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Mutt Williams and the Adventure of the Origin Story

Posted by Sunday on Jun 18, 2008 at 6:57 pm in Movies

Three weeks ago it was popular to comment on the new Indiana Jones movie, and because I like to pretend I’m not a follower, I am just now getting around to jumping off that particular bridge. Because I am in truth a lazy follower. And because I despise it when people spoil things even years afterwards, we’re going to do a jump.

My greatest regret was failing to make a bet with Halcyon over how quickly a bad CG shot was going to ruin the film, a bet we would have both lost since it happened in under 5 seconds of the movie starting. Thinking back on the movie over the next day we’d both regularly turn to each other and ask, “Prairie dogs? Really? Prairie dogs?

I’d also like to give an early caveat: we didn’t hate the movie. We found it entertaining enough, sort of cheap and predictable and fulfilling in a exactly the way we expected to be fulfilled. But more on that later. First, though, I gotta get a few things off my chest.

PRAIRIE DOG HI JINX? As Hal was early to point out: there are times when George Lucas just needs to be told, yes sir, we’re on it sir, while everyone secretly takes the bit of footage that Lucas was giggling over and throws it in the trash. It’s not like the old bat is going to notice during the premiere anyway, I mean, the man is gone. First class ticket to coo-coo-ville. One way. With extra gin and tonics on the flight. And if El Spiebergo isn’t the one there to do that, who can it be? At first I wondered how it was that El Spielbergo didn’t manage to keep the prairie dogs (insert Loony Tunes theme) out of it, until it occurred to me that the prairie dogs had been the compromise. And what we didn’t see was the musical rubbery CG hippopotamus jungle interlude where a wily and drunken Captain Jack rolls by on a giant bamboo wheel while pygmies are taught how to do the hand-jive by sock-hoppers.

It wasn’t until young Mutt Williams then swings through the jungle on vines with a newfound gang of monkeys that I uncomfortably squirmed in my seat. Because while Indy managed to live through a nuclear blast by hiding in a fridge (and not just living but living well enough to cough dramatically while rolling out as opposed to sluicing out in a slurry of organs and pulverized bone), it was still one of those traditionally impossible Indy moments where he barely saves his own skin, and even then one has to wonder how much a role luck played. Mutt we find as a suburban-raised greaser teenager who suddenly has the physical skill to swing through a miraculously open but vine-y jungle, thus positioning him to save the day. I wondered why this particular scene bothered me so much after I’d just watched a full 20 minutes of machine guns being fired and not a single person getting shot, and the answer came to me: no one took advantage of the old jokes. Indiana Jones and crew were equal parts bumbling and educated, forcing Indy to ofttimes try the same trick twice or more, only to have it fail. His friends were saved more often by chance ducking than by skilled espionage, a form of slap-stick action that has apparently fallen out of favor. We agreed, then, that Mutt should have hit a tree at an opportune moment; low-brow, possibly, but entertaining certainly.

Sure, there’s a hell of a lot of bad physics in the movie (it’s kind of an Indiana Jones trademark, if you hadn’t noticed yet), but the awful, weird, random crap started to get to me. Like, why does the alien skull look like it is stuffed with cling wrap? And who are the crazy jungle people that crawl out of apparently sealed-in stones in order to attack invaders? And what ever came of the footprints and torches that were already there? Characters even acknowledged it, said “Look, someone’s already been here,” but … wait, the murderous crazy jungle people wore shoes and left torches behind? Why didn’t someone hogtie Mac and leave his ass behind – and where was he hiding all those tracking devices? And where are all the goddamn booby traps already?

Don’t even get me started on how much the aliens disappointed me. Too late, I got myself started. First of all, I think there is mobster conspiracy going on in Hollywood that mandates that all aliens must look like rubbery Jello people with sparkly eyes (see: AI, Mission to Mars, etc.). Secondly, after apparently coming to Earth to bring fruitful joy to Earthlings, the alien(s) are now vengeful and pissy. Fair enough, I would be too. But vengeful and pissy enough to kill them with a cross expression? Yeesh. Remind me not to do aliens any favors.

On the upside, it was fun. There was good action, they managed to keep Indiana from doing anything totally outside the physical capabilities of his age. Borderline, but still within. I found the character of Mutt to be less grating than I feared and slightly more charismatic than I’d hoped. I’ll be looking forward to Mutt’s inevitable misadventures, provided that Lucas can keep his sticky, loony mitts off. The kid will never have Ford’s charm, but who does?

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June 18th, 2008 | Movies

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