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The End of Star Trek and Star Wars

One day Paramount and Disney might meet up in a bar, go back to their penthouse for a one night stand and then hook up for good in an obscene squishy merger that will put Star Trek and Star Wars under the same corporate roof. And it won’t matter much by then because the rivalry is over and everyone lost.

Gene Roddenberry and George Lucas had their faults, and they were big ones too, but they were individuals trying to tell a story. 417px-Enterprise_destructionWith the sale of Star Wars and the end of the Star Trek franchise, those days are over. Star Wars and Star Trek are both IP’s. There’s no more stories, plots, visions or anything like that. Just a marketing opportunity.

Ten years from now, even if Paramount and Disney don’t corporately boink their balance sheets together, it will be hard to tell Star Trek and Star Wars apart. Ask a teenager now what the difference is and he won’t be able to tell you. And how could he. Maybe he’ll say that Star Wars is for kids, because he associates it with Phantom Menace and the Clone Wars series and that Star Trek is for teens because he associates it with the Abrams movie.

And he’ll be right.

Star Wars now fills the Tween niche and Star Trek hits the 17 year old target audience that every blockbuster does. Two eccentric bits of 60’s and 70’s mystic space-as-metaphor-f0r-conciousness franchises are reduced to the status of Transformer and every other IP waiting to be rolled off into theaters, consoles and app stores.

It’s amazing that Star Trek survived intact as long as it did in its gated franchise overseen by Rick Berman and his flying monkeys. It might even be alive today if Berman and his monkeys weren’t so dumb and arrogant that they killed the golden goose. UPN died and the leftovers got rebooted into a teen girl network. Star Trek fetched up on the shores of a mysterious island whose dorky overlord saw it as an exit strategy to the big time. Bigger even than Mission Impossible 3.

The rest is history, or will be when one of his movies fails, and Star Trek gets rebooted over and over again. Maybe one day it will even be a series again. Not, you know, a series, but it’ll be on TV for a while, things will blow up a lot, the writers will work out their angst, there will be a mystic arc, lots of postmodern storytelling and then SciFi or SyFy will cancel it and life will go on.

Star Trek and Star Wars were nice, but they’re dead now, Jim.

Gene Roddenberry didn’t get the chance to strangle his own franchise to death by turning it into complete crap. Everyone got lucky that he made TNG work as a concept, and as a set of characters, but wasn’t able to retain control of it. George Lucas did retain control of his franchise and killed it. But even their failures were personal. The new wave is impersonal IP’s milked like cash cows on Rodeo Drive until there’s nothing left.

Angry Birds Star Wars: The Most Obnoxious Thing Ever Has Been Achieved

There’s a point in every culture when it hits absolute bottom. When it goes so low that there is no lower and all that its people can do is gaze in awe at the transcendent majesty of their achievement.

And so I give you. Angry Birds Star Wars, in which George Lucas completes the bastardization of the Star Wars franchise on the eve of its sale to Disney and Angry Birds becomes more ubiquitous and annoying.

Congratulations everyone. Take a bow. We’ll see each other in Babylon or Rome. And if you can find a way to work Katy Perry into this, the gates of hell will probably open and swallow the entire solar system.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull movie review

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull movie posterTwenty-seven years ago Indiana Jones first arrived on the screen in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Since then he’s made three sequels and been subject to endless novelizations, games and parodies. We’ve gotten to know Indy pretty well over this last generation, well enough to recognize Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull for what it is, a pastiche of the first three movies mixed together with heaps of nostalgia and George Lucas’ own derivative brand of mythology and alternative archeology.

When Indiana Jones makes his appearance after 19 years in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, it’s clear that he’s gotten a lot older and softer, but it’s also clear that George Lucas and Steven Spielberg have gotten a lot older and softer too. Like its lead, its director and its visionary, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull still has some energy, but it’s bloated, slow and guilty of repeating itself.

The adventurous hero is gone replaced by a tired old man, a former government agent who worries about his job, defends his war record and clings nervously to the back of Shia LeBeouf’s motorcycle. A silly character who flails panicked in the swamp at the thought of grabbing onto a snake until Shia LeBeouf calms his fears by telling him it’s a rope. Lucas and Spielberg leave in just enough heroics for us to recognize the old Indiana Jones, but it’s a disappointed recognition like meeting a favorite uncle only to realize that he’s grown senile and can barely go to the bathroom on his own.

Much of the blame goes to George Lucas, the man behind the rewrite of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, who doesn’t spare Indiana Jones from the same ravages he inflicted on Star Wars. Not only is the old Indiana Jones gone but he’s virtually a supporting character in his own movie which teams him up with Shia LeBeouf as his bratty long lost son, Mutt Williams, Karen Allen as Marion Ravenwood, Ray Winstone as Mac and finally John Hurt as a mentally challenged Professor Oxley who speaks in riddles. Indiana Jones always had his sidekicks but in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, it’s more like he’s another member of the Indy gang, which is exactly what Lucas likely intended.

Where Raiders of the Lost Ark and Temple of Doom began in foreign locales, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull begins in exotic Nevada and then heads off to an even more exotic Ivy League college campus. Over a third of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull goes by before Indiana Jones even leaves American soil. Once he does there’s a single plane trip and then it’s a generic South American locale, complete with generic tribesmen with painted faces. Indiana Jones movies were always journey movies, but even that is lost as Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull focuses its attention on two sprawling complexes, the Area 51 complex and the lost city and the area around it. There’s no real adventure because there’s hardly any room for adventure.

So what’s left? Steven Spielberg seemed terribly worried that spoilers would leak out to the audience, but every single plot twist and revelation in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull can be easily seen coming. Is there anyone in the audience who really doesn’t know well beforehand that Mutt Williams will turn out to be Indiana Jones’ son. Or that Mac is really working for the Russians even when he pretends not to be. Or that the crystal skulls belong to aliens or even that the pyramid will likely be a spaceship or that in the tradition of Indiana Jones villains, Irina Spalko will get exactly what she wants and it will destroy her. But Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull’s script is too determined to spoil it for you in case you can’t figure it out for yourself by actually having Indiana Jones come right out and tell her that early on in the movie.

Where the classic Indiana Jones films had the edge of the politically incorrect serials combined with the best scares, twists and action scenes that Spielberg could pull off, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is safely toned down and kid friendly. The creatures that pop up in the movie, from monkeys to red ants to a giant snake are safely CGI and look as unreal as anything in the Mummy films. To make Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull fully family friendly, Lucas and Spielberg even make sure that there’s a family on screen having actual adventures. It’s as if Terminator got remade by the director of Lassie.

By the time Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull ends with an on screen wedding and Indiana Jones and Mutt Williams tussling for his signature hat, a not too subtle symbolic suggestion that Shia LeBeouf will be the star of the Indiana Jones movies pretty soon, it’s clear that while Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull isn’t quite another Phantom Menace, it’s so watered down and weak that it barely connects not only as an action movie or an adventure, but as anything beyond a diffuse nostalgia trip and a merchandising opportunity. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is Indiana Jones on life support, not so much because Harrison Ford got old, but because George Lucas and Steven Spielberg did, and seeing it reminds us that while Indiana Jones is still capable of cracking the whip, the men who made the gutsy movies and created the modern blockbuster are the ones who have lost their edge.

Did George Lucas and Steven Spielberg Inject Sexism Into Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom Because of their Divorces?

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom was in many ways an awkward sequel to Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, the best scenes take place in the opening in Shanghai and what follows are a series of gross outs, weird George Lucas-esque mysticism and an ending that has Indiana Jones being rescued by the British army in a seeming praise of Britain’s Indian colonialism, indeed it’s oneof the villains who criticizes the British army.

More notable of course is the blatant sexism. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is said to be darker because both George Lucas and Steven Spielberg were going through a divorce and a break up at the time, leading to obvious feelings of resentment against women. The change is apparent from the start, where Marion Ravenwood was a tough as nails equal to Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark, Kate Capshaw as Willie Scott is generally whiny and useless.

2 minutes into the movie, Indiana Jones has already tried to use her as a hostage, threatened her with a sharp object, felt her up while she sniveled, greedily searched for a diamond instead of the antidote to his poison and generally acted like a stereotypical dumb blonde. Her portrayal improves slightly as the movie goes on, but not by very much. It’s a caricature that reeks of anything from resentment to outright hatred of women, which of course makes it all the more interesting that Spielberg married Kate Capshaw. And inevitable, because the perfect refuge of sexism is a sexist stereotype. While Capshaw is not her character obviously, in the director’s mind the one can’t help but be associated with the other.

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