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.

And make no mistake, the Indiana Jones films take place in the 'real' world. Yes, it's a 'real' world where magical religious icons are found a little more easily than in our world, but the films rely on a sense of verisimilitude to create their tone. It has to feel like it could have happened back in the 30s, or there's no weight to the things that happen. Sure, the films have a few problems with Anachronisms, such as countries having the wrong names, or Nazis being in the wrong areas, or technology that's too advanced by a few years here and there. Let's be frank, Raiders of the Lost Ark is basically a film-shaped anachronism. That being said, none of these little mistakes detract from the film's believability or overall tone. So long as everything feels like it belongs in the late 30s, we're never pulled out of the experience.

Which is what makes Crystal Skull's anachronism so egregious. Hell, it can't even be called an anachronism, because it's a technology that doesn't even exist today. I speak, of course, of the bizarre tree-clearing machine whose destruction begins the Jungle Chase sequence.

Sadly, my refusal to pirate the film has left me unable to put a photo of the contraption here, since it hasn't made it onto the internet yet. Sigh. Allow me to describe it, from my two-months-old recollections. At the front, it has two horizontal buzzsaws, which sever trees clean through about two feet off the ground, at which point the stumps are mushed to the ground by a giant spiked steamroll set just behind the blades. The theory is that, as the machine rolls along at twenty miles an hour, it cuts down trees and crushes the remains as it goes, leaving a driveable path in its wake.

I want to stress here that I know next to nothing about the mechanics and technologies of forestry, but I can say without fear of humiliation that nothing like this contraption exists. And that if somehow someone had invented a tree-thresher it wouldn't move faster than two miles an hour, which would make the idea of a chase going on behind it roughly as thrilling as racing behind a combine harvester as it worked its way through a cornfield. Of course, let's assume that this magical machine actually did exist, and you could drive it at around 20 miles an hour. Why would you? You're clearing a jungle, creating a road. This means that you can't possibly know what's in front of you, since your view is being obstructed by, y'know, the jungle. So wouldn't this thing have a nasty habit of running into rocks and off cliffs, or into rivers?

I completely understand why it was put in the film, though. The filmmakers were under the impression that the audience needed an explanation for why there was a road through the jungle, on which a chase scene could take place. After all, the characters in the film were going through the deepest jungle into a heretofore undiscovered area, so the likelihood of there being well-cleared roads was pretty long. Of course, it might have behooved the filmmakers to consider just which of the following two things was less likely:

1- There are parts of the jungle where the foliage is thin enough that off-road vehicles can drive on it with little trouble.

2 - That a giant sci-fi tree-clearing machine exists, and was somehow brought to the middle of the jungle by communists operating in South America on the Q.T.

Here's the kicker - even though they chose the second, far more preposterous option and included a ridiculous machine in the film, it didn't solve the plot problem they thought they had. Why not? Because, as I've mentioned earlier, the very first thing that happens in the chase scene is that the tree-clearer is blown up! Meaning that there's nothing there to clear the path for the convoy's high-speed chase, and we're left with option number one, that there are convenient pathways in the forest that the audience just shouldn't question.

So, to recap, the filmmakers threw out all plausibility and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on an insane CGI contrivance, and then, through awful plotting, don't even allow it to serve the terribly-written purpose it was created for.

That's failure on a level so high that, were it able to be condensed into a catchy three-word phrase, the internet could use it to hysterically over-insult things that really aren't that bad.

No comments: