No other movies in my mind generate a feeling of epic adventure and fun like the Indiana Jones movies (excluding kingdom of the crystal skulls) with Nazi villains in trench coats, chases in mine carts, booby-trapped tombs, and occult madness, these films are groaning with adventure. As a kid I loved them, as an adult, I still love them with the added bonus of nostalgia. They make archaeology seem like the coolest profession in the world, (although trust me it is nothing like the movies portray, I did a degree in it). So in this featured article, I am going to take a look at the three main films int he franchise, I will touch on Crystal Skulls but mostly for a critique. So get your Fedora and whip ready as we get ready to raid the Indiana Jones franchise.
So let’s start with the movie that most consider the best of the 3 (or 4) Raiders of the Lost Ark sees Indy hunting down the Ark of the Covenant to try to get a hold of it before Hitler and the axis powers nab it for themselves to use it as a weapon. He teams up with a former love interest, Marion Ravenwood, and Sallah, an Egyptian digger, and faces of aginst the rival forces of Rene Belloq, A much more vicious archaeologist and the Gestapo led by Toht the weasely yet sinister man in the leather coat. The has some great action scenes and memorable moments and a stellar opening, who hasn’t seen the boulder scene. The tombs and booby traps where always the parts of the movies that I found most interesting and Exciting, how Indy was able to use his brains to get around them was always so fun to watch. The boulder scene like the trap scenes from the other movies always kept me on the edge of my seat as Indy would get away in the nick of time.
Another great action scene is the car chase through the Cairo hills. At one point Indy or rather Harrison Ford’s stunt double climbs along the underside of a moving truck (the stuntman, Terry Leonard, would only do the stunt if his long time colleague Glenn Randall Jr was behind the wheel of the truck)
This movie also starts the running theme that prevails throughout the movies of fatherhood and father figures. While more limited in this first entry it is much stronger in the later film and is even continued in Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls. In this movie, it is Indy’s professor and mentor (and Marion’s father) who’s possible connection to the Nazi’s sends Indy on his mission in the first place. Marion even mentions that Indy was like a son to Abner Ravenwood.
With the second movie, Temple of Doom, came a fairly significant tonal shift, the adventure and thrills of the previous movies were still there but Temple of Doom became almost a light Horror movie with darker material. Forced child labor and kidnapping for one thing, but the movie centers around a cult and with this cult comes human sacrifice. The scene below terrified me as a child and still makes me uncomfortable today.
along with the skull imagery on the statues and the cultists this creates a powerful scene of horror. There is also the gross-out horror of the dinner with the maharaja, Monkey brains, eyeball soup, slitting open a pregnant snake, all for the consumption of the guests.
This isn’t to say that the movie is all seriousness and horror, there is the charming relationship between Indy and his young sidekick Short Round; which I think enforces the theme of fatherhood that prevails throughout the Indiana Jones movies. Indy is very much a father to this young orphan and it is clear that they love each other as such.
There are also elements of comedy throughout the movie again mostly from Short Round and Indy, the new female lead…is interesting spending most of her time shrieking at the top of her voice. This is unfortunately where Temple of Doom slips up, Willie Scott is possibly one of the most useless and annoying female leads to grace a movie (okay maybe that’s a little strong but she is pretty annoying) other than shrieking and complaining she doesn’t do much except getting captured she never really attempt to fight back. Unlike, Raiders Marion who out drinks burly men in Nepal and takes on assassins in Cairo, Willie does nothing useful. It’s a shame as other than Willie I love this entry in the franchise, perhaps due to my fondness for horror movies perhaps because I like the title the most.
The Last Crusade as the name would suggest at the time was the final entry in the trilogy. This movie sees Indy teaming up with his estranged father in order to hunt down that holiest of relics the Holy Grail. This movie changes things up a bit by throwing in some unforeseen twists but also features the action set pieces the series is known for: a boat chase through Venice, Combat on a tank, and yup there’s booby traps. several characters return in this movie from Raiders, Marcus Brody and Sallah both turn up although unfortunately, Sallah feels like more of a cameo than a fully featured role. While many claim that Temple of Doom is the worst of the original Indy trilogy, the Last Crusade is personally my least favorite. I love them all but Crusade is lacking a cohesion, the plot seems a little all over the place transitioning from one part to another awkwardly. The actors also don’t bring their A-game in this one. I don’t think they are bad It just feels like they don’t entirely want to be there.
The theme of fatherhood is obviously prevalent in this movie with the inclusion of Indy’s father Henry. Their relationship unlike Indy and Short Rounds is a strained one. Henry never seemed to have time for the young Indiana, always more involved in his work. Henry does state that now that Indy is a man and has learned a lot from the self-reliance that his father “taught” him they can talk and a bond and love does grow throughout the movie. Henry is painted as a bad father at first but this is not necessarily the case, his methods did indeed teach Indy to be the way he is today.
Finally, I am going to touch on the Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls. this movie gets a bad rap and I must say I didn’t enjoy it, the acting was bad the plot was a little too zany for my tastes and Shia LeBoufs character Mutt wasn’t particularly likable (also he swung on vines like Tarzan) but one of the biggest criticisms this film gets and even created a meme of “Nuking the Fridge” is just as ridiculous as say falling from a plane in a life raft and surviving which happens in Temple of Doom. The theme of fatherhood is also continued in this movie creating a nice continuing connection to the previous films. But overall the movie isn’t great.
So, what’s next for Indiana Jones? well, a fifth film is planned for release in summer of 2019. It doesn’t have a name as of yet but I guess at this point we wouldn’t expect it too.
So that’s a quick look at The Indiana Jones series, fun adventures with booby traps and face melting artifacts. I hope that this has been an interesting look at the series and maybe will make you look at the movies differently. Let me know what your favorite Indiana Jones Movie is in the comments or on twitter @MCMoovies. Thanks for reading and see you next time.