Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Questionable Jones No. 10

Great stunts make a movie great. Bad stunts, stunt growth. And the Indiana Jones series, like all films, has both good and bad stunts.

Question: "What was the best and the worst stunt?"

Scott's Answer: Best stunt? The truck chase in Raiders. It's absolutely perfect and I don't want to know how many bumps and bruises Harrison Ford and his stuntman (Vic Armstrong) suffered. Worst stunt? I won't count Shia of the Jungle since that was mostly done with visual effects. Now that I go with it, there aren't really and bad stunts, per se. Sure, there's the "Nuke the Fridge" sequence which might've been ill-conceived but there was nothing wrong with the execution.

Andrew's Answer: Yeah, the best stunt is the truck chase. You just can't beat that. It's so perfect it's iconic. I give an honorable mention to when Jones falls to the floor in the temple and ends up face to face with the cobra. Sadly, this stunt has been ruined a bit by the ability of people to go frame by frame as this allowed people to see that there is glass between Jones and the snake. For worst, I have to go with the whole chase through the jungle in Crystal Skull because it's just ridiculous. The whole concept is ridiculous in fact -- the speed with which they are cutting down trees, how smoothly the whole process goes and how the vehicles are driving along like they are on a highway, how they are jumping back and forth because there's no more jungle anymore, etc. Ahhhhh!! My disbelief!

24 comments:

K said...

Since everyone seems to agree with the truck chase as best stunt, I'll cut to the chase and go directly to the worst.

Last Crusade - The Nazi fighter (actually a Swiss trainer first flown in 1945) crashes into the tunnel, it's wings are sheared off and the pilot looks on with a detached interest as his flaming craft passes Jones and father and then explodes.

A precursor to the problems with Indy 4.

tryanmax said...

The tank chase/fight scene from Last Crusade has a remarkable number of stunts crammed into it, including a good deal of trick horse riding. I'm going to name the whole sequence as the best.

The only "worst" I can think of is a non-stunt at the end of the same sequence. Indy mysteriously doesn't go over the cliff with the tank, but we don't know how. Granted, there is at least one mysterious escape in each film, but that one feels like we were robbed of Indy hanging from a crag or something.

AndrewPrice said...

K, I HATE that moment! That's the kind of moment that whoever suggested it should have been shot on the spot. And you're right, that was a huge precursor to the problems of 4.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, That tank chase is a good one. But what I've always wondered (kind of the same with the Raiders truck scene actually)... is why they didn't just stop and take care of their problem. The odds would have been 100 to one if they stopped.

Mountain Man said...

I agree the truck chase in Raiders is good, but has anyone notice how the scene cuts are on a jungle road, then on a desert road, then back to the jungle?

I happen to like the boat chase in The Last Crusade, except the boat gets shot and smokes, but then is perfectly ok on the way back to the dock.

AndrewPrice said...

Mountain Man, Continuity is clearly not the series' strong suit!

rlaWTX said...

Best: what y'all said

Worst: the entire "4th Indy" movie*. I'm pretty sure those monkeys in that room that are typing Shakespeare randomly would have done a better "4th Indy" movie...
(*If I actually admitted to its existence)

ScottDS said...

K -

It's been a while... but I don't mind that scene. What I DO mind is that the tunnel suddenly becomes wide enough for the plane and Indy's truck to ride side by side, just for the gag.

ScottDS said...

tryanmax -

I swear I once saw a still of Indy hanging off the cliff, but I don't know if it was from a scene that was cut or just a publicity still.

But man, that chase is something. Spielberg, for all his faults, is still a master of staging action in a totally comprehensible way.

ScottDS said...

Mountain Man -

We've noticed. :-)

As for the boat chase, looking at it now, it's rather obvious that they're only in Venice for the first couple of shots (before, presumably, shooting the bulk of the sequence in England).

UPDATE - They shot most of the chase at the Tilbury Docks in Essex.

ScottDS said...

rla -

I have a friend who's the same way - there are only three Indy movies, along with that other thing. :-)

Tennessee Jed said...

First film was great. There was a great scene is the market in Egypt. And the snakes were good. The second film had a great opening sequence, then more or less slid downhill. The third one, I liked better than the second. i sort of remember a ride in a dirigible, then an old guy saying "choose wisely."

Dave Olson said...

Indiana Jones movies are the opposite of Star Trek movies, in that the odd numbered ones are good and the even ones are crap. (Which is unfair to Trek, because 3 is pretty good and the director's cut of 1 is very watchable on DVD when you can skip past all the glory shots of the Enterprise and the space stations, as well as all the "Look at the clouds!" shots; 5 still sucks.)

Anyway, the stunts in IJ 1 and 3 are great, even if they stretch credulity at times. I mean seriously, going under a truck and hanging on with a bullwhip? The airplane in the tunnel? But we forgive the filmmakers these trespasses, because the rest of the stunts were as good as the stories.

This just isn't the case with 2 and 4. I think 2 may have foreshadowed the era of "if you can't make it good and smart, make it loud and dumb" in movies, as exemplified by the Fast and Furious and Transformers franchises. First the raft, then the mine cart, then a rope bridge collapsing over a river full of crocodiles. Probably a few others that I've repressed far enough. Action for the sake of action makes me yawn. Or break wind. Sometimes both.

That's why I never went to see 4 in the theater, out of courtesy to my fellow moviegoers. None of the stunts are very good because I know that it's all done with green screen. At least the previous movies had some element of danger to them, even if they WERE using stuntmen.

ScottDS said...

Jed -

"He chose... poorly/wisely" is a popular phrase among me and my friends. :-)

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, One thing you have to give Spielberg is the clarity of his images -- you always know what is happen. There are tons of films that don't do that, but Spielberg always pulls that off.

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, Nice abbreviated version! :)

AndrewPrice said...

Dave, I forgot about the mine cart. I don't for a minute accept any part of that whole scene. You can't jump those things and there's no way they could do anything like what they did. Ug.

ScottDS said...

Dave -

Nice to see a fellow TMP fan. Personally, I think the film has aged like a fine wine, Bones' disco-era civvies notwithstanding. (And I have a soft spot for V. Kinda.) :-)

Yeah, the problem with a lot of action sequences today is that: a.) it's not real, and b.) unless the effects are perfect, the audience instinctively knows what they're seeing isn't real. A bad greenscreen shot is one thing but - and Andrew has written about this before - movie characters today seem to break the laws of physics on a regular basis.

Dave Olson said...

Scott-

I think that's what makes a good stunt or a bad stunt: Physics, and all the laws thereof. Prior to 1990 or so, before CGI really got cooking, stunts were handled by stuntmen and women to do things that looked very dangerous or even impossible. You bought it because you were rooting for the heroes, and they were just good or lucky enough to pull it off. (In the classical sense, they could do these things because they had the favor of the gods.) And we could relate because we've all done something while on adrenaline that we've all felt later. After Indy's truck chase, Marion is trying to nurse his wounds but he claims that everything hurts but his elbow, forehead, and lips. (The dog!)

Today, it's all greenscreen and CGI. I haven't seen any of the Harry Potter films, but I heard about a scene in which Hermione was riding some beast that was trying to throw her off. It had to be done with computers because the movements would literally have broken Emma Watson's neck, to say nothing of a stuntwoman. I haven't seen The Hobbit either, but apparently there's a scene in which our heroes are riding down a hill in a giant cauldron or something, then they fall off a mountain, then they land and everything is all right, then an ogre lands on them. And then they all walk away. Huh? Too much CGI in the stunts makes me go from "Wow, that's awesome!" to "What the frap just happened?" It ruins the magic of the movies, and it's one of the many reasons that Crystal Skulls stunk on hot ice.

Mountain Man said...

Slightly o.t.: I think that #2 wasn't all that great was because they deserted their audience in an attempt to be dark and edgy. I really enjoyed #2 up until the human sacrifice scene.

Indiana Jones audiences are there to have a good time, see a spectacle, and partake of an incredible adventure. Surprisingly, human sacrifice and child slavery don't qualify.

AndrewPrice said...

Mountain Man, What's interesting is that I think Raiders is even darker -- it starts with betrayal and brutal ways to die. The Nazis are monsters. And then the whole face-melting stuff. Yet, it doesn't feel as dark as the second film somehow.

ScottDS said...

Mountain Man -

If you ask Lucas about Doom, he'll take the blame for the darkness. His personal life at the time was less than great and he was going through a bad divorce... so some of that bad mojo ended up on the screen. :-)

(Not an excuse, just an observation.)

ScottDS said...

Andrew -

I wonder if it's because Nazis, for better or worse, are a known entity while the Thuggee cult was news for most of us and, as a result, anything could've happened.

Mountain Man said...

Good points!

It isn't the gruesomeness per se, because we expect band guys to do bad things. And I thought Mola Ram was a pretty good villain. To me, it's just that those certain story elements I mentioned are really not what I consider entertaining.

Also, the ark is a pretty awesome objective, and the grail not too bad either. But a rock? The rock wasn't threatening. It didn't endanger or kill anyone except when it got hot (?) and Mola Ram plunged to his death.

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