I’ve just this minute returned from watching the new Indiana Jones film at my local cinema. I’ll save my review of the whole film for a little while, certainly there are plenty of them to read out there, and generally my opinion leans more to that of Devin than Jeremy’s. What I will talk about is one scene that already has got a little bit of attention. You see, at one part of the movie, shortly after the special effects make the binary switch between quite acceptable to fan film, Shia LaBeouf’s character gets stuck up a tree. It’s not really important how he gets there. Action movie hi-jinks, you know the sort. What is important is what happens next.
From amongst the trees, a troupe of computer generated monkeys appear! Including a monkey which somewhat resembles Shia LaBeouf! Oh my goodness, what japes. The monkeys swing a-long-a-Shia and then briefly brawl with Cate Blanchett and some evil Communists, all while looking as realistic as Tony Curtis’ brow line. My problem is not necessarily with the idea of the scene. I mean, why can’t some fake monkeys immediately bond with a stranded 1950’s greaser and then take a silent, violent objection to the Soviet regime? The best Indiana Jones film, Raiders of the Lost Ark, has a Nazi monkey who gives the fascist salute to a pair of Hitlerite agents! But a crucial difference was that monkey was a real creature, which makes the scene much funnier. A CGI monkey will do whatever you like with no effort, including looking fake and punching Cate Blanchett. In a movie that has already had three appearances by some kind of CGI gopher by this stage, it’s maybe a little much.
But then my mind started turning. Where have I seen this before? Where did a bunch of ropey CGI monkeys come out of nowhere and attack someone? Then it clicked! About 4 years ago I was watching the new DVD of Lucas’ film THX 1138. Right at the very end, as Robert Duvall is escaping the shiny faced robot policemen, he is pounced upon by a vagrant midget. Or at least, he was originally. But in the new version on the DVD, he is set upon by a CGI monkey! Duvall briefly wrestles with it then throws it to the ground, where more digital monkeys come and tend to it. After 33 years, when came time to review and re-release his first film to DVD, George Lucas decided what it lacked was computer generated simians of some sort.
Then, once you notice it, it’s hard not to see it all over. A bunch of monkeys in the new film, and a deceitful Nazi monkey in Raiders. In Temple of Doom, the heroes are served monkey brains for dinner, which disgusts Willie, who passes out. The tribesmen in the new film move like monkeys, as they crawl over the trees and scurry through holes in the graveyard. Lucas’ favoured script for a sequel at one point was Chris Columbus’version, which featured Indiana Jones on the trail of Sun Wukong, the mythical Chinese monkey king. To go beyond monkeys, Indiana Jones is named after the family dog. Shia LeBeouf’s character is called Mutt. The friendly creatures in Star Wars, such as Chewbacca and the Ewoks, resemble giant dogs and miniature bears respectively.
I’ve had a horrible thought but….is George Lucas some kind of secret ‘furry’ or something? What is this obsession with hairy animals? Most worryingly, the new Indiana Jones shows his insistence to put them in even if they don’t look right, and THX 1138 DVD shows his determination to put monkeys in things even if he couldn’t get them in the first time around! Lucas was a co-producer on the Kurosawa film Kagemusha. I wonder if in 20 years, we’ll be watching a new edition of Kagemusha on whatever format is in vogue, only to recoil in horror as Tatsuya Nakadai slowly turns round, a CGI ape face superimposed over his head! Is this what really happened in the Planet of the Apes scenario? I don’t know, but I’m a little scared.