forest wasn’t dense enough. Also, wasn’t there something about a last minute location change because of weather/deforestation issues at their original choice?

  39. Last Crusade works better than Crystal Skull because Harrison Ford wasn’t old as fuck when it was made. Watching Harrison Ford gimp around, wincing, with his puffy Shar-Pei puppy face.

  40. RBatty: “Exhibit A: Brody’s “The pen is mightier than the sword!””
    You have remember this is set in the 1940s and Marcus is an college professor. Of course he’s going to be dropping Dad Jokes in a situation like that, though I will admit he and Sallah both get made more comedic than they were in Raiders.

  41. > …I will admit he (Brodie) and Sallah both get made more comedic than they were in Raiders.

    Comedic is one thing, but to be made buffoons was unforgivable to me. My impression of Brodie was that except for his age, he was the equal of Indiana Jones. I expect that a scrappy young Brodie had spent plenty of time in the Andes mountains or wherever, searching through secret caves finding cursed treasures and shit. In Raiders, doesn’t he even say something to Indy about wishing he could go with him? It sounded like he missed the old days. Then to be made into a buffoon was disgraceful.

    A bigger letdown for me was seeing the teaser posters that said “Indiana Jones is Back and this time…he brought his dad!” Holy shit! It’s like when you’re a little kid with your friends and you get into an argument and then somebody threatens to go get their dad. And if Indiana Jones is the badass of all badasses, then what is his dad like? Oh my God fellas, look at the cast list, his dad is Sean “James Fucking Bond” Connery!!! This is going to be the best movie ever made in the history of all mankind!!!

    Nope. I was so disappointed. They thought it would be funny to have Sean Connery play against character, when it would have been funnier (AND more badass) to have him play a Super Indiana Jones alongside his son. I can’t even talk about it anymore.

    Might as well keep piling on. I hated Indiana “Forest Gump” Jones being present at every famous historical event of the period. Here’s Indy at the Hindenburg disaster, here he is accidentally bumping into Hitler, here he is when the Sphynx’s nose fell off, here he is being responsible for the Leaning Tower of Pisa, etc. Fuck that shit.

  42. The Original Paul

    January 22nd, 2016 at 10:05 am

    @Jeff G:

    I don’t think Ford was the problem. In the recently released THE FORCE UNLEASHED (little-known sequel to forgotten movie franchise from the 1970s, doubt you’ve heard too much about it), he out-charisma’d the younger “leads” throughout his screentime. The movie wasn’t great but Ford really stood out to me and made me care.

    In CRYSTAL SKULL, you’ve also got Harrison Ford playing an iconic character that he’s known form, but in this case they did literally nothing with him that was interesting or felt “real”. The relationships and situations that he was put in didn’t feel real. I keep harping on at this point and I’m sorry, but I’m going to say it again here: the only time CRYSTAL SKULL really “got” me was in a conversation between two aging professors in an empty classroom. It was a beautifully genuine little moment, and contrasted so sharply with the melodramatic nonsense of the rest of the film. The rest of it… man, I wish I could be more explicit about just why CRYSTAL SKULL failed to engage me, what exactly felt “soulless”. Like the characters were going through the motions to get from point A to point B in the plot. It’s so hard to define exactly what the quality is that makes some dialogue between fictitious characters feel “natural” rather than just functional and unnatural. But whatever that quality is, CRYSTAL SKULL was lacking it.

  43. There are a few things in this world that no good can ever come from. Discussing Indiana Jones is one of them.

  44. It’s our version of politics or religion at the Thanksgiving table.

  45. As long as I’ve been on the internet (since ’99) there’s been a weird hate-on for this movie and I’ve never understood it.

    It has some of the best character writing in the series, the plot does a nice job of balancing full on action with knockabout capers and Bond-like investigation sections. The Indy origin bits are done so lightheartedly I find it silly to get upset about them. They’re gags! The word ‘romp’ was made for this movie.

    The only really godawful bit is when the knight falls over and John Williams lays a few seconds of ‘funny’ twinkle music over the top.

  46. Paul C- I couldn´t have said it better myself!

  47. A lot of the problems with both films and a lot of discussion about the two latter sequels in general stem from the storytelling problems more so than visual gags. Thematic continuity, character challenges, setup with appropriate payoff. All elements necessary for a good film. I read no one calling out the shoddy visual effects in the first Die Hard. Probably because we all love the character, setup/payoff and thematic continuity. For that reason alone, Last Crusade is better than Crystal Skull by infinite measures. I honestly don’t give 2 shits about Crystal Skull and that is its worst sin. As for Last Crusade, I think it is one of the most tightly edited of Spielberg’s action heavy films. And I think most of the cheesy moments still land for me because I actually bought into the story and allowed for that magical thing called suspension of disbelief that every film hopes to achieve. And to call out the cheese factor and coincidence, why does this group love Ninja 2 and not this film? Every cheesy thing Vern did not like in Last Crusade, Ninja 2 is guilty of in more egregious fashion.

  48. Honest Trailers - Indiana Jones & The Kingdom of The Crystal Skull

    Keeping movies honest ► http://bit.ly/HonestTrailerSub Get Ready for George Lucas to ruin another legendary franchise as we join Indiana Jones on his quest t...

  49. I agree with you, Paul C.

    I love this movie and honestly if I had to put an Indy film in my DVD player to watch forever and ever I would pick LAST CRUSADE over RAIDERS.

    It’s the most emotional. It’s the funniest. Connery is great. Their relationship is great. And it’s Ford’s best performance as the character. Had I to pick a favorite moment, it would be the scene where he steps onto the invisible bridge. First of all the score is fantastic, but the thing about that scene is: he’s talking to himself. He needs to sell the line. That’s a tough thing to do. But he does it and it’s awesome.

  50. Ugh, those honest trailers. Fuck them. They think they are clever because they make lame jokes and give actors dumb nicknames* and feed on the cynicism of today’s “everything sucks” generation, but they got nothing to offer. Even worse than “Everything Wrong with” or “How X Should Have Ended”. Not as bad as Red Letter Media, though, but only because their videos are five hours shorter.

    *I stopped watching them when they called Jennifer Lawrence “Stupidface”. I’m not even a fan of her, but if this is all you need to get a successful YouTube channel, fuck YouTube.

  51. I think you’re a little too hard on it Vern, I love LAST CRUSADE for a variety of reasons, as I’ve said before when I was really little the only movies in the series I knew was RAIDERS and TEMPLE OF DOOM until by chance I discovered LAST CRUSADE at the blockbuster, by this point I was old enough (probably about 8) to clearly remember the first time I saw it, which I can’t really saw for the other two.

    On top of that I really have a fetish for the cinematography of the late 80’s and early 90’s and LAST CRUSADE is a fine example, it’s a great looking film in my opinion, especially the scenes in Venice.

  52. CJ, the honest trailer is most definitely snarky, but at about 1:00 it really does capture a lot of my beef with the film. Most of the time, I think they’re spot on, whether they’re bagging on films I like or dislike.

  53. Also, I loved that Red Letter Media video review of Phantom Menace. It pretty much captured my own inner monologue about the film and said everything I could have said better than I could have said it. Granted, it’s pretty snarky, but I feel like some films–especially what I consider shoddy and/or lazy big budget misfires–deserve a bit of the snark they get.

  54. neal2zod: I can’t confirm this, but a buddy of mine told me that the novelization of RAIDERS, the old Egyptian guy who translates the writing on that artifact that Jones got from Karen Allen mentions something about not looking upon the contents of the ark.

    Maybe that’s something from the script of the film that got cut or written out of the movie? Or maybe the dude who wrote the novelization had the same problem with the ending that you had.

    Apparently the novelization also has a moment of internal monologue where Jones mourns the loss of his hat when he straps himself to that submarine with his whip. I figure that detail would have to be an embellishment dreamt up by the author.

  55. Skani, your dislike of Crystal Skull is perfectly reasonable, but your defense of Honest Movie Trailer and Red Letter Media is, quite simply, indefensible.

  56. In the novelisation of RAIDERS, Indy is having an affair with that student who writes messages to him on her eyelids.

  57. I’m sort of with you Holden, in that the endless snark, everything sucks kind of attitude is enough to drive you crazy, but I like RLM. At least with those guys you get the sense that they WANT to enjoy movies. There’s a scene in one of their prequel reviews where they talk about the original trilogy compared to the prequels and it’s much more “oh, what could’ve been!” as opposed to “everything sucks lol.”

    Anyway, after watching all of these again for the first time in a few years I think that *as movies* they should be ranked 1, 2, 3, 4. As crowd pleasers, swap CRUSADE and TEMPLE. TEMPLE is a fascinating little thing. It’s dark, almost vile–the racist and misogynist aspects threaten to spill over and ruin the whole thing, but they don’t.

  58. For all the parts I disliked in KOCS (and there were plenty) one scene really stands out for me. They manage to untie themselves in the convoy truck, Indy is about to climb out and him and Marion are bickering, of course.
    Marion: What about you? There must’ve been other women.
    Indy: There were a few.
    Marion: Well, what happened with them?
    Indy: (hard stare) None of em were you.

    And Marion literally swoons. Its a great moment and leads to an almost better one. Indy waits for the troop truck with like eight guys in it to careen next to him and then propels himself from his truck into the middle of these guys to battle. I think its the hardest and most two-fisted moment in the whole series.

  59. This one really had to grow on me. When I first saw it when it first hit home video I hated it. This kept for years and I kept rewatching to see if I could learn to love it but it really took sometime. Watching it with my dad a lot since he really liked it helped. But for a while it did take me a minute to appreciate any of it.

    Today I could say it’s still my third favorite in the series. However I also have to say that is still better than the fourth. At least to me it is. For the simple fact that it didn’t lose my viewership any of the times I watched it.

    I still haven’t finished Crystal Skull but Last Crusade on the other hand always had a way to keep me engaged. Even back when I hated it. It’s just that it didn’t derail itself half way through after a promising opening act like the last one did and that comes a long way.

    I also do appreciate it more today in comparison to more modern blockbusters because such unapolagetic and genuine corniness is rare these days at the cinema and this movie is chock full of it. It’s the most charming trait in the whole thing.

  60. Batty, Holden, and World at large. As much as I like trying (futilely) to explain my dislike of Crystal Skull, I feel no need to defend my enjoyment of the honest trailers. I just enjoy some of them. No apologies.

  61. I don’t have a problem with RLM either. I agree that they at least don’t go into anything with cynicism like the others do. Plus their criticisms in half in a bag or best of the worst videos are usually fair. If they like a part of a whole they admit it.

  62. I take Honest Trailers as just a bit of fun, like they seem mostly intended. Cinema Sins on the other hand…fuck those guys.

  63. I get why people are defensive of CRYSTAL SKULL, it was a popular movie to beat up on when it came out, everyone and their grandmother went on and on about nuking the fridge this and raped childhood that and I understand why people are sick of that shit, for a long time now it’s been considered cool to hate on movies, to pick out plot-holes or flaws and make yourself seem like you’re so much smarter than those Hollywood jackasses.

    But unfortunately that doesn’t change the fact that CRYSTAL SKULL sucks, the whole thing just feels kinda half assed, like everyone’s heart just wasn’t in it, from Ford to Lucas to Spielberg they knew it was a movie everyone wanted them to make, but they really didn’t want to make themselves.

    I mean Spielberg changed a lot after SCHINDLER’S LIST, he no longer wanted to just be the fun blockbuster guy and instead wanted to be a “serious” “important” filmmaker.

  64. THE LOST WORLD as much as I do think is a lot more successful than CRYSTAL SKULL, is definitely half assed when compared to JURASSIC PARK, that was when the golden age of the blockbusters pretty much ended for him.

  65. I don’t really blame Honest Trailers for continuing with their popular formula of web video success. I’ve always just ignored them because it’s clear from the title that it’s the opposite of my movie philosophy and it would piss me off. But lately I got kind of sad to have conversations with more than one young movie fan who seemed to know a bunch about a silly movie and then it turns out they haven’t seen it, just the Honest Trailer. So I watched the JUPITER ASCENDING one and it was a bummer because they just make fun of everything interesting about the movie, as if it’s bad to be strange and unusual, without noting that despite all this amazing stuff that they are above it’s actually a pretty boring movie. I’ll just go back to ignoring them, but it’s sad that things like that become the Clif’s Notes of weird movies for so many people who might enjoy them.

  66. People have some weird resentment towards movies nowadays, you’ll notice there’s no equivalent of Honest Trailers for TV, people fucking eat stuff like GAME OF THRONES up.

    I mean, not that TV is immune to pissing people off, I know a lot of people hated how LOST ended for example, but tearing movies a new one has become a cottage industry.

  67. Vern, I totally hear that. I don’t watch honest trailers as cliff’s notes or just to get off on crapping on films. I just think they’re a goof, even when they’re goofing on films I like. And when they’re goofing on films I don’t like, I think the things they goof on are usually the things that I think make the film a failure. Liking them doesn’t make me cynical or ADD: I loved Tree of Life, Seventh Seal, and I just got back the Revenant 30 minutes ago, and it kicked all kinds of ass. Those are beautiful films. And so is Drive. And so is the Guest. And so is Rocky Balboa. And Unisol Reckoning.

    That said, I’ll be the first to admit that I lack your ability to really dig out gold from the nooks and crannies of films I feel like are mostly bad. If a film is 20% interesting stuff and 80% bad, it’s still bad. There’s a line a film crosses for me, where I’m doing a disservice to the good and great films when I try to fool myself or anyone else that some bad film is good. I realize that tastes and opinions differ, I’m just saying that for me, flattening things out kind of steals the luster from the real gems. Psycho II is no Psycho. Psycho’s got chunks of guys like Psycho II in it’s stool.

    With Crystal Skull, I am actually pretty cynical about it. Rather, I’m meta-cynical, because I think the film itself reflects an unconsciously cynical Spielberg and Ford (Lucas I think is less cynical than just a bit out of touch). I’ve seen Ford repeatedly on the late night interview circuit saying quite brazenly that his main focus is getting paid and that the main reason he’s taking certain roles is for the paycheck. With my own ears I heard him say exactly that about both Expendables 3 and Force Awakens (yet, miraculously, he brings the spark in TFA). I’m cynical about them trying to pass off crap like this, which feels pretty phoned in.

    Now, on the other hand, I think Cloud Atlas is an example of an interesting bad film. I applaud its uniqueness and applaud the Wachowskis for being willing to go out on a limb and spend their capital doing risky weird stuff, which they always do. I’m rooting for them, because I think they have heart, and they take risks, and they are on to something, and there is a human pulse in their films. There is nothing cynical or phoned-in about anything they do. It’s still a bad film, but at least it’s not a cynical bad film.

  68. And I give no quarter to crappy or less-than-excellent films by well-resourced filmmakers who can and have done much better, and who insult the fans by trying to pass off crap, coasting on the fumes of their own or their films’ legacy and goodwill. To Spielberg, Ford, and the Indy franchise, I say: Good hard or go home, motherfucker.

  69. I never liked the Mr Plinkett reviews, but I grew to like the serious(ish) subsequent RedLetterMedia reviews, they seem to be fairly knowledgable about film and have some interesting things to say. This is the case for me with a lot of gimmick critics; I find Doug Walker`s opinion pieces pretty good, but he really should have stuck to his guns when he retired the Nostalgia Critic. His CHRISTMAS WITH THE KRANKS review was maybe the most self important thing I`ve ever seen.

  70. Interesting enough, just a few days ago I read a piece from a critic, who wrote about his frustration how he and his profession are synonymous with “not liking anything for stupid reasons”, but when he recently took some of his friends to THE REVENANT, they were the ones who were nitpicking it to death with stuff like “too unrealistic” or “too long” and concluded, that it is a piece of shit on the level of SHARKNADO.

  71. CJ, there is definitely a segment of the population that has no patience with a slow, meditative film that just lingers on the physical environment the way a film Revenant or Tree of Life (or Thin Red Line) does. Now, I actually think that is some ADD thing. It’s like they can’t be alone with their thoughts and the environment…they need constant dialogue or frenetic action to keep them engaged.

  72. The Original Paul

    January 24th, 2016 at 6:53 am

    Man… I am so conflicted on the question of the Honest Trailers / Red Letter Media / TGWTG thing.

    On the one hand, I do find these things entertaining a lot of the time.

    On the other hand… I kinda feel like there’ve been so many excellent films that I’ve seen that have received almost no attention. And you’ve got these guys making half-hour videos about films that everyone has at least heard of (and, as Vern points out, sometimes about films that not everyone has seen, just knows about due to their notoriety, so this’ll be their only impression) about why they fail or how bad they are. I think the whole concept of the “Nostalgia Critic” makes more sense because it was, at least in its early days, more about critiquing “nostalgia” – or rose-tinted memories – than the films themselves. Or in other words, looking at why these films were remembered the way that they were. But otherwise… man.

    I guess I’d just rather see a video extolling the virtues of, for example, IN A WORLD or COHERENCE, two great films that hardly anybody’s heard of, than see a sixtieth video on why the live-action Doctor Seuss adaptations sucked. The sad thing is that the first video would probably get a fraction of the views of the second one. And it’s not like I can claim to be innocent of being one of the people contributing to this myself. There’s a reason that you go for what’s familiar – there’s only so much time you can spend to dedicate to this stuff, why take a risk on something that you don’t know will be your “thing”?

  73. BTW Skani, please don’t take it like we are ganging up on you for enjoying those videos.

  74. Nostalgia Critic is just atrocious to me. I never have and probably never will get it. Which is odd because I do enjoy the Cinemassacre guys and their game nerd character so you’d figure NC would be right up my alley but nah. I actually groan whenever he guest stars on the Cinemassacre and find myself really struggling through those particular videos.

  75. Honest Trailers I also never honestly got but yeah RLM those guys could be pretty ok when they want to be.

  76. Red Letter Media actually makes films for a living, so much of their criticism is surprisingly constructive and grounded in the form. Guys like We Hate Movies are more difficult to take seriously because they foreground each of their podcasts with their inflated regard for their own wit and performance.

  77. CJ, it’s all good! :)

  78. I wonder if the movie fans who bellow about wanting everything to be shot on location are the same people trying to leak information from sets. It’s hard to film on location without members of the public seeing things and taking pictures.

    It’s not even just an issue of spoilers. I guess there have been times where a basic-looking prop or costume was used on location that wasn’t actually the finished product – just a reference for lighting, eyeline, etc. so that the more detailed CGI creation can be added later – but those location photos leaked and horrified people who saw the cheap-looking item without knowing it was just a placeholder. Also, when the first location photos of the police-box TARDIS prop from modern Doctor Who were leaked, the photo somehow got uploaded with non-square pixels or something, making the prop look incorrectly proportioned and “fat” – again, horrifying people who thought the finished product would actually look that way.

    I think I read somewhere that CRYSTAL SKULL was filmed largely on soundstages (rather than on location) for logistical reasons. I don’t know for certain whether security/secrecy might have been one of those reasons, but it can’t be easy to make a big movie when the public is trying to get pictures and you have no control over how those images are handled out of context.

    I definitely have more affection for LAST CRUSADE than CRYSTAL SKULL (even if the reason is largely nostalgia). But I am curious as to *why* nerds have become so anti-CGI, especially since 99% of movies beloved by nerds are made possible solely by the invention of CGI. Or would they rather have Rocket Raccoon played by a small person wearing an animatronic mask?

    A matte painting, a guy in a suit, or a stop-motion puppet are “real” only in the sense that they physically existed in front of a camera at some point during production. The subject matter being portrayed – whether it’s superheroes, inhabited alien planets, orc armies, space battles, etc. – is still stuff without basis in reality.

    The saddest part, to me, is that a decade ago people were still excited about CGI’s potential to create new worlds. The whole appeal of SIN CITY or SKY CAPTAIN – or, going farther back, TRON – was that here was a visually imaginative world made possible by computers. Is the real issue that people are becoming anti-style and anti-imagination, and only willing to accept things that look “normal”?

  79. Another good example Curt is Apocalypse from the upcoming X-MEN’S APOCALYPSE.

    People were already ready to write checks with their mouths that their ass couldn’t cash based on pure ignorance of the art of filmmaking. For every “he looks like the bad guy from the power rangers movie” there was a voice of reason saying “it’s not the finished product because the movie is not even in post yet” and falling on deaf ears.

    The new trailer dropped with a more finished but obviously still incomplete look at him and they were like “hes not looking that bad” but now the complain is his voice since there must ALWAYS be something to bitch about with these entitled punks.

    Same motherfuckers that were crying about Singer’ Quicksilver at first yet ended up raving about his awesomeness by the end. With ignorance and hypocrisy like this is it any wonder that movie makers hate fanboys?

  80. I was mostly just joking, Skani. Like what you like. For me, though, I just can’t take the relentless pessimism of those Honest Movie Trailers. I’m not a terribly optimistic person, but one thing I really love are movies, even bad ones. When watching a film, I’m always rooting for it to succeed, and even when it doesn’t, there are usually some interesting or bizarre parts that make it worth my time. From what I can tell, the Honest Movie Trailer guys watch a film hoping to pick it apart. It’s just too goddamn cynical.

    Curt, there was a time when people were doing some truly interesting things with CGI. Films don’t have to be realistic, but more and more people want them to look grounded. Sky Captain, which I remember really enjoying, bombed and the second Sin City film also floundered. So I don’t think we’re going to see anything like that any time soon.

  81. See, but I think with something like Sky Captain or even LoTR, there is something about the overall aesthetic (the color palette and other aspects of the visual world) that are more accommodating of CGI, and you can get away with it being cartoonish in certain respects. And with Sky Captain or Sin City or the Matrix or whatever, that’s the whole idea is that it’s this kind of arty weird world. I think part of what makes it difficult for me with the Star Wars prequels and Indy IV is you have an established look from the originals that is absolutely iconic, and then rather than judiciously weave in some CGI (like the Pirates films or Force Awakens does, mostly), incredible liberties are taken with the animation, and the result is a direct sequel or prequel that not only looks and feels very different from its predecessors that are supposedly part of the same cinematic universe, but in my opinion it actually looks much worse than the predecessor despite the increase in budget and technology. It’s an over-reliance on CGI due to either laziness or bad judgment or both. In my opinion.

    Also, I think where I may differ from Batty (and maybe even Vern) is that I don’t necessarily go into a film rooting for it to be good or trying to will it to be good. I’m certainly not a masochist rooting for it to be bad, or approaching it like I want my own fillmgoing experience to be like MSTK or honest trailers where I’m just there to throw popcorn and insults at the screen. Of course, I go in hoping it will be good, otherwise, what the hell am I doing there. But if it’s not good, then it’s not good.

    Like with Revenant. I really, really enjoyed it. If I’d felt like it was boring or ponderous self-important crap, if I’d felt the violence was over the top, or the action was fake, or it rang false or hollow, then I’d have told you it was crap, cast and budget and accolades and expectations be damned. Fortunately, it so happens that for me the film absolutely kicks ass and delivers.

  82. Curt, to cross the streams between your point about Rocket Racoon and my point about Star Wars and Indy, the reason a character like Rocket Racoon can work is because this is the first film in the Guardians series, which means it gets to define the essential look, feel, and parameters of the universe. There is no precedent or context we have to integrate it into, rather, it establishes the basic aesthetic and parameters of the world. That doesn’t stops future films from introducing new characters or new planets or whatever, but there should be a basic (still pretty flexible) core feel to the universe that defines it as cohesive, compelling, and memorable.

    Now if Rocket Raccoon had popped up as a character in Phantom Menace or Force Awakens, it would have been a complete disaster, because it’s entirely out of step with everything you’ve come to expect, and not in a “breath of fresh air” way, but in a “what the hell is this thing doing talking to a Jedi?” way. That’s exactly why people hate Gungans*. Arguably, that’s the same point the Honest Trailer is making about the goofy gophers in Crystal Skull, which inch dangerously close the brink of Caddyshack Gopher. There’s a world where that kind of thing can exist, but it’s not the Star Wars or Indiana Jones world.

    *Prior to Phantom Menace, there is no precedent for such a ridiculous, cartoony character as a Gungan or Watoo or Sebulba. Sure, you’ve got a couple of borderline cases in Jabba’s court, but none of them gets much in the way of lines or anything, the’re jut kind of there, and even then it’s the last film of the OT, which is where you first start to see Lucas’s goofy cartoony, kiddie tendencies starting to get a little out of control.

  83. So what is the consensus on the How Did This Made podcast round here then? I love it personally.

  84. You know, I’ve been told that I would like How Did This Get Made, because they seem to genuinely enjoy the bad movies. I also think that simply looking at movies as simply good or bad is a little too simplistic. Yes, on one level, I’m always kind of evaluating whether or not a film is good or bad, or, maybe more accurately, whether or not it’s successful in what it sets out to accomplish.

    So, yeah, I like talking about how artistically successful a film is along with about a million other topics you can discuss when arguing about a film. But I’m also really intrigued by the decisions the director has made throughout the film, whether they were successful or not. That’s why something like The Room is really fascinating. Sure, it’s hilariously bad, but it also gives you a glimpse into Tommy Wiseau’s deranged mind, and I kind of appreciate that.

    I’m definitely not above making fun of bad movies. I enjoy MST3K, but they also seem aware of how a film functions and ways in which the films they watch don’t quite come together. This is a long way from dismissive snark, which, frankly, I kind of find boring.

    With that said, if you like a little snark, then that’s cool with me. This is just where my tastes are coming from.

  85. It does annoy me sometimes when people think film criticism requires a black and white execution as opposed to one with more shades of grey. It’s never been as simple as its good or bad because it’s far too subjective for that. I think it does criticism a disservice.

    For exampl. I didn’t like THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS but I did like THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS: TOKYO DRIFT. Yet if I really look for it I could make a case for either one being good or bad. But that will also be disingenuous as well as biased, easy and just outright lazy all at the same time.

    It’s a reason I’ve always had issues with the buzz term “guilty pleasure”. Like I’m way too multifaceted to ever represent myself so one dimensionally. I found equal amounts of laugh watching BEAVIS AND BUTT-HEAD and FRY & LAURIE. I used to watch both WWF and WCW. I could enjoy a conventional dramatic play or opera the same way I could Prince Paul’s A PRINCE AMONGST THIEVES and Masta Ace’s DISPOSABLE ARTS.

    I could never feel guilty for liking anything that I enjoy. What does that even say about me? like if I ever said something like that I would feel it would be because I like this for the wrong reasons and have mad insecurities and that’s just lying to myself because I am nothing like that.

    At the same time I guess that’s why I don’t understand. I guess it’s just too much sometimes to hope for the same from other human beings. Maybe I’m just too optimistic about people sometimes because I always hope that they always strive for excellence. But in truth they just let me down more often than not.

  86. Broddie, I agree that it’s a bit more nuanced than good/bad.

    First of all, there is the genre and what the filmmaker is going after, and what the filmgoer wants. There are obviously multiple dimensions along which you can evaluate a film. Is it provocative? Challenging? Terrifying? Hilarious? Visually dazzling? Heart-wrenching? Action-packed? Does it force you to re-examine your morality or your worldview? Not all movies intend to do all of these things. That’s where I find Roger Ebert’s approach helpful: you judge the film based on what it’s setting out to accomplish, as clearly as you can tell. You can get a good sense of that from the genre (horror), the auteur (like Malick or Spielberg or Bergman), or the particular franchise.

    Usually, when I say a movie is bad, I mean that it fails in what I presume it is trying to do–not that it has to 100% fail or 100% succeed, but that it doesn’t succeed enough for me to call it a success :) It was trying to scare me, but I wasn’t scared. It was trying to be funny, but I wasn’t laughing. It was trying to provoke thought, but it was only pretentious and superficially “deep.” It was trying to get me invested in the main characters, but I wasn’t. And so on. I think I have a good sense of what Indy IV or Phantom Menace is trying to do based on the other films in the series and in the genre. And I think both of them fail. For me they do, at least.

    I also think of badness as relating to filmmaking vices. To laziness, cutting corners, insulting the intelligence of the audience, of stretching the bounds of plausibility, of manipulating our emotions in a transparent, maudlin way. Films that do too much of this tend to be bad films. Same with filmmakers. In franchises, I think of badness as betraying the rules or spirit of a franchise or of missing what made that franchise great or made us care about it.

    I’m not saying you can’t play with conventions or push boundaries or take risks or mash up genres or whatever. But you need to be prepared to deliver on those risks. That’s why they call it high-risk, high-reward. You take a big risk and do something wild and it pays off, you’re a genius. You take a risk and do something crazy and wild and it turns out to be a hot mess–it’s still a hot mess, no matter how boldly you flew and hard you tried. Maybe you’ll get the balance right next time.

    I guess I also do factor in things like budget and shooting time and filmmaker reputation. If you have a lot of financial or reputational capital, then I expect more from you. If you’re Woody Allen or Spielberg or Malick, then you’re a victim of your own genius and success. I know what you’re capable of. You maybe won’t always blow my mind, but if you’re just being lazy or if you’ve lost your way, I’m gonna ding you for it. Give you the old Rocky Balboa speech: “You’re better than that!!!”

    Anyway, I would agree that it’s not black and white as to whether something is good or bad in the sense that its more of a continuum or maybe several continuua. At the same time, at the end of they, I think most of us do tend to fall on one side of the dichotomy. “I like it.” “I would see it again.” “I would recommend it.” Life is a series of binary choices like that. So, I’m happy to call a film good or bad on those kinds of bases. If I can’t recommend it as worthy of the time or money of someone who is on some level open to the genre or franchise or whatever, then it’s not a good film (in that genre or franchise or whatever).

    I’ll admit that there are some…wait for it, “guilty pleasures” or tough calls. Movies I wouldn’t call good, but that I might still want to watch again or that I might still recommend to others as a cultural experience worth having. Rocky V is not a good film, but I enjoy it and am glad it exists as a part of the Rocky canon. Jason X is not a good film and not even a great Jason film, but it does some fun things, and I enjoy it. Freddy vs. Jason is only an okay film, but it’s fun. I would have liked a truly dark, scary Freddy vs. Jason film, but it’s a fun, serviceable entry in the spirit of the Nightmare 4 and Friday 3+ vintage. They’re okay films that I find pretty entertaining, mostly because the franchises are close to my heart. In contrast, Rocky 6 and Creed and New Nightmare are truly good films in general and great films for their respective franchises.

  87. I could agree with the franchise thing to an extent I suppose. I say only to an extent because when you get too far away from the classic conceits it could be as jarring as NIGHTMARE 6 then again it could also be as entertaining as NIGHTMARE 4. Such is the gamble with risk as you said.

    I grew up liking STAR TREK 2 – 6 and TNG & DS9. Even really liked 2 of the TNG movies (8 and 9). I’m not a hardcore Trekki but I guess above casual. Yet 11 and 12 don’t work for me.

    I can’t fault them cause they are technically well made commercial movies but they don’t have the wisdom and exploration & lived in elements that appeal to me from not only past Trek but the great blockbusters in general. They feel like empty husks and not soulful in anyway. But I can’t call them bad if so many found them good. It just didn’t click with me personally.

    The way I see it at least they were good enough to make new fans. Their commercial success also guarantees more ST and I’m sure one day something ST will be produced for people like me. One good thing about franchises is that they’re cyclical like that.

    I mean to a fault I do think there could be objectively bad (THE ROOM) and good (THE GODFATHER) movies out there. For the most part I think it’s a lot more rare than most other people seem to do though. To me it’s usually far more deeper definitely.

  88. Funny you do bring up Rocky though skani cause I think growing up on Stallone movies kinda informs my philosophy. I mean I have always loved ROCKY and ROCKY III equally yet in terms of content and execution they’re night and day. Same with FIRST BLOOD and RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD PT. II. Now that’s a fella who had no issues with taking risks. Modern cinema could use more Sly’s.

  89. I hear you, Broddie. Franchises are weird. For me, the Rocky and Freddy films have varied a great deal.

    Some Rocky films work really well as drama. They brood, they burn slow, they make you sit with the weight of where Rocky’s at. Part 1 and 2 are full of melancholy and frustration and vulnerability. III and IV in particular are much more garish and kind of exist on another planet, so I guess on that level, if I’m being consistent with what I said, I should ding them, for veering away from their moorings. And I guess I did kind of ding them for that in some of my posts during Vern’s pre-Creed marathon of Rocky reviews. Anyway, I think Rocky and Balboa (and now Creed) are the best films in terms of classic human drama and vulnerability. 3 and 4 are much leaner and grandiose and cartoonish and wish fulfillment-y, but they are also just a lot of fun, very colorful, full of pageantry and song and powerful imagery. Sly really gets a part of the male psyche (or at least my male psyche). Anyway, even though 3 and 4 are quite different, they deliver thrills and emotion, and they still do have a heart to them, even if it’s increasingly un-tethered from the earthy humanness of 1 or 6 or Creed.

    Likewise, the Nightmare films get increasingly cartoonish. As with Rocky, what keeps you going throughout the series is that iconic character who is just so fun to hang out with, and you want to see what he’s going to do next. So, even when the films lose certain things (whether it’s Rocky moving out of the Philly neighborhood or Freddy coming increasingly and losing some of his mystery), the characters and the iconography are so compelling, that you’re willing to go for the ride. It’s almost like separate little film series or epochs inside a large uber-series.

    So, then, why am I so hard on Indy IV or the Star Wars prequels? I don’t know. I just don’t enjoy them as much. It’s not that they don’t do enough fan service or that they’re too bold or different. It’s different things, I guess. I just don’t enjoy them nearly as much as the others in the series. And it’s just different expectations. When you’re waiting 15+ years and know that you may never get another one. When these guys have massive budgets and all the time in the world to develop these things. When it’s the same original filmmakers consciously choosing to revisit these worlds that they know people hold so dear. I don’t know, I just feel like there’s this obligation to deliver something much better than just “okay” or “decent” or “interesting” or “different.” Indy IV is okay, it’s not terrible. I don’t hate the film. But I pity the fool.

    p.s. I am not a trekkie and have only seen some of those movies, but I totally get where if you are deeply invested in/raised on the mythology and the franchise, when a film comes along that ignores the conventions or rules or heartbeat of the franchise, even if the film is otherwise well-done, and even if a first-timer would classify it as a good movie, I can understand not wanting to watch it or not getting into it. It’s just too weird. They’re playing dress-up in the clothes but not truly carrying on the ethos or legacy that drew you to it in the first place.

  90. Errata:

    “Part 1 and *6* are full of melancholy and frustration and vulnerability”
    “Freddy *becoming increasingly visible* and losing some of his mystery”

  91. All this talk of franchises, particularly long running ones, has has reminded me of an idea I had a long time ago…when you have seen them too many damn times, watch the series in reverse. It kind of puts a fresh coat of paint on it.

    I got the idea when I had insomnia in college, and would pop in movies I had seen a few times to fall asleep too. The movies couldn’t be too deep, or I would get to involved and end up watchingbthem a little too close. So I chose Jason Goes To Hell, which at the time was the newest Jason movie and coincidentally, my least favorite.

    Anyway, this viewing, maybe because my expectations were down or maybe because I actually didn’t give a shit anymore…that movie turner out to be pretty entertaining in a goofy way. Unshackled from the constraints of strict continuity its flaws became fun, its genuinely bizarre idea for a sequel became much more interesting, and any moments that were sort of rip offs of earlier movies became a little less noticeable.

    So about a week later I watch the next one down (and coincidentally my second least favorite) Jason Takes Manhattan. Same thing…the disappointment was gone, and this was a fun stupid movie. Sure, its got some big time flaws but its Jason not Kurosawa we are talking about here, so whatever. The reverse watch took out the need for any serious context. As I went down the series…all the ones I thought were a little lesser enteries seemed fine this time around, and my favorites while still noticeably better, were more even and not better by a landslide the way the used to be.

    I did this over the years with some others, Freddy, Lethal Weapon, Star Trek…same effect each time. And you get a bit of that Star Wars Prequils/Specter/etc kind of “surprise…this is where this came from” reverse foreshadowing. It probably helps if you haven’t watched any in the franchise lately and its not quite your all time favorite but you like it enough to give even your least favorite a second chance. It might surprise you!

    I haven’t tried it yet with Indiana Jones or SW, as I like those too much much. And in the case with SW its not quite loose enough (although machete order is interesting and has a similar effect).

    And since I typed so long on this I give a little bit on then topic at hand: I like the Indy movies in the order they came out. Raiders is an all time fav, Doom is a very close second and I love its simultaneously nightmarish and cartooney tone. Crusade is excellent as well, and only in recent viewings would I say it had one too many corny jokes and a just slightly obvious plot. All three of these movies blew my mind when I originally saw them, and continue to entertain decades later. Crystal Skull is my least favorite by a wide margin. I didn’t hate it…but it seemed a more average generic movie than the others.

    For the record I loved all three Star Wars prequils, and really liked sever Indiana Jones rip offs such as King Solomon’s Mines and Tenesse Buck

  92. By the way, speaking of the Red Letter Media guys, I used to be a big fan of Mike Stoklas’ series of shorts (and later two features) ORANGES. They were adventure comedies starring, you guessed it…animated oranges. Lots of awesome miniatures, fun props and a really cool homemade…but homemade with someone with a ton of ambition astethic.

    I never saw his live action films made around the same time. “Guerrilla Interrupted” is listed on IMDB but there were a few others. They looked wild from the trailers and online clips though, Benny Hill on acid and a five dollar budget.

    Watching all this stuff I had really high hopes for them. They really were doing it, making little cool underground flicks. I actually think its sad they are more known now for their sickeningly snarky criticism of Star Wars than the cool stuff they actually DID.

    Really, really tired of the snark. I like the prequels, but I get it…they aren’t for everybody. Lots of movies aren’t. But that nasty, know it all snark tone drives me nuts. Honest Trailers is even worse…

    Anyway looks like Mike Stoklasa and his Red Letter pals have a new movie coming out called SPACE COP. I’ll check it out cause I love his old stuff so much, and the concept sounds kookie enough. But I am saying this with all sincerity: I hope they leave the snarky critique of other artists behind and just focus on MAKING THEIR OWN SHIT!

  93. RLM may be snarky as fuck but they also have a lot of heart. They’re hit or miss to be sure but they’re also the first to admit to filmmakers they roast how hard it is to make a movie and how shitty their own final product often turns out to be. They’re also one of the few video review production companies who actually reach out to the people they put on blast so they can have a (semi)-civil conversation with them. I rarely agree with their reviews but in my opinion there is more to their style than just rampant snark and clickbaiting. I can’t stomach Cinema Sins or, I’m sorry to say, Honest Trailers but any company that can produce content as exploratory and investigative as the RLM JACK AND JILL review at least has the integrity of a working central thesis to couch their admittedly grating snark in.

    Sorry for continuing to derail an already derailed thread.

    For all their faults, I really like LAST CRUSADE and CRYSTAL SKULL. I actually revisited LAST CRUSADE before Vern dropped this review and during the Young Indy opening a passage from another Vern review popped into my head: “Finally we understand the story behind this classic American iconography. He found it sitting there. Now we’ll never be able to watch those other movies the same way again. Every time we see the chainsaw we’ll think wow, there it is. The chainsaw he found sitting there that one time. It adds so much depth to the whole thing.”

  94. Their BEST OF THE WORST videos are a bit hipsterish, but I like to watch them. My favourite bit of them however in recent years was the Rich Evans trailer reaction to FORCE AWAKENS.

  95. Shoot – “My favourite bit of them however in recent years was the Rich Evans trailer reaction to FORCE AWAKENS.”

    As funny as I thought the video was I also found it kind of sad because it was so accurate.

  96. Those nerds need to be tought a lesson.

  97. I’ve never seen most of the stuff you guys are referencing, but I don’t understand why anyone would want to focus so much time and effort on stuff they hate. I went through that last year with the new STAR WARS and I made a conscious effort to stop talking about it and let it go. It worked. I still think post-Lucas SW is a shitty idea that pays no artistic dividends whatsoever, but I’m not mad about it anymore. I’m a healthier, happier person for choosing to focus my energy on entertainment I felt positive about. So I can only assume that these people who make their bread and butter off of things they’ve hated for years are either a. Shitty, miserable people who thrive off of hatred, it b. Decent people being driven into a deep depression by the free market’so insatiable need for negativity and cynicism. Either way, it’s not something I want to support. I come here because Vern actually likes movies and tries to celebrate them for what they are whenever he can. Coming at it from the opposite direction is just a hatchet job and I want no part of it. And don’t feed me that “They really want to like movies but…” crap. I don’t see any two-hour videos about how awesome they thought a movie was going viral. They know what wolf they’re feeding.

  98. You´re absolutely right. The video I referenced made fun of how people took certain things way too seriously. And they do. Especially when it comes to STAR FORCE. It makes us look like the most spoiled bunch of assholes in the universe, especially with how much terrible shit is going on in the world which need to be adressed way more than how a particular lightsaber looks and how it offends people.

    I can´t defend me liking to watch BEST OF THE WORST. But they are a likeable bunch of people listening to for most of the time.

  99. Majestyk – I think that governing “hate” can take many unique and mutational forms, and in the same way that a Vern roast on here can instigate pages of insightful discourse about the nature and resonance of a “hated” topic or example of art in these amazing comment threads so too can other insightful commentators generate similar dialogue within their own fanbases and communities. In my opinion the approach is key, and while I don’t care for the long-form prequel reviews that made RLM popular, although I respect and appreciate the factors that made them unique within the climate of the time of their release, the fact that they have switched it up since then – cut at deeper tissue – matured as a company and a community – worked to refine and consolidate their views- for me it shows a striving for excellence that I wish other snark merchants would adopt as a company motto.

    Also to disregard an entire reviewing community based on a unseen understanding of the work they produce saddens me. We’re given agency to castigate things here that we define as tepid sauce and also encouraged to champion unusual and overlooked shit too. And vice-versa. And rightfully so. I haven’t found a single other resource online that does that. But that doesn’t mean that those towing the line but at least trying to get a conversation started deserve our contempt or rancour. I love that we can call art out on its bullshit and also celebrate it when maybe no one else does. But we have slim online pickings as far as a film-loving community goes when it comes to impassioned and comprehensive conversations regarding the films of cinema that we love and care about. And obviously this sight is ground zero. But it’s kinda nice sometimes to keep an eye on a sight like RLM and the people who run it and see them grow and become more considerate and less dismissive even though they will always have a couple indefensible HATEFUL 1-3 prequel rants to shadow them around and some less than stellar review content in their bag(s) also.

    What does it take to change the essence of a man who made a 70 minute EPISODE ONE review and what does it take to change the essence of a man (me) who watched that review and actively despised it, but hoped that the creator might one day improve and show more consideration and humility in his / their future work? Exactly what we support and champion on this amazing sight. Time. It takes time to change.

    In summation, I did not like THE REVENANT.

  100. I agree 100% with Mixalot here, except for the stuff about the Revenant…I would have agreed 110% if you’d liked the Revenant.

    I think it’s one thing if you just have a toxic need to pick about and hate shit. Visit the AICN message boards for a taste of that cesspool of misery, snark, and rancor.

    However, I think taking the time to tear apart a movie that you dislike–or to identify the flaws in a movie that was just okay but could have been great–can be a constructive act, because you’re trying to spur things on toward excellence or you’re trying to make a contrast to the films that go beyond “serviceable” to “really good” or beyond “really good” to “excellent.” Like I said, I bag on a film like Indy IV because I know those guys can do way, way better than that, and I believe they owe the fans excellence. It’s a whole different set of expectations than for, say, Ex Machina or It Follows. Those are lower budget and wholly new concepts from younger filmmakers, so it’s a whole other set of expectations.

  101. It´s being fair to the movie,right? That´s what it is about.

  102. You guys seem good at wasting words.

  103. So you’re telling me that a two-hour video shitting on a decade-old movie that everybody on the internet already hates was just trying to offer George Lucas some constructive criticism? Granted, you’ve seen it and I haven’t (and won’t) but that sounds unlikely. To me, it sounds like they wanted their clicks and they got them the old fashioned way: by appealing to a pre-existing prejudice in the intended demographic and piling on an easy target.

    You say there’s value there. Fine. I believe you. Still not gonna watch it or anything whose brand name is built on disliking things. I don’t need that kind of outlook in my life. I am already well aware of how and why and since when and in what quantities everything sucks. In fact, it can be hard to see past all the stuff that sucks to find anything of any value. So what I DO need in my life are people who can point out what things DON’T suck and stand by them, even if everybody else finds it easier to just just jump on the cynicism bandwagon. Somebody whose amazing innovation is to dog-pile on THE PHANTOM fucking MENACE in the second decade of the 21st century is not that person and I don’t need to entertain that line of thinking at a time when I’m trying to walk a more positive path.

  104. I have never said any of that. Look to others. They shit words. I don´t.

  105. Shoot: I was responding to Mixalot. But I’m gonna shut up now, because I clearly don’t have anything nice to say about these people who don’t have anything nice to say about movies.

  106. No apologies for being verbose, either. :) It takes me time to articulate why a movie bothers me, so I’m kind of external processing it.

    I think the desire to not be snarky or define yourself as “not one of those cynical, snarky fanboy types” can push you too far in the opposite direction of “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all,” which makes no sense to me.

  107. Majestyk, I don’t know whether the RLM video is offering “constructive criticism,” but I think it does offer a pretty penetrating and on-target and non-hand-waving point-by-point analysis of why Phantom Menace utterly fails as a film, and I don’t think it’s done just to be bilious, but it’s done as an exercise in film criticism and analysis. The implicit and at times explicit contrast throughout the film is with what works in the original Star Wars films, which illustrates my point that we are able to better understand what works not only through example but through contrast with things that fail.

  108. I think my instinctive distaste for it is that it hits a little too close to home. I have written epic screeds about why something sucks. I know that instinct. And while you could say I learned something about what makes a movie work by spending so much effort unpacking ones that didn’t, I think it took a toll on my generosity of spirit. I think making art is hard, even bad art, and as someone with his own art in the works, I’m trying to give artists the right to do things their way, even if that way sucks, and just keep it moving onto the next thing that might not suck. I fail at that a lot and I don’t think criticizing bad work is wrong or anything, but when you decide to embark on a major project that’s all about tearing another artist’s work apart, well, that just rubs me the wrong way. But that’s his art and he can do it however he wants. I’m just gonna keep it moving and leave him to it.

  109. I can only respect that. Peace.

  110. I believe I already mentioned that I don’t care for RLM’s prequel reviews but that their content and outlook has improved since then and was just trying to offer an alternative to the “these guys are clickbaiting haters” sentiments. But seeing as how I’ve been accused of wasting and shitting words I’m just going to shut up now. You’re a real stand up guy by the way, Shoot. Way to support a community trying to stay diplomatic and Ellis-free.

  111. Majestyk – Just quickly though, I honestly have no idea how you interpreted what I wrote to you as a defence of the prequel reviews. I plainly stated that I despised them but that their shit has improved since then. Fuck knows I’ve thought and done some questionable shit in my life but hopefully I’m a better person now and can learn from my past mistakes to make better future decisions. I thought that the redemptive nature of the RLM story was something worth discussing on this sight considering how our community is all about finding honour and redemption and all that good shit. Sorry for Mary Sue-ing the place up.

  112. Lotta people up on pedestals, here. Can’t say I’m surprised by it.

    I don’t agree with everything they say, but RLM has earned their success. Mike Stoklasa – at the urging of friends and probably because he felt like it – decided to review the Next Generation Star Trek movies while donning the persona of an old, murderous pervert; Mr. Harry Plinkett. He’s stated in the past that the ridiculous nature of the character helps to convey that he doesn’t want people to take this stuff too seriously. That said, the guy is genuinely critical (he’d harbored disappointment with the film GENERATIONS and through Plinkett was able to voice his problems in an entertaining way). I know some people find the character – and the perverted humor – to be grating, but his analysis is generally well thought-out, and accurate.

    It only made sense for him to then do THE PHANTOM MENACE.

    The review, in a word, is THERAPEUTIC. PHANTOM MENACE was extremely disappointing (the most disappointing movie ever?), and the next two were just as bad. Lots of people feel the way I do. We all watched Star Wars suck in front of our very eyes. Like watching our God crumble to dust.

  113. Skani – sorry about not liking The Revenant bud. I gave it my best shot. Glad to hear you loved it though!Really looking forward to reading Vern’s take on it.

  114. Majestyk, good to hear your work of art is still on the cards, it’s been a while since you mentioned it. Be sure to share it with us :)

  115. Mixalot: I guess I kind of mashed a few different things you were saying into one big misinterpretation. Sorry about that. I get where you’re at now. I hope my point also became clearer in my later post.

    Christie: I don’t know, man, it seems like ten years should be long enough to get over some bad movies you saw. If STAR WARS is your God, then it’s probably pretty healthy overall to have your faith crumbled.

  116. Skani, I respect your expectation that a franchise’s universe should have some visual consistency between episodes.

    However, I still think it should be permissible to have new styles or imagery, instead of just vetoing them on the grounds that “this series never did that before, therefore it should never do it.”

    ALIENS had more wisecracks and epic fighting than ALIEN. EMPIRE STRIKES BACK has better cinematography, better acting, and a major role for a character played by a puppet, and its few location scenes were in the snow whereas the previous film was largely in the desert. WRATH OF KHAN had more action, adventure and warmth (and completely different costumes) than STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE. TERMINATOR 2 AND EVIL DEAD 2 had noticeably bigger budgets than their originals. If you marathon the 007 movies, you’ll see that they too evolve to keep up with the times.

    But we don’t look at those movies and say “how dare they, that contradicts the look and feel of the previous movie.” Instead we’re glad that they took it up a notch with their next attempt.

    Even in the case of prequel episodes, I’m not sure it’s always necessary to deny modern tools when producing new episodes just to make them look 100% like earlier episodes. When baby Kirk is born on a starship in the J.J. Abrams STAR TREK film, should that scene have been shot, lit and scored to make it look like a 1960s TV episode, or should it look like a modern movie? When modern Doctor Who does flashbacks of the early life of the Doctor (or of Davros, a villain introduced in the 1970s), should those scenes have been shot on cheap-looking videotape to match the classic series? In both of those examples I would say no, because the point is to make something to be viewed by a modern audience, using modern standards.

    Arguing about Star Wars is pointless because for some reason that series attracts a fan base that is uniquely anti-innovation and anti-novelty and anti-originality, to a degree rarely seen in other fandoms. So I will only say that I really don’t get why it’s such a crime to use new visual-effects technology you hadn’t seen before in a series that was originally famous for introducing new visual-effects technology you hadn’t seen before.

    Each of the “original” Star Wars films was pushing the available technology beyond what could previously be achieved. The motion-control technology used to make the space shots in Episode IV was as cutting-edge in 1977 as virtual sets and digital characters were in 1999. The motion-blurred “go-motion” effect of the scout walkers in JEDI did not exist for the original film and was used only briefly and primitively for the Tauntaun in EMPIRE, yet nobody argues that its more extensive use in JEDI therefore violates the aesthetic that was previously established.

    In short, I don’t completely agree with the idea that all the installments of a franchise should be visually interchangeable like episodes of a TV show. Having new styles and imagery is what keeps a movie series alive. And movies should be allowed to keep up and look new, and not just stay completely old-fashioned just because they’re part of a series that started decades ago.

  117. Majestyk – no apologies necessary and I completely understood where you were coming from in the later post you made. Thank you for taking the time out to chat about this with me. I really like being able to respectfully discuss differing points of view on this sight with fellow commentators who I respect, with you definitely being amongst the top of them.

  118. Yeah, I’m thinking: If you can’t waste words in a discussion thread, then I don’t know where you can? Or what a discussion thread is for. If it’s too verbose, just ignore the comment (I’m used to it!) :)

  119. Likewise, even though I think there is such a thing as constructive conflict or tearing something down as a mode of analysis, I agree that snark gets mixed in, some groups produce good analysis in spite of their snark and cynicism, and that a full-on unmitigated commitment to being a cranky asshole or too-cool-for-school snarkmeister is not striving for excellence. And I fully support Majestyk doing what he needs to do to move life in a positive direction. That’s awesome!

  120. If anything came out assholish, I sincerely appologize, I got pretty drunk last night. A sad state to be in when commenting.

  121. Shoot, as penance, you must change your name to Word-Shitter McKay for one day, say three hail mary’s, and tell your mother you love her!

  122. Curt, your point re: styles is taken, and if you’re really penetrating, I’m sure you can find important stylistic perturbations even within the original trilogy. Further, there are film series that I enjoy that are visually and stylistically all over the place, like the aforementioned Freddy Krueger and Jason films. I think the difference with them is that they were churning those out one-a-year, low budget, rushjobs, and so even then, the expectations were pretty low, and you were just having fun with it.

    With Star Wars prequels and Indy IV, I think I have a host of complaints that I think are just symptomatic of losing touch with what made the original films great. And, bottom line, I just don’t like the look of the prequels or Indy IV…it’s not just that they are different, it’s that they are worse, in my view. As I said above, they seem to reflect either skewed visual-aesthetic sensibilities, tunnel-vision preoccupation with cgi-type imagery, or a laziness about real landscapes. For a lower-budget middle-of-franchise Freddy film directed by random-also-ran-director-x, I’ve got a whole other set of expectations.

  123. Also, Curt, your point about Empire vs. New Hope astounds me. I’m not saying you can’t move to new settings, like from sand to snow. An Indiana Jones film in a snowy setting could be awesome. I don’t really know what else to say, except that I feel the cartoonishness of the prequels for almost all of their running time. The final battle on lava planet looks like a real well-done fighting video game. Literally the only time I can think of that doesn’t just feel like the green screen show are some of the scenes on Tattooine.

    I also think some of the comments Vern has made to the effect that they did use models and did use some actual sets in the prequels are a bit of a diversion. I’m not saying literally everything on screen is a computer image, but I’m saying a huge chunk of it is, and it frequently feels like it. I just watched that arena fighting scene from Clones (with my kids), and I am almost certain that Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, and Hayden C are the only actual physical substances in that shot.

    And, again, I’m not just saying as a matter of moral principle that this is reprehensible, I’m saying it looks like crap. It looks like a goofy cartoon. Not only is it a new and different world from the originals, it is a completely different and inferior and utterly ethereal visual language. These are not just new, ambitious, spacious worlds, they are cartoony, silly, ridiculous worlds that have almost no visual linkage to the cinematic world of the originals. It is like if Rocket Raccoon shows up as a character in the next Ridley Scott Alien film. The human-cartoon interaction approaches Space Jam levels of silliness, except with Space Jam the fact that Bugs Bunny is a cartoon is the whole point. In this film, you’re actually supposed to believe that General Grievous is a real thing that Ewan McGregor interacted with on screen the same way you believed that Yoda was a real thing that Mark Hamill interacted with onscreen. I submit that the difference between Grievous-McGregor vs. Yoda-Hammil is night and day in favor of the latter, and this despite what may be the most critical 15+ years of cinematic technology advances (during which we got T2)…advances in many cases due to ILM…we end up with a film that looks sillier, more cartoonish, and less real than anything in Star Wars 1. Heck, look at Jabba in special edition New Hope compared to Jabba in Return of the Jedi? Tell me cartoon Jabba is forward progress? Tell me Shia swinging with the monkeys in a hazy green web of pixels or Russian guy being consumed by an uncanny valley globule of simulated ant goo is forward progress. I can’t even begin to understand how someone could perceive things that way, though I accept that it is so.

    Also, I would argue that even though Aliens had a very different tone and feel to Alien, that is more just in terms of James Cameron’s particular tone. It feels like an extension and another take on the Alien world, just like Empire felt like a tonal and visual departure that extended and still range true with the world established by the original. The prequels are completely uncoupled from the world of the originals, except for the scenes on Tatooine and maybe the final Darth Vadering at the end of Revenge of the Sith.

  124. You look at a “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” and you look at “Space Seed” the TOS episode it’s a sequel of that was made 15 years earlier and it doesn’t look like they’re the same universe AT ALL. The disparity in visual aesthetics between the TV show and the movies is huge but Star Trek fans don’t care because the movies made that world look more realistic while they have nostalgic affection for the look of the earlier TV show. They can come up with all sorts of reasons why the Klingons don’t have forehead ridges like they do later and stuff like that. It wouldn’t work in reverse. You couldn’t have the real looking movies and then the TV show with the cheap sets and bad special effects.

    When the AVENGERS AGE OF ULTRON came out people complained about the shot in the beginning with a virtual camera as it followed all the Avengers because it looked fake and CGI. It does but there was also a similar shot in the original movie that was during the final hour that looked just as fake as the AOU shot but people loved it! There was no realism in it at all as a camera went from Black Widow to Iron Man flying down to a CLEARLY CGI Captain America following up to Hawkeye as he shoots an arrow and then follows it to Hulk and Thor fighting aliens on top of a giant space whale. The reason that shot was accepted was that there were more realistic shots of the Avengers fighting earlier and that the shot in the first movie showed all the Avengers fighting together for the first time. It was an important story point and the CGI was serving it. The only point to the AOU shot was only spectacle and I think that’s why it didn’t work as well.

    Now about LAST CRUSADE I love the tank used in the movie, which actually doesn’t exist in real life. They basically took a WWI tank, which didn’t have turrets and put a turret on it with a big gun like a WW II tank.

  125. “It wouldn’t work in reverse.”

    Exactly. My point is not that CGI is bad, it’s that bad CGI is bad. I have no doubt there is a lot CGI going on in the Nolan films, in Force Awakens, and in other movies. The difference is, it didn’t actively and persistently disrupt my suspension of disbelief mid-movie.

  126. Shoot – I shouldn’t have snapped at you man. You’re entitled to your opinions and I shouldn’t have taken the low road like I did and call you out for something you said. We’re all friends here (mostly) which is why I love this sight so much.

    I remember being a kid and watching a behind-the-scenes making of for an episode of YUNG INDY where they explained that in order to get a particular shot they were going to have to digitally paint the camera operator out of the scene. I’d never heard such wild shit before in my life and it blew my damn tiny mind out of my head. I’m probably wrong but I think they might have said that it was the first time that sort of technology had ever been used. If that’s the case, and ILM developed the technique, that’s another major innovation we can thank Lucas for as digitally removing unwanted shit from a shot is de rigueur for most movies these days big and small.

  127. And I agree with Vern and others that Lucas is to be HUGELY commended for his technical innovations. And I would even go so far as to commend him for the technical risks he takes with the prequel trilogy. It’s not even that the CGI is “bad” as I say above–it’s pretty good, crisp, animation. But it still feels like animation and is too much. Lucas did a very bold thing, which as to try to use digital effects to create entire worlds that probably could not have been done practically. My only point is that I think this experiment–even if it is the shoulders upon which better future iterations will stand–failed in the case of the prequels, because they ultimately could not break out of the uncanny valley. The human-digital interactions felt like Space Jam or Roger Rabbit–not quite that bad, but close enough that I personally could not shot off the “these guys are in a cartoon” mantra, running like a loop in my head.

    The difference I see (as best I can explain) with Nolan’s films or the Pirates films or even Matrix or LotR or the bear in Revenant, is that overall, these films almost never feel like cartoons. In the case of Nolan and Revenant, it always feels pretty photo-realistic to me. In the case of Pirates, it’s mostly photo-realistic with some occasional really well done CGI that is a bit cartoony, but in keeping with the overall aesthetic of the film and the Disney-ish-ness (Davy Jone’s tentacle beard, the ghost pirates). With Matrix and LotR or Sin City or 300 (haven’t actually seen the last one, but have seen trailers), it’s not intended to be photo-realistic, it’s a different kind of surreal/hyperstylized aesthetic that is part and parcel of the visual world of the films–and it looks good. With Star Wars prequels, it is closer to Roger Rabbit than to any of these things, and it betrays the aesthetic of the originals, and this is on top of the horrible dialogue, wooden performances, and lack of a central character with whom you identify or tight, clearly focused plot development.

  128. Recently they showed the VFX reel for The Force Awakens and some things that some scenes that turned out to be green screen were a surprise and some weren’t. Like I knew Rey climbing around the inside the vast wreck of the Star Destroyer had to be a special effect just because they wouldn’t build something that huge in real life but it looked real enough on the screen. The way they shot it and the way they matched the CGI environment with what little piece of set they did have live was completely seamless and it didn’t take me out of the movie. Also when Rey and Finn are being chased by a TIE fighter and the ship they were originally going to take gets blown up so they take the “garbage” ship and the camera pans and it turns out to be the Millennium Falcon, the Falcon is completely CGI, but you would swear they built the real giant prop and brought it out there in Dubai where they filmed it.

  129. MIXALOT- Yeah, we all have the decency here to acknowledge if one is out of line and it doesn´t have to esceaate and we can nip it in the bud. I don´t think there is anything for you to apologize for really as far as I am concerned. I was drunk and wasn´t aware really what I wrote or how it could have been perceived as. That´s on me.

  130. Absolutely, Lawrence. I’m not claiming that TFA looks better because “it used practical effects, not CGI” in some all-or-none, dogmatic way. I’m saying it looked better because it looked better. It did not look like a cartoon. In creating a visual world, I judge you by the finished aesthetic and how it affects my filmgoing experience, not the means. Provided the means are ethical :)

  131. This must be a hoax. I had been assured that the movie would be created entirely without computers. JJ wouldn’t even allow his crew to send emails, so the various departments communicated with each other via carrier pigeon.

    But seriously: Can we all at least admit that the reason the CGI in TFA looks better is because of advances brought about in large part by pioneering filmmakers like Lucas, who pushed the limits of the technology when it was in its infancy? If Lucas and Cameron and Jackson—who all now get shat on for “relying on CGI”—had played it safe with digital characters and environments and only used tried-and-true methods that produced absolutely photorealistic results, we’d never be at the point where the baseline of CGI is so good that people don’t even notice it anymore.

    So you can say that the effects in the prequels weren’t that great (I disagree–I will take the colorful, dynamic, slightly cartoon-like pizazz of the prequels effects over the uninspired “realism” of TFA any day) but they were an absolutely crucial stepping stone on the path to the much more elaborate and convincing effects we have today. Filmmakers like Abrams with no desire to push the medium forward are reaping the rewards of standing on the shoulders of trailblazers like Lucas.

  132. You make some good points. I have yet to see the new STAR WARTS but I don´t give a shit about who came first or who did the effects better. All I care about is if the story and character works. If the effects that are created makes a more believable world I am all for it.

  133. That’s fine. Being first doesn’t mean being best, and a thing’s history and its effectiveness should be two separate things. But I think you do need to concede that the prequels, in terms of visual filmmaking technology, were an important, even crucial, staging ground for the advancements of the past two decades.

    There seems to exist this attitude that suggests that Lucas CHOSE to make the effects in the prequels look less realistic than the ones in TFA because he’s just that big of a dummy, not that he was working with digital technology that is so obsolete in modern terms that it coexisted with VHS, analog answering machines, non-texting cell phones, and AOL dial-up. He had a dream that was probably not even plausible at the time, but he did the best with what he had, and the things he and his crew learned on the job, even the mistakes, became the foundation for the more convincing effects work we see now.

    So if you like the effects in TFA, you can thank Lucas for that. They were made by the company he founded and nurtured for 35 years, using techniques largely developed on his own films. You can like what came later more if you want, but it’s just ignorance not to respect the pioneers that made it possible.

  134. I don´t think Lucas is the sole person to thank for that. But I guess he was a big part of it and I do respect the contribution of visual effects he made. However I don´t care for his revisionist attitude towards the original, which is my only beef with him. I don´t particularly like the prequels, but I don´t need to dwell on their existence either.

  135. I did mention Jackson and Cameron in my other post. I should have added the Wachowskis, too. The five of them (all now fallen out of favor with the internetelligentisa) were all pushed their crews to create methods that were revolutionary at the time but are commonplace now. However, I give the lion’s share of the credit to Lucas for the TFA effects because they were done by ILM, which wouldn’t exist without Lucas’ lifelong commitment to trying new things with film technology.

    Really, I don’t want to knock the new film. It’s okay and I can see why people would relate more to the user-friendly, HBO-pilot-episode approach than to Lucas’ often-distancing visual ambition. I can even concede that it’s (mostly) a better film than THE PHANTOM MENACE. I just wish people would give credit where it’s due. This new film that has made so many people happy was only possible because of Lucas, not in spite of him.

  136. Which HBO pilot just remade a different HBO pilot?

    (Probably too snarky, but I am legitimately curious what you mean by that, and why ‘HBO’ in particular).

  137. Oh and I guess the answer to my not-legitimate question would be Ballers. Ballers just remade Entourage.

  138. Nobody is mentioning Stephen Sommers here. His MOMMIES had pretty shockingly bad effects, but couldn´t you say they were equally instrumental to the development? They had some bad FX but perhaps gave good lessons on how to do them or NOT how to do them. People love to shit on them, but I love them personally as some people defend Lucas prequels.

    Those were ILM pictures, but I figure Sommers signed on the effects. I mean if we are going to be forgiving towards the past, I throw my cents this way. Hate the MOMMIES if you will, but I never will. Those are fun films as far as I am concerned.

  139. Shit, I just realized I might have dug my early grave with that last comment.

  140. I just used HBO as shorthand for “impressive production values.” The film felt to me like the first episode of a TV show, introducing various mysterious characters without really telling us much about them because we know that these are the story arcs that will be developed over the course of the season. Also, the set-pieces felt rushed to get to the next character beat instead if stretching out to feel cinematic.

    Honestly, I think this TV feel is what people liked about it. People like TV waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay more than they like movies nowadays, so it makes sense that they’d respond to the sort of heightened interpersonal conflict and carrot-on-a-stick storytelling approach that keeps them talking about their favorite shows around the water cooler every week.

    Me, I like cinema. Three act structure, tight focus on a single theme, big show-stopping production numbers, showoffy flamboyance, dialogue-free visual storytelling, characters who are often more iconic than human. But I get why the other way connects easier.

  141. Majestyk, I think we can separate Lucas the humanitarian/technological innovator and his overall career from the prequels series. I think he is clearly a huge innovator and contributor to all of filmmaking, he seems like a great advocate and champion of others, and he’s just generally a cinema hall-of-famer. Further, the prequels were technologically and cinematically innovative (quote me on it). My only argument is that, on their own merits, I don’t like the films. I think they are bad films. And I don’t think it’s cynical or mean-spirited or whatever to call them that.

  142. IF you feel that way, you’re not the type of person I’m talking about, because that’s a rational, honest appraisal that doesn’t involve throwing away an important artist’s entire legacy because a couple movies disappointed you.

  143. Have I missed something and completely lost my fucking mind? Because I don´t understand a goddamn thing.

  144. Shoot, are you drinking again? lol. :)

  145. Is it impossible to dislike the prequels all of a sudden? I must have missed that memo

  146. When did I say that? I’m just talking about the special effects. People nowadays are like “Fuck Lucas, CGI sucks” while praising the new one for its effects that wouldn’t have been possible without the stuff Lucas did in the prequels. You can hate the movies all you want, but give them their place in history is all I’m saying.

  147. To: Shoot
    Re: You Must Agree with Me That Prequels and Indy IV Are Not Good Films

    If you go back through the Force Awakens thread and this and the Crystal Skull thread, I think you’ll find a kind of meta-pushback where people are actually making the case that the prequels and Indy IV are actually pretty good and have been underappreciated and unfairly aligned. And, furthermore, there actually better than or more noble than the Force Awakens (in the case of the prequels) or Last Crusade (in the case of Indy). There’s also a little bit of a sentiment I detect from some that disliking on the prequels or Indy IV is tantamount to just generally being a cynic or a hater or not appreciating George Lucas’s boldness or his other contributions to film. Or that George Lucas deserves a pass on his recent output because his intentions were good or because he did good things in the past or because his failures created the technologies on which others’ successes now stand. I agree with all of the good things about Lucas, I’m just pushing back against the notion that this some how makes the prequels good films or makes people who criticize them “negative” people, and I’m definitely pushing back on the even further credulity-straining assertion that these are, in fact, better films than the respective films they’re being juxtaposed against (TFA and Indy III).

  148. I never hated anything. Please point me to those claims. I may have jumped the gun and started waving my arms like a drunken idiot (Thank you, Skani!) but I have not hated anything in my latest claims.

    I was going to say something before I hit one button that got me back to the second world war. What was it again? Let me think. Fuck. I hit one button and everything is erased. Jesus.

    But, yes. I have been drinking again. And I lost my track of thnking.

  149. I am not proud of it

  150. I didn’t say any of that so I’m just gonna bounce from this convo. I’ve been motherfucking Bernie Sanders on my consistency of opinion concerning TFA, the prequels, CRYSTAL SKULL, George Lucas, and the legacy of same. Y’all can like or not like whatever you want. But there’s no pushback or backlash or boomerang action coming from me. I stand by my record.

  151. Crushinator Jones

    January 27th, 2016 at 1:48 pm

    If it’s any consolation, Majestyk, I’ve been reading this and you’ve been perfectly understandable and consistent to me.

  152. No, I don’t mean you. I mean, I think this even describes Vern, for instance. I think Vern is something of a prequel apologist and a Crystal Skull apologist (going a far as to suggest Crystal Skull is better than Last Crusade), and he was notably mixed in his reaction to Force Awakens. I’m not specifically targeting Vern, because I think others have expressed similar things, a la, “at least the prequels take some risks or do some worldbuilding” (paraphrase, see TFA thread). And these are fine positions to take, and I enjoy debating them, and I disagree with them :).

    Where I get a little more pugnacious is where there is a degree of Lucas apologetics where it’s almost like defending Bill Cosby: “Don’t destroy the man’s legacy!” My only point: His legacy is firmly intact and his later franchise entries are failures and profoundly disappointing as films unto themselves, even if they do interesting things or make interesting contributions.

  153. Majestyk, I think you’re fine. Feel free to leave if the discussion is played out or stressful, but I’m having fun here and I’m not taking any (and hopefully not giving too much) offense. :) And I’m honestly not trying to troll. I just enjoy refining and better understanding my own views through dialogue with you fine gentleman (and ladies). I enjoy the discussion and homing in on where the differences of opinion lie. At the end of the day, we can just disagree, and it’s still fun (for me) to talk/constructively argue about why we disagree. That’s why we’re here, right?

  154. so uh anyway, The Last Crusade. Great blockbuster cinema, although on repeated viewings I notice it doesn’t REALLY come alive until Sean Connery enters the picture. The relationship between him and Indy is the beating heart of the film, its what makes it more than just a sitcom Raiders rehash. I still tear up “I thought I lost ya boy!” and “Indiana…let it go”.

    Its a beautifully shot movie as well, tightly edited by Michael Kahn, with some of the series best gags and, for my money, the best set piece in the series with the Tank chase. Tom Stoppard dialog polish really pays off, especially compared to the shit they had the cast say in Temple of Doom. John Williams is in fine form, too. Just a lot of the right elements coming together here for a more than fine end to the Indiana Jones trilogy.

  155. Have I been provoking shit then I appologize.

  156. Vern has been a bit too much of a George Lucas acolyte in my opinion. I think Lucas needed a bit of goodwill, but it has almost tipped over to Ridiculou-Hood.

  157. I do think the prequels are more noble than TFA, if not necessarily better. I think TFA is an ignoble work of hackery. I obviously don’t think that’s absurd, I think it just boils down to a different value system. ‘Looking like a cartoon’ isn’t the mortal sin in my eyes that it is in some people’s, I guess. I consider creative bankruptcy much worse.

    /needlessly overly strident opinion

  158. George Lucas is like Stan Lee, in that he’s probably the most overrated AND underrated creator in the medium. He’s needs neither the deification nor the cruxification he receives from the hyperbole filled nerd culture.

  159. Jesus, the prequalists are creeping up like real bad infestation now. Fuck, get me some insecticide!

  160. “Have I been provoking shit then I appologize.”

  161. Oops, “some people” came out like a bitchy swipe at Skani. Which it is, a little, but I didn’t mean *just* Skani. I think Skani is correct when he identifies the cartoonish look of the prequels as a real point of contention, not just for him, but for lots of people.

  162. Hypocrite-factor! Engage!

  163. The Original Paul

    January 27th, 2016 at 2:13 pm

    Wow, this place gets lively when I’m not around.

    On the prequels and Skani’s comments: Skani, I agree with you 100% in terms of how “cartoony” the prequels look, although that’s not necessarily the word that I’d use. It’s worth saying, however, that while the fans may not like the thematic dissonance, I don’t like them because of the “uncanny valley” effect, plus the uninteresting characters, confusing storyline, frequent videogame-inspired action segments, and overall pointlessness (I still don’t understand why the filmmakers told us the one story that we already know). In short, I think those films have many, many more problems than just dissonance of theme, but then I’m speaking from the point of view of someone who wasn’t a “fan” of the original trilogy in the first place.

    Majestyk: just how much “place in history” do those films deserve? If I hear a discussion on “groundbreaking special effects” it usually refers to ALIEN, TERMINATOR 2, or THE THING. The STAR WARS prequels rarely get mentioned – in fact, the original STAR WARS gets mentioned a lot more for being the genesis of the modern-day “blockbuster”. I’m not necessarily disagreeing with you on the question of influence, but it seems like a very subjective point, and one that’s hard to quantify.

    Going back to Skani (who is rapidly becoming one of my favorite voices in this place, by the way, he has so much to say that’s interesting):

    Usually, when I say a movie is bad, I mean that it fails in what I presume it is trying to do–not that it has to 100% fail or 100% succeed, but that it doesn’t succeed enough for me to call it a success :) It was trying to scare me, but I wasn’t scared. It was trying to be funny, but I wasn’t laughing. It was trying to provoke thought, but it was only pretentious and superficially “deep.” It was trying to get me invested in the main characters, but I wasn’t. And so on. I think I have a good sense of what Indy IV or Phantom Menace is trying to do based on the other films in the series and in the genre. And I think both of them fail. For me they do, at least.

    See this is a hard one for me, because there are many films that I think are “successes” on their own terms, and which I dislike or outright despise (WAR OF THE WORLDS 2005, BURIED, THE CELL…) and many films that I think aspire to standards that they don’t even come close to meeting, and yet I think are still worth watching (ZERO DARK THIRTY is the big example of this for me). I agree on the broader point: if a film sets out to entertain me and then doesn’t do so, I’ll try and analyse why that is, and whether it’s a problem with the film, with my own mindset, or even (as is increasingly common nowadays) with the screening or circumstances in which I saw it. I guess that what I mean by a film’s “success” is only loosely related to the standards I think it’s set for itself. There are plenty of “dramatic” films that have left me howling with laughter at every turn; they may not have “succeeded” on their own terms, but I’d recommend them nonetheless!

  164. Skani: No offense taken and none meant. I’m just trying real hard here to see both sides of the story and not shit on anything anyone likes, so when it feels like I’m being misunderstood, I take it hard.

    My point is, nothing can destroy George Lucas’ legacy. His legacy right this instant is the biggest motherfucking blockbuster movie hit of all fucking time. I just feel bad for people who can’t seem to appreciate everything his work has brought to the art form of motion pictures. That’s not any of you guys, but there’s a big old internet out there full of “fans” who don’t want to give any credit where it’s due. That pisses me off.

    And for the record, I truly enjoy Eps II and III way more than Ep VII. They might not technically be better movies, but they’re way more fun and interesting.

    Considering how livid I was about the entire concept of new STAR WARSes a few months ago, I think conceding that on average it’s superior to PHANTOM MENACE (except in terms of action and visuals and score) is some kind of fucking breakthrough for me.

  165. I think filmcrithulk was on about “tangible details”. Like people know they didn’t like a thing, so they grab on to surface level details. Phantom Menace’s look would have been fine if it wasn’t filled with lifeless non-characters with lost actors delivering horrible dialog, stuck in a narrative with confused stakes and has no idea how to combine its twin strands of “Naboo vs Trade Federation” and “Anakin wants to get off this desert planet”.

  166. This thread might have gone over board. Let me steer it into a holy grail territory. I might not have read most of the threads. BUt THE LAST CRUSADE is a sweet film. The opening is mostly lead to a fun opening , not into a serious canonization of the Indy-world. As long as you get that, you can have some serious fun. Jesus, dawgs, lighten up. It can be a fun adventure! And fuck off if you have a problem with this.

    The search for the holy grail and Indys search for his relationship towards his father is probably the most deep this series has got. What the fuck is the problem with that? Nothing, I´d say. You could argue that thay the way towards that is a problem. If you feel that way, you are a cynical fucking twat. Ford and Connery, despite the annoyingly little age difference makes for a fun pair to hang with. The banter is great and the feel of a real adventure has never been as tight. We go from Venice to Austria to Generic Africa that leads into one of the most awesome tank battles in cinema history. Do you have a problem with that? probably for some reason. It is great. We see Indy struggle alongside his father.

    But the greatest part is the finale. His father gets shot so Indy is forced to face the final challenges alone. It is a GREAT SEQUENCE! Now Indy REALLY have to live up to his adventoureous( however you spell that, you spelltwats) image. I don´t think I have seen a sequence so clearly delineated and so crystal clear to the audience but at the same time works thematically as well.

    Good job, LAST CRUSADE. Bad luck, people who hate it. I need a drink.

  167. I think the best part about the finale is how it gives Indy such a strong motivation in-line with his earlier declaration, “I’m not looking for the Grail, I’m looking for my father!”. Now to get his father, he HAS to get the Grail. And they’re finally speaking the same language as they come to the same conclusion about the religious clues for the death traps, even though they’re not in direct contact with each other. That stuff is so good, with such strong editing, acting, and music to this sequence, I rarely think about how actually lame/nonsensical the death traps really are. I still tense up when Indy has to grab his heart and make the leap of faith. “You have to believe boy…”

  168. Spot! On!- jeremy99

  169. I support all this stuff except for the hostility, which can go fuck off and die in a chemical fire with its whole family.

  170. THE LAST CRUSADE is the happiest of the first three and I suppoort it wholeheartedky. It works on all levels to me, and frankfully, yes it makes me a happier person.Imagine that!

  171. I just need to learn to ignore those people who disagree.

  172. I just need to learn to ignore those people who disagree.

  173. Great discussion. Jeremy, JTS, O.P., Majestyk, Shoot, all of you. Really good comments and a great community.

    Jeremy’s point about tangible details is a good one. Part of the reason my own comments are so all over the place is that, although I think there are common elements in prequels and Indy that I dislike, it can’t be reduced “CGI” or even “bad CGI” or “not the right kind of CGI for the series” or whatever. It’s a whole cluster of things. A kind of tone deafness in general.

    And I think Broddie and O.P. make a good point that it’s not just about “success” or whatever. Like Paul says, when I call a film bad, that’s usually just shorthand for “I didn’t care for it,” but sometimes it does veer into “I think this film makes some bad choices that, if done differently (or not at all) would have made for a much more enjoyable, challenging, and rewarding film with more quasi-objective aesthetic merit.” It’s obviously an incredibly subjective thing, and yet it feels as though there is some quasi-objective aesthetic reality here: that Alien and Godfather really are in some sense aesthetically superior to Legally Blonde 2 and Exit Wounds. Anyway, I enjoy these post-mortems. :)

    And JTS’s points are well-taken, too. I totally get where JJ Abrams has this reputation for hackery, and although I enjoyed TFA and think it does more novel things than it gets credit for, I think it is true that it played it a bit safer and more recycle-y than it could have, and I agree that there is something oddly alienating about the way he has become this sort of journeyman style-emulator, franchise-rebooter niche. Kind of like the Tom Ripley of filmmaking. That said, I still dig TFA after one viewing…time will tell how it holds up.

  174. And everything Shoot and Jeremy say about Last Crusade is spot on.

    I swear I’m not stirring the pot here, but yesterday I went ahead and watched the Plinkett RLM review of Last Crusade, and even though I agree that it’s definitely snarky and stuff, I think, again, it’s a very penetrating analysis that is basically the logical opposite of Shoot’s comments above. Shoot and Jeremy delineated many of the things that make Last Crusade great, and the RML review in turn penetrates to the things that are in some respects fundamentally wrong w/ Skull (again, better than I could). Also, as with the Phantom Menace review, they are implicitly and explicitly extolling the virtues of the preceding films as models of excellent filmmaking to emulate and as positive counter-examples.

    I can see where it’s possible that one won’t see past the snark or will just look at it is part of the cacophony of “Lucas raped my childhood,” but if you can look past that, I think there is some really good, penetrating analysis as to why the film doesn’t work, or at least why it pales in comparison to its predecessors. Not just because it’s newer or because it’s CGI, or because people just like being contrarian, but because these are real flaws that shed light on what’s underneath some of the vague “was it just me or was that really disappointing and weird?” reactions many of us had to these films. Although they are snarky, I think there’s very good analysis in there. It’s not just heckling or trolling.

  175. Sorry, I mean the RLM review of Skull, not Crusade!

  176. Funny thing is when I call a film bad, I usually never bother to go any deeper into things. Paul usually does. I never do. I never bother.

  177. I believe I reviewed at least two of the prequels and CRYSTAL SKULL when they came out, and I liked them then before I knew they were going to be the go-to nerd-hate movies of the decade, so I’m not trying to be contrarian. And I also think “apologist” is kind of a condescending word to use for movies, since I’m not trying to justify a fascist ideology or something, I’m just explaining why I like some movies that you guys don’t like. I also realize that I’m in the minority on all of these things, which is why I think they’re worth writing about. The conventional wisdom is that George Lucas is a monster. I see it on the internet and hear it in real life and I think it’s worth countering. A major reason I wanted to do this series was to remind people of the Lucas’s contributions separate from the nerd controversies, so maybe I should’ve skipped Indiana Jones, but I hadn’t reviewed them before so I wanted to.

    I’m not sure yet what I’ll think when I see CRYSTAL SKULL again. It did hold up for a couple theater viewings and at least once on video, but it’s been a few years now.

  178. Vern, I meant no condescension with apologist, it just rolled off the tongue better than proponent or something. I just meant: person who takes up and defends a minority or unpopular view, which may or not be the literal definition, but that’s all I meant.

    Further, I think this series is great, and I’ve learned a lot of things about Lucas I didn’t know. And I actually bought Kagemusha and am going to watch it, and this would be my first Kurosawa film. Also, some of my best friends are George Lucas.

    Anyway, I was not on the ground floor of early 2000s prequel hate and internet feeding frenzy on that, and I didn’t even comment on the original Crystal Skull thread. So I guess I’m just a bit late to the party as far as getting some of my own prequel and KOTCS angst out of my system, and then with these reviews, it triggers an occasion for reflection and reassessment–and a chance for me to wade in with my views.

    I actually just started re-watching KOTCS tonight (it will be a series of installments for me), so, likewise, we’ll see how much I believe my own b.s. once I make it through the re-watch.

    Rock on.

  179. Skani – Oh yeah, I know you didn’t mean anything with “apologist,” I just meant to say I feel that way about the word being used for fans of a movie. But I know it’s commonly used and not intended that way.

  180. The Original Paul

    January 28th, 2016 at 6:58 pm

    I have no problems whatsoever referring to myself as a DUDE, WHERE’S MY CAR? apologist. Honestly, by most standards you could apply that have any pretence at all at objectivity, that film is terrible. I still kinda love it.

    I think “apologists” are at their worst when they’re not actually apologetic. Like a lot of the defenders of that Clint Eastwood movie, because fascism is a positive and desirable thing apparently. It’s an interesting point of semantics. Can you truly be an “apologist” when you have no guilt or regret for defending something?

  181. DUDE, WHERE’S MY CAR is the movie, that THE HANGOVER should have been. That’s all.

  182. The Original Paul

    January 29th, 2016 at 2:15 am

    Majestyk: I just feel bad for people who can’t seem to appreciate everything his work has brought to the art form of motion pictures. That’s not any of you guys, but there’s a big old internet out there full of “fans” who don’t want to give any credit where it’s due. That pisses me off.

    Majestyk, don’t feel too bad for Lucas. To this day, STAR WARS is still topping many “people’s choice” awards for “best film of all time”. I’m pretty sure the man does not lack appreciation. Hell, if anything I’d say that the hostility to him over the prequels reflects the perception that this appreciation had “gone to his head”.

    You know what I think the most basic thing that the fans objected to about the prequels was, the one thing that really distinguished them from the original trilogy? I don’t think it was the CGI, or the over-convoluted story, or the leaden dialogue. I think it was that Lucas lost sight of the fact that the original trilogy was all about the little guy standing up and being counted. It was about the plucky group of underdogs taking on the evil empire. In THE PHANTOM MENACE the closest thing you have to a “little guy” is Jar Jar or Anakin. Two characters that were almost universally despised in terms of the fans’ reaction to that film (how many Jake Lloyd fansites are there nowadays?) I think this is also why THE FORCE AWAKENS has had a largely more positive reaction – it did this thing. I’m not saying it did it well, or in a way that was original, but it did it.

  183. Speaking of Jake lloyd…
    [visual-parse url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DEmgio0VV1E”L

  184. I have to admit that I really feel bad for Jake Lloyd. I’ve watched an interview or two with him, and it sounds like he was probably a victim of bullying after staring in The Phantom Menace. Also, he recently had that run in with the police, and there were so many skeezy websites latching onto his mental health problems. I won’t even click on Shoot’s link, because I know it’s just going to be awkward.

  185. Paul — he didn’t “lose track of” that fact, he decided to do something different with the prequels. I agree with you that this was a major factor that alienated so many fans. They thought they had a known quantity, and Lucas gave them something different. But for better or for worse, that aspect of the prequels — that they completely upend the OT’s paradigm– is a feature, not a bug.

  186. The Original Paul

    January 29th, 2016 at 12:29 pm

    RBatty – I know what you mean. Listening to that interview, and taking into account some of the other stuff I’ve read, it feels as though that film ruined a large part of his life. Occupational hazard for child stars I guess – which doesn’t make it any less sad.

  187. Well-said, Subtlety. For me, they upend things for the worse, as the prequels are an inferior film. I appreciate that Lucas is trying to do something very different and very ambitious: the films are a bold experiment. And I think he made some really great technical achievements, and the prequels are not without their good moments or aspects. But I think they fall down bigtime in all of the main areas people think of in evaluating a film, which are the areas OP identifies. I agree with OP, but I would say that the leaden dialogue, the poor-to-campy performances, and just the overall look, feel, and kind of tone of the films for me are as critical to its failure as the other things OP mentions. I have yet to hear a really compelling argument for why or how these can be construed as good films, though I actually do agree with Vern about the following:

    I think overall it’s a heavily flawed but unique movie that takes you away to a detailed world and I enjoyed watching it although I didn’t get a boner for it or anything. Maybe an intermittent boner. Not literally. Forget about boners.

    Okay, the fight at the end is great. Any action movie that had a villain and final fight that good would get an automatic pass. So this is some greatness with mitigating factors.

  188. …Only difference being that, although I cannot honestly say I enjoyed watching it.

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