...a blog by Richard Flowers

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Day 2730: Whip Crack Away

Sunday (ish… time to make Daddy catch up on those diaries he missed!):

Well grant me a professorship with tenure and a pension if it isn't the long awaited return of a George Lucas classic that somehow doesn't QUITE live up to the hype or our memories!

Yes, Professor Henry "Indiana" Jones is back in the really rather-too-long-to-type "…and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull". So grabbing my bullwhip and fedora, I open up the secret passage from the Thuggee temple into the back of the cinema to go watch it with my Daddies.

History hangs heavy on this film, with a portrait of Mr Denholm and a photo of Mr Sean reminding us that even the FRANCHISE is now an historical artefact, first unearthed in the Eighties.

And for the first half of the movie it all looks like it's being quite clever, with commentaries on Indy getting old and on the US being so caught up in looking for communists within that they completely overlook the small army of GENUINE communists roving around their air bases. And using the gunpowder and shotgun pellets to find the magnetised metal chest was great, classic Indy using his smarts to improvise a cunning way to the treasure.

The second half rather more disappointing.

The conclusion of Last Crusade felt like it MEANT something, with father and son both learning something about each other and Jones Sr surrendering the quest for the Grail and persuading Jr to let it go.

Here the conclusion feels… perfunctory. Ms Cate Blanchett gets incinerated because… it's time to incinerate the villain; there's no sense of it being even particularly ironic, as with Mr Beloq getting melted up by the Ark because he is actually BETTER than Indy at stealing ancient artefacts or Mr Donovan getting aged to death when he was after immortality. She is smart, psychic and has that sword as a character point, but we don't really get a STORY for her. We don't really learn that her quest is for knowledge whatever the cost and that the Soviets are merely a means to her end. Daddy Alex would have liked the alien to look into her head, see her autopsying the Roswell alien and take revenge for that.

"They were archaeologists" was a really good line, but "knowledge was their treasure" came out of nowhere and didn't really tell us anything – also, how did Indy know? The only person who GAINED any knowledge went fizzle-pop because of it!

Daddy Alex was very pleased to have been ahead of the film twice: once when he mentioned (correctly) that gold is not magnetic – shortly before Indy spots that the crystal skull shouldn't be magnetic, and Mutt replies nor is gold; second when he figured that the "great serpent" clue was the Amazon, shortly before Indy did.

There was a BIT of the old Tomb Raider stuff in the Peruvian graveyard, with Indy getting them into the hidden inner crypt, but the only really big puzzle was the Mayan ziggurat in Eldorado, and – in a huge cheat – John Hurt had already figured that one out ahead of times.

Miss Marian doesn't have an awful lot to do, but she does do it with such a huge smile on her face that you know she's just loving every minute of being back.

Nor does it help that the dictates of the film mean that Harrison Ford is STILL being the action man hero. He saves Mutt (hoho – Indiana was the dog's name too) several times. We would have much preferred it if Mutt had kept saving Indy from fights and physical danger but at the end it is Indy's superior knowledge that gets them out of the flying saucer (rather than just "run for it!") – something, anything to show that there ARE compensations for getting older and that young and old need each other. Also, I was expecting some payoff for all the times Mutt whips out his comb to reset his hair. And what a shame that Indy takes the hat back from him at the end rather than settling it on his son's head to (a) pass the torch (b) finally hang up his hat.

Plus, the big spinny CGI swallowing up the pyramid is very very similar to The Mummy Returns, which itself is a poor-man's Indiana Jones… and that says a lot.

Brickloads more fun then to be had playing the computer game version: Lego Indiana Jones.

This is (obviously) the follow up to the hugely popular Lego Star Wars games. And honesty compels me to admit that it is not QUITE as good. Indy can use his whip to swing across gaps or to grab things, while other characters can dig up buried treasure or fix machinery with a handy spanner, but it's not QUITE as much fun as using the Force. Swords and pistols are no substitute for blasters and lightsabres either, but most importantly, playing the evil characters in Indiana Jones is just a bunch of Nazis, and not a patch on playing Darth Vader or the Emperor. Nor do you get the fun of some puzzles only being solvable by using the Dark Side.

On the other fluffy foot, there are none of those levels where character actions is swapped for trying to fly a Lego spaceship, the controls of which are far too fiddly for my flappy feet! So that's more platform jumping and problem solving and less shooting and crashing into things – a plus for me, though depending on how much you LIKED those levels, your mileage may vary.

Possibly BECAUSE of that, it does also seem ever so slightly EASIER, as I have finished all the levels (except the annoying one with the roller-coaster mine cars) while Lego Star Wars still remains challenging so long as I keep flying my fluffy X-Wing into the walls on the Death Star.

Like the Star Wars games, each level can and should be played at least twice – the first time in "story" mode, where you follow the adventure as it played out on screen. It is usually pretty obvious where you have to go, and what you need to solve each step, though a working knowledge of the movies is, naturally, quite handy, particularly towards the end of the "The Last Crusade" sections. Once you're through once, you can then play AGAIN in "Free Play" mode, where you can take in a CRACK TEAM of Lego figures of your choice (make sure you've got Indy for whipping stuff; Ms Marian or Ms Willie who can jump higher; the Maharaja who is small enough to climb through certain spaces AND can get special powers from the Evil Thuggee Statues™; and one of the Bazooka Troopers who are great for blowing up metal things, like Bounty Hunters could do in the Star Wars games). In Free Play you should be able to access all the hidden areas that you couldn't reach in Story mode (usually because they are blocked by metal doors or Evil Thuggee Statues™) in order to collect all the parts of the level's secret artefact, and grab a special power-up bonus to post back to Barnett College.

Speaking of the College, there are secret levels to be found there. Access is through the Trophy Room, which looks very nice once you've filled it up with all those secret artefacts, but you will have to search Indy's office pretty carefully to find the key first!

As an extra super-secret, there are five old friends from Lego Star Wars to be found imprisoned in various levels of the game. Collect all five and Indy looky-likey Han Solo is unlocked as a playable character. With blaster!

C3P0 is a golden statue in the Hovitas Temple (that's the one with the rolling boulder, as if you didn't know); Luke Skywalker is frozen into the roof of an ice cave in Tibet; Princess Leia is being held in Cell Block AA23 which for some reason can be found beneath the Temple of Doom; and the Jawas have left R2D2 in a canyon on the way to Alexandretta.

But the best is, I suspect, finding Chewbacca holed up in a SUSPICIOUSLY familiar Cantina in a back alley in Cairo!

So, lots of swash-buckling fun to be had, at least enough to tide you over until BATMAN arrives. Yes, Lego Batman is being released in the Autumn. (Oh, and there's some flick with Christian Bale in it out too.)

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