Looking back at my childhood in South London, the fact my parents had no money and worked very hard for very little was tempered by the escape from reality afforded me by film. And as a child, the films that stood out above all else, that revealed another world of possibility and adventure, were Indiana Jones and Star Wars. I've also probably seen The Neverending Story a hundred times too, but the enduring quality of Indiana Jones meant that even last year we dropped $60 on the box trilogy set to help Spielberg build another wing on his mansion.
Needless to say, I was excited when I heard the Crystal Skull was being made. My initial nervousness about ol' Harrison readying to collect his social security was replaced by intrepedation when I saw how the trailers made light of his age, and it seemed the whole thing could work. Even the casting supported the idea that this could be a quality addition to the franchise. So I booked expensive tickets in a gallery-like theater on opening night, to share a revisiting of my childhood with my wife, in a evening that would be forever memorable.
But in retrospect, as with all of life's great moments of failure, it's astonishing how monumentally wrong you can be.
Pretty much the second the movie opened on an unnecessary CGI gopher, I could feel the blood draining out of my head. I'd even overlooked George Lucas' thorough trashing of the Star Wars series and optimistically cast my mind back to the pre-Jar Jar Binks era, but I'd never expected every single frame of the movie to jump up and down mercilessly on the childhood dreams of an entire generation. George Lucas must spend his days torturing the Easter Bunny while calling collect to random children and telling them Santa Claus doesn't exist.
Like the boxing match from hell, the punches kept coming, each one landing solidly and leading toward a final inevitable knockout, with a side order of irreparable brain damage. The opening Area 51 scene really hurt, but I'd already forgotten about the pain when Cate Blanchett - one of the best actresses in the world today - appeared with a stereotype evil Russian villain that makes the woman with the stabby shoe from James Bond look a Renaissance sculpture of character study. But wait, Bond, sorry I mean Indiana, then inexplicably ends up in an atomic bomb testing town and somehow survives by being blown 2 miles in the air in a lead-lined refrigerator. 25 minutes in, I was already cursing so much that mothers in front of me were giving me stern looks, while the fathers looked at me with a sense of foreboding in their eyes that simply said, "Yes, my friend, I know".
We had officially lost cabin pressure when Shia Laboeuf (French for 'Where's the beef?') decided to grace our screens and prove once again that he's never been in a good film, and is rapidly becoming the Ben Affleck of the decade. Nobody sucks life out of drama more than Shia, except perhaps Tea Leone and Keira "twice-nightly" Knightly trying to perform Hamlet, and he's been routinely out-acted by a whole range of inanimate objects. This may have been the only time in my life that I've felt sorry for Karen Allen.
By the time we were subjected to Crystal Skulls, aliens and feats of plot logic that don't just insult the audience but actively point and laugh at the missing money from your wallet, I was ready for Ewoks to appear from nowhere to save the day. I left the theater in a morose state that I haven't felt since Pop Idol was sold to US TV, and realized at that moment I really didn't care what happened to Pandas, and recycling is a waste of time since the universe will end one day anyway.
But here's the kicker. Just as in The Ring, where nobody can ever escape Samara, after watching Indy 4 I realized that Lucas and Spielberg have left an indelible mark on the audience that can never be removed. Re-watching the first 3 films, it became instantly obvious that actually these were all pretty awful movies too, full of illogical plot leaps, 1-dimensional characters (a line?) and drawn-out sequences that lead to more drawn-out sequences.
And if they wasn't bad enough, in one epiphanic moment I saw the major flaw in all the films: the bad guys would never win if Indy simply went to the local bar, got blitzed and did nothing. In none of the films did they stand the remotest chance of figuring out the secrets and power of the lost treasures without his help. Think about the first one: the Nazis would never have known that Karen Allen had the secret trinket, they were digging in the wrong place and would never have found the ark, and then - yes, then! - if they had found the Ark and taken it to Berlin, rather than the evil spirits just killing a few Nazis, they would have wiped out Hitler and his entire nutcase army! Therefore, Indiana Jones just prolonged the Second World War! So much for my childhood hero.
Let's just say this: I'm never trusting George Lucas again.