The lights went down in the theater, and we were trudging through a South American jungle. Sinister carvings. Poison darts. Treachery. Whips. Spiders. Traps. Treasure. This wasn’t sword and sorcery, but it was the closest thing to the Dungeons & Dragons games we played with our friends on the weekends that I have yet to experience in the cinema. And then that giant ball rolled down and off the screen, bowling me over. It was the greatest adventure film I had ever seen, and it took me completely by surprise.
So taken was I with the Indiana Jones character, that I showed up at my girlfriend’s door the next time I saw her, wearing a leather jacket, fedora, and stubble on my face. (The girlfriend was so impressed with the beard that I never shaved it off, although now I shape it into a goatee). Raiders of the Ark was so popular with so many people, that it continued to play in some nearby movie theater for the next year, and I went back to watch it many times. When Raiders came out on VHS, it became the primary selling tool for VCR’s, and of course, I bought both the machine and the tape so that I could watch Indy battle the Nazi’s at home.
WESTWOOD, 1984. My friends and I had gathered at a theater near the UCLA campus to see the first midnight screening of Indiana Jones and the
When we came out of the theater, I was surprised to hear that one of my friends – an ex-girlfriend, to be exact, whose preference in fantasy was unicorns and rainbows – was completely freaked out by the scene of Mola Ram removing a sacrificial victim’s heart and almost had to leave the theater herself. I shook my head at her faint heartedness, but later learned that many movie-goers were similarly turned off by the film’s graphic scenes (“What were they expecting? The
WOODLAND HILLS, 1989. I was so excited to see the third film in the Indiana Jones series – I thought the idea of casting of “James Bond” to play Indy’s father was brilliant – that I made my current girlfriend watch the two previous films with me before going out to see Indiana Jones and the Lost Crusade. My girlfriend, who was what my geek friends at the time called a “mundane” and who rolled her eyes at the miniature Millennium Falcon I carried on my keychain, said she never heard of watching a movie before seeing a movie. I told her that I did it all the time.
We went to a neighborhood multiplex near where I lived to see Last Crusade. I liked it particularly for the interaction between Indy and his father, although I thought that too many scenes were a retread of ones from Raiders, and I absolutely hated how Marcus and Sallah had been turned into comic relief. Still, my love for Indy himself was untarnished.
We went to the local Edward’s Cinema, which actually is a very nice venue for seeing films, although it is no Grauman’s Chinese Theater. We don’t often go out to the movies – not with the expense of buying tickets and snacks for four – and even then, we wait to see a matinee performance during a film’s second or third week of release to avoid the crowds. But the timing worked out for seeing this movie, and I couldn’t think of receiving a better Father’s Day present.
I had read all the reviews of Indiana Jones that came out when the film was first released – the consensus was that while it was no Raiders, it was a worthy sequel. But I still wondered whether I would experience the same thrill seeing an Indiana Jones movie as I did nineteen years ago. After all, the entire experience seemed to diminish with each Indiana Jones sequel.
I also wondered whether Spielberg and Lucas still grasped what made the Indiana Jones films so wonderful. Everyone agrees that George Lucas lost sight of what made the Star Wars films great when he made the prequels – although Lucas claimed that the change of tone was intentional: the original trilogy was supposed to be about the “kids”, giddy and light-hearted, while the prequel trilogy was supposed to be about the “adults”, serious and sober. Well, I was now an adult – would I still be giddy about Indiana Jones? Had my own tastes changed?
The lights went out, and we were in the
But I tried as I might to enjoy the scenes at Area 51 – I did like the idea of this new Indy movie playing homage to the sci-fi films of the 1950’s – I just couldn’t get into it. The action wasn’t as frenetic as it was in the previous films. The dialogue wasn’t as witty. The music was a rehash of previous soundtracks – there was no new theme to enjoy. And then all the exposition! Indy talked and talked and talked and talked – with only a little action throughout much of the first half of the film. Harrison Ford was fine – his voice was a little gruffer than the Indy I remembered, but he looked and acted the part. No, the problem was Lucas and Spielberg. They lost sight of the magic of Indy.
Then Indy and Mutt were captured and taken to South America, where
As we walked out of the movie theater, I asked my ten-year-old if he liked the movie. Yes, even more than Iron Man. My older son said he liked it too. I smiled… these kids were definitely mine. I asked my wife if she would like seeing an Indiana Jones film starring Shia as Mutt Williams. Well, she said, the younger kids probably would. Hmm, I’ll try to keep an open mind about that, although I’m not any more ready to pass the fedora on to Mutt than Indy was at the end of the film.
Oh, and a personal note to my wife. All those old girlfriends I mentioned in the first half of the article… they all had the same problem – they weren’t you, honey.