How to Ruin Your Own Movie: The X-Files: I Want to Believe Edition

Yes, I'm a fan of the X-Files. Right from the start I never missed an episode, even as I winced each time they offered their cute twist on some popular horror or sci-fi film. I laughed along with everyone else whenever Darren Morgan wrote an episode, I covered my eyes along with everyone else during the one about the inbred hillbillies who loved bludgeoning people to death, and, like everyone else, I felt pity for Stephen King when he turned in perhaps the worst script of his career, "Chinga". And that's in a career marked prominently by the utter awfulness of his original screen- and teleplays.

That being said, I was never a big fan of the show's 'mythology'. By the time the movie came around it was pretty clear they had no idea where they were going and that everything was being made up as they went along, and I noticed just how much, on average, the 'monster of the week' episodes were superior to the ongoing alien mystery episodes.

So when I heard the X-Files movie was going to be an entertaining one-off thriller, I was excited.


Here's an article from industry news section of the IMDB:

29 July 2008 10:16 AM, PDT

The Dark Knight director Christopher Nolan has told reporters in Tokyo that he has no idea why his Batman movie is breaking box-office records. "I would not be able to point to exactly what it is," he said. "If I knew that all my films would have been successful." Final weekend figures confirmed Monday that the movie has broken yet another record -- best second-week performance of any film. The movie earned $75.2 million, which brought its 10-day total to more than $300 million, according to box-office trackers Media by Numbers. (The results somewhat diminished the achievement of Sony's Hancock, starring Will Smith, which crossed the $200-million mark after four weeks.) The film is now taking aim at Titanic's record of $600.8 million in ticket sales -- by far the top money maker of all time.

I Hate Indiana Jones: Day 24

Day 24: Indiana Jones and the Extremely Personal Injury

So Shia LaBoeuf is standing on the back of a jeep, swordfighting with Cate Blanchett, who’s standing on the back of another jeep that’s driving unusually close by. During this swordfight, something unusual happens. Shia’s balance slips and he winds up with a foot on either jeep.

And then things get profoundly stupid. This is partly because, since the Jeeps aren’t on tracks, like, for example, mine carts, and they can freely swerve back and forth across the surprisingly well-cleared jungle. This raises the immediate question of why he ends up stuck between the jeeps at all. The second he wound up even a little stuck, wouldn’t the good jeep swerve towards the bad one, to let him get back on it? Or the bad jeep swerve away, to cause him to fall to the jungle floor? But they do neither. No, they just drive in straight lines, both because it’s easier to work the greenscreened background if the prop jeeps don’t move much, and because they wanted to get to the profoundly stupid thing that happened next.


I Hate Indiana Jones: Day 23

Day 23: Indiana Jones and the Poorly-Composited Image

Ah, the green screen, filmmaking's ultimate cheat.

In the early days of special effects, all they had was rear-projection. Put the actors in front of a screen and have a projector showing footage of a fantastical location behind them. It never looked especially good, and was generally just used to show the background in scenes where characters are in a moving vehicle, as it was cheaper than driving around for hours outdoors with a camera strapped to the car, praying that it didn't start raining.


I Hate Indiana Jones: Day 22

Day 22: Indiana Jones and the Contrabulous Fabtraption

I've talked about suspension of disbelief before, and just what we, the audience, are prepared to accept from our films. It's all about tone and premise. In a film about a fantasy world like Lord of the Rings, we accept wizards because they fit the premise. In a steampunk film like Wild Wild West, we accept the presence of giant robot spiders. Well, I do, since apparently no one else actually saw the film Wild Wild West.

No, this isn't about aliens, and whether or not they belong in an Indiana Jones film, that's going to be saved for another day. Yes, aliens show up in this movie, but that doesn't mean anything goes. In fact, having aliens appear is only shocking if the rest of the film is set in the 'real' world.


I Hate Indiana Jones: Day 21

Day 21: Indiana Jones and the Paved Jungle

I think it's fair to say that the Truck Chase from Raiders of the Lost Ark ranks fairly high among the all-time great film action sequences. It's so wonderful that, among Last Crusade's other Requel-y tendencies, attempts to copy it shamelessly, replacing the truck from Raiders with a Tank in an attempt to 'up the ante'. The attempt failed, but it was still a thrilling sequence.

So when Indiana Jones and family found themselves tied up in the back of another covered Army truck, I was interested to see what kind of spin they were going to put on the sequence this time around.


While I'm on the subject of Batman-

After my initial negative feelings towards the film yesterday, today I kept wondering if I was being too hard on it, and having second thoughts about my 'review' of Heath Ledger's performance.

Then I had a sudden realization - what I was doing was what all those die-hard Star Wars fans had done right after Revenge of the Sith - I was talking myself into liking the film more than I did. I was rewriting my memories so that the Joker had been incredible, rather than awful. Ledger was quickly fading away (not a surprise, given how much he underplayed it), and being replaced with an imagined version of a better performance by another actor. Adrien Brody or Guy Pearce or perhaps even Johnny Depp. Someone who could have brought the Joker's madness to life the way it deserved to be, rather than the mumbly mess we got. Seriously, I can now close my eyes and picture a great scene between the Joker and Kieth Szarbajaka (I hope that's how it's spelled), rather than a bad one - and it's entirely the bad 'homeless child molester' Joker portrayal that ruined the moment.

Oh, and one other Batman-related thing

After watching Batman vs. Dracula, the animated film, I came up with a simple math equation that allows people to determine whether or not they had made a good Batman film. It's not a universal rule, obviously, and you could misuse it, but I think there's some truth to it, and it should have been applied to The Dark Knight.


(# batarangs in the film)x(# of explosions in the film)x(# of recognizable bat-villains in the film)x(# of references to the film Jerry Maguire). If the resulting number is anything but 0, you haven't made a good Batman movie.

I haven't crunched the numbers yet, but The Dark Knight's number, sadly, is not 0.

I Love Batman (The Joker, not so much)

I know I generally talk about Indiana Jones, and I'll get back to that soon, but I wanted to pause and react to The Dark Knight, which I've just returned from seeing.

My review: Loved it, with one major reservation.

That reservation? I can't believe how terrible Heath Ledger's Joker was. Just absolutely so wrong for the movie that every time he showed up on screen it took me right out of the experience.


I Hate Indiana Jones: Day 20

Day 20: Indiana Jones and the Underestimated Audience

The filmmakers responsible for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull have contempt for their audience.

I know that's kind of been the overall theme of these posts, since no one could offer such a shoddy half-baked product to an audience without feeling some measure of contempt for them. There's vastly different levels of that contempt though, from the minor disinterest in getting period details correct, to total regard for maintaining any sort of realism in re: Atomic Fridges. I understand why they put so little work into the film, though. After all, how could the filmmakers possible show any respect for their audience when they so clearly believe them to be morons?

I Hate Indiana Jones: Day 19

Day 19: Indiana Jones and the Superfluous Sidekick (Part 2)

I'm a fan of John Hurt. Obviously as a lover of sci-fi, the actor who played Kane will always hold a special place in my heart. Beyond that single, iconic performance, however, is an entire lifetime of wonderful roles. He was the Elephant Man, The Storyteller, Giles De'Ath, he had memorable cameos in two of the best Westerns of the past fifteen years, Dead Man and The Proposition, and who could forget his career-defining performance as Kane in Spaceballs?

This film is beneath him.


I Hate Indiana Jones: Day 18

Day 18: Indiana Jones and the Incredibly Cheap Prop

There's a common failure, when creating props, to consider the realistic properties of the things being recreated in prop form. People carry rubber guns that weigh a fraction of what a real gun does, they can't even be bothered to fill a fake coffee cup with water to keep actors from waving their arms around unrealistically. It's yet another example of filmmakers just not paying enough attention to the movies that they're making, and it goes a long way to destroying the illusion of reality that a film attempts to create.


I Hate Indiana Jones: Day 17

Day 17: Indiana Jones and the Maybe Magnetic Skull

As if Cate's spotty psychic powers weren't bad enough, there's another intermittently present supernatural power in the film, the Crystal Skull's SuperMagnetism.

The audience is first introduced to the Crystal Skull's amazing power right at the beginning of the film when, faced with the prospect of searching through the entire gigantic warehouse for the alien corpse from the Roswell crash, Indy remembers that the 'item' is incredibly magnetic. So magnetic, in fact, that he's able to toss gunpowder into the air, where the trace metals pull it in the direction of the corpse. When he gets close enough, Indy switches to ball bearings, which he throws into a row of crates, assured that the magnetic corpse will pull them in, revealing in which crate the body is contained.

I Hate Indiana Jones: Day 16

Day 16: Indiana Jones and the Possible Psychic

The anonymous poster from yesterday brought up an interesting point about the film's various failures in re: The Villain. It's not just the introduction they botched, it's the entire character. Specifically, the special ability her entire character is based around. For the entire film, I kept wondering 'Wait, is she supposed to be actually psychic, or isn't she?' After the initial failure, I assumed that her supposed 'abilities' were going to be played for laughs, as she went on to not read other people's minds at key moments.


I Hate Indiana Jones: Day 15

Day 15: Indiana Jones and the Botched Villain Introduction

A villain's introduction is incredibly important. By definition it's the first time the audience meets them, and the impression created will stay with the audience for the rest of the film, and, if it's good enough, far beyond. Who can forget the first time they saw Darth Vader? The clean white hallways suddenly poisoned by the addition of Vader, darkening the world around him as he strides through it.

By the way, and this is wholly unrelated, watch the first Star Wars movie again - Darth is clearly a name, not a title. No matter how hard he tries, George Lucas can't write his way around that one.


I Hate Indiana Jones: Day 14

Day 14: Indiana Jones and the Happy Days

One of the things I've always loved about the Indiana Jones films is that they never get too wrapped up in their setting. Other than the presence of Nazis as the villains, there's nothing in the film Raiders of the Lost Ark that establishes it as being set in any particular time. The cars are old, and the planes are old, but there's no other nods to the fact that the films are taking place in the past. Although the way the characters speak may actually be anachronistic, it doesn't have the appearance of an error. Everyone speaks in such a clear, unaffected manner that the audience accepts it as universal communication. These are the kinds of things that people have always said to one another, and the removal of both current and historic colloquialisms give the impression of 'translated' dialogue. Perhaps this isn't the exact way those characters would have talked had they existed at that time, but we assume that their speech has been translated for our benefit, the way people don't speak Ancient Welsh in movies about King Arthur.

I Hate Indiana Jones: Day 13

Day 13: Indiana Jones and the All-Star Cast

All-star casts offer both strengths and weaknesses to a film. The various actors' appropriateness and ability for the part they've been cast in aside, the general idea behind the all-star cast is that each celebrity brings their own fanbase to the theatre, multiplying a film's appeal with each additional name added to the roster of star. The drawback to this is that by casting celebrities all the key (and most of the secondary) parts, the entire concept of suspension of disbelief is mostly thrown out of the window. If the audience is constantly perched at the edge of their seat, waiting to see which part a given celebrity will play, they're not thinking about the plot. If they're constantly thinking to themselves "Hey, isn't that ******", and elbowing their neighbor to register the recognition, they're not being carried away by the story.