Thursday, May 08, 2008

Indiana Jones And The Rubbish Night Of Television. Last night Marty came into the room with a curiously unreadable expression on his face, which was explained when he revealed how much he dislikes House, which we were watching. To placate Marty, James looked up what else was on TV, and I got quite excited when he said, "Does anyone like Indiana Jones?"

Pity it was the shit one, Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom. Still, I hadn't seen it since 1988, the night before school camp, after which the scene where the dude's heart gets ripped out of his chest, still beating, so haunted my nightmares that I couldn't watch it again. My main memories, apart from that, were a banquet scene in which they eat monkey brains, and that Kate Capshaw screamed a lot.

Well anyway. It was much, much shitter than I remembered. Not only was the heart-ripping scene really fake and ungory, it was also missing much of the humour that made the first and third instalments such fun genre romps. At one point Indy says, with no irony, "We've got company."

Also, the entire adventure was entirely pointless. It should only have been released as a tie-in novel of the ilk of Star Wars: Jedi Academy. As anyone familiar with the trilogy will realise, Indiana Jones's 'proper' adventures involve stopping the Nazis from getting their hands on ancient, legendary and putatively powerful artefacts. Temple Of Doom disobeys all the rules. Here's how.

Rule 1: Successful retrieval of artefact in opening setpiece. As the film opens, Indy is seeking some kind of diamond in the Shanghai underworld, and ends up fleeing some triad dude with an irritating nightclub singer (Kate Capshaw) and an irritating yet sassy small child clad inexplicably in a baseball cap (Data from The Goonies). They escape by plane yet are forced to bail out somewhere over the Himalayas, finding themselves in India, where the titular temple is. And, um, they never got that diamond.

Rule 2: Daring and capable heroine. I'm not sure whether Kate Capshaw is a gifted actress portraying an annoying character, or a terrible actress who is just generally annoying. Her screams were more plentiful than I remembered! She screamed at pretty much anything. And when she wasn't screaming, she was doing things like repeatedly failing to get on an elephant, and expressing a desire for pretty jewellery. It is a mystery why Indy would like her, yet at the end they are pashing on. Oy.

Rule 3: Nazis! And lots of 'em! Sorry, but a shadowy Indian sect of Kali-worshippers is really not the same kind of evildoers as the Nazis. Also, I was unclear who the main villain was meant to be: the priest with red paint on his bald head, the English-accented prime minister, the evil slave-driver or the child maharajah. I won't even go into the maharajah's unlikely transcontinental mastery of voodoo.

Rule 4: Rescuing a powerful artefact from the villains. In this film, the artefact is meant to be a set of five stones that get inserted in the eye sockets of some Kali idol. The Indian villains only have three so far and have press-ganged all the local kids as slave miners to excavate under the Temple Of Doom to find the other two. The way they're going it will take them years to find the goddamn stones, and even then it's unclear what happens. Indy nicks the three extant stones, and then gives them back to some local villager. When Kate Capshaw asks why, he says, "They'll only gather dust on some shelf," which is true - except that, um, isn't that his entire raison d'ĂȘtre as an archaeologist? Indeed, at the opening of The Last Crusade, Indy insists that, "It belongs in a museum!"

In fairness, there were some other Rules that this film did obey:

Rule 6: Indy reaches for weapon, realises he doesn't have one, smiles gamely at villain.
Rule 12: When squeezing through narrow and rapidly closing gap, Indy must pause to retrieve his hat.
Rule: 51: A character who initially appears friendly to Indy turns out to be helping the baddies.
Rule 9: Ancient civilisations are invariably paranoid and protect their treasures with elaborate booby traps.
Rule 15: Many vehicular chases.
Rule 24: Any subterranean tunnel, chamber or cavern is always heavily populated with creepy-crawlies and/or vermin.
Rule 37: Indy's whip is made of Teflon and never gets irretrievably stuck on something.

After this dog's breakfast, Spielberg realised the wisdom of the Indy Rules, and went back to what worked with The Last Crusade, with the altered winning factor of Sean "You're The Man Now, Dog!" Connery. If The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull disobeys these rules, then so help me... ("So help me..." is one of those phrases you can successfully trail off without finishing, like "Why, I oughta...")

OK, but if it had no redeeming features, it had one mitigating good gag. When the Capshaw had bet the Ford he couldn't keep away for five minutes, the next four and a half minutes consist of the most frenzied violent action against all manner of fearsome threat, then he thinks, oh, is she safe? and bursts in to find out; she's been pacing impatiently the whole time and triumphantly proclaims she knew he couldn't keep away, when for almost five minutes he and the whole audience had totally forgotten she existed, much less her bet.
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