Indiana Jones Pocket Thoughts
Raiders of The Lost Ark (1981)
After a brief break I’m back baby, and this time we’re talking about the all too brief, but impactful, Indiana Jones franchise.
I think Raiders is an example of the perfect confluence of ideas. We have elements of classic Hollywood, particularly in the underrated love story between Indy and Marion, the clear referencing of classic serials of yesteryear, and of course, a leading man at his peak coupled with a director and producer both in the creative peaks of their careers.
All this makes for an adventure that moves smoothly and kinetically from one moment to the next, filled with colorful characters and never a dull moment. It, like Star Wars, did for sci-fi, reinvented the action-adventure genre and recalibrated every filmmaker interested in making an action-adventure film’s focus.
This movie also has several lines that I will find any excuse at all to repeat.
Example: When someone asks me why I don’t do dating apps anymore I simply say in my best John Rhys Davies voice…”Bad dates”
The Temple of Doom (1984)
I want to start this out with a shout out to my dear friend Erin Zaida Kosisky for this being her favorite Indiana Jones film. I don’t agree with you, Erin, but I’ll defend the hell out of your choice.
I don’t understand why this movie gets so much hate…Okay, I do understand that Willie (Kate Capshaw) is possibly one of the most irritating female leads in the last 40 years, however, I don’t find Willie as irritating as many people do. I think Willie is a little underwritten and pales in comparison to Marion of the previous film, but I kind of like her as an avatar for the viewer as she moves through a film that is basically one giant house of horrors.
I think that’s what separates Temple of Doom from the rest, is it feels much smaller than the others and has such a campy funhouse appeal. It was clearly written with a much more kid-centric mindset from bug-infested corridors, to an improbable roller coaster ride, it’s no wonder this was my favorite Indy film as a kid and did I mention a man rips another man’s heart out of his chest? That happens…in a kids movie. It’s by far the darkest film in the franchise, but it’s also the most kid-friendly? What the hell was Speilberg and Lucas smoking in 1984?
That’s my problem with this film is that it tries a little too hard to appeal to kids as if Raiders didn’t capture the imagination of every kid in the civilized world without much mention of kids, they had to give us child slavery in Temple of Doom. Because that’s what kids and adults alike want in their popcorn movie, some good ole child slavery.
The Last Crusade (1989)
This movie holds a special place in my heart because it was one of the first and only movies my dad genuinely laughed at. I figured if anything was good enough for him it was good enough for me. Yes, there are a lot of laughs in this the Indiana Jones comedy.
I like the playfulness of this movie and how it has fun with a lot of the Indy tropes, and pairing Harrison Ford up with Sean Connery is a stroke of genius. The two have a chemistry that propels the whole second half of the film which arguably rivals Raiders of The Lost Ark (fight me).
We’re out of the world of small funhouse Indy and back into the world of multiple big set pieces, big locations and heightened stakes.
This movie also drives home the idea that Indiana Jones movies should always take place in the ’30s and ’40s and he should always be punching Nazis. However, there is obviously such a thing as giving us too much nazi and this film does it. There are so many Nazis in this film that it dances around the line between vilifying and fetishizing them. Thirty years ago it may not have been a problem, but now it feels icky. Stick to the search for the grail guys, we don’t need scenes of book burning rallies in our Indiana Jones movies.
The Kingdom of The Crystal Skull
So, this is the Indiana Jones film that really tests my idea that all Indy movies should take place in the ’30s or ’40s and he should always be punching Nazis. In Crystal Skull it’s the 1950’s and we’re knee deep in the Cold War, I know this because the movie insists on telling me this every five seconds of the opening act.
The Russians are now the villains and although they serve the same purpose as the villains in every other Indy film, it somehow feels empty, as if it’d be better if they weren’t there at all, except for Cate Blanchett, she can stay.
Everything that happens on the army base in the opening 30 minutes is bad, in a fan fiction-y kind of way, as if the two people most responsible for making this movie are bigger fans of Indiana Jones than the people watching it.
Then a strange and unexpected thing happens with this movie, it gets good. Once the film slows down a bit and unfolds, we get reacquainted with Indiana Jones and meet the new characters, including Shia LaBeouf as Mud, who I like in a shocking twist.
I was enjoying this so much that an hour into it I kept asking myself why I and so many others hated this, and then the jungle chase scene happens and I am witness to so much bad movie…stuff. It’s ugly, it’s frustrating, it causes the movie to come to a screeching halt (though I like the scene with the ants).
And, not that it couldn’t have worked, but the whole space alien or interdimensional beings plot just doesn’t work for me here. The movie is hokey enough, so I think a more Earthbound plot would have fit better.