Joss Whedon needs a podcast. Does he have one yet? If not, hook this man up with a weekly spot where he can support the latest Batman casting, or critique movies on which we were raised, nitpicking their warts until we realize the shrines we’ve constructed for the likes of Spielberg and Lucas are hollow houses of nostalgic cards. After taking a blowtorch to the ending of The Empire Strikes Back, Whedon has now lobbed criticism at Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom for a very specific scene. Which one … and why now?
In case you missed it, in a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly, Whedon complained about the cliffhanger ending tacked onto the end of the second Star Wars film, saying,
"Well, it’s not an ending. It’s a Come Back Next Week, or in three years. And that upsets me. I go to movies expecting to have a whole experience. If I want a movie that doesn’t end I’ll go to a French movie. That’s a betrayal of trust to me. A movie has to be complete within itself, it can’t just build off the first one or play variations.”
Mind you, the ending of Empire Strikes Back has made its way on to multiple “Best Twist Ending” lists thanks to Darth Vader’s revelation, but Whedon has a point. The film very clearly acts as the middle act of a trilogy, rather than a standalone adventure.
But the Avengers director didn’t stop there. In the same interview he tore apart Spielberg’s second Indiana Jones effort, Temple of Doom, for making a cheeky reference to Raiders in a scene that was an obvious callback to the successful first film. The discussion is in the full EW issue, but it has been picked up by Huffington Post. Whedon makes note of the scene in the film where Indy (Harrison Ford) confronts two swordsmen, and reaches for his gun… which isn’t there. Spielberg cues up Ford’s trademark shit-eating grin, and the audience laughs because it reminds them of the classic scene where Indiana shot the swordsman in Raiders of the Lost Ark. But the truth is that it doesn't make sense in the context of the story being told.
Here’s the Raiders scene:
And here’s the Temple of Doom scene:
What annoys Whedon is that it’s an overt, disruptive joke that doesn’t fit in Temple of Doom (partially because the film is a prequel to Raiders of the Lost Ark) and only makes sense if you’ve seen the previous film. He says:
You know that thing in Temple of Doom where they revisit the shooting trick?... That's what you don't want. And I feel that's what all of culture is becoming -- it's becoming that moment.”
As HuffPost writer Mike Ryan notes, several of this summer's blockbusters – including Star Trek Into Darkness and The Lone Ranger -- feel like “that moment” stretched out to feature-film length. The films don't work without referencing something that previously happened … which becomes a major problem when it's combined with weak storytelling. It’s an important observation on Whedon's part, and one that we hope he will use to inform his decisions as he tries to follow up the highest-grossing superhero movie of all time. Do you think Whedon’s beef with these classic movies is legit? Share your thoughts on Whedon’s dissertations below.