Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Guest Blogger On 'Indiana Jones' And That Crystal Skull

It is odd that Putin has taken issue with the fourth Indiana Jones film, with its Communists as bad guys flick. It's obviously that although the film has updated the antagonists from Nazis to the Red Menace, the film's heart isn't in it.

For whatever reason, the movie is not interested in showing anything truly frightening about Communism. The flick is too focused on a US-centric viewpoint, concerned almost exclusively with the effect Cold War paranoia had on American society. But unfortunately it doesn't put this fear in context. We see protests against the Reds on a college campus, but we don't hear anything about the formation of the Warsaw Pact (in fact the film omits the very existence of the countries that were Soviet satellites.

Apparently the Reds are a bunch of Russians, one Ukrainian woman and a British turncoat). We see academic intimidation, but the fact the Soviets had "The Bomb" during this time period is also omitted (it is actually implied that only the US had atomic bombs). However the film can't quite bring itself to condemn McCarthyism with anything other than light tones.

The Nazis in Raiders had Toht the vile Gestapo agent, but the Communists have no political officers in their ranks. There is no spying within the Soviet ranks, no fear of surveillance. The Russian soldiers are faceless grunts, and not even stereotypically evil ones at that. There is no corruption or ideological rigidity or group-think constraining their combat progress.

The film cannot bring itself to really show even a resemblance of reality within the Soviet forces, but neither can it exaggerate them to Cold War-era levels. The movie seems desperate to prove it is not Cold War right-wing propaganda, that this film can't be used by the Right to showcase the negatives of Communism, as if the Right was the only critic of the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union's own treatment of dissident academics is omitted, there are no dissenting Soviet citizens in this movie who want out. Every Red is a happy little minion of Stalin-ville. The villainess seems untouched by any past hardship, which is amazingly unlikely due to Stalin's paranoia. Surely some people she cared about were mistreated in the past, she doesn't seem heartless enough.

Cate Blanchett's villain is a cipher: she's got medals aplenty from Stalin, but she's not a believer. Where is the indoctrination? The ideology? For Communists, they seem remarkable devoid of any interest in the working class. They don't even cloak their true interests in Marxist ideology, in fact Marx is omitted. Unlike Last Crusade, there are no scenes within the Sovet Union, let alone the Warsaw Pact. We see nothing of life behind the Iron Curtain, or any of the countries that were within The Second World.

The film dodges all the misery or even the visions that drove the Soviets during that time period. It is a Cold War-era movie without much in the way of conviction: it can point out McCarthyism on the most superficial of levels but it can't seriously condemn or explore it, nor can it even begin to speak ill of the Sovet Union for a movie that is supposedly old-fashioned "Indy against the Reds". Indiana Jones fights the Soviet Union in name only, these villains are faint shadows of what the Soviets were. Our hero doesn't even seriously speak ill of his Red opponents, and these are the people he is fighting. The Soviets don't even threaten to send him to the Gulag, or do anything ill to those he associated with! What nice people, heh. They probably sent enemies of the working class to summer camp.

And so it does a disservice to even the pulp history (which wouldn't even think twice about exaggerating Communism's danger) on which Indiana Jones is inspired by, yet alone actual history. Indiana Jones would not mince words when talking about what was wrong with Communism or Cold War Paranoia, and neither should this movie. With all we do know about the Soviet world, you would think we'd depict it with at least a bit more historic accuracy than this whitewash.

Hollan M Kreil

No comments: