(Don’t worry, there are no spoilers here if you haven’t seen the movie.)
I’ve been to see the new Indy film. It was my wife, Halinka’s, thirtieth birthday last Friday, so we went out for dinner and then to the cinema. The classic date. I’d also organised a secret party for her the following day, which actually turned out to be a surprise, against all odds. But all the secrecy took a good few years off me, so I’ll never be doing that again.
But I digress. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. It’s George Lucas, it’s Steven Spielberg, it’s Indiana Jones. It should be rollicking good fun, right? Well, to be fair, it is. On the whole, if you ignore the gaping holes in the story, it’s all damn good comic book fun.
And you can’t expect realism. When the old Harley Davidson motorcycle performs like a new Harley Davidson motorcycle, there’s no point getting upset. (And let’s be honest, the words “perform” and “Harley Davidson motorcycle” rarely go hand in hand anyway.) When Indy and friends go over not one, but three huge waterfalls in a small amphibian army vehicle and come up roses every time, there’s no point in declaring that such a thing could never happen. After all, do you lament the fact that our yellow sun gives Superman incredible strength and the ability to fly along with Super Heat Vision? It makes no sense at all, but it’s a fantasy and we suspend disbelief to enjoy ourselves.
So, with that established, let’s hear no more of how unrealistic the events in this movie may or may not be. However, I have to say that one thing that I was concerned about with regards to realism was how they would handle the age of Harrison Ford/Indiana Jones. Suspension of disbelief is one thing, but a sixty-odd year old running and jumping like a thirty-odd year old is just bloody weird. It’s like the thought of your grandparents having sex – you know it probably happens, they may even still be good at it and really enjoy it, but you just don’t want to see it.
Fortunately they dealt with Indy’s age pretty well in the movie. He still did things that would hospitalise most thirty years olds, but he was decent enough to show that it wasn’t as easy as it used to be. They made good reference to the fact that he was more of a gentleman professor these days than a wild adventurer. It was all handled pretty well.
The story, however, was something else entirely. I wonder if the makers of this film are under the secret mind control of Erich Von Daniken? Without giving too much away, they really took liberties with the whole crystal skull thing. In researching crystal skull lore when I was writing RealmShift (as a large part of the novel is based around the discovery of a one), I learned a lot about the subject. I was actually slightly concerned about how close some of the things in this new Indy movie might be to themes I’d explored in the novel. I needn’t have worried. They make reference to one existing crystal skull (the Mitchell-Hedges) early on in the movie and then quickly and very brutally brush aside all existing skull lore to establish their own agenda for the film. I picked pretty much exactly what was going to happen from the bludgeoning subtlety of the opening scenes, but no matter. There were still some interesting twists and turns along the way, even if the majority of them completely offended common sense. Regardless of how obvious the process was and how implausible the course of events leading up to the events in the film (and those in the film, for that matter) it was still a rollicking good ride.
But, there’s one thing that I simply cannot forgive. I don’t know the budget of this movie and I can’t be arsed to look it up, but it would run into the multiple millions of dollars. All big Hollywood movies do these days. They would have spent the GNP of some medium sized nations on sets, special effects, actors fees and so on. So I can’t help but ask the question, Why did they only spend about a buck fifty on the crystal skull itself? Seriously, it’s the central theme of the movie, the primary prop and the focus of everything else, yet it was obviously a cheaply cast lump of crappy plastic.
The one in the movie looks nothing like this.
Aside from the fact that the size and shape of it were completely unlike any currently recognised crystal skulls, it was blatantly not crystal. It absolutely astounds me that this was allowed to happen. It looks like cheap plastic; the cast handling the thing make it obvious that it has no weight, no gravitas. This “crystal skull” is an artefact of incredible power and potency, it’s an ancient skull formed of pure crystal, obviously not carved by the hands or machines of men. Yet the cast toss and spin it around with the ease that only a lump of plastic would allow, certainly not a chunk of quartz bigger than your head. And I’m not suggesting that the design department should have actually scoured the universe looking for a real one (which wouldn’t have matched their story anyway). Just make the bloody thing from glass, so it weighs something similar to crystal and give the cast a fighting chance at making it look real. How much would that have stretched the budget, really?
Anyway, I’ll stop ranting about cheap plastic crystal skulls now. This is an Indiana Jones movie. It’s essentially crap and requires enormous suspensions of disbelief. In fact, taking a good, sturdy winch and pulley into the theatre with you, just to help with the required suspension, is not a bad idea. But it’s supposed to be silly fun and it is.
I just wish they hadn’t used a plastic bloody skull.