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?

Okay, that might sound a little harsh, but I'm not saying it, the filmmakers are. Metaphorically, anyway, which I'm translating into plain text for those who aren't fond of reading metaphors. How do they show this belief? Through their assumption that every member of the audience has an attention span and memory retention time limit about about five minutes. That's how long the film takes before pausing to remind the audience about the plot.

Harrison Ford hangs out with Jim Broadbent, and they recap the plot. Then he meets with Shia LaBoeuf, and helpfully recaps the plot. Then it's back to Indy's house, for a quick plot recap (the second at this location!) before flying to Peru, where they pause to recap the plot. From there they hang out in an insane asylum, where some floor carvings inspire them to recap the plot before directing them to a graveyard, where they take a break from recapping the plot to battle some Inca Ninjas, then they return to their first love, plot recapping.

To be fair, there are a few stretches where the filmmakers don't stop the proceedings dead to remind the audience why they're sitting in a dark, air-conditioned room. Those stretches consist entirely of motorized chases. And I'm fairly sure that the only reason they didn't include a little plot recapping in those scenes is because the idea of people being able to understand a yelled plot recap over the roar of an engine (or the overpoweing score) would have strained credulity.

It's not like this kind of disrespect for the audience's intelligence is a new thing. Die Hard 4 contained numerous scenes where people repeated information that had been given in another scene just a minute earlier. Last year's Transformers (made by some of the same people as Crystal Skull) featured one of the worst runs of plot recapping I've ever seen. A character fails to steal some vital computer information. So that character tells someone that he failed, and that the second character will have to go and steal the information. Then we see that character steal the information. Then the character tells a third character that he stole the information. Finally, a couple of other characters discuss the fact that the information was just stolen. Watching this sequence of events, I couldn't imagine what was going through the filmmakers' minds. Did they really think their audience wouldn't be able to follow even the simplest series of events without getting confused? I thought it was the most egregious example of talking down to an audience in history. Then Crystal Skull went and redefined the whole concept of contempt for the audience.

Wait. Maybe they don't have contempt for the audience. Maybe this is just their attempt to make the film accessible to the broadest possible audience, even if that means opening it up to people with amnesia. If that's that's the case, then I'm still offended. Although at least there would be a good intention behind the egregious failure, rather than just a raw insulting of the audience's intelligence.

Look, I've seen Memento. I know that memory-related brain injuries are life-changing ordeals that burden both the sufferer and their extended family and support system. But, with all due respect to those unfortunate souls, should their disability really have such a fundamental impact on the films we watch? Yes, they should be able to watch movies too, but why should the vast majority of us who have an attention span longer than five minutes have to endure constant stops in the film's flow and the wasting of a good amount of the film's running time on repeating things we already know?

On second thought, maybe they do just think the audience is made up entirely of morons. And speaking as one of the literally millions of people who, upon seeing Indiana Jones climb out of an atomic fridge essentially unscathed, didn't storm the projection room and destroy the film, maybe they're right.

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