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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Weekly Geeks: Telling stories with (motion) pictures - with bonus movie review!

This week's Weekly Geeks topic puts down the books to consider other forms of storytelling. Dewey says:

This week’s theme was suggested by Renay. She says, “I thought it would be cool to ask people to talk about other forms of story-telling.” This theme is once again one you could approach several ways. You might want to tell about the forms of storytelling (aside from books) you love. Maybe you enjoy TV shows, movies, music, narrative poetry, or Renay’s favorite, fanfiction. You could give us an overview of a type of storytelling, such as listing your favorite movies. Or you might pick a more specific story, one particular favorite. Some people might post youtubes of the songs whose stories they find brilliant, or some might share family bedtime stories.

I touched on some elements of this in the Booking Through Thursday response I posted last Friday.

One reason I love books is that they let me get inside a character's thoughts and motivations in a way that's just not possible in a movie. Movies are more like real life in the sense that you can really only infer what someone's thinking based on what they say or do; but at least in real life, you can ask questions. In books, the narrator can let you know exactly what's behind it all. Also, sometimes things that ring true on the page don't work onscreen, and it's got nothing to do with the story; bad acting and/or direction can be a distraction for me.

On the other hand, if I want just a couple of hours of fast-moving diversion, I'd rather have it in movie form; I think some types of stories, particularly if they're heavy on plot, action, and/or atmosphere, are just told better that way. A movie is usually a more visceral experience for me, and asks less of my mentally; for the most part, it's the opposite with books - and of course, there are exceptions on both counts.

Movies and television shows tell their stories in ways that involve more of the senses than books do, and as I noted above, some stories really are told most effectively that way. Being more of a novel reader than a short-story fan, much of the time I prefer television's form of storytelling to that of movies, particularly when it comes to dramas like Lost; there's time to reveal and get to know the characters, the story can take its time to unfold, and if you get confused, you can always watch a repeat (or better yet, save it on your DVR or TiVo for multiple viewings).

However, especially when summer comes around, I enjoy a trip to the movies to escape into worlds of adventure and excitement that, quite honestly, I don't really think I'd enjoy reading about. When a story has a lot of action, I want to see it more than I want to read descriptions of it. One reason I strongly prefer The Lord of the Rings in movie form is that the battle scenes in the books, especially in The Return of the King, were very difficult and tedious reading for me - but on screen, I was absolutely riveted.

And this past weekend, I was on the edge of my seat spending a couple of hours with an old friend - Dr. Henry "Indiana" Jones, Jr.

I have to be honest and admit that I had major misgivings when I heard that, nearly twenty years after "...The Last Crusade" (emphasis mine, and my favorite of the Indy movies - who can resist the Holy Grail?), there was a new Indiana Jones movie in the works. I thought the story was done, and wasn't Harrision Ford just a bit old now?

No need to fear, though. I'm happy to report that Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is a terrific addition to the series - and a great example of a story that is best told by the movies: one where actions, and pictures, speak a whole lot louder than words.

Our man Indy has aged pretty well - but there's no sidestepping the fact that he has aged, and the movie has some fun with it. The basic framework of the movie is familiar - a mysterious, possibly legendary ancient artifact to be located, potentially at great peril - although the particulars are different; could this ancient, mysterious artifact possibly...be of alien origin? I don't want to give away too many details of the plot - because plot is the main element here - but dangerous strangers are encountered, a message from a past acquaintance is delivered by a new one, everything turns out to be connected, it's never certain who can be trusted, and the chase - and the chase, and the next chase - is on.

It's the chase sequences, dangerous escapes, and near misses that make an Indiana Jones movie, and I thought they were in fine form here. While there's no shortage of smart quips, the movie isn't heavy on dialogue, and the (necessary) expository passages don't slow the story down. It's great to see Indy's best gal, Marion Ravenwood, again. As always, I was very impressed with the sophistication of the booby traps and other protective devices the ancients were capable of installing in their sacred fortresses.

I don't think I would have enjoyed reading about any of this nearly as much as I did seeing it onscreen.

I know that some people (looking at you, Mike) have been worried about the "screwing up the legend - and our memories" factor with this movie - and having seen Star Wars Epsiodes I through III, it's not hard to understand that. But if you go into this with reasonable expectations, I really don't think you'll be disappointed with ...Crystal Skull. Tall Paul and I definitely weren't. Welcome back, Indy!

If you've seen the movie - or absolutely refuse to - let me know your thoughts in the comments!

7 comments:

  1. I saw Indy with my 9 yr old daughter and her friends last weekend. I don't have the same fond nostalgic memories as you do of the Indy movies- I saw the first one (liked it but don't remember details) and that's it. But I thought it was good- just relentless non-stop action. Harrison Ford looked ok although he's definitely pushing the envelope as far as age goes for an action/adventure hero!! What is he, 65? Looks like Shia LeBouf will be the new Indy, and that would be cool!

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  2. LisaMM - I think Harrison Ford actually is about 65, but he makes a good argument for the "active senior lifestyle" here :-D! Glad you and the kids enjoyed the movie.

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  3. OK! I'll go! :) I have heard good things from several people, so I'm not scared anymore. Funny thing. I work with the guy who played the little Maharaja kid in the second movie. He's kind of annoying about actually.
    I like long form shows, too. As long as the story keeps moving; sometimes they get too stagnant.

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  4. Mike - I'm glad you've been taking the pulse of public opinion on this one :-). I hope you don't end up thinking we're all wrong when you finally do get to see it.

    Speaking of long-form shows - Lost finale tonight!! But I probably won't get to watch it till next week, so don't tell me anything tomorrow...

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  5. Oh yes! Movies are another great form of storytelling IMO. But unfortunately my husband and I haven't been to see too many lately due to work commitments, and moreover it isn't easy to tag with a 4-yr-old active kid, LOL. Nowadays, we watch more DVDs than going to the cinemas.

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  6. We are going to see Indiana Jones this weekend! I can't wait!
    Great post Florinda!

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  7. Melody - I remember those years of not being able to see movies in theaters because of my own active child. We're really lucky to have DVDs nowadays.

    Jaimie - I hope you enjoy the movie! I tried to keep my review spoiler-free, just in case...

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