The Mother Brain Files: The Indiana Jones Series


The Mother Brain Files: The Indiana Jones Series

By Mother Brain

My initial introduction to what could arguably be one of the greatest film franchises of all time was sometime around 1987-1988 when I caught the finale of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom one weekend afternoon on Channel 11. It was also my introduction to Harrison Ford as an actor since I never saw any Star Wars movies yet. Little did I know how channel surfing to the movie as a young child would manifest itself into even greater interest in the world renowned archeologist.
Rather than writing full-blown reviews on each of the Indiana Jones films, I have decided to break down each one based on my experiences watching them for the first time and how they’ve grown on me in later years.  Onward to the days of “fortune and glory” kids!

Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

This was one of the first VHS tapes my parents ever purchased. Although I never touched in until I was in the later part of my Star Wars phase. There’s not much for me to say other than the fact that it’s in my top 5 greatest of all time. The opening sequence with the doomball, the shootout in Nepal, the Cairo Swordsman biting the bullet, the Map Room, the Well of Souls, the truck chase, and the unveiling of the Ark of the Covenant. Every sequence is so memorable and so entertaining. It was also the first time Harrison Ford emerged as a movie star and one can see why when contrasting the series to most ‘phoned-in’ performances out of him. Karen Allen as Marion Ravenwood had amazing chemistry with Ford and brought that sort of 1930s Plain Jane personality that few actresses could do in the modern age. Every actor from Paul Freeman as the evil Belloq and Ronald Lacey as the dark suited Toht shine in this film. Raiders was also living proof of director Steven Spielberg’s genius as a filmmaker, crafting his scenes carefully and filming in a quick and dirty style reminiscent of the saturday afternoon adventure serials both he and George Lucas grew up on.

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)
I never got to see the film in its entirety until around 1994 when my parents went and purchased this and Last Crusade on VHS when the prices dropped. As George Lucas described, this film was sort of the Empire Strikes Back entry of the series where the character goes to hell and back. Very true considering the black magic aspect of the story. Again, the film has various memorable sequences from the Casablanca-style opening to the mine cart chase initially intended for Raiders. Harrison Ford delivers another fine performance and Ke Huy Quan as the young sidekick, Short Round, was sort of a badass in his day. To me, he was the sort of kid you wanted to hang out with to fend off bullies. But despite the once again well-crafted action, Temple suffers from sluggish pacing, Kate Capshaw’s Willie Scott being a major step down from Marion, and the tone being more darker than intended (child slaves, heart ripping, monkey brain eating, etc). I consider it the most out of place and the hardest to get through in the series.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
This was the first Indiana Jones movie I was exposed to as a child. I remember the summer of 1989 as the summer sequel bloodbath and this particular entry in the series being one of the most highly advertised movies that year. My cousin and I used to quote it verbatim and imitate the action scenes shown in the trailers and TV spots. To me, Crusade was the definitive sequel to Raiders: The Nazis return, a religious artifact is at play, and old favorites like Marcus and Sallah return for the adventure. Of course, the biggest treat of the whole film was the combination of Ford and Sean Connery playing son and father. Their chemistry brought the fun back into the series. There’s also that well done opening chase sequence with the late River Phoenix playing the original ‘Young Indiana Jones’ which establishes various traits of the character from the fear of snakes to the scar on his chin to how he got the famous hat. One can also argue it was Spielberg’s personal favorite because of the father-son dilemma theme which is apparent in a good majority of his films. For me, I enjoy it almost as equally as Raiders.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)

Up until this point, I had never seen an Indiana Jones film in the theaters. There was talk at one time of re-releasing Raiders until an infamous South Park episode poked fun at it. Considering how highly criticized the re-releases of Star Wars and E.T. were with their nonsense added scenes and digital change-ups (Han shoots first, government agents holding radios instead of shotguns), I’m glad it didn’t happen. Like many fans, I waited a long time for the new Indy film. While it’s nowhere near the level of Raiders and Crusade, I considered it much better than Temple. You got an older Indy living in the Atomic Age now battling Russians for an artifact that is living proof of alien life. Most fans trashed the film for the effects and the George Lucas-driven plot; however, I loved the alien concept because it was paying homage to 1950s sci-fi movies and even the addition of Shia LaBeouf as the greaser son of Indy only added to the concept. I also appreciated the infamous ‘nuke the fridge’ sequence at the beginning. Now I do have my gripes as much as the next fan with the disappointing return of Marion, the overabundance on CG effects, the annoying John Hurt character, and Ray Winstone’s constant turncoating character which got almost as silly as the presence of Jar-Jar Binks. The most angry I got was with the Tarzan homage of Shia swinging on vines with the monkeys. Besides the flaws, I was just happy to even experience an Indy film at the movies with an audience. The fun was still still there and Ford showed he’s still got it in his 60s.

In closing, I want to express my view on the possibility of a 5th Indy film. At this point, it’s not worth waiting for. Aside from Ford’s age and the mixed reviews on Crystal Skull, I can’t see the character have adventures post-1960. I think the times get too cynical and there’s really no place else for the character to go emotionally. He made amends with the father, married the girl, makes the discovery of the son, and then what? How he winds up with an eye-patch as seen with the older Indy on the Young Indiana Jones Chronicles series? Spielberg and Lucas should call it a day and produce something completely new. The world’s overcrowded with sequels, prequels, remakes, and reboots anyway.

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