Link to the Past: Indiana Jones

Logan J. Fowler cracks the whip…

Actor Harrison Ford is known primarily for two major roles in his lifetime, one of which is the space rogue Han Solo from the original Star Wars trilogy. The other?

Indiana Jones.

 

The Indiana Jones franchise was created and written by Star Wars head honcho George Lucas, and directed by Steven Spielberg. There are four films in the series (although a good chunk would argue that the fourth didn’t exist), released in the following order despite the third and fourth film having many years between them; Raiders of the Lost Ark, Temple of Doom, Last Crusade, and Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

This month, Indy (as he’s so lovingly referred to) is working overtime. Raiders of the Lost Ark is being released in IMAX theaters, the entire Indiana Jones quadrilogy is getting a marathon treatment at your select AMC cinemas September 15th, and all the movies are coming out in Blu-Ray the following Tuesday, September 18th.

Pretty busy time for Jones, but it’s not like the guy can’t handle it. One of Hollywood’s most iconic heroes, Indiana Jones is the epitome of an action hero. He’s smart, charming, adventurous, daring, a ladies’ man, and a cheater of death, and he’s played to suave perfection by Harrison Ford.

Indiana Jones (real name Henry) is actually a native of New Jersey from the town of Princeton! The idea for the character was based upon the serials of the 1930s that featured characters searching for lost treasure. In all four Indiana Jones movies, Dr. Jones, when he’s not being a professor of archeology, is searching for some ancient artifact.

In 1981, Indy made his first appearance in Raiders of the Lost Ark, which takes place in 1936. The film opens with the classic introduction of our hero, trying to take an idol from a weighted plate, only to be on the run from a massive boulder. Indy is on the lookout for the biblical artifact known as the Ark of the Covenant, trying to keep out of reach of the Nazis. He encounters his former flame Marion (Karen Allen), who aids him in his quest despite their personal issues. In their travels, we learn of Indy’s distaste with snakes, which is humorous to fans as this man faces death constantly, but he is afraid of such a creature that poses almost a trivial threat when he’s trying to fight guys twice his size. Or ones who are skilled with a sword; Raiders also gives us the very memorable “swordsman death” scene, making the film near iconic with elements, and stamping the film with a “classic” label. It doesn’t get any better than Raiders of the Lost Ark.

While most people tend to watch Raiders of the Lost Ark first if you are sticking with the straight trilogy, you’d be correct in watching them in the order they were released, but not their chronological order based in the films themselves. Temple of Doom, which came out in 1984, is actually a prequel to Raiders. The film, much darker in tone, gives us some violent scenes, an severely annoying love interest (Willie Scott, played by Kate Capshaw, who went onto marry Steven Spielberg) and the most debated side kick in the history of film, Short-Round (Jonathan Ke Quan) who spouts many an infamous line of dialogue, including “No time for love, Dr. Jones!” I personally love Short-Round, even though some Indy lovers can’t stand him. But I digress.

In Temple of Doom, Indy must save a group of children and recover sacred stones from a cult. The audience gets to witness a man getting his heart ripped out and a possessed bad guy Indy knocking his little friend around. Oh no! Will Indy save the day? Well, what do you think?

Temple of Doom splits the Indy fans down the middle in terms of whether they like it or not. Personally, I find it’s the weakest of the “trilogy,” but that’s only due to the persistent yelping from Capshaw. While the movie doesn’t deal with religious artifacts like the bookends of the trilogy do, the movie still offers plenty, in addition to the witty banter provided by Ke Quan. I like Temple of Doom just fine, but its follow up is universally loved, most likely for a brand new addition of a Jones family member.

Last Crusade takes place in 1938 but starts us off in 1912 (the film came out in 1989), as we are introduced to a younger Indy, played by the late River Phoenix. The introduction explains a ton about why Indy is the way he is today, including his wardrobe. Meanwhile, Indy’s dad (Sean Connery) is trying to locate the infamous Holy Grail, which he continues searching for until the year 1938, and that is when Indy is told his father has vanished in the search for the artifact. Dr. Jones then receives a package which happens to be the diary his father was using to research the grail. He heads off to Venice believing his father to be in trouble, where he meets Dr. Elsa Schneider, who was working with Henry Jones senior (so Indy is a junior), and we learn through a series of events from Indy’s dad (who eventually reunite) that Indiana is the name of the family dog.

The chemistry between Ford and Connery is pitch perfect, and one loses sight of the fact that both men are not separated enough in age to have that kind of family relationship. Their dialogue and actions bring the comic aspects to the movie, and by the film’s end, the heroes are riding off into the sunset. Such perfect ending for a great film, no one would ever think that a fourth Indy movie would be thought about.

But it happened. 19 years later, and set in the year 1957, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is a CGI-heavy film featuring a 65 year old Indy trying to stop Soviet bad guys from attaining the crystal skull of what seems to belong to an extraterrestrial. Marion, Indy’s flame from the first movie, is back and her son, Henry “Mutt” Williams (played by Shia LaBeouf) is also along for the ride, both literally and mentally, as his greaser persona provides one of the film’s chase sequences with Indy and Mutt on a motorcycle.

Many people were disappointed with the fourth entry, as was I. It’s not that it wasn’t cool to see Indy back, but bringing Marion back to have her marry off Indy just seemed like it was forced. Shia was rumored to take over the franchise (it is revealed in the movie that he’s Indy’s son) but placing the responsibility upon him for something so big was a silly idea. LeBeouf is no Ford. And the whole science fiction element was a contrast to the previous Indiana Jones movies, which were far more action adventure. One could argue that the search for said artifact involves plenty of action, but nothing memorable compared to the original trilogy, and it’s brought down even further by heavy CGI (especially that jungle scene) that offers too much vibrant color and an artificial look compared to the practical effects used in the older Indiana Jones movies And talk of a fifth one just leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I don’t even consider the fourth one a reality. To stem from that, I will argue with anybody that Temple of Doom was better than Crystal Skull. I mean, TOD feels like a truer Indy movie to me, where as the fourth installment just feels like cash grab and doesn’t offer much.

Aside from my disliking of the fourth one, I love the Indiana Jones “trilogy”. I admit I viewed them pretty late in life, as I watched Last Crusade first, then Raiders of the Lost Ark and Temple of Doom not too soon after, in my mid twenties. And I enjoyed all of them, but there’s no denying that the bookends of the trilogy are the strongest. When I finally caught Crystal Skull it was a rental that I watched with my mom and dad. My dad, who had seen all the Indy movies on his own (he didn’t introduce them to me by the way) even agreed that the fourth one was shoddy. I think my mom fell asleep. So there you go.

What I like about the Indiana Jones movies is that they provide the foundation of what movies are all about; action, adventure, romance, danger, heroes, villains, and of course, great music. The Indiana Jones films have all of that and more, and whether you’re a child or an adult, it’s easy to get swept up in the escapism of it all. Indiana Jones is a hero for the ages, and I’m excited to catch all his adventures again on the silver screen this September. All three movies. Yep. Three.