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August 27 2013

Joss Whedon rips Indiana Jones scene, and he's right. Mike Ryan at The Huffington Post reckons Joss is right about that moment in Temple of Doom (and what it has to say about culture).

That's some good advice about screenwriting and writing in general. But I've always laughed at that 'Temple of Doom' moment, even though I'm not a big fan of that movie. Last Crusade is my favourite, followed by Raiders, then Crystal Skull (I know, special hell etc), with Doom last. But I digress.....

Whilst I'm hardwired to agree with everything Joss has to say about everything, I don't agree 100%. I think there's a place for this sort of "in-jokes" and they're cool. In moderation. Which I imagine is what Joss is saying here (and what the article in general seems to hit on).

The temptation is to go all "fan boy" when doing sequels, so this is some good advice on avoiding that. In distinctly remember writing some terrible Angel fan-fiction after Not Fade Away that was littered with nods to previous episodes etc.

I forget what my point was. Sorry. I think, essentially, these sorts of "nod" moments have their place. In moderation. So, yet again, I agree with Mr Whedon. I think.
I think this falls under the category of respecting the audience. Joss has always done a good job of not dumbing it down. Whether they recognize it or not, I think the audience ends up appreciating it.
The scene works because he's reaching for his gun to shoot the swordsmen and he then has to rely on his abilities to use his whip. The grin means, "Hey guys, I was going to shoot you, but I lost my gun. (I hope that never happens again.) Yes, it's a callback to a scene that will happen in Indy's future, but even if that scene in "Raiders" never took place, the grin and whip fight still work perfectly fine in the story. "Whoa, Indy's gun is gone, what's he gonna do now?" In "Raiders", he doesn't act like he's shot a swordsman before as much as he just doesn't have time for that crap. Both scenes work perfectly fine. Speilberg has made a couple of errors in his career, but these aren't them.
The most famous case of dysentery in history.
I laughed and laughed and laughed at that moment in Star Trek Into Darkness. I don't think I was supposed to.
I laughed at the fence hopping in The World's End. It's all in why you are repeating something, and how you are repeating it.
Yes, too many of the laughs I had during 'Star Trek Into Darkness' were me laughing at the heavy handed over use of reminders of the previous movies and/or TV shows (they had to use tribbles? Again? Really?). It made the movie seem lame, and made me think the writers were out of ideas.

edited to add: Oh but 'The World's End' is a satirical send up of a genre style we are all too familiar with, and if they want to also make fun of things they have done before then it's all part of the same 'tongue in cheek' package. In my opinion. We know 'the World's End' is not taking itself seriously. I think 'Star Trek Into Darkness' was taking itself very seriously while managing to be ridiculous.

[ edited by embers on 2013-08-27 21:36 ]
Yeah, the intent of the two scenes was obviously very different. Unless STID was secretly supposed to be a Star Trek parody.
Just reading that there's fence hopping again in The World's End (I haven't seen it yet) but a big smile on my face Simon.

I think I tend to like this sort of thing (although I can also think of some clumsy examples). Absolutely loved the flashback to the musical in Selfless for example (although of course TV is quite different from film and Joss isn't saying that TV series should consist of self-contained installments).

Unlike BeSound I don't even think they necessarily have to be used in moderation. I think they can be quite funny to when used in outrageous excess too (as they are for example in Hot Fuzz).

[ edited by the Groosalugg on 2013-08-27 22:55 ]
[ edited by steverogers on 2013-08-27 23:02 ]

[ edited by steverogers on 2013-08-27 23:36 ]
I am not sure I get this. I mean, Joss is making a second movie with the same folk, right? So, it has to be in some regards self-referential back to the first movie. Just not as overt, maybe, as the scene noted above. Or is just the scene that matter, and not the larger context for the scene (that is, the actual move itself)?
I find it really frustrating as well. I think it's more a criticism to the sheer extent it's gotten to - filmmakers are now just constantly pandering to the fanboys who have grown up with this stuff, instead of trying to strive for new and original things.

Skyfall and Man of Steel are both perfect examples of incessant fan service. They were like watching a series of boxes being ticked (Superman's glasses - tick! James Bonds' Moneypenny - tick!). Stop with the knowing 'nods and winks' and do something different!
Hee, I actually love Doom the best of all the Indy movies, and that moment doesn't make sense -- BUT it's a 10 second scene. It gooses the audience for a small laugh and moves on. Fan service is bad when it is one of the pillars (emotional, plotwise or character-wise) of a movie; a tiny callback to the previous movie in an extended action sequence is not a movie-killer. I haven't seen STID, but it sounds egregious, which is not on.
I agree that Skyfall had a problem with this, but I don't think Moneypenny was part of the problem. The last three Bond movies (mainly Casino Royale and Skyfall) were retellings of the origin of 007. Creating a character named MoneyPenny isn't a nod backwards, it's just adding in the character who has been part of the franchise all along. I had more of a problem with things like the gadget loaded Aston Martin. That didn't fit with the rest of the movie and seemed a little too meta.

I don't necessarily agree with Joss on all the examples he gives (I think the occasional nod to the audience here and there is fun), but I do see his larger point. I like that he's not going to try and duplicate the good moments from the last movie. I've been disappointed with sequels that tried to take the best lines from the first movie and turn them into catch phrases. We don't need to see Tony Stark find a new way to say, "We have a Hulk," we can just watch our DVDs of the first movie.
Joss talks a lot about storytelling, and I think the point he's making is that too often we see moments earned from fan service or call-backs mistaken for moments earned from the story. I like small references that only fans get but which no one else will know they missed. But if the nod to another film is the only reason why a scene has any impact, then it's lazy storytelling. So many franchise films these days take it for granted that we already care, instead of trying hard to earn new moments.

I think the flashback to OMWF in Selfless that the Groosalugg mentioned is a really good example of good fan service. It works because the call-back plays against the current episode and emphasises character development, enriching the current story rather than the old one.
If Joss made a sequel to Serenity, and made humorous (or not) references to previous firefly episodes... I would not be trippin.
I get Joss' point, and it's well summarized by many of you above, but I'm generally with those who think it was a fine self referential gag, well executed. Self referential gags, when pulled off, aren't a problem. Remaking the same movie you just made, that's more of a problem. I saw Temple of Doom being about as different from Raiders, yet still in the genre with the same character, as you could possibly get. Dark, meaner, stuck primarily in one locale and downright claustrophobic, I could go on. While Raiders is undeniably the best of the series, TOD was a childhood favorite and I saw it many times, probably more than Raiders.
When Joss was writing Astonishing X-Men, he made callbacks and self-referential jokes all the time: the fastball special, "To me my X-Men," "Professor Xavier is a jerk." His point, in criticizing Temple of Doom, is not to say that stories can't comment on themselves. His point, I think, is that it should be done really well. He felt that the scene in Temple of Doom was there only to remind fans of the first movie, without adding anything to the story. I'm not sure I agree, but his larger point is right on target. Too many sequels try to repeat everything people liked about the original film, and they end up with a bland, unoriginal movie. Most of the time, people enjoyed the first movie because they had never seen anything like it.

For what it's worth, I thought the self-referential scenes in Star Trek: Into Darkness were very effective. They paid respect to the history of the series while showing how the characters were affected by that history, and adding new dimensions to the characters. And that's exactly what Joss did when he was writing the X-Men.
I don't think anyone can criticise Temple of Doom of rehashing the first movie. The Last Crusade however ...
I'm still stuck back at Temple of Doom being a prequel.
That's the real problem with the scene. If Doom is a prequal to Raiders, then that gun scene is a nod to something that hasn't happened yet!
This criticism basically applies to the entirety of the first Hobbit film. An insane number of call-backs to the LOTR trilogy, right down to practically all the music cues. Hated the movie for it. It was basically three hours of Peter Jackson patting himself on the back.
I am apparently a bad nerd as I never before realized that Temple of Doom takes place before Raiders. My brain just broke a little bit. Maybe a lot.
I wouldn't be too upset, Meltha....I love the Indiana Jones films one and all (yes...even Crystal Skull ;D) and I too didn't realize that Temple of Doom predates the events of Raiders of the Lost Ark by a few years for the longest time.

Other than the other THREE films all having Indy as a professor of history/ancient cultures at non-Ivy League colleges (though the schools differ) and someone roping Indy in for the MacGuffin rescue vs. Indy already on the hunt in Temple of Doom, I don't there's much that interferes with watching in release order.
Should that logic apply to episodes of a TV series as well? Because there are plenty of things in Buffy that are callbacks to, or were foreshadowed by, earlier episodes. If you expect someone to have watched previous episodes, and by the end there were well over a hundred, to get something then why not expect someone watching an Indy movie to have seen one earlier movie?
If you hadn't seen the earlier movie then I don't think anyone would have been confused by the second scene, it works by itself as Thatmikeshow said, it's just that those who have seen the first movie will get the extra reference.

There was a huge amount of talk when The Avengers came out about how could Banner control the Hulk suddenly? That was explained in the Norton Hulk film, that Banner could choose to change and when he did so he could direct the Hulk. When he was forced to change, when he lost his temper, as happened on the carrier, Hulk was not under his control. Simple. As long as you had seen the earlier movie...

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