I have had the privilege this past week to dive headfirst into Indiana Jones: The Complete Adventures on Blu-ray, and all the nostalgia and good times came rolling back. So consider this a post dedicated to my thoughts on the adventures of Indiana Jones, and the impact he has had on adventure movies.
First off, if you haven’t seen the films (shame on you), stop here. I am going to spoil some major plot points, and they would detract from the excitement of seeing the movies for the first time. Still here? Good, now we can let the good times come rolling out.
Simply put, the adventures of Indiana Jones are some of the best, most exciting films of all time. I could end there, but you know I won’t. They’re timeless, endlessly exciting, fun, and exhilarating. If you don’t believe me, look at all different forms of entertainment and I promise you you’ll find someone copying one of Indy’s iconic scenes. Want some evidence, look at this…
If that doesn’t convince you, then you probably haven’t seen all the movies.
There’s something about a globe-trotting professor in search of ancient artifacts that’s just so dang intriguing and exciting. I think it has something to do with the allure of an adventure, the mystery of the unknown, and the journey of the wise-cracking, attractive hero (This is Harrison Ford we’re talking about). People are drawn to that, (I know I was) and feel a part of the adventure, rather than just a bystander. Not many adventure films can do that, and that’s why Indy is so great.
Now I was a late-comer to the adventures of Henry Jones, Jr, not seeing the movies until around 2007, after seeing a poster for Kingdom of the Crystal Skull in fact. My 12-year old interest piqued by the mysterious poster, I asked my Dad the question, “Who’s Indiana Jones?” in the car later that day. It was probably a week later that I rented Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Temple of Doom, and The Last Crusade.
Let me tell you, not since I first watched Star Wars at age 6 had I been so enthralled with a trilogy. They blew my young mind, and transported me into a world where heroes always win, and the adventure is always high. And who doesn’t want to live in a world like that?
in 1981, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas teamed up to make Raiders of the Lost Ark. Outside of the great minds involved, there was still a chance the movie could have flopped. Maybe people don’t want a new hero, or a new story for that matter.
That’s not what happened.
Raiders is the perfect adventure film, it has everything most action movies today seem to lack; great characters, fantastic villains, exciting action scenes and suspense, and one of the best theme songs ever. And add to it great locales and actors and you have a winning film that still holds up today. It has set the bar for action movies that has rarely been reached since it’s release.
It’s prequel, Temple of Doom, is also fantastic, but maybe a little less so. Indy’s love interest starts out as irritating, and Short Round, although lovable, is also a little annoying at times. And yet, it is still a great action film with great set-pieces, awesome suspense, and one crazy climax.
The idea of a younger, more selfish Indy is a good one, and it hits a lot of the same notes that made the first so great, as well as adding it’s own unique pacing and theme. It still beats most action movies today.
And The Last Crusade, released five years after Temple of Doom, nearly reaches the same height of wonder as Raiders did. Although it feels a little ‘safer’ than the previous films, The Last Crusade takes everything great about Indiana Jones and adds in a family dynamic, which somehow worked! Sean Connery as Henry Jones Sr. is one of the best casting choices ever. He perfectly matches Indy’s wit and charm, and it is a joy to watch them interact. And it doesn’t hurt that every one of Connery’s lines is epic.
And then we come to the fourth film, the infamous Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. The movie everyone loves to hate. I’m going to be honest here. I didn’t hate it. When I first watched it in theaters, I thought it was pretty good. It wasn’t until a second screening when I was a bit older that I realized it wasn’t great.
I really do think it’s hated on too much, but the points the haters bring up are in fact valid. Some scenes are to ridiculous, Mutt is somewhat irritating, the first half is slow, the nuked fridge is ridiculous, and the ending is way over the top.
But there are some really good parts to it as well. The idea of an aged Indy is great, I loved having Karen Allen back as Marion, the jungle road chase scene is great (until Mutt channels his inner Tarzan. That was just terrible.), and the giant red ants bring back memories of classic Indy. Sadly, those good features just seem kind of lost. So while Crystal Skull isn’t a bad film, it’s not a good one either.
Overall though, the journeys of Henry Jones Jr. and company are some of the best adventure movies out there, and it’s a shame there aren’t more films like them today.
So if you haven’t seen the Indiana Jones movies, I suggest you stop reading and go do so now. And if you have seen them, go buy the Complete Adventures Collection on Blu-ray (or DVD if you’re behind in the times) and watch them again. Even better, invite some friends over, grab some pizza and chips and have a marathon of the first three and let the nostalgia and good times roll. Or else I’ll send some snakes after you.