Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Pop Perceptions: In Defense of Indy

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is hitting theaters this Thursday and the Internet is going crazy with all sorts of mixed buzz. Whether I'm on a messageboard or the Yahoo homepage, I find myself surrounded by people debating whether or not it will "suck," along with posts mentioning which critics think it's fantastic and which ones think it's absolute trash.

We're only two days away from the movie's release, but I still feel the need to say a little something about this.

I have to admit that I've been honestly baffled by many people's premature needs to bash the film. Okay, so the critics who have been releasing their reviews have a right to their opinions. They've seen the film and are now in a place where they can make their judgments. But what about the rest of the population?

For months and months, I've been hearing people go on about how Harrison Ford's too old, how this movie will be horrible thanks to the fact that George Lucas mucked up his own Star Wars movies, and how they absolutely refuse to watch such sacrilege.

Fine, I can understand why people would worry about the potential ruin of a well-loved fictional character. But I think there's a point where people are often a bit too entitled to their opinions. I too was a little concerned when I heard about Indy 4. I'm a fan of the original trilogy and while I was excited to that I would get to see Indy on the big screen, since I was too young to see the first three movies in theaters, I was definitely worried that the overall tone of the original films would be lost. At the same time, I was worried that they would try too hard to recapture Indy's "glory days." These are valid concerns that I shared and might still share with Indy's current batch of haters.

But in the case of Indy 4, I feel that there is a select group of people that is just intent on badmouthing the film without any concrete evidence of why it's bad. Yes, Harrison Ford is much older now, but the film is also set about two decades after the first three movies. Previews indicate that Indy will make at least a couple of remarks regarding his age. Yes, George Lucas is still associated with the franchise, but he's not the director, and there might even be a chance that the guy has learned something from the backlash against the Star Wars prequels. I'm not saying this is certain, but you never know.

And while some things have changed in Indy's realm, others have not.

In fact, articles and previews don't really indicate that this film's tone is terribly different from the one found in the original three. Indy still wears the classic fedora. It looks like they've really tried not to overdo it with the CGI and the filming style seems to be classic Spielberg. There might be a few corny jokes, but even the first three movies had their corny moments.

Look, the point is, these movies have never been great intellectual masterpieces. They're just great adventure movies, with a really likable main character. Some of the characters in the original trilogy — i.e. Willie in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom — are downright shrill and mostly irritating, indicating that even some of the well-loved movies of the past have their flaws.

Was it necessary for Spielberg and co. to make this fourth installment for the franchise? Maybe not. But relying on your preconceptions and bandying about critics' reviews does not offer any evidence that this is, in fact, a bad film. Nor is it a good way to assert your opinion. Watch it, and then judge. And if popcorn movies of this variety just aren't your thing, don't bother seeing it. But don't go around pushing your views on others and looking down on them just because they're the least bit willing to give the movie a chance.

As for me, I'm excited for this film. I know there's a chance that it might not meet whatever expectations I might have for it, but I want to watch something fun to kick off the summer. And if it's great, that's fantastic. If it's terrible, I might be a little disappointed, but at least I won't be letting any predetermined vitriol take over my life.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Superheroes Take Over the Met

In recent years, spring and summer have become the seasons belonging to the superhero. Year after year, Hollywood studios release films featuring old favorites like Spider-Man and the X-Men. This year, we already have Iron Man creating a buzz in theaters, and later on we'll have Batman returning in the highly-anticipated The Dark Knight.

Superheroes are everywhere and as a result, they're now being taken a little more seriously in other aspects of our society, including the art world. And last week, a special exhibition honoring the influence of superheroes opened in New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art. I was able to check out the exhibition, Superheroes: Fashion and Fantasy, over the weekend. While it was a little smaller than I expected it would be, it was still a neat experience and I'm glad I had a chance to see the exhibition.

The exhibition, brought about by the support of Giorgio Armani and Condé Nast, aims to reveal the connections between fashion and the superhero. Basically, as the Met's Web site puts it, "the superhero serves as the ultimate metaphor for fashion and its ability to empower and transform the human body."

The folks at the Met organized the exhibition by themes, which include "The Aerodynamic Body," "The Armored Body," and "The Mutant Body." Visitors get the chance to view actual superhero costumes from films alongside clothing designed by the likes of Armani, Dolce & Gabbana, and the late Gianni Versace.

The exhibition starts off with Superman, showing us how the "S" logo on his chest is really not all that different from the logos we see on brand-name clothing. But the coolest part for all the geeks visiting the exhibition is the opportunity to view a mannequin dressed as Clark Kent transform into Superman. The Superman costume seen here is the same one worn by Christopher Reeve back in the 1970s.

"The Graphic Body" portion of the exhibition revolves around Spider-Man. One gets to see two of the Spidey costumes from the recent films, along with designer gowns that really draw upon the spirit of this superhero due to the inclusion of a "web" design. Sidenote: the Spider-Man costumes seen in the films really do have that interesting rubbery appearance. It seems that CGI hasn't played much of a part in enhancing the costume's look.

There are of course, quite a few more things that I could mention, but I'd prefer not to turn this entry into a laundry list. So I'll just mention a few more interesting aspects of the exhibition. "The Mutant Body" was a neat display, featuring gowns that contained some animal-like elements. I was also able to take a look at the application used as the Mystique "costume" in the X-Men movies — and honestly, I can't imagine what a pain it must have been to both apply and remove it from one's body.

And last but not least, I'd like to mention two things that were personal highlights for me — getting to see the new batsuit worn by Christian Bale in the upcoming The Dark Knight, along with Michelle Pfeiffer's catsuit from Batman Returns. The former was just really neat to see, especially since the costume involves some redesigning that means live-action Batman should have less of a stiff neck when we see him in the movies. But looking at it in person also helped me understand why so many actors have had issues wearing the many incarnations of the batsuit to begin with. Meanwhile Pfeiffer's catsuit, which also shows how tiny the actress must have been while filming, is practically a relic at this stage. Slightly battered and falling apart at the seams, it really is something that belongs in a museum even though it's not that old to begin with.

All in all, the exhibition was a fun way to spend a Saturday afternoon. So if you're the least bit interested in superheroes, fashion or both, and find yourself at the Met between now and early September, I'd recommend checking it out.