Posts Tagged ‘Scientology’

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

June 4, 2008

WARNING: MASSIVE PLOT SPOILERS

You have to wonder just how much influence Tom Cruise has in the world these days, or at least how much influence he has over Steven Spielberg.

The first three Indy movies were heavily based in Christian mythology, then there was this 19 year break during which the cult membered egotist made a few films with everyone’s favourite family flick helmer, and then Indy returns and discovers that the world is pretty much like Scientology have claimed all along. And they said War of the Worlds was just a popcorn movie…

So Indy is back after nearly two decades, and boy is he old. Old, old, old. He’s so old that he keeps pointing out how old he is – he’s so old that even his immortal Dad has died, and he’s so old that it’s now the 1950s and it’s the Russians who need thwarting. For a guy who was last seen drinking the fountain of youth, he sure is old.

The movie is old too. Not old in that kind of timeless way, but old in that kind of ‘we’ve seen it all before’ way. It’s a bit sad to see him trying to recreate his youth, slapping on that weary grimace and plodding through the motions again – and the thing is, he’s still good at it and he’s still enjoyable to watch, but truthfully he’s never going to be as good as he once was. He’s fun to be around because he’ll never lose his magic – but like the later albums by Stevie Wonder proved, he should have just quit when he was ahead.

The plot is utter bollocks – something about a magnetic quartz skull which might have belonged to a conquistador, but turns out to be from one of the aliens who engineered civilization. At the point where a CGI Lawnmower Man alien stares into the camera and a flying saucer decimates a Mayan temple you realise that this is a Thetan history lesson; the Christian undertones of the previous three films having been undermined and replaced with a B-movie hokiness.

Since Sean Connery wouldn’t come out of retirement and Denholm Elliot was actually dead, they cast familiar actors to fill their void – Ray Winstone is in it for no good reason, playing a character with little or no purpose; John Hurt crops up as deranged exposition spouter, a sort of savant version of his Da Vinci Code role and Spielberg’s current hard-on for Shia LaBoeuf continues with his role as hetero-gay biker sidekick Mutt.

LaBoeuf is ok, clearly being primed for another appearance, and Hurt is suitably camp but annoyingly predictable – it’s only Winstone who stands out as terrible – an empty shell of a clichéd stereotype. He’s been more convincing selling us Holsten Pils.

The movie is much like that moment in Terminator 3 where Arnie puts the comedy shades on at the beginning; it’s knowingly self referential, and kind of makes sense given the characters position in popular culture – but at the same time it robs him of the genuine charm that made you love him in the first place. The whole film is one big wink to the camera, as if George Lucas were stood in the corner of the screen pointing to all the in-jokes – “look, it’s the Ark of the Covenant, do you remember that? Wow, Raiders was a good film wasn’t it?”

Crystal Skull’s opening sequence is a fun set piece set in a huge warehouse, before it moves to a highly misjudged nuclear bomb sequence in the Arizona desert. We’re then treated to a medley of jet powered train rides, flying fridge escapes and CGI gophers. It’s all a little too silly and a little too convenient. It undermines Indiana Jones as a character and instead makes him a beneficiary of continued good luck.

That’s not to say that it’s not an entertaining film, because it is. Overall it’s very enjoyable and there are some good sequences, not to mention the very welcome return of Karen Allen who genuinely lights up the screen when she’s around. There’re bike chases, ESP, nuclear bombs and killer ants and huge waterfalls and all manner of really cool moments – but none of them really work like they used to.

It’s too knowing, too openly funny, too much of a movie to ever let you forget it’s a movie… you don’t get sucked in, you groan and sigh and wish it wasn’t quite as lame as you begin to realise it is.

Seeing Indy staggering around this new 1950’s time period is like watching fat Elvis in Vegas; he’s great to see because you love him, but he looks out of place in time. By moving forward Indy has become outdated, his jacket and fedora now look like a costume, his style of adventuring having ended in the previous decade.

It doesn’t really matter, of course – it’s just a film and an ok one at that. It’s not a meditative reflection of the soul, it’s a popcorn flick and isn’t meant to be taken too seriously. At the same time, though, you just wish that they’d had the sense to leave it where it was before – as a great trilogy of films. Seeing Indy now just reminds you that your heroes get old – that they’ll get worse over time and their legend will fade.

It’s not quite the childhood rape that the new Star Wars films were, but it’s gets dangerously close at times. It’s a savage irony of life that George Lucas has the ability to create incredible and hugely popular characters and then totally fuck them up with bad decisions. Spielberg is as much to blame her as well, though – by listening to the bearded money-eater he’s forgotten that films are meant to have good stories, not just iconic lead characters and in-jokes.

It’s still good to be in Indy’s company again, though – he’s been missed and although he’s not as good as he once was, it’s nice to have him back.

Panorama – Scientology And Me

May 15, 2007

John Sweeney 

This half hour episode on Scientology relates itself to the story that Scientologists want their crazy little cult to be recognized as a proper religion in Britain, however, a court ruling had been passed a few years ago in which it was deemed unfit to fall into the category of a real religion, on account of it being corrupt and sinister. So not at all like other religions then.

Anyway, this normally sobering staple of BBC discharge begins as usual with that walking face Jeremy Vine standing all huddled up in his scarf and mack looking every inch the concerned journalist. (Why does it feel like winter whenever he appears on screen?) Normally Vine himself dominates proceedings, but thankfully this time the reigns are handed over to John Sweeney, but not before Vine sardonically bellows – “Whatever you do, don’t call Scientology a cult.”

For the first half of the show Sweeney attempts to meet and interview some of those disilliusioned by Scientology, who, for whatever reason, have little good to say about life in the cult. It seemed though, that wherever Sweeney went, sinister man-in-black Tommy Davis lurked somewhere close behind. Davis is a spokesman of the church of scientology and frequently appears out of nowhere to besmirch someone’s name. That is his job.

If you saw the programme, you’ll have seen Sweeney at one point interviewing a man who was quite reasonably criticizing Scientology, only to be interrupted by the menacing Davis, who got out of a nearby car with a list in his hand comprising of minor crimes the man had committed, which he proceeded to read to Sweeney. Obviously he was trying to discredit the man in order to render his testimony untrustworthy. These crimes included smoking a bit of pot. This is what they do. Criticize the weirdos at your own risk.

Even taking into account the BBC’s traditionally sneaky methods of editing, Davis comes across like a nasty little fascist who never shuts up. Not only is he a brainwashed numpty but he appears incapable of having a conversation. Several times he would make a point but when Sweeney tried to comment he was drowned out by an agressive Davis yelling – “Now you listen to me for a second!”, before embarking on rants that sounded like Hitler’s might’ve after a botched lobotomy or two.

Given this, it’s not surprising that Sweeney finally cracked and screamed at Davis like a broken torture victim. Although this sequence didn’t make it into the show in full, you can see the clip on YouTube (posted there by some of Scientology’s own documentary makers as part of a smear campaign against Panorama). Even though Sweeney goes demented, Davis continues to ramble inanely all the way through it, regardless. It’s quite surreal.

This episode was advertised on the promise of interviews with some of Scientology’s celebrity disciples, including Juliette Lewis (whom I had thought better of) and Kirstie Alley, (whom I hadn’t) but the most we were allowed was a real dopey quote from the massive-faced John Travolta, who claimed that Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe could have been saved by the cult. If this means that Travolta isn’t going to die any time soon then I may really start hating Scientology. The other interviews apparently went a bit skew-whiff due to Sweeney’s unsympathetic line of questioning. By this I mean that he asked them for their thoughts on L. Ron Hubbard’s flannel-juice fairy tale about the warlord Xenu, who was, according to Hubbsy, an intergalactic dictator back in the day. 75 million years ago to be precise. The story goes that Xenu brought billions of aliens to earth, stuffed them into volcanoes and blew them up with hydrogen bombs (he didn’t fuck around). Their souls then merged and stuck to the bodies of the living (?), and they continue to wreak havoc today (something reeks, but it ain’t havoc). Disappointingly we don’t get to hear Lewis or Alley’s reactions to Sweeney’s questions, but their bewildered expressions said it all. Unsurprisingly, Tommy Davis was present, barking at Sweeney that he sounded ridiculous for asking.

Quite where Hubbard gleaned this information from is beyond me, but to procure the name of a 75 million year old spaceman constitutes some impressive research.

Scientologists are clearly embarrassed about this little stain on their belief structure and are now backpeddling in an attempt to edit their core beliefs, Although i don’t know why, because to me it’s no more unbelievable than most religious ideologies anyway.

So now I’ve said my piece about Scientology I have to change my identity and flee the country. They don’t like being criticized y’know…