After 19 years, it’s delightful to see Indiana Jones on the big screen again in “The Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls.” Sure, Indiana and those who brought him to life (Ford, Spielberg, Lucas) are older which means neither the character or the story are quite as sharp as they once were. There are a couple of characters who, by no fault of the actor’s themselves, aren’t given much to do and there is a spot or two of awful dialogue. The film’s ending is anti-climatic, a bit syrupy and seems as disorienting as, well, an aging adventurer trying to adjust to radical technilogical and social-poltical changes in post WWII.
And yet there’s still something exhilirating about seeing the man with the fedora and whip staring at the face of evil in the most improbable of circumstances…while the triumphant Raider’s March is playing, of course…Ba-De-Da, Ba-De-Da-De-Daaaa.
I was introduced to Indiana Jones when I was 5 years old. My parents returned from seeing “Raiders of the Lost Ark” with wide eyes and smiles. “It’s the best adventure movie that’s ever been made,” they said. I was captivated by their excitement and their words held true when I was finally allowed to see the film three years later when it was released on video tape and the sequel “Temple of Doom” hit theaters.
Watching “Raiders of the Lost Ark” immediately hooked me, line and sinker, into the world of Indiana Jones. The first one is so amazing it’s hard to name just one favorite scene…the swapping of the golden idol with a bag of sand that results in Indiana being chased out of the cave by a huge boulder (which the comedian Eddie Izzard swears is a giant spider with no legs)…Indiana shooting the swordsman…the intense action sequence where Indiana and Marion are escaping from the Nazi’s…the love scene where Marion takes off an injured Indiana’s shirt as the hero looks into the mirror and says, “Honey, it’s not the years, it’s the mileage.” And let’s not forget that the whole plot revolves around the Ark of the Covenant–I mean, how cool is that? (The scene where God melts the evil Nazis still to this day grosses me out and although I’m a firm believer in grace for everyone, I admit that these guy got what was coming. You just don’t mess with God like that.)
I enjoyed the second Indiana adventure just as much, although “Temple of Doom” didn’t have Marion nor contained a more familiar or even Biblical artifact. Still, it met the criteria of a movie-watching 8-year-old: blood, guts, insects, slime, and monkey brains….ewwwwwww.
By the time the third film was released, I was finishing up 8th grade and on the cusp of entering high school. Indiana was also taking a huge step in his life by bringing his father (played brilliantly by Sean Connery) on the adventure–this time to find the Holy Grail. “The Last Crusade” works so beautifully due to the chemistry Connery and Ford have as father and son as well as the powerful themes of sacrifice and redemption in the film. And it was comforting for me as an 8th grader to know that even Indiana had it rough as a teen (as viewers discover in the opening minutes of the film, a flashback to younger days). I even had the movie poster on my bedroom wall throughout high school. (The poster is long gone, but I recently bought the Indiana Jones’ version of Mr. Potato Head; when you press down on the hat, the “Raiders March” plays)
During the summer following my freshman year of college at Auburn University, I worked as a counselor for the Presbytery of Sheppards and Lapsley’s summer camping program at Gulftreat Conference Center in Panama City, Fla. One day, my friend and supervisor Carter Haun and I were talking about the lack of heroes on the screen (It was 1999, many years before Harry Potter and Jack Sparrow would enter the imagination or new & improved superheroes would swing into action). We lamented the absence of heroes like Indiana Jones. The rough and tough and fallible adventurers who always tried to do what was right in the face of adversity and still manage to get the girl in the end or at least save his friends.
While there have been some great heroes to light up the screen since “The Last Crusade,” ones that I’ve paid to see at midnight or opening day showings, none of them give me quite the thrill as Indiana Jones.
Indy’s wit, sarcasm, ingenuity and sheer courage to fight a Russian brute while surrounded by thousands of “big damn ants” or defend against possessed Mayan grave dwellers who dive in and out of burroughs with poison-tipped blow-darts is what hero-making and hero-watching is all about. Indy’s adventures at its best are grand escapist fun that have you leaving the theater with a lesson (even a little one) about doing good v. evil in your mind & soul, a smile on your face, and a Ba-De-Da, Ba-De-Da-De-Daaaa in your heart.
Like one film reviewer said, it’s good to see an ole friend again.
Indeed it is.