Friday, May 23, 2008

Me and Mr. Jones

When "Raiders of the Lost Ark" came out in 1981, I had no real interest in seeing it, even though by that time, at the tender age of 11, I was a becoming a pretty big movie freak. I'm not sure why the film wasn't really on my radar, but for whatever reason, I was under the impression it was a boring movie about archeology, and who wants to see that? And even though a friend at school was totally in love with the movie, and had a poster for it in her bedroom, I was still a little skeptical. She also had pictures of Nadia Comaneci all over her walls; what did she know from movies?

But eventually my parents decided it was going to be that weekend's movie, and we drove out to Marin to see it on a big screen. And despite the theater's annoyingly dim projector bulb, I was immediately enraptured, and became an instant fan.

Cut to three years later. It's May 1984, and "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" is one of the summer's most eagerly awaited movies, at least at my junior high. On opening day several friends and I, including the gymnast/"Raiders" lover, raced to the Regency I theater after school, humming the "Indy" theme at the top of our lungs, much to the chagrin of our fellow MUNI riders. I don't think we bought tickets in advance in those days, so I imagine we spent a long time in line that day. The details are foggy. What I do remember once we got inside and the movie started was a feeling of great disappointment that Marion had been replaced by a completely annoying blonde, and Marion's monkey had been replaced by a completely annoying and downright embarrassing Chinese kid. I also remember thinking when that dude reached into that guy's chest and pulled out his heart that it was pretty rad that I was being allowed to see this without adult supervision. While it was a fun time in all, "Raiders" was still the better movie in my book.

Cut to five years later. I am a jaded 19-year-old, but still a big movie fan, which is why I agreed to wake up early on a Saturday in March to see a free sneak preview screening of some movie called "Major League." For whatever reason, my friend Chris agreed to come along, and we met at the Northpoint Theater in the pouring rain and waited in line like a couple of dopes. Corbin Bernsen? And baseball? There was no way this movie was going to be any good. Once we got inside, the waiting went on, and it was about 30 minutes after the time the movie was supposed to start when some guy went up to the front of theater and addressed the crowd. He said there had been a big accident on the Golden Gate Bridge involving the truck carrying the movie to the theater, and the film reels ended up in the bottom of the Bay. How would we like to see the new, yet to be released "Indiana Jones" movie instead?

Now, some people in the theater actually bought that likely story, but we knew the whole thing had been a ruse to get people to the theater unawares for a secret sneak preview. And we especially knew it was all a ruse when we turned around and saw George Lucas sitting in the seat behind us. Uh oh. There went making fun of the movie aloud! Since "The Last Crusade" wasn't set to open for another two months, we were told that the print hadn't been color corrected yet, and many of the effects weren't finished. And in watching the movie it was apparent much about that movie wasn't finished. Like the screenplay. (Ha! See what I did there?) (I later saw it after its real release, and many of the bluescreen effects still didn't look finished. There's some shoddy F/X in that flick.)

After the screening we had to fill out comment cards and despite wanting to say "How come you made two kinda crappy sequels to an awesome movie?" the only thing I remember writing was something like, "Why was that old dude all happy that his cave was being turned to rubble at the end?" I don't think any changes were made as a result of that insightful commentary. Also, for the record, there's no need to worry about dim bulbs, people talking, or the sound being too low when George Mutherfuckin' Lucas is sitting in the theater with you.

Cut to 19 years later. I am even more jaded, and a slightly less-enthusiastic movie fan, but the approaching release of a new "Indiana Jones" movie still manages to excite me, so much so that I decide to catch one of those special midnight premiere showings with a friend. There is no standing in line; there is no running to the theater while shouting the theme music. But there are a couple of dorks dressed up as Indiana Jones, so there's that. And the crowd was about as pumped as a mid-week, midnight crowd probably can be.

As for the movie, still doesn't come close to "Raiders"--that's about as perfect as a pop movie can get--but I did like it more than either of the sequels. The plot is as silly as the plots in the others, (although the whole Ark plot seems to hold up a lot better, and I'm not really sure why), but I appreciated how the film reflected the pop culture of the '50s (complete with A-bombs, Elvis, and UFOs) and also seemed to reference a lot of Spielberg's cinematic oeuvre. Of course, the movie doesn't really comment on any of that. It's just in there. And I also loved seeing Karen Allen again. And while her monkey wasn't in it, there was a jungle full of new monkeys to take its place. Cate Blanchett, despite being woefully underutilized, is my favorite villain of all the sequels, and as for Shia LaBeouf, well, what can I say? The cougar in me finds him quite tasty.

I'm hoping this is it as far as "Indy" movies are concerned. They made as much comment on Indy's age as needs be made in this one, and nothing could be worse than a movie full of "I'm too old for this shit" jokes. As for a spin-off featuring the Adventures of Mutt? Just no. There's no way I'd go to a midnight screening, wait in the rain, or run to the theater singing the Indy theme to see that.

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