Wednesday, May 28, 2008

An open letter to George Lucas,

WARNING: If you haven’t seen “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” stop reading right now.

I just got back from your latest return to my youth Indiana Jones and the New B-Movieish Title from the 1950s. It is difficult to write this since I may not remember all the things I wanted to tell you while the movie was going. Also, The Daily Show is on and I have already got more enjoyment from the first 10 minutes of that (which they do nightly) than I did from the entirety of your new movie.

How to best approach this. Let's do it in segments.

Please stop trying to write a story. You had something once. I don't know if it is because you were young and creative or it was because you didn't have the limitless power of CGI at your disposal to do what your heart truly desired, but you don't have it anymore. Your current situation is not working for you. This movie had some left over charm from the earlier movies. The mystery, the sets were reminiscent, and there was adventure. But adventure didnt grab me and make me believe like it did before. Every time i thought the characters might have a moment something exploded, or there was a comic relief moment, or something really cool happened like Shia driving a motorcycle down a train platform and everyone just treats it like normal becuase he looks so cool doing it with a sideways cap? Oh sorry, they probably didnt see him come out of the fucking solid cloud of smoke that he emerged from right next to the train car.

I dont know if you know this George, but just because you put a retro title on a movie, and use lots of special effects does not mean that we will believe what ever the fuck you put on screen. Which brings us of course, to believability. WARNING: Spoilers ahead.

Before I went to this, when I asked people what they thought of it that saw it before me they usually said "Eee it was an Indiana Jones movie." (p.s. Mr. Lucas no one really likes your movies anymore. We go to them because we loved the first ones and we have decided that finding out a little more of the story is worth you sucking the life out of these things that you have given to our generation. Thanks.) This was not an Indiana Jones movie. In Indy movies, you wonder if some of this might really be possible. Is that really hidden somewhere in the world? If I step out of my life could find this if I have the wherewithal and smarts like Dr. Jones to chase it?

An Indy movie shouldn't make me think "WHOA no way!. Amazing! Wait, really. No way." So within the first 30 minuts of the movie you want me to believe Indy can now use his whip to retrieve a gun and place it in the hand of a comrade ready to shoot, run on 3 inch wooden beams that are 4 feet apart 20 feet in the air, cross the desert on foot as fast as a motorcade, survive a ground zero nuclear explosion in a refrigerator (thanks for the close-up of the label telling me it is lined with lead so i wasn't drawn out of the movie thinking "Wha?" while it was hurled 30 fucking miles at who knows how many MPH, clear of the deadly radiation. Did Frigidaire have Inertial Dampening Systems in '54? Star Trek didn't get them until the 22nd century. The 50's were amazing!). Oh and while we are on the 50's stop brining us back to American Graffiti with blatant 1950s "at the Hop" scenes. You place me in a 50's diner with 20 guys in college jackets vs 20 tough looking guys (with pompadores) in leather jackets and put in a fun 50's tune to keep me into it!? Jesus man you totally pulled me out of the movie AGAIN thinking Where the fuck did that come from!? And while we are at it, your choice of music sucks. Choose a song that we havent heard 1000 times in every 50s movie. I have heard the oldies station, i know there are more songs than the ones on the Time/Life collection. I could go on with the "No way!" moments, but i would give you the whole movie. (the vine swing scene? FUCK!)

I don't remember if your plots were predictable when I saw the only ones, I was 10. But now, wait the kid is her son!? Wait, and he is YOUR son!? Wow, I did not see that coming and it really brings the whole thing together now. It is like, you are all family, this is the continuance I was looking for! And the scene where she told Indy the kid was his son? Was that really necessary? Do you remember back when you didnt have all the money in the world? Before you marketed the shit out of every franchise you own (more on that later) and you had to make choices? When most writers or directors write/film a story they have to think "Does this forward the plot?" There was NO REASON for them to make a half hearted escape attempt, have a moment in the sand trap (which at least wasnt CGI) to tell Indy the kids true identity, and get caught again. She could have told him in the tent in a subtle little scene and it would have meant so much more. Yes its possible that Speilberg would have overlit it from the back like he has done since A.I. Or that Harrison would have fucked it up since he lost his acting ability after Regarding Henry (if you want to see Harrison at his best, go rent The Frisco Kid) but at least you would have tried. Fucking choices man.

While we are talking about choices, lets talk about leaving some things to the imagination. At the end of Raiders, when we dont ever see what is in the Ark we just know that "It's Beautifuuaal", Jesus, everyone remembers that because we never saw it. At the end of this you showed us eeeverything! Don't show me your bloomers, thats not going to keep me coming back.

Special Effects.
Oh Mr. Lucas, this has been coming for a long time. Just because you can do something with computers, doesn't mean that you should. Do you remember when you did the first 3 Star Wars? People loved Yoda and Chewie. There is something about the physicality of masks and fake eyes, when done right, that people can really connect with. If someone is CG, even really good CG, your mind knows and if you arent thinking "Wow that is amazingly realistic", you still wont connect with the character I don't think. People loved Yoda and Chewie, and people remember Jaba. I didnt give a shit about the Wookies in the new Star Wars'. And although Yoda's fight scene was cool, if that was the original Yoda I wouldn't have really connected with him either. There is something about the physicality of looking into someones eyes, even when they are glass, that makes a difference. CGIChewie was not a big fuzzball. He was just a big pixelball and we all know it even though it is technically amazing to render hair with the complexity that we can now do. Good for you.

When I see that ILM is attached to a project these days, I am disappointed. I actually expect less of the movie after I see that because I know that you and all the people that work in the culture that you have created will just be blowing your virtual load all over the screen. Did you see the Fountain? The story could have been better, but the visuals were AMAZING and no CGI. If ILM had done it, there would be no meat to the scenes for me to hold on to, to hang emotions on to.

And this is where it is obvious that you let your imagination make no choices at all. I know that you can make your dreams come true because you can have someone at a computer do anything that you imagine. But a better story comes out of choices, out of limits, like exist in any medium. Except those don't exist for you, because you leased the Presido and you can do whatever you want.

Which brings me to my last point, licensing. I know that you invented modern movie licensing and product tie-ins. But you have gone too far. I have now worked at 2 companies that you license to make products and licensing tie ins for. I know that most anything that your company touches turns to gold. The Star Wars slot machines are some of the biggest money makers for IGT. And even in that weird offshoot of your trademarked vault, they find new ways to slightly tweek the brand they are licensing, make a slightly different product, your guys say OK, and you make more money. You lay down some guidlines, they follow them, and everyone comes out richer. I see how shamelessly your intellectual copyrighted materials are. People love the novelty of them. They love that something that is special in their hearts is packaged in this weird way and want to experience that too. In a slot machine, on a Cheese-It box, in a slightly different slot machine with progressive wins!, on shirts, at Disneyland, etc. But these things work because they are special to people. You are taking advantage of the smile that comes on people's faces when they see something they love that you own. I have seen how these products are created and it is ugly. But it is gold.

Late in his life Walt Disney was on tape for a moment smoking. He asked them to erase the tape. He said that even though that was part of him (he was a chronic smoker), he was not Walt Disney anymore. He understood that what he had created belonged to the people that loved it now and he had to respect that. Walt never let commercial interests drive his organization. Later after his death that is what happened. (Walt would not let McDonalds into Disneyland, the purity of the park being seperate from the normal world was more important. Today there is a McDonalds fry stand in Frontierland). You have sold out and showed people how to best sell out like no one every has.

I once saw an interview where you said you don't care what the fans think, you write for you. Well I believe you.


1 comment:

Anne (in Reno) said...

I find it hard to argue with most of this. However, I just watched Temple of Doom for the first time last night. And I can totally see how he got from there to the new one. It's no Raiders, but despite a lot of the crap, I enjoyed a lot of the new one. And honestly, I hadn't seen any of the old ones yet and it made me go get them so I could compare...

How are aliens any worse than face-melting ghosts or stones that light on fire if you really believe in Shiva? Maybe I just want to defend it because I love Cate Blanchett so much, but I liked the motorcycle chase and the fire ants almost made me jump out of my chair. My point is, it may have ruined all of your childhood memories but just don't go back and rewatch Temple of Doom, whatever you do.

And yes, Lucas and Spielberg are both whores.