If I could punch George Lucas in the junk right now, I would. Over and over. I don't think I'd stop even after he fell to the ground, curled up in the fetal position. In fact, I'm sure I wouldn't.
But I'm getting ahead of myself, aren't I?
Rewind. Last Sunday, I was invited, along with one guest, to screen Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. The price of admission I charged said guest was to join me for a marathon of the first three Indiana Jones movies that very same afternoon, a six-hour-long quest with two purposes: 1.) To properly prepare ourselves for the fourth installment of Dr. Jones' zany archaeological misadventures that night, and 2.) To lose ourselves in the wonder we felt when we first saw Raiders of the Lost Ark and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and The Last Crusade as kids.
Then Lucas destroyed that wonder. Worse, Steven Spielberg helped him do it. After sitting through the Star Wars prequels and now Kingdom of the Crystal Skull's CGI-painted world, I have come to the conclusion that the two legendary filmmakers decided, somewhere around 1999, to make a concerted effort to squash the magic that sustained my childhood and continuously and tortuously pummel that magic with bad sequels until there has been nothing left but tears and bad dreams.
This is where my rant gets tricky. Yes, the Star Wars prequels suck -- but do I own them? Yes. Do I watch them once a year? Yes. Do I wish they had never been made? Not exactly. If the choice is between no prequels and crappy prequels, sure, I'll take them -- but they still suck! I will always hate Lucas for being so arrogant that he thought people would want to sit through the comically video-game-like sequences that concluded Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. There are, in all of the prequels, maybe ten minutes that match the tone and feel of the original trilogy. This is the problem with Kingdom of the Crystal Skull: sure, there are a few really cool action sequences; sure, that's Indiana Jones dropping quips left and right and there's nothing quite like it, even when it sucks -- but 95% of the movie looks and feels nothing like the original trilogy. It certainly doesn't come close to living up to them either.
It would be easy to blame the CGI on Lucas, but this movie is Spielberg's -- the man responsible for magic like Close Encounters of the Third Kind, ET, and the greatest example of less-is-more in cinematic history, Jaws. The director repeatedly splashes unconvincing animation across the screen that makes every single matte painting in the first three Jones movies look like a real-world Kodak snapshot by comparison. Don't even get me started on the preposterously staged CGI action sequences like the soon-to-be-universally-reviled Tarzan jungle sequence or the less offensive, but no less stupid, killer-ant-and-river sequences. All of this would be cool if the movie starred Brendan Fraser; I'd plop down $12 for a ticket, have a great time, and forget about the movie afterwards. But this isn't a Brendan Fraser movie. It's an Indiana Jones movie. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, I hate to say it, looks just like a video game -- and a bad video game, at that -- which is, when you think about it, pretty much how Lucas sees the world. Now he's got Spielberg, the architect of my sense of storytelling, seeing cinema the same way.
What does all this mean? That's simple. My childhood, everything I loved about it, no longer matters to the two men who gave it to me. Worse, there's nobody making movies today to help fill me with the sense of wonder I used to know. M. Night Shyamalan offered hope for a few movies there, but even he started taking himself too seriously. Where am I supposed to turn now? Michael Bay? Heh.
All I want is to feel like a kid again.