At 30 years old, I have never, until yesterday, watched any of films in the original Indiana Jones trilogy in their entirety, and if I have, I have not done so since childhood. I certainly remember seeing the action sequences of “Temple of Doom” many many many many many many many times with my best friend of the time, as he had the films, and to a lesser extent “Last Crusade” as well. I don’t recall ever even trying to watch “Raiders of the Lost Ark” more than a few times. Needless to say, while “Temple” is most certainly a possibility, I feel certain that I’ve never sat through the films from start to finish.
It’s something that’s weighed on my mind for the past few years, perhaps purely out of nostalgia. And being the VHS junkie that I am, a little voice kept whispering, “You keep seeing box sets of the trilogy in thrift stores for super-cheap… why not a marathon?”
And so, with this being a week off from school, I did so, just yesterday.
This will not be a formal film-by-film review, as the films don’t really fit my personal criteria for NARCs material. Just the same, Ronnie Hogan Dio suggested I write something, and so I shall, if only because it’s been a stinky-long time since I’ve contributed anything to this site. Not for lack of want! Just busy! School sap energy! Excuses!
What strikes me the most about the films is the sense of adventure, of globe-hopping, of visiting countries around the world in search for treasure. It definitely infuses the films with a sense of wonder and excitement, beyond the action and spiritual fantasy. And it’s the spiritual fantasy elements and themes that stood out to me the most on this marathonious occasion (albeit with the new episode of “The Walking Dead” inserted between the 2nd and 3rd films).
Dr. Indiana Jones is an archaeologist, as in a scientist, and as such seems to carry a scientist’s non-spiritual skepticism with him as he traverses the globe in search of artifacts that more often than not are religious in nature. But what Jones faces in his cinematic trilogy is the spiritual machinations of such artifacts in full effect, apparently giving metaphysical form and proof of their powers. In spite of this, Jones leaves each film not necessarily affected by the supernatural spectacles he’s witnessed, if not survived (“Ark” and “Crusade”), if not been possessed by (“Doom”).
So perhaps there’s a thematic undercurrent in the films that present archaeologists, if only Indiana Jones, as not necessarily globe-trotting adventurers and explorers, but as in search of proof for spiritual legends that they, despite their scientific doubt, otherwise do seek in the back of their hearts. This becomes questionable, though, in that, again, Jones doesn’t make any allusions to personal, spiritual growth.
There’s potential for this in seeing how he handles women: In the first film, he reconnects with an old flame, but doesn’t necessarily reclaim her by the end, and we don’t see her in the sequel. The new woman is primarily a fiery, flirtatious floozy that Jones does smooch at the end, but even she is replaced by another blonde, this time one who beds Jones mid-film after a aggressively passive-aggressive tussle reminiscent of her predecessor from “Doom”, the key differences being that she’s not as air-headed, and ultimately at least half-villainous. Ultimately what was once seen as gentlemanly admirability in Jones in the onset of the trilogy gives way an almost James Bond-ian lothario caricature by the time we reach “Crusade”. Or maybe that’s why they cast Sean Connery as his father.
Speaking of Connery, on a quick side note, it also occurred to me while watching “Crusade” that I hadn’t seen anything with Connery in a long time, and even then not much of anything. As soon as I heard his trademark “It’sh a rashe againsht evil” way of speaking, I had to chuckle a bit, as it’s become so much of an endearing exaggeration of the man’s legend that it becomes shocking to hear how borderline ridiculous (albeit charming) the real thing is!
The deeper themes of storytelling are ultimately lost under the fantastically hypnotic trance found in action-adventure filmmaking at its best. It’s an indescribably, almost spooky it-factor that make films like this the summer blockbusters that they are. They clearly aren’t telling the plot-and-acting-oriented stories that films such as “The Godfather” or “American Beauty”, but they don’t need to. Movies such as the Indiana Jones trilogy have that… again, it’s just an IT-factor, sweeping you up in wit and humor and too-ridiculous-to-be-realistic action sequences that, if done right, you never even think about questioning until after it’s all over.
Some of the films we review here at Cinema NARCs are essentially the opposites, in that the action they throw at you is hardly as spellbinding. A movie like “Ring of Steel” offers swordfighting scenes so ridiculous that by the time you’re done chuckling at the awkward choreography and “martial arts” exchanges of the first fight, you’re groaning at the sight of the rest, wondering when the stinker’s going to end. The irony is that films like “Retroactive” at least make you think more deeply about the complex plot elements of things like, “Will Kylie Travis redeem her time-travelling self?”, at least further than thinking, “Oh I hope Indie whip-grabs his dad’s ankle at the last second before getting dragged under the tank’s treads!”
Which is not to say that I’m ultimately dismissing the Indiana Jones trilogy as mindless action money-making drivel. There’s some wonderful charm to the films; it just gets lost under too many one-liners, too-perfect action, and far-too-abrupt cold-showers with reality (gory deaths and Nazism are used a little to glibly in these rated-PG affairs). At the least I’m left just a little curious as to whether or not “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” is as bad as some purport, a little more than tempted to start being a little more adventurous in my travels, in search of… who knows?
Image via The Star Wars Toy Box