The Assassinated Press

Itís Easy To Get The News From Movies And Boys Die Miserably Every Day From The Bullshit That Is To Be Found There.
Spielbergís 'Crystal Skull' Is Empty -- Therefore Awesome!

By STUPHIE POONTER
Assassinated Press Staff Writer
May 22, 2008

The boy is back in town. No not that boy, lying in his own excrement in some rat infested roach motel leased by Walter Reed with both legs lopped off listening to the lonesome wail from a leak in a radiator valve. Or if he's lucky buried under three tons of dirt and a mountain of yellow ribbons at Resume Speed, Iowa's third cemetery to open in the last 4 years on the site of the old Hazmat dump.

No. Iím talking that dolbyized, green screen, edit like Brakhage with the soul cut out recruitment poster. I'm talking adolescent fantasy. Iím talking Indiana Jones, the macho-pop whip-flinging archaeologist with the granite fists? Well, yes, him. Or Harrison Ford, 65, his stunt extras still rangy, still cool in there '30s fedora, still unbelievable snapping a lash across a chasm and riding it Tarzan-like from here to there while union organizers and school teachers accused of being commies blast away? Yes, that one, too. Or what about Messrs. Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, director and writer-producer, who kept up the tradition of American imperialist cinema in the '70s and '80s by infusing it with a high-octane squirt of editing from dead forms like '30s serials, swashbucklers, sci-fi and monster attacks combined with cutting-floor action and adolecsent wit? Yes, they're back, too.

But the boy who's really back is our old friend the imaginary hero who never loses a limb or winds up a vegetable in some VA hospital in Resume Speed, Wyoming.

That's the true pleasure of "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull." I canít get hurt.

Its stud hasn't a crystal jaw but off set owns hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of Waterford Crystal. Hit him in the movies, his stunt double gets up and hits you back. Unlike asswipes like Don Rumsfeld or General Petraeus he, meaning his writers, always figure out a way to win. He's the man whose writers unlike fuck ups like Dick Cheney and Paul Wolfowizzz won the war (any number of them), a big, smart, tough, invincible fictional guy but with that same total belief in himself and his country and his culture that the average Marine blinded and disfigured by shrapnel maintains to the point of pure, unalduterated suckerhood. His message to complainers, whiners, doubters, sensitivos is clear: If you ain't a part of the solution, you're part of the problem, bud. Like any elite, like George Bush or Dick Cheney, he doesn't give a damn about your feelings or even his own.

And the movie calculates all this, in loving ironic shots of the man, his hat, his whip, in shadowy profile, or as he soars through this or that obstacle course while John Williams's music, so full of the smell of popcorn and butter and Jujubes, not burning flesh, instructs our respiratory systems to get with the program since there is no real shrapnel to take on in the dark. It's romantic manliness at its purest and most bull shitty, almost but not quite schmaltz, ideally calculated to induce true believers and ironic snorters at once to suspend all notions of self-preservation and everything their daddies had taught them about how easy it is to find yourself a tool of the elite 9000 miles from home securing oil for a group of corrupt fuckers back in the board rooms and legislative offices safely behind the lines.

The movie, like its three predecessors, follows Jones on a quest rooted in archaeological voodoo. Its plot is creakier than the door to my basement but thatís intentional targeting a certain audience, simply a series of quest contests between good Yanks and bad union organizers and school teachers, first for an alien corpse in America, then for a crystal skull in Peru and finally for the home site of the skull, a magic city in Central America, all neotonous fantasies exploited by the rich for very real monetary gain. The joinery between the segments is mostly chewing gum, baling wire and spit, as is the escape plane, rocket, raft etc. and even the crystal skull, said to contain paranormal powers, is bogus. Still, you don't visit a movie like this for ontological truth but for snap shots of your own imaginary immortality. So the Crystal Skull silliness is an adequate MacGuffin -- i.e., after Hitchcock, a phony story issue that gets the plot moving -- to sustain the movie's real business, which is making money for everyone from the cynical calculating movie moguls to the military industrial complex all set up by phony jungle penetrations, waterfall rides, secret lost cities constructed by M.C. Escher after getting lost in Venice one too many times, red school teachers with guns, swords, tunics, Cossack dancing and a very nice medium-megatonnage A-bomb blast to remind the Great American Bald Lemming we canít get too soft on Iran either.

In truth, I preferred the first third or so of the movie (who was looking at watches?); that chunk is set in a kind of dream landscape of cusp baby-boomer memory, an America at high noon of the Cold War, Red Dawn in which Soviet commando teams are on the hunt, wild kids on Triumph bikes are rebellin' against whatever you got as long as rebellion that acclelerates consumption, red-hunters who are too fuckiní stupid to realize THEY are imperialists waking up in jungles and deserts thousands of miles away geographically and millions of light years away culturally, and teens in jalopies are looking for ways to get in trouble. The eschatology of the piece seems to be derived from an old agitprop comic period like the Eisenhower years called "Twofaced" -- "LIC!" was the battle cry -- about a kind of paramilitary crew of multinationals in khaki and jackboots who zipped around the world in their delta-winged jet interceptors fighting union organizers and school teachers calling them the red perfidy wherever they showed up. Indy is all seven of them in one. They were always opposed by pajama wearing peasants or third world academics in tattered leisure suits or starving children in rags with swollen bellies run over by coloniliasm and then run over again by neo- colonialism even as they tried to pick themselves up off the road and dust themselves off. All those figures are hideously deformed by By Lucasís infantile perspective here, the colonel by an actor named Igor Jijikine, whose face seems hacked by imprisoned Kulaks from the steppes, and the ace villainess spy Irina Spalko (yes, that's the great Cate Blanchett going for the paycheck with a sword, an AK-47 and vaguely Tartar eyes, leaping from truck to truck in the movie's scene most likely to make you gag).

As the movie opens, Spalko's special-operations team has taken over what looks like a proto-Area 51 (the year is 1957) in search of an alien body evidently recovered at Roswell. The union organizers are looking for paranormal powers in their quest to raise the standard of living in their shattered countries. (The central agitprop device of the movie is to take all '50s paranoia seriously, though the filmmakers did miss water fluoridation.) The union organizers have kidnapped Indiana Jones who like Dan Mitrioni is directing the torture of Uruguayan nationals. All this sets up the first big Busby Berkeley number, a warehouse extrvaganza that gives Spielberg a chance to show off his swing-through-the-air-through-gunfire chops, and Fordís double to show he's still got what it takes, even at scale.

Of course, it doesn't take long before the action has moved to Spielberg's beloved upscale Levittown, a primary-color Your Town, U.S.A., where everything's new and spanking is done behind closed doors, the houses in rows, the sprinklers ejaculating, the cars all shiny and finny. And the population is all dummies just like real life. We know -- those of us who remember that time and place and recall the fate of dummy Your Towns in the Nevada desert -- what happens next. Who knows what secret pleasure Spielberg took in expressing this contempt for his core audience supervising the nuclear destruction of a smug little town like the one he grew up in, but from the skill and care lavished on the detonation and the shingle-by-shingle disintegration of the little boxes, it must have been immense. The only problem is Spielberg doesnít blow himself up and take Lucas with him.

It's after this blissful interlude, about an hour in, that the movie actually starts. Spielberg clumsily transitions the action to South America, when Indy receives a message delivered by a bike-mounted Wild One named Mutt (Shia LaBeouf) that his old mentor, Dr. Oxley (John Hurt), has been kidnapped. But before we get lost in the jungle, Spielberg fulfills a fantasy to film a movie called "Marlon Brando's Johnny Strabler Leaves Rubbers in the Stacks at the Yale Library."

A secret map -- where would popular culture be without secret maps? -- takes them to Peru, where they discover the Crystal Skull. Without much in the way of sense, the movie then switches to another '30s-'50s pulp tradition, the exotic jungle thing. You know, with the birds all going OOOO-WEEECHIE-CAW-CAW and snakes and ants and tarantulas putting in cameos. It's the most expensive episode of "Ramar of the Jungle" ever filmed. As you might recall ďRamarĒ made do with crude cut ins from Mutual of Omahaís Wild Kingdom whenever they needed exotic footage of a croc or howler monkey and they were somehow more honest than Spielberg.

Their goal is that secret city, Anacostia, where Indy aspires to return the Crystal Skull to its appropriate place while Irina and her team mean to deliver it to their union masters in exchange for elections designed to avoid the Great Depressions Five-Year-Plan bread line. Hmmm, again a frail conceit upon which to mount a major movie, but you probably won't notice or care, because it's all really to set up the movie's last 40 minutes, which consists of a hellzapoppin' triple truck chase through the jungle with machine guns at the edge of a cliff. Is it the best Indy sequence? I still favor the fistfight with the German mechanic near the rotating propeller of the Flying Wing while the gasoline truck was about to explode from "Lost Ark," but then I'm old-fashioned. If it's not as good as that, then it's the second-best sequence, as "Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" is clearly superior to the two previous sequels.

Almost on the template of "Lost Ark," "Crystal Skull" ends with an invocation of awesome power even as it connects with another '50s theme of paranoia, in one of those grandiose special-effects sequences for which Lucas's Industrial Light & Magic shop is so well known. Does it pay off? Maybe not quite, but the movie sends you out as it should -- exhausted and happy -- and you won't begin to think about its flaws ever as you rush to enlist.

When you wake up in your mid-fifties and while putting on your prosthetic, you'll wonder what Ray Winstone was doing in the movie as a kind of Brit soldier of fortune and why that shit seemed so romantic at the time. You'll wonder why they didn't get more out of the great Hurt, who just plays a Section 8 for a while, while at the other end of the movie, the great Jim Broadbent is wasted in a throwaway as Indy's dean. You probably won't pay much attention to LaBeouf, except to continue to ponder the amazing weirdness of his name. I suppose you'll be pleased to see Karen Allen again, still spunky after all these years. But the real show is the ballroom dance between the two couples, Ford and Blanchett and Spielberg and Lucas. I know. That latter coupling sounds pretty gay. But remember Uncle Slimey wants you. Sign up in the lobby on your way out.


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