INDIANA JONES AND THE RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK – I haven’t seen the fourth film in this series of films yet, but if I understand correctly, at the heart of many complaints is that the film relies on aliens to explain everything away without much thought to story or logic. If time permits, I’ll make it through the whole series tonight, including THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL, so we’ll see. In the mean time, let’s think about just how reality-based the Indiana Jones films really are.
I’m not sure if I consider RAIDERS or LAST CRUSADE the best of the series (I feel pretty safe making the assumption that #4 isn’t going to beat them out). RAIDERS is really the most successful at mimicking the old-school adventure serials, and it’s still fresh.
Aside from the obvious Movie Physics problems, remember that the world Indiana lives in is one where religion and magic actually work. It’s a world where most screams are performed by Private Wilhelm. Maybe Movie Physics is also part of this magic?
There are two obvious examples of magic in this film. The first is in the opening temple with the the spike trap that Indy warns his assistant against walking through. Is this magic, or the ancients had mastered optical sensors? Then there’s The Ark (or MacGuffin) for the second obvious bit of magic. When it’s recovered and opened by those pesky Nazis, the spirits (angels, Holy Spirit, God itself?) contained within melt the faces off the gathered crowd.
INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM – I don’t believe I have watched this film since it was originally released. I don’t really care for it. It’s trying much too hard; it’s darker than the first film but also trying to be overly cute; with Short Round and Willie providing witty banter and cute reactions. Oh, and that opening musical number? Takes place in Club Obi Wan. Who shot first?
There’s a lot more magic to be had throughout this second film
There are working voo-doo dolls that work without the target even knowing the doll exists.
There are drugs that sap will and imbue arcane knowledge seemingly instantaneously. Indy gets dosed with the evil potion, and immediately afterward, he’s reciting parts of the blood sacrifice rituals and operating the machinery like he’s done it for ages. These are amazing drugs, but hit the victim in the abdomen with a lit torch, and they’re instantly back to full consciousness. No hang-over, and not even any singed flesh.
The MacGuffin Stones that Indy is at the Temple to recover? They not only light up from some internal source, but when the right words are said, they burst into flame!
INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE – This third film really makes up for the second film. It picks up the corner of the rugs and sweeps the ashes of Short Round and Willy out of sight. There’s the introductory origin story, although I imagine that was intended as a self-serving pitch for the YOUNG INDIANA JONES TV spin-off. Sean Connery steals the entire show as far as I’m concerned; the father/son dynamic works really nicely.
The plot gets a bit muddy with motivations just before Indy ‘rescues’ Dad, but once the main chase begins, everything shakes out well.
Not a whole lot of magic off the start, even though they’re hunting for the Holy MacGuffin that Jesus used in his last supper and the mysterious powers are alluded to, nothing obviously magical (other than Movie Physics issues which we’re ignoring for these purposes) really happens here until the end of the film.
Even the traps; the penitent man, the name of God, and the leap of faith could all basically be technological in nature – there’s nothing to that point that really requires magic to function. Okay, keeping those saws wound up and ready to go multiple times is impressive, but let’s assume there’s some physical explanation that winds the clockwork and keeps the bearings greased. The trompe l’oeil bridge is nicely done, and the only thing approaching magic there is how it remained dust-free for centuries. I assume the knight swept up every morning.
The magic is big, not unlike in RAIDERS; immortality. This dutiful knight from the First Crusade has been here with his armour and his sword and his one holy book for over seven hundred years, his immortality allowing him to do nothing but protect the Grail that can’t leave the cave. You can come to the cave, you can use the Grail, but you can’t take the Grail outside… Sounds like something that doesn’t really need a caretaker – oh well, maybe he’s being punished for something.
This would have been a decent film to end the series on… but…
Since George Lucas, as writer and producer, can’t re-release these films with annoying changes every couple years as with the STAR WARS films… maybe the only way he can go back and mess around with the canon of Indiana Jones.
INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL – The first shot made me think that this might become a CADDYSHACK film with a jerky groundhog as Indy’s nemesis. By the third appearance of the groundhogs in the first act, I really started to worry. Thankfully (unless I missed something) they didn’t show up again.
Now, this film has its problems – they could have used a Scientist rather than a Scientician to consult on certain basic items in the script, like the metallic gunpowder – that flew through the air to seek out the Crystal MacGuffin in the big Area 51 warehouse. Sure, nothing else metallic was attracted from a distance – hanging lights didn’t point in the direction of the box they sought that held the big super magnet, guns, cars, keys, etc, weren’t pulled toward their target – until after they found it and removed it from its wooden crate. Okay, that’s dumb, but it’s bound to get better. Oh, that’s cute… we get to see the Ark in passing in The Warehouse.
Lead-lined fridges? These actually exist? Indy goes flying through the air, loose inside a fridge, and he survives. No bruising or broken bones, apparently. This goes beyond Movie Physics and right into Magic… it’s kooky. Later in the film, there are three trips over Niagara-sized falls for our heroes, and they all survive without a scratch… Magic again?
I don’t like the Marion and Mutt angle – it’s dumb, right to the end with the wedding. While it’s cute to see the references back to the other films for internal consistency, this is Jar-Jar Binks level silliness. I’d have rather seen Short Round return than the Marion storyline pick up again.
I seem to remember a whole lot of complaining when the film was released, mostly about the alien angle, about how it was a disgusting disservice to the series and completely unbelievable. Since, come on… ALIENS? Who’s going to believe that? Maybe the same people who believed that God was locked up in a box for millennia waiting to melt some Nazi faces? Now that I’ve seen the film, I don’t think that it’s all that bad. I think it’s still better than TEMPLE OF DOOM as a film.