Ken's Nostalgic Indiana Jones Adventure - Part 2!
by Ken Evans
May 21, 2008
During my Indiana Jones marathon last Saturday, I noticed more about these three films than I ever had before. I really started to break each one down and piece together why it is that I love them so much. After watching them all again, I realized that I don't have an individual favorite. I enjoy each one for the originality they bring, while also being able to sustain the integrity of the original concept for the character. This can be attributed to the genius directing of Steven Spielberg, the incredible writing of George Lucas, and the ability of Harrison Ford to own this character. But what else makes these films so great? Let's take a brief look back at three of my all time favorite films.
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
What a great year! The year of my birth and the beginning of Indiana Jones! Raiders of the Lost Ark was the beginning of a legend and the start of one of the greatest action heroes of all time, not to mention it won four Oscars and was even nominated for Best Picture. This was Indy at his toughest. He was rough around the edges, mysterious and still unknown. He was fearless in the face of danger, masterful with a whip, and had no problems with killing anyone who got in his way. I always pictured him as the toned down version of Ash from Army of Darkness but with the same soft spot for women.
What stood out for me in all of the Indiana Jones movies, but particularly in Raiders of the Lost Ark, were the opening sequences. Spielberg and Lucas designed these amazing openings that set the tone for the whole film. The introduction of Indy in this first film was absolutely perfect. We know nothing about this person and then all of a sudden he brings out a whip and strikes a gun out of some guy's hand. That was the first thing we ever saw him do! The first time I saw that scene I didn't need to know anymore about him before I knew I wanted to be him. Then he stepped into the light and we got our first look at his hat, his menacing face, and those intense eyes that Spielberg continually drew our attention to through light and shadow.
Raiders of the Lost Ark got everything right. It has great character development, action sequences, amazing set designs, and spectacular stunts. However, the most important aspect was the formula for the story that the next two would follow. Indiana Jones movies aren't just about a race to track down a treasure before someone else finds it first. Indiana is continually saving the world from the danger of an evil enemy obtaining some ancient artifact that possesses supernatural powers. In my opinion, that is why the National Treasure movies fail in comparison. Indiana is, in his own right, a superhero. Saving the world from Nazis and rescuing children from slave labor is all in a days work for our treasure-hunting professor.
The Temple of Doom (1984)
I remember my first time watching this one. Sneaking out of my bed to the top of the stairs where my parents had no idea I was watching it. Then getting scared out of my mind when Mola Ram reached into that guy's chest and pulled his heart out. I know that this is most people's least favorite Indiana Jones film, but I truly don't understand why. This one is so different but still holds on to the most important aspects of the Indiana Jones universe, not to mention I definitely quote this one more then any of the others. How can you not love the opening scene between Indy and Lao Che? What about the amazing drop out of a plane with an inflatable raft? Do you remember the dinner scene with snake surprise, chilled monkey brains, and scarab beetles? How about the amazing mine cart chase sequence? This is definitely the film that doesn't get enough attention.
Re-watching the chase scenes in all of these movies really blew my mind. Those chase scenes in the first and third movies were amazing and some of my favorites. What I liked so much about the mine cart chase was how unique it was. I would have never thought of doing that. It's not like your normal car chase, boat chase or even airplane chase. Absolutely one of my favorite chase sequences of all time!
This is also the film where we start to see Indy open up a bit and become more personable. You can tell he loves Short Round and would risk his life to save Willie. He cracks jokes and has a bit more of a smart-aleck mouth. We also get a peek into his heart when he has the magic stones and could just leave but decides to try to save the slave kids instead. He is still the same rough Indy from the first film, but has slightly started to soften and let us see more of his personality.
The Last Crusade (1989)
It's funny how the title for this one used to work on two levels, but not any more with the release of Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. This one used to be my favorite. Probably because of the challenges at the end, the introduction of Sean Connery as Indy's dad, and the increase in the amount of humor. All of these are still reasons I like it, but not the main reasons any more. Instead, I've come to appreciate it because of how epic it comes across. Indy goes from the knight's tomb, then to save his dad, then to Berlin to get the grail diary back, then tries to save Marcus, to finally end up at the resting place of the Holy Grail. The battles are massive, the chases are longer, and the explosions are bigger.
The Last Crusade includes so many characters but does a great job of still keeping a finger on the pulse that drives the Indiana Jones franchise. The opening was great, the chases were amazing and, like the others, it ends without Indy getting what he sought. In all the films, he never gets the treasure at the end. If you think about it, he is really the worst treasure hunter; at least Nic Cage returned the treasure to a museum at the end of National Treasure. Once again this is what makes the Indy movies so great. He might not end up with the prize, but he gains more then it could ever offer. In Raiders of the Lost Ark, he walks away with the girl he had once lost. In Temple of Doom, he rescues children from a fate worse than death. Finally, in The Last Crusade, he comes out of it with the relationship with his father that he had always wanted and the realization that fortune and glory aren't the most important things.
The Indy we see in The Last Crusade barely resembles the rough Indy we saw in Raiders of the Lost Ark, but that doesn't mean we don't like him. To be honest, I love the fact that he changed a bit from movie to movie. He grows up and opens up. He is still tough, but now he jokes around a lot and smiles and laughs more then in any of the previous films. We get a sense that Indiana isn't a character who is stuck in his ways, instead he is someone who evolves and grows as time passes and through his experiences. It's almost as if he were real!
There is no doubt in my mind that as the years pass by, this series will become even more beloved by movie fans then it already is. Indiana Jones is a household name that makes people smile and remember the first time they were introduced to him. The theme song still has the ability to give me goose bumps every time I hear it. So as the day draws near for the release of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, let the memories of these previous films flood into your mind. Go watch them again and compare to see if the new one can stand on the foundation that was already laid 27 years ago.