I’m just getting warmed up

Part 3 in a series of disgruntled rants. So towards the beginning of the movie, Dr. Jones tells us: Legend says that a crystal skull was stolen from a mythical lost city in the Amazon, supposedly built out of solid … Continued

Part 3 in a series of disgruntled rants.

So towards the beginning of the movie, Dr. Jones tells us:

Legend says that a crystal skull was stolen from a mythical lost city in the Amazon, supposedly built out of solid gold, guarded by the living dead.

But guess what? When they get to the city, it is NOT guarded by the living dead. Instead, it’s guarded by the cast of Apocalypto.

No, George Lucas! Bad Lucas! You do NOT promise your audience zombies in the first reel, and then flake out!

And If any of you are feeling generous towards Lucas, you might suggest, “Well, just because they don’t look like zombies or act like zombies doesn’t mean they’re not immortal, magical guardians.” But the official novelization of Crystal Skull describes these guys only as “Ugla warriors” (p. 272) and “tribesmen” (273). And more importantly, when Indy first mentions the legend, the novel entirely omits the part about the “living dead” (p. 86). (By the way, I didn’t buy the book. I just looked at it in a Barnes and Noble. I just want people to know that.)

Survey the damage after the jump.

Even worse, Indy’s line was actually featured in the Crystal Skull trailer, leading many fanboys to spend months anticipating an Indy/zombie showdown:

  • From Slashfilm: “The coolest reveal here is that the plot’s plush Amazonian temple is said to be guarded by the undead, so on top of the rumored alien subplot, it appears Indy IV will be fencing off with that ambiguous X Files sequel for air conditioned supernatural kicks.”
  • From Cinemablend: “Oh, and did I mention the skull is guarded by the living dead? That’s right: zombies!”
  • And from the mighty BBC: “The film opens in 1957 at the height of the Cold War, and that the hero is on the search for a skull stolen from a lost city and guarded by the living dead.”

Seriously, why foreshadow something far cooler than what you actually deliver? My guess is, they were originally planning some manner of zombie guards. And then someone pointed out that, “Shucks, there’s a new Mummy movie on its way. And we sure don’t want to be accused to ripping off the franchise that ripped off us. So let’s lose the living dead angle.”

And I actually agree with that logic. As fun as it would be to see Indiana Jones whip a zombie’s arm off, that’s Brendan Frasier’s job.

But why, I ask, could they not change that line? Are they cynical enough to keep it because it sounded good in the trailer, knowing full well the film didn’t deliver? Are they sloppy enough that it didn’t occur to anyone that the “living dead” line needed a rewrite?

Sub-complaint: The natives are chased away simply by showing them the crystal skull, a trick that was:

  1. Already used on the CGI ants.
  2. So simple, it hardly seems worth it to introduce these guys at all. Guess Lucas thought they’d look good on the poster.

7 Comments on “I’m just getting warmed up”

  1. Gab #

    I was waiting for a post like this, since I know from the podcast that some of y’all think the movie is totally racist. I’m Native American, myself- I agree. I’m actually surprised this rant was so short- oh, the places I could GO with an expose of the racism… But to stay on this specific topic, my opinion is that they probably just didn’t care or equate any sort of difference between Natives and Zombies: they’re all just as mindless, useless, and annoying to the filmmakers. In fact, it probably didn’t even cross their minds. Native American culture is often completely disregarded by those in power; our voice is never even considered to exist when decisions are made. So the filmmakers didn’t think replacing zombies with Natives could upset or bother anyone (for the cultural aspect, not the, “Hey! I wanted zombies! Why are there humans!?”).

    Still somewhat on topic, I can’t help but draw a parallel between Natives and zombies. Zombies’ humanity has been stripped from them in some ways like Native culture has been stripped from Natives: both groups exist in a form that is a sad shadow of their former way of life, and their enemies constantly try to get rid of even that last bit of their history that they cling to. Native culture is, for the most part, dead, and zombies are, for the most part, dead: a Native’s culture is like a zombie’s humanity. Granted, reasons for destroying Native culture and destroying zombies are quite different, and the former much less legitimate than the latter (manifest destiny vs. “They tried to eat my arm off!”), but still, there is also that parallel of violence.

    For shits and giggles:



  2. fenzel #

    Yeah, the thing about this that’s so saddening is that it shows how George Lucas has really lost his chief virtue as a filmmaker — which was that he _delivered_.

    His ideas aren’t the fanciest, or even really all that remarkable, but when it comes to putting them on screen, he just plain _makes it happen_.

    And Spielburg is historically really great at picking what you should show and when.

    As a tag-team, Spielburg picks great places and times to show things, and Lucas delivers.

    The Ark in Raiders. The Death Star. The T-Rex. Heck, friggin E.T. delivered. Lucas didn’t disappoint.

    But at some point Lucas and Spielburg pulled it back a level.

    Now Spielberg knows what _movies_ to make an when. He has a heightened commercial sense and a sense of timing — think of _The Terminal_, which could never be made today. Think of _Catch Me If You Can_, which hit at just the right moment for Leonardo DiCaprio as an actor and for its retro-chic.

    And Lucas _delivers_ . . . money. He empowers a movie with what it takes to jump from throwaway to commercially successful, while doing next to nothing to actually make it interesting.

    So, yeah, I think what we’re really seeing is the tragedy of the meta.


  3. Latore #

    The “living dead” guardians probably actually refers to the aliens themselves. They are definitely dead because they are skeletons, but they are also definitely alive because they can set Comrade Blanchett on fire with their minds.


  4. Gab #

    Then, fenzel, I still can’t reiterate my previous claim enough, that BOTH of them are into franchises for profit (and yeah, ego) now and are losing the art. I mean, come on. They kill the story, beat the dead horse so that it’s not just dead, but D-E-D. A FOURTH “Jurassic Park?” WHY make a CGI movie like “Clone Wars” unless you’re trying to get even younger kids for marketing? And I think “Crystal Skull” *proves* they’re putting plot on the back burner. And it’s for profit. THAT’S why they “pulled it back.”

    And it relates to how next to (but admittedly not quite) nobody can come up with an original idea anymore when making a movie. Whether it be the latest installment in a series, a remake, a new interpretation of something older than the original interpretation, based on a book or game, etc., WHATEVER. The only movie maker I can think of off the top of my head that has had multiple successes recently while being original each time is Appatow. Shyamalan, ish– while I personally like all of his movies (except “Unbreakable”), they haven’t been commercially successful. Anyhoo, the point is these producers and movie gurus lately just build off of older franchises instead of coming up with all-new ideas. In some cases, I do think there is genuine love and art in them (the “Bourne” franchise, Nolan’s interpretation of Batman, “Watchmen” looks promising, from what I’ve read as a nerdgirl); but I think more often than not, it’s more about making a buck than doing any real justice to the characters or old story (SS’s newest R&R movies, “Crystal Skull,” all of these kiddy sequels coming out in the next couple years) (and I haven’t seen the new “Mummy,” but if they’re willing to do it without Rachel…).

    Mo’ money, mo’ problems.

    My soul: it hurts.


  5. Matthew Belinkie OTI Staff #

    Latore – that’s pretty good right there. It gels with the reveal that “gold” and “knowledge” are the same word, and that’s why the city wasn’t made of actual gold.

    But even assuming that the whole “guarded by the living dead” thing is a clever reference to the aliens, it’s still pretty sneaky to put the line in the trailer. They knew what people would think.

    It’s one thing to have a misleading prophesy in the movie. It’s another to market with one.


  6. Stokes #

    The trailer also overlayed that line of dialogue with a momentary shot of the “Uglas.” I remember thinking at the time, “Hmm, their zombies are surprisingly non-rotty.” The movie might get off the hook, but the trailer is misleading AND racist.


  7. UnSub #

    On the topic of the non-zombie zombies, my gripe was that they did this trick twice – once at the graveyard and once at the hidden temple. Are there really groups of people all over the world who just hang around waiting for someone to visit an obsure spot just so they can leap out en masse?

    Oh, and the fact these warriors were hidden behind walls / panels in the temple they had to break through was just idiotic. Do they break through these things every day as they clock on / clock off, but have someone reset them? Does they play pracitcal jokes by sending out a false alarm that causes everyone to spring from their hiding place so they all can have a good laugh?

    I accepted Indy IV as a pulp movie, but dear god, it had some stupid, it’s-in-the-script moments in it.


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