As in "you will be amazed that this shit got made".
Firstly, I have to admit that I haven't actually seen any of the other films in the series and my first disappointment with this film was discovering that it wasn't revolving around a Rogue Assassin-style showdown between Jet Li and The Rock, but rather Brendan Fraser screaming and falling arse over tit endlessly versus Jet Li. Then actually seeing the film and finding out that Jet Li may as well not even be in the film because of the fact that his character is 100% CGI for just about the whole thing. They should have just paid the fucker for licensing rights.
Like a lot of recent 'epics' the film opens in storybook mode, with a voice-over artist giving us as simplistic and condescending a recount as possible of the strange backstory. The Dragon Emperor of the subtitle is Jet Li playing some dude named Han, mystifyingly portrayed as China's first emperor and builder of the Great Wall instead of Q'in - come on guys, this isn't exactly obscure historical fact here! Anyway, once he's done with enslaving all of Asia Han bitches that, despite seemingly being a fresh-faced thirty year old, he's going to die before he has a chance to fuck up even more enemies, so tells his loyal servant General Ming the Merciless to fetch him the secret of immortality in his lunchbreak. If the Zapp Brannigan/Kif nature of this relationship had been examined more this could have been a watchable film.
Anyway, in a plot twist that will shake you to your very core, the witch who is meant to guard the secret of immortality is actually a hot chick. ZOMG how novel. Also, she doesn't actually know where the secret of immortality is. So, er, not a good start. But then she promises she'll go to her local library and see if they've got anything on it. After a short while and falling in love with Ming, she finds some scrolls that give very detailed instructions on how to find immortality! Score! Han is so happy he repays her by tearing Ming apart and trying to murder her. Fortunately our witch knows the 'turn-entire-city-to-clay' spell and casts it to fuck Han up good and proper. The voice-over tells us that he will never be free until McGuffin A is brought to Setpiece B, which will surely NEVER HAPPEN.
The viewer is launched forward in time to Oxford in 1946 where Rick O'Connor (Brendan Fraser), some dude who apparently considers himself to be just below Richard Sharpe in terms of arsekicking quotient, is trying to live the life of a retired landed gentry, but infact simply creating that of a retarded landed gentry. With a little less of the gentry. It's at this moment a viewer with more than a cursory knowledge of how film is meant to work (ie me) will notice that the storybook style of the early scenes isn't going away. I'd say on average the length of a scene in this film would be about 50 seconds - we open in Oxford with quite a potentially funny scene featuring Fraser trying to fly fish for the first time and underdoing a series of brutally injuring mishaps before giving up and pull out a pistol and going postal. Trouble is, this 'scene' goes about 20 seconds, literally, edited as if by someone with ADHD.
The same with a scene where Rick and his wife (now played by the biotch from A History of Violence rather than the one from Enemy at the Gates) have dinner, the one where his wife gives a book reading for her pot-boiler mummy 'novel', and a scene where his wife's undergoing writer's block. And decides to jump up on a table and wave a sword around madly. This one particularly shows the problem with these bits - she's interrupted, naturally, by their impossibly stuffed shirt of a crotchety butler coming in and is horribly embarassed... only the butler just walks out again. Was he playing hide and seek with the scullery maid? No, it's just the two writers who bashed this dross out were seriously unable to think of anything for him to say. Such as "Mr Connor has returned from his fishing expedition" or "Dinner is ready" - wow, isn't that hard, is it?
Likewise have the Ministry of Defense bloke show up during Rick's fishing trip and, well, probably ditch the dinner bit because you move Evey's material forward to introduce the character - ideally have the opener to the England scenes being the book reading itself to keep the mummy theme palpable, segue straight into the writer's block scene which will be longer and illustrate the dissatisfaction with retired life between the couple. Look at this - I'm doing re-writes that any script editor should have been looking at TWO YEARS ago. No money for one of those guys in a multi-hundred-million dollar film??
But then I'm not the only one to notice this. Wikipedia informs me that the reason why Rachel Weisz (that beautiful raven haired lady who mystifyingly hasn't been given a role in DW despite asking for one - she's Romana III, people!) didn't appear in this film was given as "problems with the script". She's gone up in my estimations, and she wasn't exactly low in them to begin with.
Wikipedia also told me what some of the problems with the script are that I wasn't able to pick up on my own... Rick and Evey have a son named Alex, working in China with a certain Professor Roger Wilson. The mission they are given by nameless Ministry of Defense guy is simply to deliver disgustingly valuable big-arse crystal to Wilson - they're happy to do this because even though Wilson is a former cutthroat treasure hunter they've crossed swords with in the past, he's since gone on the straight and narrow. And then he betrays them!
Naturally, when watching this I assumed that this was all hangover from prequels. But... no, not at all. Alex and Roger have NEVER appeared before this film. Yes, they've tried to pull a Timelash*, always the sign of a weaker writer. As for Alex, it's hard not to feel like they're trying to rip off Indiana Jones even more by giving Brendan Fraser a college-aged son with attitude just like Harrison Ford got. Only difference being that Harrison Ford is actually the right age to have a twenty year old son, and Shia LaBeouf's Mutt Williams was actually funny, likeable, and wasn't disturbingly fixated on stealing the limelight. And for Christ's sake, of all the films to try and steal material from..
It was at this stage the film was almost getting away with it's crap, and for completely the wrong reason. DAVID CALDER! Yes, Nathan Spring from Star Cops, everybody's favourite acerbic and burnt out bald pommy guy was playing Wilson. Like all the best actors he made the characterisation himself and used brilliant delivery to cover up the impossibly bad dialogue that he was given. He shows up everyone else in the film furiously, and I was beyond upset when he got killed about half an hour in.
From here the film got worse. How much worse? So much worse I don't know how much worse. I walked out. Of a cinema. That's something I never do. If it's at home, I'll give up on a film (Especially if it's called Kingdom of Heaven), but a film at the cinema is a fiscal commitment I don't take lightly, and I intend to be entertained once there. This time I was at a disadvantage due to the fact that I was seeing it alone and thus unable to MST the film for my amusement - I'd gone for a nightout and my other friends wanted to see The House Bunny. A herd of wild horses would be unable to get me into that cinema, and when I saw the trailer for that hilarity vacuum in my own session I was relieved to be reminded that I'd made the right decision. Even though Eagle Eye would probably have been right-er.
Of course, an additional detail is that after I walked out I had to walk back in again, because their film wasn't done yet. Sigh. I walked out a second time in the climactic battle scene and that was thankfully for keeps. What is it with Pirates of the Caribbean-style battles now? Army full of clay dudes versus emaciated skeletons? Neither of them are alive, who the fuck's meant to win???
I haven't gone into much detail here, because frankly very little is needed. I could describe the film at length, but that would be pointless because every problem stems from one thing - the script. I wouldn't say it feels like a first draft. It feels like a brainstorm with dialogue from a couple of stoners. Do not watch this film unless you want an instruction of what not to do. Unless you have seen this film. In which case..
I am sorry. I am so, so sorry. Watch Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull to cheer yourself up.
*In case you're reading this blog and AREN'T an obsessive Doctor Who fan, Timelash is a really, really, really, really bad story with a few more reallys in which the bad guy, Magellan** is a guy who the Doctor met and supposedly defeated in a previous adventure. That never happened on screen. And is referred to constantly. 'Endlessly' constantly. Like, more than I refer to tits in this blog. I am serious.
**No, not that Magellan.